Our only weak dish at American craft was the 16-ounce braised lamb shank ($24). I had no issue with the size, or the fact that it was fully cooked to melting-off-the-bone tenderness. My issue was with the mysterious loss of gravy or sauce.
American Craft has a very respectable collection of all-American wines by the glass, half-bottle, and bottle, as well as a decent collection of all-American spirits, including micro-distillery products. These, however, are apparently served only neat, on the rocks, or in two cocktails: an old fashioned and a martini ($2 extra for each).
Since American Craft and its older sister restaurant the Publick House are all about the intersection of food and beer, we concentrated on brewed drinks instead. I went straight to the cask-conditioned Allagash Black ($6.25), Maine’s answer to a 10-percent-alcohol Belgian stout. It was about as burnt-toasty a glass of beer as I’ve ever sampled. Also in the extreme category was Moylan’s Hopsickle ($6.25) at a mere 9.2 percent. The menu describes this as a triple IPA, although the California brewery’s Web site calls it an imperial IPA with three kinds of hops. It is fair to say that it was quite a bitter beer, though fragrant. I think this is what a Guinness stout would taste like if you drank nothing but Bud Light for about two years.
At a less spectacular scale, 400 Pound Monkey ($6.25), from the Left Hand Brewing Company in Colorado, is a relatively modest 6.7 percent alcohol, and more like a double-size version of a good English bitter. You can actually taste the winey complexity of the ale underneath. And a draught of an old friend, Brooklyn Lager ($6.25), reminded me of the first batches of Samuel Adams lager, with a fine balance of hops and malt. (Brooklyn lager of that era was all bready malt, in my recollection.)
Given that there are no desserts yet at American Craft, you may want to sample one of the “grown-up” sodas or a Maine root beer ($4), the latter of which is alleged to contain wintergreen, cloves, and anise. If it does, they are subtly mixed to give an impression that is all root beer, maybe a little sharper around the edges. It’s very good.
Service during my two visits was excellent. The kitchen did not always have everything on the menu, but servers were aware of shortfalls and informed us well. Both were beer “sommeliers,” familiar with most of the draughts and able to recommend obscure items that might resemble something one had never tasted before. There is some gloomy alt-rock playing at times in the background. Drinking music can be downhearted, I suppose, but with beers and foods this good, why not offer the best in sounds, as well?
Robert Nadeau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.