It’s a deal that’s difficult to pass up: Buy a beer, get a glass. Regular customers at Rustico on Slaters Lane have known the drill since last summer when the promotion was first launched. Patrons have walked out the doors with Belgium-style glassware from Gouden Carolus, pilsner style glasses from Weihenstephan and imperial pints from Victory.
"You can order as many as you want," said bartender Aaron Lippe. "We have some people who come in here and leave with a case of glasses."
On May 9, beer drinkers can order one of four brews made by Maine-based brewers Allagash: White, Bubbel, Tripel and Grand Cru. Established in 1995, Allagash brews a variety of traditional and experimental Belgian-style beers, which are best served in the kind of traditional Belgian-style glassware that customers will be receiving during the promotion.
"Having the right glass is considered an important part of beer culture," said Rustico manager Chris Schaller. "In the case of the Belgium-style beer, the glassware allows the bouquet to be more pronounced."
The point of the shape, Schaller said, was for the drinker’s nose to be inserted into the glass with the beer. That way, the "nose" of the brew is fully appreciated as the beer is consumed. Because Belgian-style beers are served at slightly lower temperatures, the bouquet is even more redolent.
"The experience of drinking the beer is definitely enhanced by the shape of the glass," said Schaller. "And the Belgian-style glass really gets your nose in there."
THE CONCEPT of Rustico is built around beer. The restaurant offers 30 draft selections and a rotating selection of beers for its "beer machine" — a high-tech contraption that pours cask conditioned beer served out of the barrel it was fermented in. It’s also a considerable amount of work for the bartender, who must manually pump the tap.
"We’re serious about beer," said Schaller. "We’re trying to do for beer and food what most restaurants do with wine and food."
Since January, Rustico has been doing it with a new chef. That’s when Frank Morales came onboard and created a new menu that’s slightly more high-end and drastically expanded. Morales, the former chef at Zola, walked into Rustico and immediately became inspired by the large mosaic that grabs the attention of anyone who enters the restaurant. Then he sat down with the beer director and engaged in a week of beer drinking and eating.
"Every other restaurant I’ve ever worked in has a sommelier," said Morales. "Rustico has a beer director."
Morales new menu uses beer in many of the recopies, creating pairings that are intricately woven into the fabric of the culinary experience. For example, his halibut is grilled on beer soaked bourbon barrel planks and his crab and asparagus salad comes with a creamy sauce crafted from beer and lemongrass. And then there’s the Guinness and chocolate cupcake.
"Beer has a depth than wine doesn’t always have," he said. "And working with a beer director has been a great experience. He’s got just as much passion as any sommelier, but he’s got a nose ring — which your typical sommelier does not."