Saturday, March 11, 2017

Hopewell Brewing Company - Monday Dinner with St. Lou's Assembly

I really liked the last Monday Dinner at Hopewell Brewing (with Bang Bang Pie Shop) so I decided to do it again.  Their last session was with St. Lou's Assembly which is a "Meat and Three" in the West Loop.  I have not yet been to St. Lou's, but they have been at a few benefits that I have attended and I have really liked what they served.  A "Meat and Three" is a casual counter service restaurant where you choose your main course (meat) which then comes with three sides of your choice.  In the case of St. Lou's, the courses served are a step up from the standard meat and three.  Hopewell's Tap Room is a big open area with high ceilings, a street side wall that is all windows (covered with shades), tile floors, and large communal tables.  There is also a bar, but for dinner it wasn't used for seating.  After we checked in, we were given our first drink, a cocktail that they named the Saison 75.  It was a spin on the classic cocktail the French 75 containing Letherbee's Gin, Hopewell's Friends and Family Saison, Lemon, and Sugar.  It was sweet, tart, and very complex, with the flavors of both the gin and the saison coming through.  I wandered around and found a seat to my liking and sat, noticing the schwag we were given pre-dinner, a pin and a box of matches with St. Lou's logo.  Our menu broke things down into seven courses of which, the cocktail was first.  It appeared that most of the courses would be small, which is unsurprising considering most of the courses that a meat and three would make would be sides for their main course.  After I sat, I was joined by a small group across the table that included my State Representative, which made for some interesting conversations.

Our first beer and first course were essentially a very standard "gateway" beer served with a shooter.  The beer was Hopewell's First Lager (while I do like Hopewell's Beers, they do lose points for beer name creativity) which is a simple standard lager that is done very well.  The shooter was a Cheddar-Beer Soup made with the First Lager.  The shooter was thick with a nice cheddar flavor, some tartness from the lager, and a little heat from the Red Pepper Garnish.  It finished quickly, but I would have been happy with a bowl of it.
The next course didn't seem to be an obvious pairing, but it worked surprisingly well.  We started with a Very Nice Belgian Strong Ale (That is actually the name.  As I said, they lose creativity points for beer names).  Very Nice is very nice.  It is heavy and strong with a boozy and malty flavor and very good.  The food portion of the course was a (shucked) East Coast Oyster with Cucumber Relish, House Hot Sauce, and Beer Foam.  Served in a large ceramic spoon, the oyster was served with its liquor giving it a salty flavor which played well with the vegetal flavor of the relish and the vinegary heat of the hot sauce.  The flavors of the beer and the oyster contrasted quite a bit, but they cotrasted in such a way that they complemented the flavors well.
For the salad portion of the meal, we were served Endgrain Dark Lager, a lager with a red color and a bigger flavor than the First Lager.  As it was red and kind of had the flavor of a red, it went well with the salad that we were also served.  It was a Roasted Beet Salad with BBQ Carrots, Fennel, Taleggio, Cheese, Pepitas, and Celeriac Chips.  The salad was rich and both sweet and savory with a crunch to it.  It was kind of like eating a salad of vegetable chips which kind of struck me funny.
After several appetizers and small plates, we finally reached our entree course.  The beer side was The G.O.A.T. Doppelbock, a dark lager with a roasted malt flavor although not as heavy or thick as a stout or porter.  This was served with a Braised Short Rib, Celery Root Puree, Fregola, and a Foie Gras Emulsion.  The Short Rib was fork tender and sweet sitting on a bed of Fregola, a Sardinian Pasta similar to Cous Cous.  The Celery Root puree added a bitter flavor and the Foie Gras Emulsion added a rich and savory flavor.

After our meat, we were served the most complex and flavorful of our beers along with the first of our desserts.  The beer was a Letherbee Absinthe Barrel Aged Red IPA.  This was a very complex flavored beer,  with the barrel aging in an absinthe barrel and the hops, it almost had a gin flavor.  As gin is my favorite liquor, this was my favorite beer.  With the beer, we were served Banana Bread, with Creme of Banana Caramel, Streusel, and Allspice Whipped Cream.  The caramel was served over the banana bread and really amped up the banana flavor, the struesel was served in crumbs on the bottom and added a buttery flavor and the Allspice Whipped Cream added a spicy flavor both adding to the complexity of flavor of the banana bread and pairing well with the beer.

The last course was technically the end of the dinner.  It was definitely the end of the beer.  We were served a digestif and a mignardise to finish things off.  Our digestif was a Fernet from Letherbee's.  Most people that know Fernet know Fernet Branca, the most common type.  It is based on grape distilled spirits and has a lot of herbs including Myrrh, Rhubarb, Chamomile, Cardamom, Aloe, and Saffron.  It has a bittersweet flavor that is very much an acquired taste and is very viscous (syrupy).  Letherbee's Fernet is thinner, smoother, and easier to drink and it was paired with a Lemon Tart Bite which was a nice, tart, one bite wonder to finish off a very nice dinner.  I enjoyed my food, drink and company.  I will definitely do the Monday Dinner Series again and I will definitely have to go to St. Lou's Assembly.  


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