Pouring the proper Pint -Fall 2019

by: Kevin Stanton

photography by: Nicole Harnishfeger

You can call it a pub, a tavern, a watering hole or your local dive. Pub culture is very important to a sense of place. It’s not just somewhere to have a drink, it’s a community, a bit of respite to share with your neighbors at the end of a long day.

“My best quality as a bartender is to make people happy and laugh. I’m a storyteller, not a mixologist. If you come in here angry or sad, then you come in here to be uplifted. I want to make people feel welcome, tell them a joke, lighten things up a bit. You come to The Chicken Box for a good time. It’s a dive bar, but it’s a five-star dive bar,” Chicken Box bartender Tue Nielsen said.

I sat down with Tue for a pint and chat at the Box as August worked its way toward September. We talked about the proper way to pour a pint of Guinness and what it’s like to actually know the people on the other side of the bar.

Nantucket Today:

Right now i feel like you know about 90 percent of the people in here.

Nielsen:

“During the day i know every single person in here. during the nighttime in the summer i don’t know anyone. We have our restaurant friends come and see us, but for the most part the clientele are tourists.”

Nantucket Today:

Is pub culture big where you’re from?

Nielsen:

“In denmark most people start drinking between 14 and 18. We don’t have a drinking age. i grew up around pub culture at an early age. it sounds bad but it is very normal when you have dinner to have a beer, and if the kids want a drink they can have a small glass with dinner.”

Nantucket Today:

Pubs tend to be a microcosm of the community they are in. do you think that applies here, too?

Nielsen:

“Here we have millionaires and billionaires sitting next to the guy who cuts their lawn. me being from europe there is a lot of diversity in pubs. you have people who have been fighting for centuries sitting next to one another. back home you’d have a scottish guy sitting with a british guy, next to someone from Northern ireland, all buying each other pints and having a laugh. here we have ukrainians and bulgarians, Jamaicans and locals all sharing a pint. it’s a giant melting pot and that’s one of the reasons i love working here. if you look behind us now you’ll see a very liberal guy sitting next to a staunch republican. after a couple of pints they’ll find common ground and leave here friends.”

Nantucket Today:

How did you end up on Nantucket?

Nielsen:

“I was a high-school exchange student in 1992 in orlando, Fla. then i went home to denmark to finish college. after college my roommate asked me to go travel around the world with him. the first stop was here, where his older brother was living. he offered me a job painting, which later turned into construction. soon i ended up working at the Pizza Joint, where sophie t’s is now. after work we would come into the bar for a drink and soon they started asking if i would clean up the bar. i slowly moved up the ranks, met a girl, had a kid, and here i am.”

Nantucket Today:

I heard you used to live in a van in the Chicken box parking lot.

Nielsen:

“I think i know who told you that. i did in fact live in a van, but for no more than a couple of months. i moved it around, but for the most part it was parked in the parking lot behind the box. the common misconception is that i lived in the van with four other people. i did not live in the van with four other people. after i found a more permanent place to stay, my friends came to visit and they stayed in it for a little. We fixed it up with mattresses and shelves. it was a good time.”

Nantucket Today:

What was your first job at the Chicken box?

Nielsen:

“I did dirty work first. i mowed the lawn, cut the hedges. there used to be a 10 a.m.-2 p.m. shift. i came in at 10 and cleaned the bar for two hours and from noon to 2 i got to work the bar. you don’t really make a lot during those hours. after the boys (rocky Fox, John Jordin and thomas “Packy” Norton) bought the bar i went from a landscaper to a door guy to behind the bar all in a couple of months. Which is incredible because it takes a while to get behind the bar here.”

Nantucket Today:

How long have you worked here?

Nielsen:

“I’ve been working here for about 22 years. our youngest bartender has been with us for five years. the Chicken box is a family. We work every day together and still love each other. once you are in the family you are always a part of it.”

Nantucket Today:

The Chicken box is known for its live music lineup during the summer. What are some of your favorite shows you’ve seen?

Nielsen:

“Packy has done a phenomenal job getting great bands in here over the last 10 years. Not in any particular order i’d have to say andy Frasco & the u.N, ripe, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, trombone shorty, and i have to include maxxtone and Joshua tree. maxxtone has been coming here since before i worked here and Joshua tree has been a staple, too.”

Nantucket Today:

What do you order when you go out to a bar?

Nielsen:

“It depends where i am. if it’s the box, i’m a miller lite and Jameson kind of guy. if i’m on vacation i like to drink a gin and tonic. actually during the summertime it’s usually a gin and tonic. in the winter it switches to a Jameson and ginger.”

Nantucket Today:

How do you pour the perfect pint of Guinness?

Nielsen:

“You pour the pint at a 45-degree angle, pulling the tap toward you until the glass is three-quarters of the way full. then you wait 119 seconds, basically two minutes. to finish the pint you top it off by pushing the tap away from you for about 15 seconds. if you are any good at it you can make a shamrock in the head of the beer. in my opinion, we pour the best pint on-island.”

Kevin Stanton is an artist and graduate of MassArt, living and working on Nantucket. A bartender in Boston before he moved back to the island, he writes the “Drink” column for Nantucket Today.






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