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Exile on Meat Street

Fleishers_table_fullThere are few collaborations more harmonious than meat and beer. No one appreciates that as thoroughly as a butcher  whose go-to IPA is Sea Hag from New England Brewing Company.

That butcher, Ryan Fibiger, was on-hand last Wednesday night for a beer-pairing dinner at the restaurant he co-owns in Westport, Conn.: Fleishers Craft Kitchen. The four-course extravaganza featured NEBCO and is the first of five pairing dinners Fleishers will host that feature Connecticut breweries.

“My love of good beer came from years of cutting meat until the middle of the night and needing to have something great when that was all done,” Fibiger told me during a break between courses. “I would think, ‘I’m entitled to this beer.’”

I had the opportunity to take part in the tasting on, as it turned out, my birthday. (I accepted the free meal, as did my wife, as a gift). During each course NEBCO met beef and pork in ways I didn’t think possible. While sitting at a long wooden table in a cozy space inches from the kitchen, the 26 guests were treated to running commentary by chef Adam Truelove and NEBCO head brewer Matt Westfall.

Fleishers_Truelove_owner

The guests enjoy a beer-meaty meal pairing at Fleishers Craft Butchery in Westport, Conn.

Arriving early, I gratefully accepted a cold can of 668, NEBCO’s Belgian-style strong pale ale and munched on some gourmet pork crackling. The popcorn saltiness of the deceptively airy rind played well against the brute force of the 668. With great swiftness the room filled with well-dressed patrons, some of whom appeared to be beer enthusiasts.

Fibiger welcomed us and waitstaff deftly placed stemless wine glasses filled with Sea Hag IPA, the beer that Westfall explained represented about 75 percent of what NEBCO produces from its Woodbridge, Conn. location. While we received our steaming white bowls of chorizo and IPA-steamed mussels with crispy bread, Truelove explained that the fattiness from the sausage and garlic in the broth found unity with the Sea Hag’s resinous impact.

With very little delay Westfall was chatting us up about the near-legendary mystique of the next beer: Fuzzy Baby Ducks. FBD. The Ducks. However you refer to this highly popular double IPA, you learn quickly that its reputation is deserved. Bursting to the rafters with Citra hop, yet balanced with a creamy texture, the beer delivered from the first sniff to the dregs. Truelove came close to matching the intensity with the second course: two spicy pork tacos with pickled onions, grapefruit, and avocado salad. Pulling out the citrus flavor of the beer with actual citrus was a smart move and I found that the beer seemed to bring out the intensity of each of the ingredients instead of overshadowing them.

Fleishers_beef

Brisket with Ghost Pigeon Porter

The dinner took a dark turn as the elusive Ghost Pigeon Porter made its landing. I’m naturally drawn to porters, but this one provides something that English ones — and even some American versions — do not, which is that day-old espresso bitterness. The name comes from an actual pigeon that would fly in for visits at the brewery, but then one day took a few steps and, well, entered the land of ghosts. It was a refreshing change of pace after so much hop flavor, and Truelove coaxed out all of its charms with a chocolate and coffee-rubbed brisket with cauliflower mash.

The final course would need to be bold, I knew. Not only were our taste buds nearly exhausted from overstimulation (I don’t get out much), but the alcohol was taking hold. While John Williams’ theme for Darth Vader didn’t actually play, the score was running through my head as I was handed a glass of NEBCO’s exquisite Imperial Stout Trooper. Viscous and gritty, with dark fruit aggression and cacao bitterness for miles, the beer is rather rarely found outside of the brewery. With great curiosity I enjoyed the accompanying course: braised beef cheeks with celery root, red wine, and carrots. Decadence upon decadence.

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The guests enjoy a beer-meaty meal pairing at Fleishers Craft Butchery in Westport, Conn.

Fleishers will be releasing tickets for each of its events at least two weeks prior to each date, and you can only make reservations through this ticketing system. You’ll need to sign up for their newsletter to learn about tickets, and you can do so here. Each dinner is $90.

Here are the dinners with Connecticut breweries, each on Wednesday nights at 6:30: Jan. 27 (Thimble Island Brewing), Feb. 10 (Stubborn Beauty), Feb. 24 (Relic), and March 9 (Black Hog).

 

Information

Fleishers Craft Kitchen, 580 Riverside Ave., Westport, Conn.

(203) 226-6328

http://www.fleishers.com

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Ireland visit offers beer education

Yes, these pictures make it seems like all I did on my recent 10-day visit to Ireland and Northern Ireland was drink Guinness. And, indeed, I did drink A LOT of Guinness. However, I also explored the craft beer scene, and when I get my notes and photographs together this week, I’ll be putting together a few posts about it.

As a teaser, we’ll meet blogger Irish Beer Snob Wayne Dunne and his wife, Janice (a.k.a., Mrs. Irish Beer Snob), who write and podcast about the country from the east coast. We’ll also meet blogger Simon Broderick, whose Simon Says Beer emits from the central part of the country.

We’ll learn about some great Irish breweries, too, including Galway Bay Brewing, 8 Degrees, Lacada Brewery, McGargle’s, J.W. Sweetman, Brehon Brewhouse, St. Mel’s, and of course, Guinness.

Stay tuned and be patient while I struggle with jetlag and innumerable calories.

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Outer Light Brewing pairs with Flay

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Outer Light Brewing, from left, Matt Ferrucci (founder), Tom Drejer (founder), and Tyler Cox (head brewer). Photo courtesy of Outer Light Brewing

Groton, Conn.-based brewery Outer Light got a taste of the spotlight Tuesday when celebrity chef Bobby Flay paired its beers with his culinary team’s food at a private dinner held at Mohegan Sun’s branch of Flay’s Bar Americain on Tuesday in Uncasville, Conn.

The three-course dinner, according to an Outer Light press release, started off with a beer cocktail featuring Lonesome Boatman Red Ale. The first course of curry mussels and shrimp with wild rice waffles was paired with Fogg Spiced Saison. Outer Light’s Black IPA was paired with a braised pork shoulder with pumpkin grits for the second course. The third course put together the Libation Propaganda Coffee Stout with pecan pie, along with Come Sail Wit Me Belgian Witbier in the ice cream.

Outer Light has been on tap at Bar Americain  for several months, according to brewery co-founder Matt Ferrucci. “Many of [Flay’s] management team have been at the brewery to sample Outer Light’s lineup because they had been hearing positive reviews,” Ferrucci wrote to me in an email. “The connection was equal parts serendipity, and relationship. Our distributor Levine [of Norwich] helped solidify our relationship with the management team but in the end it was the beer that closed the deal.”

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Bobby Flay. Photo courtesy of Outer Light Brewing

Along with being known as a chef and restaurant owner, Flay has served as host on several television shows, including “Throwdown! with Bobby Flay” and “Beat Bobby Flay.” Management at Bar Americain was not immediately available for comment.

Outer Light started pouring for the public in April. It’s currently distributed on draft in eastern Connecticut and along the shoreline. Representatives said that the brewery hopes to begin distribution in Hartford in December and distribute in bottles early next year.

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Va-va-VOOM: Get ready for burlesque in Oakville

From correspondent Lulu Michiell:

A definite do not miss: Hardcore Sweet Cupcakes, the coolest bakery in the New Haven area, and the Desultory Theatre Club will be hosting:

The Hardcore Halloweenie Burlesque & Variety Show! 
on

Saturday, October 24
at 7 – 10:30 p.m.
20 Main St
Oakville, Connecticut

Featuring the burlesque talents of Dot Mitsvah (CT), the Juiciest Jewess this side of the Wailing Wall; Vanil LaFrappe (CT), who will shake and stir you!; Nikki Tiki (NJ), the Jessica Rabbit of burlesque; and Vivienne LaFlamme (CT) who will make you hot under the collar.

What makes this different from your usual Saturday night is that this burlesque is as frothy and delicious as a white frosted cupcake sprinkled with goodies. Mmm… yum! These ladies are sure to tickle your fancy and delight your sense of titillation. I’m turned on, are you?
Show up early to get your seat and grab something from the food trucks of “SPUDS YOUR WAY” and “The Green Grunion. Find out more on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/HardcoreSweetCupcakes.
Also featured: Firefly Hollow Brewing.
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Out-Siders

Participants at a recent Girls Pint Out event in Hartford. Photo by Will Siss

Participants at a recent Girls Pint Out event in Hartford. Photo by Will Siss

As a man, I take a lot for granted.

I’ve never been handed a wine list at a beer bar. I’ve never had to endure a warning that the India pale ale I ordered would be too bitter for someone like me. I’ve never been ogled or groped or made to feel like I didn’t belong at a brew fest.

Enough women have suffered these indignities to make the beer community – even the open and groovy craft beer scene – a sometimes unwelcoming one. The charge elicits knee-jerk protest from bearded beer geeks like me: “I treat everyone equally! I’m not prejudiced! Everybody’s welcome under the beer tent!”

I try to check my ego at the door and open my ears to some truth on a Friday night at a Connecticut Girls Pint Out event in Hartford. Girls Pint Out (GPO; girlspintout.org) is a national, nonprofit organization that started in 2010; its mission is to build a strong community for women beer drinkers. In more than 35 states, women get together over beer and usually an activity like brewing or jewelry-making.

One of CT GPO’s leaders, CJ Manuel, serves as my liaison into the GPO world. She organized the free event at Hartford Prints!, a cool little store that specializes in personalized stationery and items like t-shirts and jewelry. The store is closed, and the women and I hang out in the back, in what feels like the living room of a small apartment, with a couch, table for designing crafts and a kitchenette.

For the next few hours I lurk the best I can without consciously making the 15 attendees feel awkward. Everyone brings at least two bottles of beer to share, so a table of local ales like East Windor’s Broad Brook Brewing’s Pink Dragon Wit, several high-end sours and at least one homebrewed stout glimmer invitingly and serve as the focal point for mingling. Continue reading

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My latest presentation was a SMASH

Will Siss at Pardee-Morris 8.3.15

The talk before the accident. Photo by Tyler Jones (Black Hog Brewing).

The thrill of watching a middle-aged man pace about on a mild August afternoon is usually enough for beer history fans.

However, at my Connecticut Beer reading on Sunday on the lawn of the Pardee-Morris House in New Haven, my half-hour talk was punctuated with a bang. No, an actual, literal bang. As in one car T-boning another. Crunch. Luckily no one was injured (it was more of a slow-motion crash), but it certainly threw off my rhythm. It was at the part of the talk where I finish with a big quote from Jeff Browning of BruRm @ Bar and then ask for questions.

I never got to ask for questions because about 10 of my audience members had sprinted past me to the cars in the street. The rest were on their phones calling 911.

It was a record crowd for me, with about 75 people. Everyone settled in when they saw that the drivers were OK, and were relieved to be able to applaud for me and go sample beers from Black Hog Brewing of Oxford and the soon-to-be-professional (probably) Erector Brewing of New Haven.

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Blog-ucation in Asheville

Created on Canva.com... learned how to do that at BBC15

Clockwise from top: Brian Grossman leads brewers on tour of Sierra Nevada Brewing in North Carolina, Kim Jordan addresses bloggers, the outdoor tasting room of Oscar Blues Brewing in Brevard, Ken Grossman (goateed, on left) addresses bloggers.

Some mock blogging as self-centered and self-serving. It’s true that there are those who turn to blogging as a way to marvel at their own words online or try to attain free dinners or gadgets. The same can be said of beer bloggers, of course. We’re just in it for the brewery access, the rare beers, and free glassware. I would argue that I am in it for many things. After three days in July of intense beering and bloggery, I was reminded that two reasons are camaraderie and education.

The event was the sixth annual Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference (they added “& Writers” this year), which welcomed about 150 “citizen” bloggers and writers, along with others who represent brewing entities. We took part in seminars at an Asheville, North Carolina, hotel — Four Points by Sheraton. We also drank a whole lot of beer, but for the most part in reflective ways. Speakers included Kim Jordan, president of New Belgium Brewing Company (which is set to open a brewery in Asheville next year); a representative of Budweiser (Huh? I’ll explain…); and a variety of bloggers with tips on professionalism and improving style. Road trips included tours of the expansive Sierra Nevada Brewery in nearby Fletcher, and the hulking Oscar Blues Brewery in Brevard.

Continue reading

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Connecticut Beer: New Book Is Your Ultimate CT Beer Guide; Interview with Will Siss

It’s wonderful and humbling to get attention from fellow bloggers you respect!

OmNomCT

Will Siss aka Beer Snob, photo from Paul DiPasquale

If you keep up with Connecticut Beer, then chances are you follow Will Siss in some form or another. Whether it’s his monthly “Beer Snob” column in the RepublicanAmerican, or via his blog beersnobwrites.com, he’s dropping beer knowledge bombs left and right. But, he’s added a new way to share about beer and his uberly descriptive reviews: a brand new book. 

If you don’t own Connecticut Beer: A History of Nutmeg State Brewing by now, you’ll need to definitely pick up a copy at a local store, Amazon, or at some of the local events that He will be attending. We have a list below that Will shared with us, so read on for that. And, if you really needed a reason besides our love and admiration of this book, let’s drop some bombs of our own.

Connecticut Beer starts off with an impressive history of beer in…

View original post 1,316 more words

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Off to the races

Jon Clancy Photography

Jon Clancy Photography

If you’re interested in beer (who isn’t?) and running (who is?), then you might want to check out the Craft Brew Races on Saturday, Aug. 1, in New Haven. It will be at Edgewood Park at the corner of West Rock and Whalley avenues. The race starts at noon and the fest runs from 12:30 to 4 p.m.

It’s the second time the 5K road race — followed by a craft beer festival — will occur in The Elm City. Companies such as Samuel Adams, The Traveler Beer Co., and Sketchers sponsor the race/drink series. There are others all around the country, including Austin, Tex.; Boulder, Colo.; and Newport, RI.

“Each Craft Brew Race makes a donation to a local non-profit organization and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Westville Village Renaissance Alliance” in New Haven, according to a press release from Gray Matter Marketing, which also sponsors the event.

As for beer, the event features more than 45 breweries, 30 of which hail from Connecticut. Some slated to appear include Two Roads, Beer’d, Kent Falls, Stony Creek, Firefly Hollow, New England Brewing, and brewery-to-be, No Worries.

There will be food trucks, local vendors, and live music to digest as well, with parking at Southern Connecticut State University, lots 8 and 9 on Farnham Avenue.

Courtesy of Gray Matter Marketing

Courtesy of Gray Matter Marketing

Registering for the race and festival onsite costs $65. The festival by itself costs $55 at the gate. However, it’s cheaper to buy before July 31. For more information, go to www.craftbrewraces.com/newhaven/.

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Among all to choose from, which CT beer should I bring?

A selection of (mostly) CT beer from Bottle Stop in Torrington, Conn.

A selection of (mostly) CT beer from Bottle Stop in Torrington, Conn.

After 10 hours of driving I just have a couple more to go before I reach Asheville, NC. That’s where the Beer Bloggers and Writers Conference is being held this year. And if you think bringing a gift to a friend who has everything is pressure, you can sort of imagine how I felt when I needed to choose a Connecticut beer for our bottle share.

There are plenty of choices, at least compared to how CT beer was just five or six years ago. So many questions: Would they want to try something exotic? Do they want the most bitterest of bitter? Do they want the one with the weirdest ingredients? Bottle or can?

In the end I didn’t overthink it. I went toBottle Stop in Torrington and scanned my choices (see picture). I chose the Ginga’ Ninja by Black Hog of Oxford, and because it’s my favorite, the Porter by Back East.

Looking forward to a fun few days!