Butchers Meat Brewers Recap: Stubborn Beauty Brewing At Fleisher's Westport

James Gribbon

I was using a sort of ornate hacksaw to part a hip ligament at the time, on my way to removing the whole leg.It was November of 2012, and I was taking a class in how to butcher a pig at what was then Saugatuck Craft Butchery. Owner Ryan Fibiger was making swift, clean cuts, demonstrating exactly what to do, his hands seemingly working on their own while his speech flowed. He was talking about the locally sourced Duroc cross-breed, common 40 years ago, but now made scarce in the quest for leaner protein; the importance of the way they were treated, the flavor which resulted from the pigs being free to forage. The terroir of meat. 

"Everything we sell," he said at the time. "Comes from within a 50-mile radius of Westport." 

This principle of local quality followed when the butchery became Fleishers Westport, and extends to their new Butchers Meat Brewers dinner series, which starred Stubborn Beauty Brewing Company for one night in February. 

The welcome reception began half an hour before dinner, and guests were each handed a glass of Stubborn Beauty's Naughty Eskimo: a member of the emerging northeastern style of unfiltered, juicy, mildly bitter IPAs, and is slightly reminiscent of Bissell Brothers LUX without the rye. The event technically took place at Fleishers Craft Kitchen, where the kitchen crew had laid out bowls of pickled vegetables, a roasted/candied/salted mix of what may well be the finest beer nuts on the planet, and roses, which both referenced the Stubborn Beauty logo, and paid heed to the proximity of Valentine's Day. Each beer was introduced by another of the evening's hosts, Stubborn Beauty co-owner Shane Lentini

"Led by Chef Adam Truelove, these four-course dinners will feature inventive menus of pasture-raised meats and seasonal ingredients, paired with locally crafted beers presented by the brewmasters themselves." - Fleishers

In keeping with the local and seasonal concept, the evening's first course was beef bratwurst over braised red cabbage and apples, with beer mustard. The pairing was Kommadant Lassard, a 5.4% dunkelweizen which was part of my first review of Stubborn Beauty. The Kommadant is a dark, smooth, medium bodied beer which stood up well to the spiced, tremendously meaty wurst. This should come as little surprise to anyone eating at what amounts to a butchery's kitchen, but the depth of meat flavor absolutely dominated in the brats. Huge thumbs up here. They were lightly herbed and salted, with little in the way of the smokey flavor common to super market varieties, and the slight malt sweetness of the the beer, plus the still crunchy apple, were key to this dish working as well as it did.   

Chef Tuelove and Fibiger both expounded separately on how to make a proper spaghetti carbonara, our next dish. 

"I see a recipe calling for prosciutto and I just think: no," said Ryan. "The fat, the way it's cured, it just doesn't work."

Craft Kitchen's take on the recipe starts with guanciale, which renders down and creates an oil base to which pecorino and parmesan is added. The dish was topped with a small amount of shredded basil, and served with Secret Agent X-9 Belgian Strong Ale. The carbonara left every single noodle richly coated, with just enough cheese to get the point across, and noticeable umami. The guanciale was liberally applied, and the many cubes in the bowl were chewy and bursting with flavor. The slightly sticky carbonara could have been a bit much with two courses still to come, but the botanical Belgian yeast and hot alcohol of Secret Agent X-9 both enlivened the starch and cut through the fat.

The star of the night for me was the the pineapple braised pork belly with collard greens, paired with The Fist Imperial IPA. I know, I know: everywhere short of the mess on a Navy submarine is serving braised pork belly these days, but not like this. The meat itself was intensely flavorful, and the braising process with the sweet pineapple had created a crackly, candied skin on top of the fat layer: all three levels working perfectly with the verdant bitterness of the collards. This same juxtaposition was also present in the DIPA: fruity Azacca hops providing the flavor and aroma, a full, boozy body making up the meat of the beer, and a solid hit of IBUs bringing it all down to earth. The discreet flavors and sensations in the food and drink each met their parallel in the other.  

Last was a Meyer lemon panna cotta with a drizzle of raspberry jam, and a sprig of mint. I'm not really a dessert guy, as I've said before, but this one got me. The sweet lemon essence was lovingly enveloped in ultra-creamy panna cotta, with added tang from the raspberry, and menthol which sort of fluffed the whole thing up. 

The fashion at beer dinners seems to always be pairing sugar with a sweet beer, for some reason, but I was happy to see the milky panna cotta matched up with Sour Tiddy's Oud Bruin. This batch had been double soured - making it officially a Sour-er Tiddy's - and the acidic, dark ruby beer, with its own hints of plum, presented a counterpoint, rather than an escalation of the sweetness.

Fleishers sells meats, sundry groceries, prepared food, and teaches culinary classes fairly often. The Butchers Meat Brewers dinner series continues - almost necessarily - with Oxford's Black Hog brewery, on March 9th, and I'd keep a watch on the web site for additional events as they're planned.   

Fleishers Craft Kitchen, 580 Riverside Avenue, Westport, www.fleishers.com/locations/westport-ct-kitchen/

Stubborn Beauty Brewing Co., 180 Johnson St. Middletown, www.stubbornbeauty.com