Thursday, February 16, 2012

Creativity, Career Paths + Craft Beer!

This afternoon, I met up Niko Krommydas, staff writer for Long Island Pulse Magazine (Super Neat Beer Adventure, Yes!! is his beer blog, and The Red Zone is his monthly print column, but he’s also done some non-beer stuff, too, like interviewing comedian/writer Colin Quinn), to discuss creativity, career paths, and craft beer. We decided it would be appropriate to frequent Blue Point Brewing Company, which has a spacious tasting room and delicious beer.

I’ve known Niko for ten years, far before either of us had even ventured into the land of craft beer. We would play beer pong at house parties, using either Bud Light or Keystone Light. We figured all beer was the same, plus, it was easier to get our friends to throw down on a 24 pack of cheap beer. Older and wiser, we are still enjoying a drink together, but not in the hopes of getting smashed.

After carefully weaving out way through the crowd, as to not bump into anyone’s beers, we greeted Jess, a mutual friend and go-to gal at the brewery, at the bar. Niko chose a pint of No Apologies, a limited release Double IPA. I was unsure of what to have, so I told Jess to surprise me. She offered up two samples – No Apologies and Old Howling Bastard, a Barleywine Style Ale. We grabbed our cups and wandered to a spot in the tasting room that was quieter and less crowded.

Cozy outdoor area at Blue Point Brewing.

Michele: So when exactly did you get into craft beer? I remember going to Bellport Cold Beer & Soda with you, to pick up Flying Dog’s Gonzo Imperial Porter. That was before our San Francisco trip, so it had to be around… 2007?

Niko: Yeah, it was around 2006 or 2007, I think. During college [Niko graduated from SUNY Cortland], I just downed Milwaukee’s Best and Keystone Light. Tasted like my dog’s ass, but I consumed a lot of it. Made me hate beer, honestly. My senior year, I actually quit alcohol for six months. I just ate cans of soup from Dollar Tree.

M: Was this after the baby powder incident [Niko and his housemates had gotten drunk and had a fight with baby powder]?

N: [Laughs] Yeah. We completely trashed our third floor with dish soap and baby powder. A lot of naked dudes. But after I came home, I started to try different beers. A lot of Blue Point Brewing Company, Brooklyn Brewery, and Stoudt’s Brewing Company. I remember drinking a lot of Tröegs DreamWeaver Wheat, too, and thinking it was amazing. I was really into that.

The infamous dish soap + baby powder incident, circa 2006.
M: How exactly did you start writing a beer blog?

N: When I came home from school, I started to mess around with writing again. I had some websites in high school, and worked on the school paper in college, but I was covering Halloween festivals and shit, so, I stopped after my second semester. I always enjoyed writing stuff, though. Anyway. I graduated school and went to Europe for a bit, and tried to figure out some stuff. Writing was one of them. When I got back, I applied to some places, and Long Island Pulse hired me.

M: Writing for Long Island Pulse Magazine isn’t your only venture at the moment. What other adventures have you embarked on?

N: I work full-time in New York, as a personal trainer. I love my clients, and I see them more than my family. They keep me sane.  I’m fortunate to have such wise people in my life, honestly. I also bartend at The Good Life in Massapequa Park, and screen print in Brooklyn with means of production. Umm. Drums. I really like taking pictures. I also did some stuff recently for Edible Magazine, which is cool. I like writing stories.

M: That’s insane! When do you sleep?

N: I don’t really sleep more than three or four hours each night. Trying to change that. I know that’s cool to say, but I have major problems with relaxation.   

M: Are you still residing on Long Island or have you made the move into New York?

N: My situation is weird. I live at home, and have lived at home, aside from a brief stint in Brooklyn, for my entire life, but I’m not there more than once per week. I crash at my grandmother’s place in Queens, or at work, or on my client’s couches. I live out of a bag. Like, really.

M: Do you ever feel like you’re stretching yourself too thin?

N: Always.  My family and my clients are constantly yelling at me to chill, and to have some structure, but it’s how I’m wired, I think. For me, it’s easy to sleep for two hours, work for twelve, and still handle the blog, and everything else.  I don’t know. I was watching this documentary on Basquiat, and he didn’t mind sleeping on floors and doing whatever. I can relate.  For some reason, as long as I’m doing shit I like, and just making stuff, I’m okay with having nothing but some shirts, my computer, and my camera.

M: That’s a great way to look at things. Now, speaking of living out of a bag, you backpacked in Europe a year or so ago. How was that experience?

N: Pretty insane. It was my third time in Europe. Went to Belgium and France for two weeks. Just biked around and wandered. Walking alone is my favorite activity.

M: Any upcoming trips planned for the year?

N: Yeah. Going to San Francisco in March.

Niko, enjoying No Apologies Double IPA.
As we chatted, we made our way back into the more crowded area of the tasting room. Another mutual friend, Tara, greeted us. While we chatted, Niko, being the gentleman that he is, went up to the bar to grab a few samples. Upon his return, he had two different samples of Sour Cherry Imperial Stout. The tasting room offered both draft and cask versions of this delicious beer, which is anything but sour.

M: Okay, explain the difference between how these were processed, please.

N: Kegs use carbon dioxide to dispense beer. Kegs also prevent the maturation process. This allows beer to last longer. Casks, however, enable beer to condition, because the yeast is still active.  Casks are usually served at a warmer temperature than kegs, too.

Niko had me take a sip of each beer to note differences, and explained what notes should stand out in each.

M: I like the cask version better.

N: Ditto. The taste is mature. Like an adult, or something.

After about ten minutes, Niko had me taste both samples again, as the temperature of the beer had changed, and some flavors were more prevalent.
Patrons enjoying the favorable February weather. 

Shortly after saying our goodbyes to friends in the tasting room, our faces met the crisp air outside. Catching up with Niko had been wonderful. With conflicting schedules, responsibilities and just life in general, we don’t get to do this as often as we’d like. I was grateful to be able to spend this time with him, for I’m sure this won’t happen again until Summertime – Spring if I’m lucky. After I embraced my friend and wished him well, I drove off and watched Niko in my rear view mirror - knapsack in tow, walking toward his next adventure.

The works of Niko Krommydas can be seen at and The Dream People.

The man, the myth, the legend.

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