IT’S NO SECRET that beer and warm weather go together, just as it’s become clear that STAMFORD HAS BECOME A SERIOUS BEER TOWN, complete with several SPECIALTY BEER BARS, a couple of CRAFT MICROBREWERIES—plus more just a short road trip away—and a social calendar filled with tastings and festivals. This is no coincidence; the rest of the world is experiencing a craft beer revolution, and we’re lucky we don’t have to go far to be part of it as well. So, go ahead: Tear out these pages and take them with you next time you go out. On top of where to go and what to drink, you’ll learn about food pairing suggestions, some required reading, must-have gadgets and tips on cooking with beer. CHEERS!
To Your Health!
The workday is almost over and you’ve made plans to meet friends for Happy Hour. You could head just about anywhere; plenty of fine wine and spirits to be found out there. But how about a craft beer? Plus, you gotta eat. The following restaurants not only specialize in beer but also serve food that pairs with a range of beer styles. Make your reservations now. We trust you’ll soon be raising your pint glass to good times, good drink and good food.
Cask Republic has a cozy sophistication that comes through in its comfortable atmosphere and American-tavern-with-global-touches menu. Indeed, there’s craft in the beer and the food. Cask believes in seasonal, local, from-scratch cooking—no microwaves ever!
The beer list is a deep, curated, evolving menu of the best on the market. It covers local, regional, American and international brews. And since summer’s the season for light, refreshing beers, popular styles you’ll see at Cask are Saisons: light, crisp, low alcohol-by-volume (ABV) beers with lots of citrus notes, light earthy tones and some spices. These pair well with Cask’s seasonal spring and summer seafood dishes, like grilled salmon or arctic char, and year-round favorites like flatbreads, hummus, and soft Bavarian pretzels in cheddar-mustard sauce. Saisons from Kent Falls Brewing, Ommegang and Allagash are favorites of Andrew Fiorini, general manager of Cask on Little Summer Street.
A session IPA is a good choice for hop lovers who want lower alcohol (5 percent ABV and under) for warm-weather easy drinking. It pairs well with Cask’s burger with caramelized onions and white cheddar, a contender for the area’s best burger.
House-cured lamb pastrami reuben with hand-cut fries, one of the most popular dishes, pairs well with a hoppy IPA; the hops cut through the richness of the sandwich. One of Fiorini’s favorite IPA breweries right now is SingleCut Beersmiths, which is not far from Stamford. Feel like a short drive? Head to the SingleCut taproom in the Astoria section of Queens in New York City to taste one (or more) of its ten different IPAs, each with fresh nuances.
> 191 Summer St., 203-348-2275; caskrepublic.com
Ask anyone who’s into beer and they’ll send you to Coalhouse. Known as a beer-nerd joint, it has a great sense of community, drawing professional and home brewers to Bulls Head for that elemental combination of pizza and beer, elevated with quality ingredients.
Coalhouse’s beer menu is updated frequently, and more than half the fifty taps are given to a range of IPAs, owner Gerard Robertson’s favorite beer style. New England Brewing, Beer’d and Two Roads are always on the menu. For summer, Robertson recommends refreshing IPAs with notes of tropical or citrus fruits. “Coalhouse’s list is always changing, so tell the bartender what you’re looking for and he’ll steer you in the right direction,” he says.
The spring pizza menu introduces Temptation, smoked Peruvian spiced steak (from Coalhouse’s big new smoker), cherry tomatoes, red onions, pepper jack cheese and house-made jalapeño sauce. Also new is Delirium, featuring smoked pork belly, guajillo pepper sauce, mozzarella, pineapple, onions and cilantro. Drunken Spicy Shrimp is a small plate but worth sharing with your mates. It features andouille sausage, garlic, shrimp and Ballast Point’s Habanero Sculpin IPA.
The new cedar plank organic salmon dish is roasted in the coal oven. Fifteen new sandwiches have been added, including Joe Bonamassa: chicharrón, manchego cheese, pickled onions, habanero peppers and jalapeño sauce. For spicy sauces, Robertson says, “You just gotta go with an IPA.”
> 85 High Ridge Rd., 203-977-7700; coalhousepizza.com
Plan B Burger
Plan B spotlights American beer, burgers and bourbon. Each week Plan B’s trained and certified tasting panel selects the fourteen beers on tap for each location of the expanding Connecticut-grown restaurant group. Aside from its location at the Stamford Town Center, you can find Plan B in downtown Fairfield.
The staff is trained to help guests find a great beer. In spring and summer, the popular choices are lighter, fruity, wheat beers like Harpoon UFO (hazy, unfiltered, spiced with orange peel and coriander) and Stony Creek Sun Juice (flavored with orange and grapefruit peel, coriander and chamomile). Founders All Day IPA, with its low (4.7 percent) ABV is a favorite, too. All told, Plan B also has about 100 beers on the bottle and can list.
From mid-June to mid-July, Plan B’s Backyard BBQ specials menu will fire up the grill with Southern Sliders and pair the food with refreshing, summer beers. Bar manager David Heath recommends the new apple plum BBQ roasted half-chicken with an amber lager such as Stony Creek’s Dock Time. “The roasty flavors play off the sauce, without being too sweet,” he says.
Also in spring and summer, the menu will feature Plan B’s salmon burger with dill aioli and avocado. Pair it with a light, crisp beer such as Victory Prima Pils. The West Coast Burger, topped with avocado, Kalamata olive mayo, and a fried egg, soaks up the 8.1 percent ABV of a California IPA like Green Flash West Coast IPA. Bacon cheeseburger is a year-round favorite, and pairs well with a pale like Stone Ripper from San Diego, a new favorite of Plan B’s cicerones (trained beer guides). Stone Ripper has a hoppy bite that cuts the richness of the bacon and beef.
> 230 Tresser Blvd., 203-964-8353; burgersbeerbourbon.com
World of Beer
As its name implies, World of Beer (WOB) in Harbor Point has a huge beer list with more than 500 from the US and around the world. Draft lines are rotated with a selection that encompasses mass-produced, mainstream beers like PBR and Stella, to rare, sought-after, limited releases. “Rare is what we pride ourselves in, and focusing on Connecticut: giving new breweries a shot and going after beers that only come out once a month or even once a year,” says general manager Lucas Petrone.
During warm weather, WOB has patio seating for fifty, creating a lively scene from happy hour on. Tacos filled with spicy-sweet Sriracha lime shrimp is one of the most popular summer dishes, paired with an American session IPA like Two Roads’s Lil Heaven (4.8 percent ABV). Green chili chicken nachos stand up to New England Brewing Sea Hag. German pretzels and brats pair with German hefeweizen and pale ale. Petrone’s favorite combo is the spicy Italian flatbread washed down with a cold IPA
In summer, WOB can have as many as 130 tapped kegs. A massive cooler is stacked to the ceiling with beers, helping anyone who walks in to expand their knowledge of international beers. WOB’s website has a beer-finder, too, that you can search by country, beer style, ABV and color. You should preview the selection before arrival, and make a plan of action, so you can experience preferred flavors.
> 18 Harbor Point Rd., 203-290-4317; worldofbeer.com
Stamford’s own microbrews, HALF FULL BREWERY and soon-to-open LOCK CITY BREWING, boast intimate taprooms, tasting events and tours, and expert staffs. Good news for those who like the option of staying close to home to enjoy a pint or two.
HALF FULL BREWERY
A youthful, inspiring feeling pervades this warehouse brewery, founded by Conor Horrigan and Jordan Giles out of a desire to live as if the glass, or mug, is half full. Started more than five years ago in Waterside, Half Full soon began distributing its beers to local restaurants, as well as hosting tastings. Today, in addition to occasional limited releases and its tasting room-only Abbey Abbey Ale, Half Full’s core inventory includes:
› Bright Ale—Flagship, crisp, citrusy blonde/pale ale hybrid (5.2 percent ABV)
› Pursuit IPA—Moderately hoppy, West Coast-style IPA (7 percent ABV)
› Rise & Shine—Smooth, roasty porter made with Stamford’s Rise Coffee (8.5 percent ABV)
Half Full’s beers are offered at many local restaurants.
43 Homestead Ave., 203-658-363; halffullbrewery.com
Here, Half Full’s Giles shares some quick thoughts on what’s up and what’s good.
What’s new at Half Full?
We’ve updated our entire beer portfolio: improved recipes and packaging. A lot of new beers coming out in 2017—new styles, new recipes, new cans. And we have new licensing that will allow us to sell beers on-site by the pint. The last bit of news is we’re expanding our distribution footprint. We currently distribute to Connecticut, and parts of New York and Massachusetts. [Since] March, [we’ve been] available in Rhode Island and Central Massachusetts, and we’re currently exploring options in New Jersey and in neighboring states.
What foods do people bring in to eat?
People love food-truck season. Our favorite is Hapa. If you haven’t eaten from this truck yet, go and find them now. People bring picnic lunches from home, a lot of pizza from Colony or Coalhouse, and a lot of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.
When you go out, what beers do you order?
Anything local. One of my favorite parts about travel is finding and tasting the local guys. The beer is always fresher the closer you are to where it’s made. When I go out in Fairfield County, I’m always trying one of the many new breweries popping up on the scene.
What beer is in your fridge?
Anything in cans. Most frequently purchased are Oskar Blues, Sixpoint and Firestone Walker.
LOCK CITY BREWING
Cofounded by Michael Bushnell and Patrick Casciolo, Lock City will soon bring fresh, New England-style beers to Glenbrook, where the owners are setting up a ten-table taproom decorated with a wall of beer cans Casciolo has collected from breweries across the country. Plan to pop over to try:
› Double Noggin knocker— Flagship IPA, made with citrusy Columbus and piney Simco hops (8.2 percent ABV)
› Bugg’d Out—Coffee porter, made with Colombian beans roasted in Stamford, Belgian chocolate and dark malts (6.9 percent ABV)
› Buzz-On—Triple IPA with the sweetness of a butterfly and the sting of a hopped-up bee (10 percent ABV)
54 Research Dr., 203-313-6454, lockcitybrewing.com
With weeks away from opening, Casciolo takes a break to fills us in on how Lock City got started and where it’s headed.
You were in audio-visual systems and Michael in accounting/technology. Why open a brewery?
We’re both craft beer enthusiasts and home brewers. We’d travel all over trying beers. When [Michael began] brewing the same quality as the beer we were driving far to try, it was time.
What are your beers about?
They are hop-driven, New England-style, with an emphasis on freshness and quality control. Our Double Noggin Knocker IPA is hopped. We use quality ingredients, and local products, [such as] local cold-brewed Stamford coffee in the Bugg’d Out, and local honey in the Buzzed-On triple IPA. Lock City’s taproom will also carry a selection of regional craft beers such as Tree House and Trillium of Massachusetts and Bissell Brothers of Portland, Maine.
Your go-to to grab a beer?
Coalhouse Pizza. Eighty-five taps, great food. Been going there since they opened.
What’s your favorite beer and food pairing?
Lock City IPAs with tacos [that] have some heat! I’m surprised there are no taco/craft beer spots, but I’m sure someone will do it.
Tell me about your “beer-cations.”
It started in Vermont with the Alchemist Brewery and their beer Heady Topper, but these days my favorite spot is Portland, Maine—many great breweries and the food in Portland is amazing.