Hearing a brewery owner talk about his beer is like hearing a director discuss one of his films.
The stories about each decision – the use of Cascade hops or choice to add oak chips – reincarnate the process for the brewer, just as recalling how he got the perfect light at sunset for the goodbye kiss scene does for the director.
Half Full owner and Litchfield native son Conor Horrigan, who began his amateur brewing career in the quaint town, led brief discussions about his beers for the 40-odd guests. We sat in the cozy, refined bar area, with its glistening copper bar and balanced décor of stone and dark wood.
The pairings began with a self-serve raw bar, with fat peel-and-eat shrimp, Blue Point oysters and Rhode Island Little Neck Clams. Their saltiness and brininess mixed well with the first beer: Half Full’s Bright Ale.
“It’s a great starter,” Horrigan said of the Bright Ale after a brief tutorial on analyzing beer based on sight, smell, mouthfeel and taste. “It’s low alcohol, has some sweetness on the tip of your tongue.”
Like the seasoned commentator he’s becoming, Horrigan didn’t linger on any one aspect of the beer for too long (that was for one-on-one conversations with the beer geeks in attendance). Unlike Oliver Stone discussing “Platoon,” he knew when to let the product speak for itself.
Two thick bratwurst in puffed pastry and tiny granny smith apple slices didn’t quite work with the next offering: a cask version of a Cascadian dark ale specially made for the tasting. The ale represented Litchfield, Horrigan explained.
“It’s earthy and pungent and piney, which is like White Memorial,” he said, referring to a local park.
The syrupy, high-alcohol ale had some hints of dark chocolate, and probably would have worked better with a gently seasoned bratwurst. It didn’t matter: both app and sample were gone before you could say “hefeweizen.”
I had the IPA-battered fish and chips, which went great with the Half Full IPA, then enjoyed a crispy hunk of sea salt homemade pretzel.
Out of kindness to my belly, I skipped the delicious-looking, drippy, gooey chocolate bread pudding and sipped at the final beer of the evening: a chocolate coffee brown ale. I’d had it before, and this version was much better. It had just the right carbonation to release the aromas but preserve the silkiness.
Yeah, I think I’d watch that movie again…
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