"Are you ready, Steve?" The opening line from "Ballroom Blitz" by Tia Carrere... wait, I mean Sweet - lets you know it's about to go down, right now. A few dozen people were gathered in a side room at The Little Pub's Fairfield location for a visit by Astoria's own Singlecut Beersmiths, a brewery which has been making some noise of its own when its elixers landed in Connecticut last year. Are You Ready Steve? was the name of a beer on the pairing menu. Hit it.
Singlecut combines two of my favorite life-fillers, music and beer. The name itself is a reference to a style of guitar body, and the brewery's physical location is down the street from Steinway pianos, who actually gave the brewery one as a gift to welcome them to the neighborhood. As a welcome to the six course beer pairing dinner at the Pub, attendees received a glass of Weird&Gilly, both an IPA and a Ziggy Stardust reference.
Weird&Gilly is a member of the unfiltered, juicy IPA clan known as "New England style" to my great distaste, but is made with Scottish malt from Simpsons.
"It's got such great color and flavor, and most of it goes to making Scotch whiskey," said Dan Bronson, Singlecut's general manager. "We buy all we can get."
A bad unfiltered IPA is practically gritty, with so much yeast it burns the throat on the way down. A good unfiltered IPA is this, exactly. It's redolent of the fruity, late boil, hop flavors and aromas inclusive with the style, but creamy, and not so overloaded with greenery as to overwhelm the bready malts which give it body.
The night's first course were beer battered andouille skewers over a bed of roasted corn and red pepper relish, with garlic honey aioli dip. The sausage retained a meaty flavor and possessed the needed heat of the style, and the crunchy fried batter possessed a corn sweetness of its own. The aioli was gentle, but was useful for adding a little something extra when I got close to finishing the andouille. The corn and pepper relish was excellent. Forks greedily reached out for second and third helpings, and almost none was left on the communal plate thereafter.
The course was served with 19-33 pilsner, a happy coincidence of the brewery address and the year prohibition ended. Singlecut, to add another layer, is the first production brewery in Queens since those dark days.
"Pilsner is the most important beer style in the world," Bronson intoned to the group. "It deserves the most respect."
19-33 is a slavish adherent to an old world pils. It is their flagship lager, and is clear as flawless crystal. A head like Victorian lace sticks above the beer, which is crisp, biscuity, and very dry. 19-33 is a lip smacking beer, and did an excellent job of cutting through the fats in the fried andouille (seen above).
Billy 18-watt is the most familiar to Connecticut consumers. If anywhere in state has a Singlecut beer, this 5% session IPA is probably it. The Billy series was started with the brewery in 2012, and includes the Billys Half-Stack (6.6%, with a burly 105ish IBUs), Full-Stack (8.2% and a preposterous 137 IBU) and 200-watt: a 20proof heavyweight with eight pounds of hops per barrel and a ruinous 160international bitterness units. That last should cave your head in like swallowing a singularity. I can't wait to try some.
Anyway, 18-watt is a sweet mishmash of all Pacific northwest hops and carries an alcoholic potency less likely to leave asphalt embedded in your palms. It arrived at the table with hoisin bbq seared pork belly and grapefruit kimchi slaw. The cabbage, shredded or fermented, grabs you with a big crunch and sharp spice. The belly had a pleasing bark, and plenty of sweetness from the sauce, while the acidic grapefruit was picked out by the citrus elements of the beer. The elements played together like a trefoil yin-yang.
Layers of roasted duck quesadillas arrived, with perfect blisters on each tortilla. The cheese was tangy, and the umami was counterbalanced by sweet potato at the base of each fold.
Are You Ready Steve? is made with one of Singlecut's proprietary yeast strains, like all the others, but this was the most relaxed IPA of the evening. The brewers used all aspect of the hops, from bittering to flavor to aroma, and the result was a summery concoction which didn't try to hit the drinker with either the cloying overenthusiasm of some JUICE-BOMBZ or a vegetable peeler of IBUs. I pictured drinking a few on a cool Sunday with new leaves swishing overhead.
Bless you for reading this far. Let's bring this one home:
Panko breaded goat cheese medallion with roasted portobello and field greens:
Every single element of this dish worked. The mushroom was meaty, doused in vinegar, and drizzed with a bit of lemon thyme aioli. The acid complimented the tangy, creamy, and now crunchy chevre, and slightly bitter greens.
KT-66. The name of this India Pale Lager may sound like the sail number on a u-boat, but it's taken from the name of a vacuum tube used in Marshall amps. Lagers bottom ferment, so this beer, though unfiltered, had a haze with could have been mistaken for the sweat on the glass. A slight head and rich amber glow contained flavors of stone fruit and pineapple, with smooth malts able to stand on their own. It became my favorite beer of the night.
Chipotle citrus short ribs with smoked bacon black beans:
The braised short rib was fork tender and carried both smoke and fire in its glaze, yet the beans stole the show. There were exclamations out loud every time someone took their first bite. I wanted to live inside a cloud made of this flavor. The smoke was omnipresent but the bacon was not, allowing the rib to star as the main meat dish.
Octavia Brett IIPA, a version of Singlecut's Bon Bon 2xTNT (get it?) imperial IPA, dosed with brettanomyces yeast, SING-19. Australian hops, naturally, lend the IPA an aroma of burnt pineapple when combined with the brett, however I though the combination created a chlorinated flavor. The profiles available in the brett spectrum continue to surprise.
Dessert was [deep breath] a cheesecake and bacon-banana-caramel tostada with salted pretzel peanut butter ice cream. Little Pub consistently generates final courses which make my claims of not being "a dessert guy" into obvious, Trumpian lies.
Eric More Cowbell! Mocha Milk Stout. The mocha happens when Costa Rican white coffee beans are introduced into this mild, 6.6% stout, along with a little lactose, which remains in the beer through fermentation and graces it with a tinge of milk sweetness. The creamy nature was enhanced in this case by nitrogenation instead of carbonation, and the dark beer frothed like a shake in the glass.
Singlecut has a clever beer finder on their site wherein consumers can either find a beer near them, or follow a specific beer. The Little Pub (this one at 2133 Black Rock Turnpike in Fairfield) lists their beer menu online, as well as linking to special events like this one.
See you out there.