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Thursday, December 26,2013

Bru is unoccupied and unexpected

Great food, no wait

By Blair Madole
Blair Madole

Crunch, sweet and spice meld together in the $5 chicken biscuit at BRU handbuilt ales & eats. The fluffy base soaks in the juice and traps the flakes from the expertly fried chicken. A combination of honey and hot sauce results in a cartoon-like mushroom cloud of flavor in your mouth. Imagine a bite and a boom as the vinegar heat of the hot sauce hits your tongue, then a rumble and the slow implosion as the fire is checked by the sticky sweet of the honey.

This explosion of tastes shouldn’t be experienced alone, but my gasping over this simple dish occurs without witness. The Motown sounds of The Temptations play to an empty dining room; silverware and small potted succulents are precisely arranged on untouched tables; one server leans against the bar of the open kitchen, chatting quietly to one cook. BRU is vacant at a time one would expect a mad rush, because not many people would think to go to a brewery for brunch.

The stylishly printed menu is not what you’d expect from a place where the primary focus is brewing. There are no wings, fried appetizer platters or smothered anythings to be found.

It reads like a contemporary, Southern-inspired restaurant that happens to have a handcrafted ale business on the side.

The brunch offerings are particularly enticing. The sourdough donuts at BRU (a $4 daily pastry selection on the brunch happy hour menu) are made in-house, pleasantly doughy and not too sweet; a welcome change from the heavily glazed pastries commonly served at local breakfast stops. A tangy orange marmalade tops one, while a walnut-bacon-molasses concoction tops the other. The latter combination could easily be overwhelming, but it’s surprisingly well-balanced between smoky and sweet.

A nod to the housebrewed ales, the Beer Bloody Mary (another $4 option on the happy hour menu) washes everything away with the pleasantly bitter notes of the Belgian pale ale and the peppery bite of the Bloody Mary mix. It successfully opens the palate for new experiences, like the breakfast pot pie for $10.

The pie arrives in a bowl, where two runny eggs with bright yellow yolks rest over a deconstructed piecrust. A quick stab and the yolks break, mingling with the crust and the hidden contents below. A firm stir reveals shredded chicken and colorful vegetables swimming in a light sauce. The gravy becomes rich and creamy upon contact with the egg, and suddenly this is the perfect dish for a cold morning. The kale and potatoes are slightly crunchy, adding texture, while the onions create depth of flavor. The warmth is welcome and reminiscent of a home-cooked meal.

Brisket and eggs over a vegetable hash for $13 seem like standard fare at a brunch spot, but BRU adds a twist with a smoked shallot jus. It seems like an elegant dish and tastes like one too, just don’t look at it when it arrives. The dish looks like leftovers after they are tossed around in a to-go box during a bumpy car ride. Large poached eggs flank hunks of corned beef and haphazardly balance on top of a large mound of shredded potatoes swimming in murky brown liquid. In short, it’s ugly.

Fortunately, the harmonious blend of flavors in this plate make up for the appearance. The generous helping of corned beef brisket pulls apart with a fork and expertly adds smoky, citrus appeal to the entire dish. The eggs blend nicely with the jus, effectively cutting the salty sweetness that could easily overpower the other flavors in the dish.

The spinach, squash and potato hash provides great flavor balance to the brighter and saltier aspects of the plate, but the texture is off. The shredded potatoes unfortunately lose their shape and become overly soft after their flavorful swim in the smoked shallot jus — diced potatoes might do better at maintaining crunch.

A simple Americano with Ozo espresso is delightful with its complex flavor profile, and beats out the beer bloody for attention.

In fact, the beer bloody, though great, was the least exciting item on the table. Odd in a brewery, but expected in an eatery with an open kitchen and woodburning stove.

Simply put, BRU isn’t just a brewery; it’s a stylish restaurant with a diverse menu and a lot of fabulous house-brewed beverage options.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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