Trap Rock Restaurant & Brewery is not your typical brewpub. Their dinner menu lists gourmet delights such as Spicy Grilled Rare Tuna, Tempura Crusted Asparagus, and an Organic Pork Chop with Sour Cherry & Port Wine Glaze. No buffalo wings, nachos or even burgers to be found here*. There is even a rather extensive wine list. The decor is upscale Europe meets Aspen, with the feel of a refined ski-lodge. In fact, the only similarity one might find between this establishment and a typical brewpub are the huge stainless steel fermentation tanks on display in the front windows.

*Note: They do offer a Vermont Cheddar Burger on their lunch menu. But even most of their lunch fare could hardly be considered “pub grub”.

Beer aside, an evening here makes for a great dining experience. My parents treated my wife and I for my birthday, and it certainly is a very nice special occasion destination (between my wife treating me to dinner at Cafe D’Alsace and this dinner, I must admit I had quite a birthday this year!). The shrimp-stuffed lobster on special I ordered was excellent, and the vanilla-whipped parsnips that accompanied my wife’s tuna were an unusual but delicious twist. And by the way, the beer was quite good too.

I ordered a sampler: six beers served in mini-fluted pilsner glasses in a nifty wooden carousel. The Merlin’s IPA was full of assertive hop flavors of citrus and pine, a real treat for hop-heads. A distinctly red Hathor Red Lager was tangy and complex, with a slight sourness in the finish, a truly unusual brew. The Colonial Porter brewed with molasses may have been my favorite, sweet and chewy with a nice roasted finish.

But the real surprise here was their Ghost Pony Helles Lager. Keep in mind, I’m not a big pale lager fan, maybe because so many big American pale lagers are relatively bland and flavorless. Their Ghost Pony, however, was sweet and bready balanced with a drying finish and just the right touch of European noble hops in the end. It truly won me over, and will keep me open-minded to trying pale lagers again. And with so many delicious seafood dishes on the menu, the Ghost Pony was one of the only beers they offered that was subtle enough to not overpower them.

It is wonderful to find a brewpub where beer-lovers like me can actually find fine dining as well. People who might turn their nose up at a typical brewpub would dine here. But hopefully they will look past the wine list and order a nice ale or lager which will possibly win them over to the world of well-crafted beer.

Definition: Helles Lager (or Munich Helles Lager)

The German answer to a Czech Pilsner, it’s a light-colored all-malt lager (as opposed to mass-market American lagers that use corn and/or rice as an adjunct to the malted barley) where one can taste the grainy, bready character of the pale malted barley. European noble hops are used with a more heavy-hand than American lagers (but not quite as hopped as a Czech Pilsner) for a disctinctive but not too assertive spicy finish. Pairs well with mild cheeses, seafood and lighter chicken and pork dishes.

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