Hotly anticipated Waterbury pub Prohibition Pig opens this week

Big Pig

BY ALICE LEVITT [03.13.12] | SEVEN DAYS

It’s been almost seven months since the Alchemist Pub & Brewery was forced to shut its doors in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene’s wrath. This week, its devotees will finally be able to return to the beloved building with the opening of Prohibition Pig.

Guests will see many familiar faces, says owner Chad Rich. Of the 14 full-time employees at the Alchemist when it closed, 11 are now on staff at Prohibition Pig. The familiar burgers, fries, wings and pretzels are there, too, along with Alchemist brews, now produced on higher ground at the Alchemist Cannery.

Those beers are among 24 on tap and 120 bottles, giving PP one of the largest craft-beer lists in the Northeast. The bar also stocks about 100 bottles of craft spirits, many of them hard to find.

Rich, the former bar manager at the Farmhouse Tap & Grill, has given that role at PP to Jeff Baumann, who was once his boss behind the bar at American Flatbread Burlington Hearth. By the end of the year, Rich hopes to begin distilling several of his own drinks.

For now, Baumann has conceived a list of 12 cocktails made from craft-distilled beverages — and some other surprising ingredients. The Averna Flip features herbaceous Amaro mixed with chocolate stout, bitters and a whole egg. The Red Delicious pays homage to Rich’s formative years in North Carolina with Noilly Prat vermouth, applejack, Campari and the deep-red Southern soda Cheerwine.

The food nods southward, too. Rich chose former Flatbread chef Brian Sheehan to head his kitchen because of his way with meat. “I just used to see it on all the specialty flatbreads, braising meats, doing the amazing things he did,” says Rich. “He’s really talented. I’m really excited about his food.”

Construction of some parts of the building took longer than expected, but the kitchen has been completed for weeks. In that interval, Sheehan has been perfecting the vinegar-sauced Carolina-style barbecue that gives the restaurant its name.

Though Rich says he doesn’t want his business to be known just as a barbecue joint, he’s particularly taken with Sheehan’s brisket. As for the smoked, seared fish, he touts it as “something I can go in and eat many times a week, and I don’t feel guilty about eating it, either.” Rich will make room for shrimp and grits, too. Most likely, so will a slew of new fans.

Sneak Peek: Prohibition Pig to open in the former Alchemist space in Waterbury

Prescription: Alchemy

Side Dishes: Prohibition Pig to open in the former Alchemist space in Waterbury BY ALICE LEVITT [12.06.11] -- Seven Days

Scores of devotees expressed their dismay when owners John and Jen Kimmich announced last month that they would not reopen the Alchemist Pub & Brewery in Waterbury [which was destroyed in Hurricane Irene]. But those fans won’t have to wait long for its replacement. Prohibition Pig will open in Prohibition Pig logothe same building in 2012 as soon as repairs are completed, most likely in February, says owner Chad Rich.

Rich, previously bar manager at the Farmhouse Tap & Grill, says he’s had plans to open Prohibition Pig for more than a year. The only problem was finding a space. When the Kimmiches decided not to revive the Alchemist in the building they own, Rich realized the flood-ravaged pub would be perfect. “I absolutely love that space,” says Rich. “It reminds me of an old pharmacy building.”

The architecture fits seamlessly into Rich’s concept of a pub that evokes the era when booze was still viewed as pharmaceutical. As he puts it, “You saw your bartender for your medicine.” The “pig” in the restaurant’s name refers to the smoked meats, particularly pork, that will be added to the Alchemist’s menu.

Yes, that menu will remain — in part. “Unfortunately, it can’t be the Alchemist again,” says Rich, acknowledging the sentimental value attached to the name. “And we’re making minor changes.”

He’s working with the Kimmiches, who have helped him identify items they would have eliminated from the menu on their own. Rich will put his own dishes in those spaces, including brisket, smoked chicken and pulled pork that boasts a vinegar-based sauce he learned from a pig-farmer friend in North Carolina.

In his goal to retain as much of the Alchemist as possible, Rich will seek to rehire former staffers. “I feel like they deserve to work there more than anybody,” he says. The chef, however, is a new hire: The Alchemist’s chef had left the restaurant just before the flood to work at the Kimmiches’ Alchemist Cannery. Rich isn’t ready to divulge a name yet, only to say, “This guy is really good with meats — that’s his thing. I’m very excited about this guy; I really like him, and I’ve always admired his food.”

Rather than installing a new brewery, Rich plans to offer as many as 24 beers on tap, drawing them from the surviving Alchemist Cannery and friends such as Lawson’s Finest Liquids, Hill Farmstead Brewery and Stillwater Artisanal Ales. He says he’ll be sure to leave room on tap for Rookie’s Root Beer and house-brewed kombucha, too. Eventually, Rich hopes to get a distilling license, which will enable him to make genever, bitters and other cocktail components for Prohibition Pig.

Despite his additions, Rich wants to reassure those who miss the Alchemist that Prohibition Pig won’t stray too far from their memories. “The idea is definitely to respect the history of what was in there and make as few changes as possible,” he says.