"Handcrafted stout rings in with diverse menu at Alcatraz
Newly appointed Executive Chef Glen Urso (a native New Yorker) and longtime brewmaster Omar Castrellon (who was born in Panama) chatted and taste-tested alongside NUVO and other patrons at the Nov. 19 Knife Makers Stout tapping event.
Urso admits to cooking as a calling, triggered by baking pies as part of his Long Island teenage church experience. Castrellon envisioned a career as an academic with a philosophy major and biology/chemistry minor. A sojourn in Germany turned him onto brewing. Urso and Castrellon intersect at the big “I”: innovation. Both are tinkerers when it comes to food and beer.
Starting with an appraisal of the new stout — a dark, richly complex brew reflecting the interlacing of five varieties of malt and three varieties of hops, sparked by a touch of honey and flaked corn — we went on to apprise its ability to pair well with diverse small plates, soups and salads at the top of the menu and Alcatraz’s must-eat desserts.
Two hours into small plate sharing we were too full to contemplate Alcatraz’s signature lineup of burgers, sandwiches, pizza, calzones and entrees featuring chicken, steak, ribs and fish. However, having eaten from this list previously, we can assure readers they’ll find something unusual to experience, such as grilled salmon served with a mound of whipped potatoes and firm asparagus spears relaxing in a grapefruit butter sauce ($16.95). Citrusy Pelican Pale Ale is a likely partner, but I am partial to the light, refreshing Weiss Guy Wheat with salmon.
What we ate and why the stout’s a great match
The spinach and artichoke dip ($8.95) served with freshly baked Parmesan flatbread is indeed “Indy’s Best” as the menu claims. It nicely satisfies three. The dip’s tanginess brings out the stout’s honey taste and fruity Cascade aroma while the stout’s black and chocolate malts stand up to the dip’s garlic.
A new appetizer, goat cheese and artichoke fritter ($7.95), equally plentiful, is the sweeter yin to the dip’s more vinegary yang. We kept enjoying the stout because the flaked corn content yields a bit of dryness that’s nice with the fritter’s crisp fried coating.
Idaho Nachos, a huge sharing of a twist to the mainstay Alcatraz Nachos (each $9.95), is a conversation enticer as well as a meal unto itself. What’s new is an underbelly of French fries just above the crisp lettuce and supporting layers of fresh vegetables and, if desired, seasoned beef or chicken (add $1.95 for each). With sides of guacamole, shredded sharp cheddar and sour cream, it fed more than three. While the jury is still out on the French fries, no one dissented on the bigness of the stout matching the bigness of the nachos.
Fisherman’s Wharf Clam Chowder ($5) served San Francisco style in a sourdough bread bowl would be plentiful for a lighter fare meal. Shared with three spoons digging out their territory it was a party. Urso tinkered a bit with the old recipe, adding Canadian bacon. While we say “keep the touch of white pepper,” we politely request a choice of two varieties — without and with bacon. The stout’s full body was surprisingly nice with the chowder’s creaminess. Of course, Alcatraz’s light, crisp Searchlight Ale, Pelican Pale Ale or Weiss Guy Wheat are equally refreshing choices for the chowder.
A much easier to eat Asian chicken salad is another three-can-share delight ($10.95). It’s layered with three flavors and textures: Napa cabbage with peanut dressing, spring mix dappled with sesame/soy vinaigrette and shaved chicken with sweet chili sauce encircled with thin rounds of cucumber. The stout seemed made for this salad.
Finally, we shared a plate of truffles ($6.95). The velvety richness lingered along the edges-of-the-tongue bitterness of the stout for an “oh my this is nice” finish.
Alcatraz Brewing Company
40 W. Maryland St., Circle Centre Mall
Monday-Thursday: 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; bar until 1 a.m.
Friday-Saturday: 11 a.m.-midnight; bar until 2 a.m.
Sunday: 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; bar until midnight
Food: Four stars
Atmosphere: Three stars
Service: Three stars
Handcrafted beer currently on tap: Searchlight, Weiss Guy Wheat, Pelican Pale Ale, Chibuku, Red, Sledge Hammer and Knife Makers Stout. A Saison is coming in January.
Sample: $1; pint: $4; mug: $6; growler $13, refills $9. Featured beer of the day: $2.50.
Menu also includes zero proof beverages, cocktails and wines.
Taking reservations now for the Brewmaster’s New Year’s Eve Dinner.