Friday Froth Recap: Maine Beer Co. Dinner @ Little Pub

James Gribbon

One of the best moments of my year, every year, is dusk on spring evening when I first hear peepers. Spring seems - perpetually and annoyingly - to be just around the corner until those tiny frogs let me know it has officially arrived, and winter is finally at its end. We're not quite there yet, not that I've heard, anyhow, so sitting fireside at Little Pub with a snifter of fresh Peeper from Maine Beer Company is about as close as I'm going to get. 

Last Sunday I took a drive up Route 7, but not that far up Rt. 7, to attend the event at Little Pub's middle location in Wilton, roughly between their newest outpost in Cos Cob and their home base in Ridgefield. The reason was an evening of beer and food pairing hosted in conjunction with Maine Beer Co., of Freeport, and emceed by Little Pub personnel Dave "Mr. Beer" Newman and Tim "Fuzzy" Foley. MBC's motto is "Do What's Right" and 1% of the night's proceeds would be donated back to the brewery for use in their philanthropic outreach but, again, I was focused on that Peeper.  

Peeper first appeared in Friday Froth back when it first arrived in Connecticut, and I mentioned the aroma of oily pine and citrus, and the lemony hops and very mild bitterness. "It's just such a fresh little number" was the short takeaway. I stand by all of that first review, and the brewery thought it was fitting that, as the beer they ever made, Peeper should be the first beer of the evening. I'm unabashed in my fandom of Maine Beer Co's products, but it seemed to be a hit with everyone. 

The first course was an appetizer of lime salt chicharrones, served with a Tabasco aioli and a glass of A Tiny Beautiful Something pale ale. The chicharrones were served pork rind style, deeply and crispily fried. They were very thick, with a huge crunch, and slowly dissolved to a more chewy texture. I'm almost embarrassed to use the word "zip" in a post, but that's exactly what the lime salt added, and the aioli brought heat and moisture to the crunchy app. 

A Tiny Beautiful Something delivers on its name. The golden hued beer is almost entirely single hopped with the El Dorado variety, and rests under a head which gives off an aroma like orange blossoms. A small amount of oats and red wheat used in the mash bill give this beer a bit of cloudiness and a rounder mouthfeel which works very well with its light bitterness and hops that are juicy as a tiki drink.   

I fought off the Little Pub's staff until it became apparent we wouldn't be getting our second course until the large bowl of chicharrones, sadly still half full, could be cleared. Join me now in a moment of silence for their loss.

"Et tu, Brute?" is what happens when you let Little Pub name its chicken salad, tossed with a creamy Caesar dressing (there you go), olives and red onions, and served with parmesan crostini.  Large chunks of chicken were chopped into this thick salad, and the Caesar dressing and olives added a pleasing angle to a dish which can often be fairly flat. The bread, good on its own, provided a necessary crunch, and I liked the two together, but this was a quite thick salad. Lucky then, that it was skillfully paired with Another One IPA.  

Another One is brewed with Warrior, Simcoe, Citra and Cascade hops, but manages not to be a total hop bomb. Bring the glass to your nose and lips, and you'll notice it's actually very earthy in aroma, and clean on the tongue. When you read this column and I say a beer is "bright," this is an excellent example, as it absolutely leaps to the palate. It did wonders cutting through the chicken salad dressing and refreshing the mouth for the next bite. 

Lobster mac and cheese was served with Maine Beer's Weez dark IPA. The lobster, from Maine, natch, was spread plentifully atop cavatappi macaroni in a four cheese sauce with a bit of truffle oil and a topper of breadcrumbs. Weez was brewed as a counterpoint to Another One, uses the same kettle and dry hopping schedule, and was named after the brewer's cat. This is the internet, and as such I'm obligated by law to mention that last part. Also, profits from Maine Beer Co.'s tasting room help fund a local animal shelter, which is the perfect excuse to spend more time and money there than your family might condone. 

Weez is a super dark Cascadian ale with a thin head. The grain roasting process which gives the beer its color also gives it some caramel on the nose, with a slightly acerbic bite and lots of coffee notes in the flavor. All this helped the beer plow through the richness in the large chunks of lobster and runny, surprisingly bland cheese. I wouldn't feel shortchanged by this dish or its portions, but I like my cheese to have a little more fight to it.

A trio of Thanksgiving meatballs made up the final dinner portion of our meal before dessert, and they arrived with a glass of MBC's Lunch IPA. The meatballs were a blend of ground turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and dried cranberries, and were simmered in, then covered with, an herb roasted turkey gravy. These were like piling samplings from an entire plate's worth of food onto a single fork. The turkey was almost drowned out by the herbaceous stuffing and a significant sweetness. These were very good, but a little cloying in that last regard. The highly bitter Lunch, an echo of high alpha acid west coast style IPAs, cut through that sweetness like a katana. Neither was my favorite, individually, but this turned out to be one of my favorite pairings of the night, and a good take on Thanksgiving, if you're seeking it out in ball form.   

Of note: Lunch is named after a female whale which has been regularly spotted off the Maine coast since 1982. A large bite taken out of her fin is what earned her the name. MBC continues its cetacean theme, and support, with another beer: Zoe.   

"Home made dark chocolate peanut butter stout ice cream" - if those words don't sit you up straight you may want to call a doctor. This last was served with a pancake battered, deep fried, bacon stuffed banana


The fried crust in this food combo actually put me a little bit in mind of fried ice cream and, on that topic: yes, I will fight you for this particular ice cream because it is amazing. I wrote that word in longhand capitals in my notes and everything. It is an astonishing pairing with the Mean Old Tom stout, which has been aged on organic vanilla beans, and manages to gift the drinker with coffee and chocolate notes as well. Now, think: bacon is salty. All of the above, plus salt. This dessert practically flips your lizard brain over and gives it a belly rub. So it was that the assembled group was shuffled out into another cold winter's night. 

I'll keep listening for those peepers.
See you out there.