Just as elegant French food demands a fine wine, German and similarly hearty cuisines demand a good beer. The Connecticut restaurants cited below pride themselves on presenting beers in bottle or on tap that enhance and complete the dining experience. Those whose idea of drinking beer is to punch a hole in the bottom of a can or similarly chug a cheap six pack in a night should look elsewhere – or come prepared to be “schooled” on the art of selecting and drinking good beer.
The Old Heidelberg
55 Stony Hill Road
Bethel, CT 06801
The Old Heidelberg is old-world German at its best and its kitschiest. From the Hansel-and-Gretel atmosphere and the comedic polka band to the monthly theme festivals, this is the place in southern Connecticut to go for authentic German food – and even more authentic German beer. From thick, dark brews to light Weiss beer, the Old Heidelberg has it all. There are many unusual imported seasonal and specialty beers both on tap and by the bottle to choose from and the waiters will recommend particular beers to go with selections on the menu (and vice versa). This is not a place to just sit and drink beer. This is a restaurant with wursts, schnitzels, spaetzle and all good things German. Try the Bavarian pork shank with the crisp golden skin, a house specialty.
The Penny Lane Pub
150 Main St
Old Saybrook, CT 06475
Pub food and beer go together like bangers and mash, and nobody does that better than the English. In Old Saybrook, that tradition is carried on by the Penny Lane Pub. This is a restaurant noted for its hearty English fare and its wide selection of British and Irish beers, some of which wind up in the cuisine (notably in the Steak and Guinness Broil). Shepherd’s Pie without a good lager is just ground meat and mashed potatoes and Scallops Seamus demands a nice light Harp. This “neighborhood pub,” as it claims, is just that. For the younger crowd, there is a Wizard’s Menu of Harry Potter-themed items. And there are many offerings such as the Loverly Lamb that put the pun in pub, but there is enough good English beer here to wash away the silliness.
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170 Riverside Ave
Bristol, CT 06010
Mexico is home to many great breweries, and most of the best are represented at The Monterrey in Bristol. Best of all, when you order a meal here, as the host, menu and welcoming banner proudly proclaim: “all Mexican Beer $3.” The food is marvelous, especially the empanadas, tortas and enchiladas. There are also some Mexican dishes that do not appear on other restaurants’ menus, notably the Chalufan (chicken-fried rice mixed with steak and shrimp and served with avocado and tomato) and the Churrasco (skirt steak with plantains and eggs). The food is the star here, but the Mexican beers – light and clean and incredibly cheap – truly complement the fine food.
King and I
260 Post Road
Fairfield, CT 06824
Europeans do not have a monopoly on beer, let alone good beer. Thai food in particular is meant to be paired with beer; the heat of the cuisine demands a cool one, if only to quench the fire of the ginger and spicy lemon grass. The King and I in Fairfield serves Thai cuisine hot and spicy (or mild if you ask). Its staff recommends a good, icy cold bottle of Singha to accompany the more fiery dishes, such as aptly-named (for more reasons than one) “Hot Plate” of crab, squid, scallops and shrimp.
1735 Ellington Road
South Windsor, CT 06074
The Japanese are among the world’s biggest guzzlers per capita of beer. In Tokyo, bottles in restaurants are at least quart-sized. Here in America however, Japanese beer is usually served in the more common American 12-ounce offering. At Higashi, diners have a wide choice of traditional Japanese cuisine to choose from (tempuras, teriyakis, sushi) along with dishes from other parts of Asia (Singapore Chow Fun, Chinese General Tao’s Chicken, Thai Curry, etc), all of which go down better with a cold Sapporo “Beeru.”
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Mark G. McLaughlin is a professional and prolific writer with a proven publishing record in a wide variety of fields. An historian, novelist, freelance journalist, ghost-writer, book reviewer, magazine editor, web and magazine columnist, Mark has more than 30 years of experience, most notably but not exclusively in the fields of international relations and history specifically military history. His work can be found at Examiner.com.