HopCat & 18th Street: The Ultimate Pair

HopCat & 18th Street: The Ultimate Pair


By Adam T. Schick for Indiana On Tap 

Beer goes well with a lot things. Live sports, your favorite band in concert, parties, celebrations, showers, the beach, (endlessly insert every situation you have in your mind here), etc. Did you also know that it pairs well with FOOD?!?! Sarcasm aside, the great HopCat in the Broad Ripple neighborhood of Indianapolis came together Monday night with 18th Street Brewery (Gary, IN) for a four course beer-paired dinner that bent both the perception of what a craft beer bar’s kitchen can produce and how a small-yet-renowned brewery’s beers can match their beers to each dish.

It’s really, REALLY hard to not love 18th Street’s beers. Their Hunter Double Milk Stout and all of its variants are some of the most sought after beers in the state (I reviewed Hunter Orange for a This Week On Tap recently), and every other beer out for distribution nets hefty competition from fellow craft beer nerds looking to score their share. Some news: you will soon start to see more of their beers, both in bottle/can and on draft, in Indianapolis and Bloomington, which rules. In the meantime, go to the brewery. Seriously: go to the brewery. Have you seen the photos from their kitchen? Christ almighty.

Back to the dinner: if you’ve been to a tasting dinner before, you know the routine: manager brings out chef to talk food, manager brings out brewer/distiller to talk drink, you learn about each dish and why it pairs well with the drink at hand, repeat, etc. The formula remains the same ad infinitum, anywhere you go; what sets one dinner apart from the other is the quality of the food and drink.

This dinner set itself apart from others. Easily. (Quick note before the details: these dinners with these amazing breweries are only $30. Do yourself a solid a get in on these.) As our palate cleanser, we were served a bottomless supply of Sour Note’s (a subsidiary of 18th Street) sour saison with lemon zest. Tart, full bodied, AND bottomless? Sign me up.

Our first course was a flatbread topped with mint, cilantro, cherry tomato salsa and feta, served with strips of fresh avocado and a creamy vinaigrette. Paired with the flatbread was the Sour Note farmhouse ale with Citra and Nelson Sauvin hops. Now, this wasn’t my favorite pairing of the evening, for no reason other than the other three courses worked together better, but this flatbread and, what owner/brewer Drew Fox billed as an “easy into sours.” This writer agrees.

Our second course was my favorite food dish of the evening: a wild rice and sweet potato salad served atop a smoky ancho chili vinaigrette, paired with 18th Street’s Temporal Purgatory session IPA. The beer was excellent, but the blend of the sweet potato with the ancho flavors of the sauce made for an amazing combination, and the simple yet nice plating was an added touch.

The main course was deliciously grilled bone-in pork chop. As far as meat goes, I like to experiment, but nothing beats a very light seasoning that just allows the natural flavors of the cut to shine through, which is how this chop was served up (with a side of apple butter, of course). Alongside this dish was the famous Ed-PA, an amazing English IPA. This is a beer that, simply put, does everything right and nothing wrong. A flawless IPA all around.

The final dish was my favorite pairing of the evening. Dessert kicked off with a deconstructed s’more, with roasted marshmallows, graham crumble, and a chocolate mousse, paired with (oh my god are you ready for this maybe you should sit down) Hunter ran through a randle filled with cocoa nibs and marshmallows. The cocoa was a great match for the milk stout on the front end, but that marshmallow flavor muted the high alcohol burn with its sugary sweetness on the back. Many folks around me agreed that it was one of, if not THE best versions of Hunter they’d ever had.

Now, imagine all of that, and only paying $30 for it. Crazy, right? HopCat does these dinners monthly, so crack out the credit card and let the glory be yours.

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