Recap: Kent Falls Brewing Visits Little Pub in Ridgefield

James Gribbon

This March only marks a year since Kent Falls Brewing Company released their first beer, and somehow it doesn't feel too early to call them "renowned." The Litchfield County operation has already become one of Connecticut's most productive, releasing 37 different beers and variants in their first ten months. That level of output is preposterous, and all the more remarkable not just due to the high volume of recipes, but for their excellence. Small wonder then, that Little Pub in Ridgefield chose to host the Kent Falls crew for a rare beer pairing dinner event early this February.  

The night at Little Pub began appropriately, with a serving of Tiny House: a wet hop farmhouse ale brewed in collaboration with the crew from Hudson Valley Brewery, who were lending some support during the first hop harvest at Kent Falls. Tiny House is a mixed fermentation ale, which means it was fermented first with traditional Saccharomyces brewer's yeast, then refermented with funky brettanomyces, and finished with a souring inoculation of lactobacillus. All these profiles mixed with the floral broth of hops to produce an orange colored, tart beer with serious bite. It's refreshing, and not overdone, despite the cornucopia of ingredients. 

The initial dish selected for pairing by Little Pub's chefs was a sweet potato, caramelized onion, and goat cheese quesadilla. The sweetness and cream threatened to be a bit cloying, despite a tinge of sourness from the chèvre, but the caramelized onions really made the dish, adding both bite and a slight, bursting crunch to the texture. The potato and cheese could have stuck around too long and gotten a bit wearying, but each sip of the beer reset my palate. Nice choices to begin. 

Round two was a pour of Anachronism, Kent Falls' revival of an ancient Gratzer-style smoked wheat beer. 

"We dialed back the smoked wheat, which can be as high as 90% in these," brewery co-owner Barry Labendz told the crowd. "We didn't want it to be a smoke bomb, or come off tasting meaty."

With a big, pillowy head over a blonde body, the nose was straight funk; not "horse barn" like pure Brett beers can be, but wild and unusual - almost like an exotic soap. There was both smoke and cream on the first sip, testament to the gentle nature of wheat beers, and both flavors lasted the full glass through. Each glass was proof against simple  "light" or "dark" being indicators of a beer's flavor profile. 

Smoke met smoke with beer battered andouille sausage over a base of corn/jalapeño relish, and a drizzle of black garlic aioli. The andouille was fiery, but mellowed by the sweet, and pleasantly still crisp, corn. The lightly herbed relish had a nice, vegetal aura, and the Gratzer made friendly relations with the sausage and garlic.

Kent Falls is famous for giving their beers unusual names, mostly thought up during long hours on the road, or in early morning delirium. The idea of a bar patron asking their server for Some Zep On The Jukebox or Are You Single? is amusing enough, but Maybe Both? has a different story. This third beer of the evening is an India Pale... something: an ale fermented at much cooler temperatures, like a lager. Heavily hopped with Citra and Azacca, this was to be the beer's first-ever serving. [Reign in that envy, though. With an ale's much more rapid turnaround time instead of the lengthy lagering process, Maybe Both? is likely to be produced again.]

Maybe Both? was a barely cloudy golden color under a thin head as poured, with a west coast-y forest of hops to the nose. Ultra smooth, the IP-whatever exhibited a slight, lemony citrus flavor which persisted, instead of having the sharp, clean finish of a lager. It'll make a great summer beer if they produce it during the warmer months. 

The sriracha/brown sugar rubbed pork belly was magnificent. Served sliced and covered in a coffee infused BBQ sauce, the soft, meaty belly was edged with chewy bark. The sweet rub and savory, earthy coffee BBQ enlivened the pork, while the peppery heat did a beautiful job cutting through the fat. My upper faculties waged a successful but fraught struggle against my baser desires to lick the plate in front of 40 people. 

The above beers may seem as out of reach as a 1p.m. tee time at Augusta National, but several of you reading this have probably had dalliances with Juicemaker, Kent Falls' 100% Brett fermented IPA infused with mangoes. Citrusy, sharp, and sweet - yet dry for an IPA - Juicemaker is delicious. You should drink it, unless unfiltered beers freak you out. If, however, that type of elixir does sound good to you, imagine it paired with Peking duck soft tacos with mango mint salsa, and cilantro scallion slaw. I love this job. 

My god, the tacos. The duck lost very little of its intensity in the preparation, with the mint hitting my taste buds quickly thereafter before the crunch and allium of the slaw. The sweet fruit and gamy duck hit a perfect swirl on the tongue. Served family style at the table, people were glancing at each other nervously with barely contained avarice when there were just three tacos left. Prevailing manners kept the sharp knives at bay. The bitterness of the IPA was a bit much for this dish, but the tropical flavors were complimentary. 

Like Juicemaker, Coffeemaker is also based on Kent Falls Waymaker IPA, this time infused with single origin coffee from Irving Farm Coffee Roastery of Millerton, N.Y. The beer is deceptively orange colored, but getting within four feet of a glassful means anyone who hasn't suffered disastrous rhinoplasty can tell it's Coffeemaker. The tangy Brett yeast works wonders here. 

Dessert arrived in the form of bacon-banana-caramel-cheesecake tostadas. My sweet tooth seems to have been extracted along with my wisdom teeth, but I appreciated the slight char brought to this course by the bacon.

Attendees that evening received t-shirts printed like concert tour shirts, and the surprise encore performance on Little Pub's patio was [long inhale]: "Walking Away In Slow Motion As The Car Explodes Behind You."

See what I mean about the names? 

First brewed for the Extreme Beer Fest in Boston, this 7% ABV imperial gose includes mango juice, lime juice and zest, is Galaxy hopped, and then soured with a house bacteria strain the brewers collected from the skin of peaches from their own orchard. Yowza. It looks like a first pressing apple cider you'd buy at Stew Leonard's, had zero point zero head, and smells like walking into someone's kitchen in a foreign country. There is big citrus to the first sip, as could be expected, but that citrus - from both juice and hops - the fruit juice, and the various cultures somehow combine to create hints of mint. This batch had mega lime, which overshadowed almost all other flavors. It was like drinking some sort of disco ball version of limeade. 

Little Pub's staff proved they were up to the task of creating various foods which not only played well with the exotic Kent Falls libations, but are absolutely worth a second look should they hit the menu before your next visit. I don't think I have to say any more to convince you to remember the name Kent Falls Brewing Company.