What shape is Connecticut? Kind of a cleaver-shape, I think. I live down in the that cleaver's handle - along with you, by statistical probability - and the myriad horrors of highway travel in Connecticut tend to keep me there, but I'm wired to explore. If Lando can escape the Sarlacc, I can get out of Fairfield freaking County.
This is especially useful as I paddle my canoe up the rivers of craft beer this state has to offer, because breweries don't usually spring up next to yacht clubs, son. Train that spyglass further afield, and you'll spot Stubborn Beauty Brewing Company in increasingly craft beer dense Middletown, Black Hog Beer Company in Oxford, and Overshores Brewing Co. in East Haven. It's about time I gave each of them their due.
Stubborn Beauty's logo is a rose, appropriately enough, and reminds me of the rosebush we found growing by the front door inside a tangle of vines the size of a Volkswagen when I was restoring my first house. We hacked the vines completely away and would have done for the rose, too, but its stump was too much of a bastard to handle, so we left it and figured the coming winter would spell its end. A few months later it was pushing tiny, green leaves through two feet of snow, and it was big enough to grab you as you walked up to the door by May. We were so impressed with the rose's gumption we just let it run wild and free as a naked hippie after that, figuring it would at least kept the missionaries away.
Why should you care? You probably shouldn't, which is why I'll now talk about the beer. The first Stubborn Beauty beer I had was Kommadant Lassard, a 5.4% dunkelweizen which poured a dark, cloudy chestnut brown with very little aroma, and had a thin, lasting head. The Kommandant is surprisingly light in body for all that color, and has a nutty flavor to its malts, which makes it an easy drinker.
Nummy Nummy Imperial IPA seems to be SB's rose. This was the first beer brewers Shane and Andrew home brewed back in February of 2009. It earns that first "I" in IIPA with an 8.1% ABV, and pours a cloudy mahogany with a medium head which thins from the middle out to leave a lasting ring. There are sweet, fruity hops to the nose - almost like what you'd smell while slicing a fresh pineapple. There is an absolute dump truck full of Columbus hops in this beer. Despite all the lupulin floating around, Nummy has a drier flavor, and a pronounced bitterness is the lasting impression. I'd like to see a little more hop flavor in this IPA, but the aroma and IBUs definitely deliver.
Black Hog is located in the facilities which formerly housed Cavalry Brewing in Oxford, and is the vision of brothers Jason and Tom Sobocinski of Casseus Fromagerie Bistro and Ordinary in New Haven. They hired Tyler Jones, a brewer with a degree in chemical engineering, a master's in brewing, and experience at Mercury, Smuttynose and Portsmouth breweries. I've been called a beer geek before, but Tyler is the kind of guy who could model an alpha acid molecule for you.
I met Chris, a partner in the brewery, during a Black Hog tap takeover at Craft 260 in Fairfield - which is a legitimate craft beer destination in its own right. The first beer I had, Ginga Ninja, is an homage to Tyler's redheaded wife, as Chris told it, with the artist's girlfriend as the model.
The brewers call this one a red IPA with ginger added, and it poured that way, with a fine, sticky head and big, sappy pine notes to the nose. I thought it was analogous to a Butternuts Pork Slap ale, which I find to be desirable alongside smoked meats.
A log of Coffee Milk Stout was also on one of the tap lines, this one with a nitrogen, instead of carbonated, charge. This beer's as dark as a black steer's tukas on a moonless prairie night, as the man once said, and wells up into a thick khaki head. The Colombian Supremo and espresso roasted coffees, plus the abundance of roasted malts, give the stout exceptional flavor and depth without it feeling like a workout. The 5.5% ABV is likewise restrained. The "milk" part in milk stouts is due to the addition of small amounts of lactose, which imparts a light, creamy sweetness. This is particularly effective in a coffee stout. Excellent work, here.
My favorite, the one I've come back to at other establishments, is Black Hog's 5 Gallon Pail Ale,which is made specifically to go with pizza.
Tyler crafted a nice little 6% pale ale with a fairly deep malt bill, plus Bravo and Columbus hops, then added Thai and Globe basil. I first had 5 Gallon Pail at Coalhouse Pizza in Stamford, luckily enough, where it poured a cloudy amber which, my notes say is "really an inviting color - or maybe I'm just thirsty for beer." It had a full and lasting head, and a crisp hop aroma. There were very nice malts on the first sip, rich and biscuity, and the basil revealed itself as a perplexing, slightly sweet spice. I couldn't place it at first. The whole effect was pleasantly unexpected, and became slightly more intense as the beer warmed. This - believe me - is a good thing. I'd even recommend this one as nice cold weather beer, with or without pizza, and it's lighter on its feet than most in that category. Look out for it on tap.
We've mentioned Overshores before on CTBites, and you can see this isn't the first time I'll discuss them in the context of pizza. I met up with Overshores principals Christian Amport and Brian Cox at one of the monthly "Meet The Brewers" events at Coalhouse [New England Brewing is next, on Dec. 23, and you're going to have to fight me for pints of Zapata-Bot], where I had a chance to try theirBelgique Du Noire. Overshores only does Belgian style ales, all brewed with their house strain of yeast, and this imperial stout had never been sold outside the brewery's tasting room before that night.
The beer poured a deep, earthy brown, with a sticky head of pinhead-sized bubbles. It had a fresh, slightly hoppy scent, and one big swig told me it and I were about to become very close friends. It is incredibly rich, with no trace of acerbity, and owner Christian told me the majority of the body in the stout comes from the profoundly resinous Amarillo hops used in its manufacture. This is a beer you want to bathe in and, at 9.5%, that alone might be enough to catch you a buzz.
Sound good? Overshores has a grand opening event scheduled for Dec. 13, Black Hog events can be found here, and Stubborn Beauty will also keep you appraised of their goings on.
They say travel is its own reward, but the hell with that: give me beer. See you out there.