|Vince Capano is a two time winner of the prestigious Quill and Tankard
writing award for humor from the North American Guild of Beer Writers.
Vince's column is now a regular feature of beernexus.com
Check back often for the next installment of
Vince's Adventures in Beerland
| Nelson Time
by Vince Capano
On May 6, 1954 one man achieved athletic immortality by accomplishing a feat
that most people thought was beyond the limits of the human body. On that chilly,
bleak day, at the Iffley Road Track in Oxford, 3,000 unbelieving spectators saw the
impossible happen as Roger Banister became the first person in the history of
the world to run a mile in less than 4 minutes. He pushed himself beyond the
threshold of human endurance as he completed each of his 4 laps on the quarter
mile oval track in less than a minute. In the beer world there was no equivalent to
Banister, the lap a minute man………until now.
On September 11, 2010 one man achieved bartending immortality by
accomplishing a feat that most people also thought was beyond the limits of the
human body. On that chilly, dark evening, at the Tap Room in the Somerset Hills
Hotel, the thirsty patrons saw the impossible happen as Nelson Betancourt
became the first bartender in the history of that revered establishment to become
a glass in less than a minute man as he emptied a sixtel of the famed KBS beer
in 43 minutes!
Yes, we’re talking that KBS – Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout-ranked in the
top 5 of the greatest beers in the world in almost every poll. The Tap Room’s beer
guru and chief, Kevin Torpey had spread the word that his lone sixtel of this rare
brew would be tapped this day at 5:30 PM. By 4:45 every seat at the spacious
bar was taken; by 5 PM the same was true of the surrounding tables. They were
all there for one thing - KBS. Some ordered generic beers to warm up for the big
event, others sipped water, and still others sat there staring at Nelson and Kevin
mumbling menacing words about what would happen if they didn’t get a glass of
this magic elixir that they had traveled so far to taste.
Nelson stayed busy pouring the random pint or serving a mixed drink while Kevin
monitored the clock as it edged toward the 5:30 magic moment. At 5:16 a
female voice screamed “I can’t take this anymore, start pouring!” Nelson held firm
and gently told her to “hang on”. At 5:19 two patrons in the corner began waving
cold cash and demanding that Kevin order the KBS to be tapped “NOW!” Kevin
smiled sympathetically but said nothing.
As more and more people entered the bar I noticed several shoves being
exchanged in the congested entrance way as these KBS seekers jockeyed for
position nearer the bar. The clock had moved to 5:28.
The Tap Room’s clock's second hand seemed to be stuck in eternity. Then,
finally, the last seconds ticked off. Kevin did some quick math and realized that
the KBS sixtel held just over 5 gallons which would mean Nelson would have to
serve 55 twelve-ounce glasses faster than anyone had ever done. Failure was not
an option. It was either success or we’d all have a front row seat in seeing just
how quickly a crowd could turn into a mob. And then it was 5:30. Kevin leaped
onto the bar and in glorious stentorian tones sang out – “It’s KBS time!!”
It was also Nelson time.
Grabbing two glasses in each hand, he used his elbow to flip down the KBS tap
handle. Then, in a display of ambidextrous precision worthy of a Ringling Brothers
performer, he began to slide one glass after the other under the constantly flowing
black liquid without a drop missing its target. Four fills, four deliveries, and one
trip to the cash register to dutifully record everyone’s bill. Back again and again
he went. Four glasses, four fills, four deliveries, one stop at the register. Four
glasses, four fills, four deliveries.....and of course, four smiles at every stop.
I’m not embarrassed to admit that my smile was one of the biggest when I
received my glass. After all, this was the world class imperial stout (11.2% ABV)
brewed with a massive amount of coffee and chocolates, then cave-aged in oak
bourbon barrels for an entire year. It was heaven in a glass.
As I neared the finish of my beer I looked up and saw that Nelson was suddenly
frozen, glass in hand, under a now sputtering tap. The clock read 6:13 PM. The
sixtel had kicked; 55 glasses in just 43 minutes! With an exhausted sigh Nelson
turned towards Kevin and handed him that last, half-filled glass.
Kevin raised the final glass high which quickly quieted the assembled throng.
“Here’s to the last of the KBS, a great beer!” With that the building seemed to
shake from the cheering as a group of thankful customers attempted to lift Kevin
and Nelson on their shoulders for celebratory parade around the bar. Both
As the excitement ebbed I took a brief stroll around the bar to survey what people
had to say about the Kentucky Breakfast Stout, a drink that had for 43 glorious
minutes transformed them into a beer family. Chris said “this would go great on
my Cheerios”, Jack said “this is my second breakfast of the day”. Maria said,
“KBS really stands for ‘kick butt stuff’.” Kathy said, “when it comes to enjoying big
beers all I can say is 18% Dogfish 120- check, 11 % KBS -check.” Mike said
“witches must have made this since it put a spell on me.” Jay said, “I’m happy just
to have gotten two glasses.” Arty said “can you believe Coors outsells KBS??.”
Tom didn’t say anything since all the KBS was gone by the time he got there.
And what did the two beer stars who make the evening possible have to say?
Kevin Torpey said, “the Tap Room is blessed to have the best beer people in the
state come here.” Nelson Bentancourt said, “I’m just glad everyone was happy.”
As for me, all I have to say is “thanks, Kevin and Nelson”.