I’ve been wanting to do a Warped Wing edition of Pubs and Street Eats since January of last year, but considering they were only a “tasting room” (without food), I’ve been putting it off until now. Fortunately, Spent Grain Grill opened inside Warped Wing a few weeks back, so I happened to swing by for lunch a while back (1/23/16).
As a “tasting room” situated in a re-purposed foundry, Warped Wing has is huge open air setting with the brewing equipment in the back ground. The space alone is worth seeing if you’re into historic buildings or urban architecture. Beyond the bar and assorted high top tables, they also have a foosball and pinball tables along with industrial sized “Jenga”. When you hear the clatter of “two-by-fours” hitting the floor, someone just lost another round of Jenga; be warned, and it will scare the crap out of you the first time it happens.
Warped Wing has several core beers always available on tap and even distributed locally (cans only). Ermals Crème Ale, named after Ermal Fraze, inventor of the soda can pull tab, is a lighter, creamy ale that can be enjoyed by most. On the opposite side of the spectrum, one of my favorites, the Ten Ton Oatmeal Stout, named after the 10 ton crane, still hanging above the tasting room; Ten Ton has subtle hints of chocolate and coffee along with a slightly bitter finish. There’s also the Flying Rye IPA, which I actually had by accident a few days back. Again, I’m not an IPA drinker, don’t normally care for the hops and bitterness, but I managed to finish it, so I suppose that says something.
Grabbing a seat at the bar on a normal Saturday afternoon, I realized I had somehow never noticed that Warped Wing had beer flights; you can get four, four ounce tastes for $6. With some time on my hands, I decided to sample some of the beers that I’d not tried before. Considering my recent interest in Red IPAs, I decided to try the Irreverent, or “Irrelevant” as the girl sitting next to me called it. Be assured, it was far from irrelevant, the Red IPA was certainly hoppy, but fairly malty and therefore tame enough I still enjoyed it; probably not as much as I liked G’Knight from Oskar Blues, or as smooth as Pour’N Ur Wookie from Lucky Star, but very decent. I was surprised to find that Irreverent measured at 84 International Bitter Units (IBU), considering how much I really don’t care for bitter beer, I still managed to finish the taste. Geared more toward my preferences, The Abominator doppelbock was my next choice; the alcohol content, at 9%, really shined through, but it was still an overall smooth dark beer. Up next, The Creepshow smoked porter was also much more on my side of the beer scale, dark with rich smoky flavors. I’ve had many smoky beers before, but for whatever reason this Creepshow was particularly smoky, yet still, in no way offensive. At the same time, as I worked toward the bottom of the 4 oz. taste I did begin to notice a slight bitter finish. The Brass Punk Pilsner was also good, but perhaps “overly” German for my taste. Definitively hoppy, Brass Punk is not interchangeable with Miller Light for your macro-brew oriented friends. Lighter beer drinkers might want to steer toward the Pirogue Belgian Tripel (maybe… I haven’t tried it), but most can’t go wrong with Ermal’s Belgian Cream Ale. In the end, the Creepshow’s smokey flavor was on par with what I’d normally drink, but between the beers on the flight, I think the Abominator was my favorite of the foursome. I also tasted the recently tapped Baltic Argonaut (Baltic porter), the Argonaut was another bold porter, but unfortunately, as a barrel aged beer, it was not an option on the flight. At 11% alcohol content, I unfortunately couldn’t see myself finishing a pint after everything I’d already tasted.
Beer connoisseurs should also note that Warped Wing often releases several barrel aged brews, including Esther’s Little Secret, Jolly Tar, and the previously mention Baltic Argonaut. Jolly Tar is a particular favorite of mine, a dark rye, Jolly Tar has the dark flavor I love without the overt bitterness of Ten Ton or Guinness. Rumor is Jolly Tar will not be making a comeback this year, which is disappointing, but at the same time that hopefully means there will be something new, which is a good thing. Esther’s Little Secret is a smash hit among the locals. Esther Price is a Dayton staple for boxed chocolates; the brewers at Warped Wing paired with Esther Price to forge a chocolate brown ale for the holiday season, which is yet again sold out almost everywhere in town.
Despite the tasty suds, the new food venue was actually what brought me into Warped Wing that Saturday. I had heard back in December that Spent Grain Grill was opening inside one of Warped Wing’s back rooms. As it turns out, the Drew Trick, owner of Lucky’s Taproom in the Oregon District, opened Spent Grain in cooperation with his brother Tony. Per the news reports, Spent Grain makes everything from scratch, with intentions to re-use the spent grain, leftover from the brewing process, in the menu ingredients (I actually had no idea until I wrote this post). At any rate, considering my fondness for Pizza, and especially from Hairless Hare’s, a face-off was in order.
Looking over the Pizza selection, I felt that the “Meat Lovers” was most comparable to my pepperoni & banana peppers favorite at the Hare. Like a food truck, I put my order in at the “window”, received a pager, and sat back down at the bar for a few minutes. Carrying my pizza back to my bar stool several bystanders commented on how good it looked and eagerly awaited my input on the new food. As it turns out, the Meat lovers pizza was pretty decent, although the majority of the toppings were a bit condensed in the middle of the pie. The Meat Lovers came with pleasant helpings of pork, grilled chicken, a hint of beef, and slices of peperoni; I can’t ask for much more (besides bacon…). The dough was a little un-done, which I’m actually okay with, lightly crisped is okay in my book, but others may not enjoy it so much. My original tasting notes also included a peculiar, almost “wheat” taste in the dough, a welcome addition, but somewhat out of the ordinary for pub pizza; it was really good, and makes a whole lot more sense now that I realize the dough is made from the spent grain.
Having accomplished my pizza showdown, I wanted to try something “different” from the menu; noticing “Sriracha BBQ Chicken Tacos”, I couldn’t resist. The chicken was breaded and well-seasoned, at the same time not overpowering you with BBQ or sriracha. The sriracha was a lot more subdued than I expected, which is probably a good thing for those that don’t like spicy food. The tacos were also served with cabbage slaw and gouda cheese. Considering my insatiable appetite for food truck fare, these soft tacos were excellent, however they weren’t quite as bold as I’d hoped based on the title. To round out the meal I also tried the House made root beer. Very legit, I’ve had a few other root beers locally which unfortunately did not make the cut, but the root beer at Warped Wing is a great non-alcoholic option for non-drinkers (or those on two wheels).
Sufficiently stuffed, I had accomplished my number one mission, compare the new Spent Grain fare against my reigning pub pizza champion, Hairless Hare. In the end, Spent Grain’s Pizza was good, but I don’t think I could crown them king from this show down… at least not yet. That aside, Spent Grain has a long list of menu items I have yet to try, and in the end I did taste some excellent beers, as Warped Wing still stands strong as my favorite micro-brewery in Dayton.