Editor's note: This week Robin Intemann joins the dining team as one of our permanent reviewers.
The Manitou Brewing Co. is as much an eatery as a place where beer is crafted and sold. Although this may be entirely serendipitous, the ratio of beer to food options is nearly one to one, which bodes well for those who enjoy the best of both.
This isn't to say the offerings are extensive. The brewery crafts a handful of its own beers (16 now), including its malty Pale Ale 2 and lighter American Blonde Ale. "Guest Beers," which change based on the season or general availability, come from what the pub considers its favorites from the around the world, according to the menu. At press time, they included Prost Altbier and New Belgium + Cigar City Ale. (For the beer adverse, there's also a small wine and spirits menu.)
Speaking of beer, we had our server's full attention when it came to questions about the beer selections. She was less committed when we asked about the food or when we were ready to order.
The first time I ate at the brewery was in March, shortly after it opened. The menu was still being fine-tuned so the items were limited. I have to admit I was disappointed to see that some of the dishes that I enjoyed then are no longer available. What's served now, though, is still pretty darn tasty and surprisingly contemporary.
It starts with pork served in a couple of playful forms. There's the pork belly tacos ($9), which featured bacon jam, a sweet/savory spread, pickled red onion, spiced creme frâiche and corn tortilla. We began our meal with the pork trotter ($9), which is a much more appetizing way to refer to pigs feet. They tasted vaguely like country ham, but not as salty and much more tender. The trotters, which are served with a tart Thai sweet and sour sauce, came apart from the bone with only the slightest effort. The house-made slaw on the plate was superfluous. The trotter was the star.
In addition to those and other small plates - including fried house pickles ($5.25), chicken wings ($7) and hummus of the day ($5.25) - are five sandwich options. The selection was varied, including an 8-ounce hamburger topped with bacon jam and bleu cheese ($12). As good as that sounded, we went with the Reuben ($9.50), the Carolina brisket ($11) and the veggie quinoa burger ($10).
Not all Reuben sandwiches are created equal. Manitou Brewing Co. uses pastrami and that sets it apart from the majority of restaurants, which use corned beef. Occasionally, eateries will pile mounds of meat on the rye, resulting in the pungent, acidic sauerkraut actually getting lost. This is not the case here. All the flavors meshed well and yet were easily distinguishable. The rest of the Reuben elements were standard: sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and house-made Thousand Island dressing.
The Carolina brisket combines beef brisket with a tangy barbecue sauce, cheddar cheese and slaw, all served on a Parmesan bun. The beef was tender, and though the cabbage medley added color and texture, it also created too much acidity.
The veggie quinoa burger is nutty and messy. The menu says it's made with black beans and corn, but those elements were barely detectable.
The best part was the house-made Southwest Ranch dressing, which tasted like a basic Ranch, mayo and sour cream base, with the addition of something spicy. This elevated the veggie burger from a basic vegetarian option to something that satisfied my carnivore's palette.
All sandwiches are served with house-cut salt and pepper fries. Two upgrades (an additional $2) are available on the fries: truffle oil and Parmesan cheese is one possibility, and the other, rosemary with Manchego cheese. I tried the former, which were rich, crispy on the outside and potato creamy inside.