By ELIZABETH KEYSER
Special To CTNow
January 2, 2014
The newly opened Cask Republic, a casually sophisticated American tavern on lower Summer Street in downtown Stamford, seems poised for success. The restaurant is the fourth in Christian Burns's stable, which includes Cask Republic in New Haven and the Gingerman in South Norwalk and Greenwich.
The restaurant is for the serious connoisseur of brewing, of craft and traditional European beers and plans to offer more than 51 taps at the long, oak bar and communal high top tables (just the right height for resting drinks and small plates). The tavern is comfortable and softly masculine, with tweed-upholstered booths and groupings of big, comfortable chairs around the two fireplaces.
They were pouring half-glasses at the opening party in December, a good idea when such craft brews as the Widmer Nelson Imperial IPA rings in at 8.6 alcohol by volume. Ace berry cider (5 percent ABV) was fruity and light, a better choice for my friend who usually drinks wine. Cask has a wine list, too, and features scotch and bourbon. At the opening party, the featured draught was the Ryeghts of Passage, a rye brown ale (7 percent ABV) that balanced toasty and citrus hop flavors. It was brewed for Cask Republic by Captain Lawrence Brewing Co.
The boldly-flavored pub menu designed by executive Chef Carl Carrion is evolving. What we tasted at the party was good: bar snacks like bacon popcorn and baked soft pretzels with aged cheddar ale sauce; a crispy, deep-fried croquette with a creamy filling and center of braised oxtail; a smoked short rib meatball glazed in barbecue sauce made with IPA beer.
Cask Republic has a wood-burning pizza oven, and the pizza crust was chewy and crisp, speckled black, and IT stood up to the topping of duck confit, caramelized onions, figs soaked in balsamic and goat cheese. A well-seasoned cheddar slider on a soft bun spread with sweet tomato jam pleased us with the char from the grill and the lightly formed beef patty.
Will I go back? Yes. The beer menu is deep and interesting and every staff person I spoke with was knowledgable. I want to try the hard cider from Normandy and the sour Belgian beer Guezerie Tilquin.
Cask, befitting its name, also specializes in cask conditioned brews, which involve a second fermentation that results in a natural mild carbonation. Cask has a collection of rare and special bottles and kegs on display in a glass-windowed, refridgerated room.
Cask Republic's temporary hours are Sunday through Thursday 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.; Friday and Saturday 5 to 2 p.m. The restaurant plans to be open for lunch soon.
Information: 191 Summer St., Stamford. 203-348-2275, www.caskrepublic.com.
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