You may not choose a cruise ship just to drink fresh craft beers paired with really good barbecue, but it’s a welcomed bonus. On early cruises of the 3,960-passenger Carnival Horizon in the Mediterranean, a big hit was the new-concept Guy’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse | Brewhouse.
The namesake of the dining and social hotspot is Food Network TV star Guy Fieri, already popular with the Carnival Cruise Line crowd — his decadent, complimentary burgers are available up on the pool deck on many of Carnival's ships. More than 5 million Fieri-designed patties are served fleetwide each year.
The ParchedPig beer on tap at Guy's Pig & Anchor is the creation of the cruise line’s own brewmaster, Colin Presby, who came on board Carnival Horizon about two months before the ship set sail to make sure there was enough in the tanks to go around for the early cruises.
Using equipment from German manufacturer Joh. Albrecht Brautechnik, Presby crafted four beers with high impact flavors to stand up to Fieri’s barbecue.
“I was really excited about being able to come up with things from the ground up to go, specifically with barbecue,” Presby tells USA TODAY. “In looking at beer pairings one of the most important things is pairing intensity of flavor. With a menu that is much more on the intense side I wanted beers that could stand up to that.”
Presby brings experience as a brewmaster at sea. He also helmed the Red Frog Pub & Brewery operation on sister ship Carnival Vista, which launched in 2016, the first North American ship with a brewery onboard.
This time around, with the addition of barbecue, the brewery gets a bigger space and more prominent position on the Deck 5 promenade. “The location of the bar for me is a significant upgrade,” Presby says.
On the menu is a Toasted Malt Amber, West Coast IPA, Farmhouse Ale and Smoked Porter. The top seller on the Mediterranean cruises was the amber, with its toasted malt and caramel notes. Presby suspects the IPA will be favored in the Caribbean. His personal favorite is the Ale, a Belgian-style Saison, refreshingly fruity with a mild spice.
Don’t miss the Porter, because there’s a cool catch here: after testing commercially smoked malt, Presby decided to smoke his own in the Ole Hickory Pits smokers, custom built for the barbecue operation.
A Hog Sampler flight ($5.75) gets you a sample of all four beers. Glasses are ($5.75), 64-ounce growlers ($48.95, $16.69 to refill).
The beer is brewed in kettles in the front of the bar and served directly from the cellar, which you can view behind glass. Brewery tours ($24.95) get you an inside look and include tasting from the taps and a souvenir glass of your preferred beer.
Presby is working to keg the ParchedPig beer varieties so that they can also be served in other areas on Carnival Horizon. He’s also planning some seasonal additions to the menu.
For non-beer drinkers, the Smokehouse plays with the barbecue concept in drinks such as the Smoked Boulevardier or Bacon Manhattan, made with bourbon infused with bacon fat.
As for the barbecue, the meat is smoked outdoors on the promenade in a pair of smokers that chef Soumen Banerjee says do all the heavy work. The machines self-contain the hickory chips, fire and smoke. Electricity is involved and so are gas starters – to meet strict ship safety rules there were modifications including the addition of sensors that automatically shut off if there’s a gas leak.
“We have the best smokers at sea. With these smokers we’re not at all challenged,” Banerjee says, adding Fieri’s recipes call for most meats to be smoked for 10 to 14 hours. “We learned a lot of things. He has his specific taste and flavors and our guests cruising with us love those flavors.”
You can sample some of Fieri’s “real deal” creations at lunch on embarkation day and on sea days for free, the dishes served up buffet-style by chefs manning the pair of smokers on the outdoor promenade.
There’s a charge for evening meals at the Smokehouse, but guests chowing-down on a Mediterranean cruise did not seem bothered about paying extra. One bite of the $4 Trash Can Nachos — house-made tortilla chips topped with pulled pork, Guy’s Bourbon Brown Sugar BBQ Sauce, pico de gallo, jalapeno, black beans and super melty cheese — and you knew you were in for a treat. Baby back ribs ($8 for a half rack or $12 for a full) come with a bunch of sides including fresh grilled corn.
You can eat and drink very well, and not spend a bundle. And with its rustic-hip décor, Fieri’s catch phrase “Flavortown” in lights above the long bar, and musicians playing country rock live onstage, the Smokehouse is a place to linger and socialize. Get there early to get a seat.
Carnival Horizon sails from New York this summer, before heading to its home port of Miami.
By Fran Golden, USA Today
Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more
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Edited by Jason