Most brewpubs are mainly about the beer. Even if the food is quality, the menu usually revolves around standards such as burgers and fish and chips, perhaps some hearty short ribs brewed in ale. John Harris’ Ecliptic Brewing, however, is equally about the food. Executive chef Michael Molitor is turning out food that is way more than an adjunct to its liquid accompaniment.
Harris is as passionate about astronomy as he is about beer. He names all his beers after astronomical objects and personages, and he celebrates the Earth’s annual orbit around the sun with beer and food menus that change every six weeks. Some recent standouts include: salt cod and potato fritters that are refreshingly high on the cod and low on the salt; fried green tomatoes topped with bay shrimp salad; two wonderful takes on chicken (a confit drumstick in sweet chili sauce and celery root salad, and a pan roasted chicken celebrating the culmination of the summer vegetable harvest, with corn, zucchini, and a red pepper vinaigrette); and perhaps my favorite, a luscious fig-pistachio ice cream.
A caveat on my beer comments: my beer tastes are not particularly refined. I am perfectly happy with a Corona with lime on a hot day. That said, Ecliptic clearly produces finely crafted brews with character. The flavors of all their beers are crisp and distinct, reflecting the often unusual combinations of malts and hops used in their production. I especially liked the Procyon Pale Ale, relatively light (as I like it) but with a tasty caramel overtone. The Oort Imperial Stout is coffee-brown, rich and creamy, almost like a dessert, which is probably why it pairs so well with the fig-pistachio ice cream. You can even mix the two together for an ice cream float. You can order a burger if you insist.
Ecliptic is located on the outer fringes of the Mississippi Street area, in a renovated auto body shop. The spare gray interior provides a pleasant enough space to eat but does not hint at the culinary delights within. In warm weather, there’s a garage door that opens to the outside and plenty of outdoor seating, albeit adjoining the parking lot.