Brouwerij Lane

Gut Instinct: Lard Help Me

IMG_0694Lard! I hate lard!

This may sound as sacrilegious as an Exxon exec owning an electric car, but I often despise patronizing bars. I have a love-hate explanation: I love craft brews. I hate paying $6 or $7 a pint.

“Then come to Brouwerij Lane,” my beerloving pal Matt suggested. The Greenpoint beer store pours its growler-ready draft beers on premise by the pint ($4) and the half pint ($2), creating a low-cost tasting station. “It’s like permanent happy hour,” he said, joyous words that echoed in my ears as we convened at Brouwerij Lane (78 Greenpoint Ave., at Franklin Ave., Brooklyn, 347-529-6133).

Though more store than saloon, Brouwerij contains a smattering of tables and, most crucially, a bathroom. We secured a corner table and tiptoed to the taps. A chalkboard listed the night’s intoxications, ranging from North Coast’s dark, cockles-warming Old Rasputin and Heartland Brewery’s sweet, spiced Imperial Smiling Pumpkin Ale. Tasty, but we thirsted for fresh-hop brews. August and September signal harvesting season for hops—the flower cones that provide beers’ bitter, floral flavors.

And though most hops are dried and packaged, just-plucked hops form fall’s fleeting delicacy: fresh-hopped beer. It’s grassy and vibrant, greener and livelier than super-bitter bombs such as Stone IPA or Bear Republic Racer 5.

Heart palpitating, drool forming, I dove into a Southern Tier Harvest Ale.

It drank citric and piney with just the slightest caramel jolt. By contrast, Matt’s Victory Harvest Ale was assertively malty and earthy, and the Two Brothers Heavy Handed Wet Hop was light in carbonation but heavy on the tongue. Paying but $4 a pint, we quickly and economically drank ourselves into a David Hasselhoff-like stupor.

Unlike the Hoff, there were no hamburgers to scavenge off the floor; instead, we debated the best food to cure beer munchies.

I voted for area Mexican star Papacito’s (999 Manhattan Ave. betw. Huron & Green Sts., Brooklyn, 718-349-7292), which makes Baja-quality fish tacos. Matt was atwitter after reading a rave review: “The [bacon] combination we found most persuasive was a weirdo appetizer at Polish newcomer Karczma, which features a bread dip called ‘peasant lard’—a pool of molten fat dotted with smoky bits of bacon.”

He paused for a moment, letting the words marinate in my mind, then added, “I want lard, and I want it now!” Now, Matt’s as keen as I am for culinary adventures, eager to trek to Brooklyn and Queens’ hinterlands for, say, a slice of clam-crowned pizza or extra-spicy chorizo. I mostly trust his taste. But lard and bread seemed as appealing as another Bloomberg term.

“I’m watching my girlish figure…” I begged, pointing to the beach ball between my nipples and waist as soft as Wonder bread. “Lard,” Matt commanded, a dining dictator issuing his final directive. I meekly agreed. Bellies sloshing with a fresh-hop sea, we bounded up Greenpoint Avenue to Karczma (136 Greenpoint Ave. betw. Manhattan & Greenpoint Aves., 718-349-1744; Brooklyn). It looked like the Wild West invaded Poland.Wooden booths were complemented by wagon wheels and a faux well. Farm implements were strewn willy-nilly, providing ample weaponry should we be overrun by the brains-craving undead.

Using our tastily pickled gray matter, we ordered a banquet of Polish brews, beer-roasted ham hocks, stuffed cabbage, kielbasa, pierogies and peasant-style lard. “I enjoy that one very much,” assured the waitress, wearing a frilly dress. Matt beamed with I-told-you-so pride. His smile broadened as we tore into kielbasa that was split and griddle-crisped to a snappy, fatty crunch.The pierogies were plump and tender, swollen with mashed potatoes. The cabbage was as tasty as limp leaves wrapped around a meaty lump could ever aspire to be. However, the ham hocks were a brown slurry of bone, skin and swine. For once, I understood my girlfriend’s vegetarianism.

Matt gamely gobbled a couple chunks.

His smile sagged like 70-year-old cleavage, then skipped town upon the lard’s arrival. Thin-sliced brown bread was served alongside a cool ramekin containing what resembled chunky pomade. I sunk my knife into the thick spread, smeared it across bread and took my first and last bite.The lard was as slick and flavorful as Crisco. The bacon nibs were rubbery speed bumps. In car terms, peasant lard was a clunker.

“Seconds?” I asked Matt, whose face was lard-colored.

“Shut up,” he said, reaching for his crisp, palate-cleansing pilsner.