Every night in America college kids somewhere are getting together, reaching their hands into cardboard boxes and pairing pizza with beer. In terms of originality, this combination carries about as much novelty as the Sun rising, or the L.A. Sheriff's Office failing to hold a guilty celebrity. The beers at these gatherings range from "cheap" to "possibly poisonous," and stay toasty warm under someone's bedclothes lest the weaselly R.A. sniff around and find the canned contraband in the mini-fridge whose box was most recently used to sneak a keg up the elevator. "Pizza and beer night" need not cause cataleptic flashbacks of Gumby's, Domnio's and Milwaukee's Best*, however, because as we put away childish things, so too can we put away lame food. This was the thunderbolt which struck Dan and Kristien of OmNomCT when they decided to pair with Coalhouse Pizza in Stamford and Victory Brewing on Monday, March 19.
*(I almost wrote that as "Milwaukee's Beast," and gold star for those of you who simply read it that way. You probably also know what a can of that and house key have to do with one another.)
Victory is a personal favorite brewery of mine, as you may have read, and their rep, Sean, arrived bearing 750mL, corked bottles of Helios and V-12, and swag to give to anyone who could answer trivia questions about Victory whenever The Moses Brothers blues band ceded their mics. Also present from Victory were five different beers to be paired with the five courses served to the sold out crowd, as well as a quartet of Victory mash-ups which could be ordered on the side. These blends included the "Dark Devil": a 60/40 blend of Hop Devil IPA and Storm King Russian Imperial Stout, kind of an imperial black&tan; "Silver Back": a 50/50 mix of the ultra dark Storm King (9.1% ABV) and sweeter Golden Monkey Belgian Tripel (9.5%); "Dark Waters," which incorporated the Storm King with the hoppier Headwaters Pale Ale; and "Monkey On The Moon": equal parts Golden Monkey and Moonglow Weizenbock. That last blend caught my eye, but the pint arrived at the same time as the first course, a pairing of Braumeister Keller Pils and clams with bacon (a theme for the evening), chives, and a broth made with Victory's lemony seasonal: Summer Love. The effervescent Braumeister with its mild European hops cleansed the palate of the briny shellfish and pork, and left one ready for another tasty bivalve.
The beers Victory brought to Coalhouse were generally used in the preparation process, like Headwaters was used in the dressing of the next course: a bacon (natch) and bleu cheese salad. A pint of the ale itself was the accompaniment, and it was alive with huge doses of American Citra hops and German malts - another impressive beer from the Pennsylvania brewery. This course was followed by Coalhouse's sweet and spicy Hawaiian pizza made with Golden Monkey dough, and served with the Monkey in a wine glass, both to trap the floral aroma of the Belgian yeasts, and to slightly reduce the strong beer's quantity and effect on the already lively crowd. This red pizza was topped with bacon, pineapple, fresh mozzarella, and peppers that would make your mother cry like a freshly discovered nipple piercing. Usually not a fan of mid-Pacific styles of pizza, I thought the peppers (possibly habaneros) made the pie, which was evened out beautifully by the Belgian yeast funk and sweet, sticky character of the Tripel.
Hop Devil, a go-to IPA for your occasionally humble author and anyone else whose mouth wouldn't pucker halfway down their alimentary canal when faced with that many IBUs, was plunked down in Coalhouse's signature 16oz. mason jars for the next course: Smokey The Beer bacon sliders and beer battered onion rings. These "sliders" weighed about a quarter pound each and were served on English muffins next to the excellent rings and a savory dipping sauce. Dessert arrived in the form of salted caramel bacon (yes) brownies, which were dusted with confectioner's sugar and topped with mint leaves. The brownies were dense as fudge, and had a distinct toffee flavor going on until one got to the mint. This last pairing was made via a Rowlingesque Storm King Butterbeer - the RIS having been doctored up with butterscotch schnapps (as far as I could tell) and topped with whipped cream.
At this point I noticed my Monkey On The Moon, formerly lost amongst the clutter and conversation, staring me down from the table near a picture of Son House. The blend was a smokey red color, and had retained its head a full two hours after it had been placed in that position. That alone should indicate to our beloved readers the kind of quality infused in the drink's component parts. The aroma was malty, but reminded me of cocoa more than anything else, which was surprising, because that was the only sense which detected it. The Tripel/Wheat Bock blend was very smooth and malty, and the two beers' profiles had somehow come together to taste of bananas, toasted grain, and the greenhouse perfume of those Belgian yeasts, all cut through with a sharply alcoholic bite. You can't buy that on campus.