Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Black Hog Brewing at Spotted Horse Tavern: Drink Local and Eat Well!

Connecticut is delightfully awash with breweries, some new and some more established, and I am always thrilled to try the output of any of them. I recently had the pleasure of receiving an invitation from George O'Connell, owner of Spotted Horse Tavern in Westport, CT, to attend a beer dinner with Black Hog Brewing. Co-owners and brothers Jason and Tom Sobocinski, who also own two great spots in New Haven, Ordinary and Caseus, were in attendance (head brewer Tyler Jones was not, but it's clear from his beers that he's quite the talented guy) and offered a great education about each of their featured brews for the evening. 

With my fitness blogging, beer appreciating friend Courtney in tow, I headed to Westport ready for a great meal and new beer experiences. Our first beer of the evening was Strawberry Gose, a German style wheat beer with pink Himalayan salt, coriander and over 100 lbs of fresh organic strawberries from Massaro Farm (Woodbridge, CT) added during secondary fermentation. It was light (4% abv.), drinkable, and delicious.

Next, we headed out to Spotted Horse's cozy covered patio and began the dinner portion of the evening. More beer arrived, "Easy Rye'Da" session IPA. Jason Sobocinski is a motorcycle enthusiast, and a percentage of the proceeds from the sale of Easy Rye'Da goes to the national motorcycle safety foundation. This easy drinking hoppy brew was paired with warm soft pretzels and a bacon cheddar dipping sauce. Yum. They were so well received that George decided to add them to the regular menu!

Oktoberfest Pretzels

We then enjoyed a fresh, light kale salad with cranberries and roasted squash. I liked the use of baby kale instead of full grown kale, which can sometimes be overwhelming. So much chewing! This course was accompanied by "Autumn Nugget," a wet hopped ale with vanilla pean, pink peppercorns, nutmeg, and cinnamon. I was surprised by how intensely it smelled of vanilla, but I couldn't taste it once I took a sip - instead, the spices really came through. This is a complex beer, and great for the winter.

Tuscan Kale Salad
We were offered a choice of either smoked and grilled pork chop with apple chutney, red cabbage, and potato pancake or seared scallops with wine and caper reduction, julienned vegetables and sweet potato mash. Luckily, Courtney wanted the pork and I wanted both, so I got to steal some of hers. Both dishes really were excellent, and everyone turned their full attention to their plates, creating a silence punctuated only by occasional comments on how delicious everything was. This course was paired with my favorite beer of the night, "Ginja Ninja," a red ipa brewed with 6 lbs of fresh ginger in every batch and hopped with centennial, cascade & bravo hops. This beer was originally created for head brewer Tyler's wedding! 

Grilled Smoked Pork Chop
Seared Diver Scallops

Stuffed to the brim, our final beer arrived alongside an indulgent warm brownie with ice cream. It was torture being too full to finish it, but the bites I managed to take were happy ones. The beer, "Nitro Coffee Milk Stout" made with brewed Organic Columbian Supremo and Espresso Roasted coffee, was rich and creamy, and if it wasn't socially inappropriate, you could drink it in the morning instead of coffee, I swear. So so good. 

Black Hog Brewing may be new to the scene, but they hold their own against more established breweries. I look forward to seeing them continue to grow! Their brews are inventive and delicious. Spotted Horse Tavern was already one of my favorite spots in Westport to grab a drink, as their bar is cozy and unpretentious, but now that I have had an opportunity to try the food, I'll be going there for dinner too. Many thanks to Jason, Tom, and George for a wonderful evening. 

The Aftermath

Spotted Horse Tavern is located at 26 Church Lane, Westport, CT
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Black Hog Brewing is located at 115 Hurley Road, Building 9A, Oxford, CT
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