How ancient torture inspires brewers to experiment creatively
Learning about the ancient method of torture called Scaphism, Billy Powell, the owner of the Long Island Nightmare Brewing Company, felt that he simply had to brew beer inspired by this creepy practice. It is believed that ancient Persians used scaphism for the first time. They tied the prey between two boats, then forcibly drank it with milk and honey and smeared this mixture on her body to attract insects that alive ate the victim, which led to a slow painful death. Powell embodied this concept in beer by adding milk sugar and honey to it and keeping it on the kernels of cocoa beans and Tahitian vanilla. The result was an imperial stout with a strength of 17%. The number 17 indicates the number of days that, according to the annals, the first victim lived, who was executed by this method.
Nightmare’s Scaphism brand conveys the frankly sinister spirit of this venture, as well as its owner’s boundless love of horror films and death metal. All this inspires him to create one of the most progressive sorts of craft beer in New York. Each can is adorned with an ominous black and white drawing by Defame, an illustrator from St. Louis. Powell notes with a grin that he chose him because he “just like him sees the beautiful in the terrible.”
Powell created Nightmare Brewing in December 2018 as a response to the trends he saw in the industry: the market was crowded with IPA carbon copies. “Everyone did the same thing,” he says. – I wanted to create something more sophisticated than a simple and win-win IPA with Galaxy, Citra and Mosaic. Many people just get bored that these breweries do the same thing in a circle, and I wanted the ingredients to have a certain meaning and evoke emotions in people. ”
To this end, Powell did not open his own brewery, but began to brew beer using the “phantom brewery” system (as he calls it). This means that for the production of beer, it uses the power of another brewery. Powell brewed the first batches of beer at the Great South Bay Brewery in Bay Shore (New York), where he had previously helped to fold beer crates as a volunteer. “I didn’t understand much then,” he says. “As a home brewer, you think you know everything, but, fortunately, the guys [from GSB], who know their job well, took me under their wing.” Powell is currently collaborating with a brewery from Dorchester (Boston), experimenting with sour ale with the addition of Colombian mangoes.
Nightmare Brewing Co – Windlass of Erasmus
Beer label Windlass of Erasmus. Illustration: Defame
Powell reverently refers to the ingredients, and this did not go unnoticed by his industry colleagues. Bill Kearnan is a co-owner of the Sand City Brewing brewery in Northport, NY, where Powell worked before he founded Nightmare. He confirms that Powell has always shown interest in purchasing ingredients, whether it be mango from Colombia or vanilla from Tahiti. “Billy is a guy with inexhaustible energy, ready to go to the ends of the earth for his passion,” says Kearnan. “He is genuinely interested in ingredients — whether coffee or tea or fruit and grain — and has a passion for everything exotic that can be found in different parts of the world.”
Phantom brewing gives Powell the opportunity to realize his creative ideas and expand his business, which has grown from selling the first batches in a bar at Great South Bay Brewery to deliveries to 15 states with the assistance of the 12 Percent Beer project. According to Powell, someday he may open a “small own brewery for experimentation,” but now his main task is to expand the geography of supplies using phantom brewing as much as possible. The lack of a single location helped launch brands such as Evil Twin, Stillwater Artisanal and Mikkeller, however, some are critical of this model, believing that this can destabilize the brewing infrastructure of the craft and allow brewers to produce beer of inadequate quality with less financial consequences. However, Powell does not agree with this, arguing that such “wanderings” are simply necessary to maintain a creative spirit in the industry.
“At the moment I’m looking for unique equipment to understand what brewing opportunities are there in our country,” Powell says. – The potential of breweries is often limited due to their equipment, and they can brew beer with only one facet of taste. But if you have at your disposal various types of equipment and different water, you can cook completely different styles and get completely different results from each other. Beer brewed according to the same recipe in New York and California will taste completely different. ”