Six beers, five courses and a behind-the-scenes tour of the highly anticipated Precarious Beer Project. In other words, just another end of the month celebration at Williamsburg’s Amber Ox Public House.
Every last Tuesday of the month, the refined tavern hosts a dinner series that flaunts the culinary genius of Chef Troy Buckley and boozy mastery of head brewer Greg Fleehart. The two crafted impeccable combinations of beer and beef, heat and hops and citrus and sweet for their ode to spring-style supper.
Prior to tasting the pairings, dinner guests convened at the future site of the Precarious Beer Project. Formerly Seasons Restaurant, the brick building on the corner of Francis Street and North Henry Street is undergoing major renovations to prepare for its new identity as an arcade parlor, beer hall and pseudo-food truck.
Amber Ox proprietor Andrew Voss explained that his vision for Precarious required the unveiling of several of the building’s original components. His team has since exposed formerly boarded dormer windows, salvaged terrazzo and concrete floors and revealed industrial ceiling beams. Several nostalgic pieces remain too, including a hidden upstairs fireplace used by the bygone postmaster during the building’s run as a local post office. Despite its modern overhaul, Voss refuses to deplete the space of its history.
Anchoring Precarious will be a crescent-shaped bar outfitted with 18 draft handles, a projector for drive-in movie nights and hot-rolled steel siding. The rest of the space is divided into two entertainment stages, arcade corners and a beer garden complete with several 16-foot beer hall-style tables. Additionally, a shipping container taco bar dubbed Electric Circus will dish out fiery eats from its food truck-like appearance. The plot also boasts nearly 3,000 square feet of production space.
While Precarious hones in on its staple IPAs and other ales, Amber Ox shifts its focus to culinary brews derived from local ingredients and kitchen-inspired flavors. Voss hints at pours with savory slants and herb-based profiles.
We bear witness to this type of experimental gastronomy when we take our seats in Amber Ox’s burnt orange dining room. We kick off the dinner with North Carolina shrimp and a full glass of Fortune & Glory. The well-balanced pilsner offers a contrasting malty sip to the spicy hors d’oeuvre.
Arriving as the first course were roasted baby carrots embellished with coca nibs, cashews, carrot puree and an evergreen-colored carrot top pesto. Nutty and herbaceous, the carrots paired perfectly with Precarious’ collaboration brew with Big Ugly Brewing, Kewl Kidz. The sour IPA is hoppy and citrus-forward, offering a refreshing cut to the dish’s earthy flavors.
Course two stunned with a handmade pastry stuffed tender braised beef cheek and arroz con gandules. The Natchitoches meat pie was heavily inspired by Chef Buckley’s Louisiana roots and elicited tastes of butter, red wine, dried spices and flavorful meat. The complex profile of the pastry provoked savors of licorice and malt from the amber pour of The Key. The namesake of the Belgian-syle bruin was inspired by Fleehart’s trip to Bouillon, Belgium, otherwise known as The Key to the Ardennes.
We then worked our way through a smoked and braised pork belly perched atop a bed of pan-friend Chinese cabbage and drizzled with roasted garlic honey. The zesty plate was served with an equally hazy and hoppy Am I Missing Something? IPA. Fleehart notes that the “yes boil” IPA is no joke to make. It requires the hard-to-obtain Strata and Meridian hops from Oregon. We chased the flavors of char and fruit from the Meridian hops with a refreshing wedge salad. Hydro baby belle iceberg lettuce from Richmond was doused in Green Goddess dressing, Rogue River bleu cheese crumbles, shaved red onion and a pair of crispy anchovies. The star of the fourth course, however, was the recently debuted Everything Is Lava But The Swings Are Base. The Double IPA is vast in aroma and flavor with summery notes of tropical fruit and berries.
Chef Buckley and Fleehart capped off the evening with a tropical stout and dense pineapple upside down pound cake. The dry-hopped Teenage Brain Surgeon straddles the divide between winter and spring savors with notes of vanilla and allspice complemented by powerful notes of pineapple.
Needless to say, we left full and happy.
Amber Ox’s April dinner series will be held on Tuesday, April 30. Visit TheAmberOx.com for further details.
Amber Ox is located at 525 Prince George St., Suite 102, Williamsburg. The Precarious Beer Project will open June 1 and is located at 110 South Henry St., Williamsburg.