Hopewell Brewing Company - Monday Night Dinner with Lula Cafe
I have liked Hopewell Brewing Company's Monday Night Dinner series, but this one was special. They invited a neighbor restaurant that is one of the forefathers of the scene, and a favorite of mine, Lula Cafe. Lula Cafe also does a Farm Dinner every Monday and while I'm sure that they did one at the restaurant, they also continued it at Hopewell. In addition, they invited Good Beer Hunting, a marketing company that works with craft breweries to increase there relevance. One of the ways that they do this is with a program called Uppers & Downers where they connect a brewery with a coffee roaster and have them collaborate. For Hopewell, they invited Metric Coffee, who worked with Hopewell to make several interesting beers. The Hopewell Space is pretty spartan with a bar and three communal tables. While I generally like to sit at the end of the table because I am left handed, this time I was asked to move to a seat mid-table in order to allow for a couple to be able to sit together. This can be awkward at times, but luckily the seats were far enough apart that there was no elbow bumping. We started with a cocktail which is standard in this series. As it was a beer cocktail, it was served through a tap. It was a Tepache Michelada made with Mezcal, Fermented Pineapple, Anaheim Chile, which was what the edge of the glass was rolled in, and Hopewell First Lager. It was very good, with a lightly smoky flavor, some bitter tartness from the fermented pineapple, and a light burn from the pepper around the edge. When we made our way to seats, we found a bag of pins and stickers from the participating companies.
While the dinner was presented as a four course dinner presented family-style, because of the way the Antipasti were presented, it was closer to 8 courses. We were presented a variety of simple courses that could all be tied to farm and beer. We started out with Baby Turnips Fermented in Spent Grains. They were served whole with the (limp) greens attached and were very good. They had the texture of a slightly undercooked potato, but a good flavor. The fermentation added a little sweetness. Next came the Casteltrevana Olives in Celery Salsa Verde. I am generally not a huge olive fan, but these were really good, although I will admit, I wasn't crazy about having to eat around the pits. They did have an olive flavor, but it isn't as strong as your standard green olive and the celery salsa verde added a slightly bitter and spicy finish. The Coppa came next (while the different dishes were presented individually, they were all brought out to sit on the table together). When I think of Coppa, I generally think of Bologna, because it is generally very similar. This Coppa was actually closer to Prosciutto. It was very good on it's own, but the Coffee Oil, Walnuts, and Young Mustard Greens provided some nice contrasting and complementary flavors. The Bread, a Sourdough with a good hard crust and a very soft interior with many large air holes, was served with Green Almond Oil for dipping similar to, but with a much better flavor than, Olive Oil. The last of the Antipasti was very simple, but also very good. It was a dish of Fresh Radishes served with Butter, Sea Salt, and a heavily Seeded Cracker. While the radishes were good on their own, when combined with the buttered cracker and sprinkled with salt, it brought the level up significantly. All of these were paired with a very interesting first beer. Called Santa Ana, it was an Oak Barrel-Aged, Wild Fermented, Farm & Family Saison that had been steeped in Cascara (the dried skin of Coffee Cherries) for 45 minutes. The Farm & Family Saison is one of Hopewell's standard beers, it has a good flavor with the standard saison funk. The barrel-aging added a depth of flavor, the wild fermentation added some tartness, and the cascara added both color and a nice coffee finish.
The Primo (First) Course was a Green Garlic Barley Risotto with First Harvest Onions and Artichokes. I like Risotto and this was very interesting and flavorful. Barley is usually the main grain used in beer. The grain is a little bigger than the standard rice and the chew was a little different (al dente with a little different texture). The artichoke and onions were crisped and caramelized and added more a crispy texture and a lot of great flavor. Paired with this, we were served Ultra Glow, a dry hopped table saison featuring Pacific Gem Hops. It was cloudy and had a nice head, but with this beer, the first thing that you tasted was the hops. It was quickly followed by the funk of the saison. It was not, however, overwhelming, and was in fact, very smooth.
For our Secondi, the main course, we were served a very tender Glazed Pork Shoulder with Aparagus, Scallions, Swiss Chard, and Bagna Cauda Aioli. The shoulder was amazingly tender and flavorful and the greens provided some contrasting flavor and texture. Bagna Cauda is a Piedmontese sauce generally used like fondue that uses Garlic, Anchovies, Olive Oil, and Butter. I would say the flavor of the sauce and the meat was similar to a thickly sliced vitello tonnato. For our pairing, we were served a Swift IPA, one of Hopewell's standard beers. It is hoppy, though not a hop bomb, and the flavor is strong enough not to be overwhelmed by the pork shoulder and/or the bagna cauda.
For our Dolci (Dessert) we were served an Espresso Budino (Pudding) with a Fig Almond Crumble. It was pretty amazing with a nice sweet coffee flavor which paired well with the figs in the crumble. The almonds added a nutty crunch. The beer pairing was Hopewell's Anniversary Quad which was made recently for their 1st anniversary. It was big, boozy, and they provided a lot for us. The sweetness of the quad paired very well with the sweetness of the figs.
We finished things off with coffee in Beer, Espresso, and Bag form. The bean was a Villa Rica Pacamara from Peru. It had floral, cinnamon, and mango flavors, and was good both in espresso and in beer form. It was combined with a brown ale for the beer and was a great finish to one of the best Monday Night Dinners that I have gone to. It was a lot of fun, the food and beer were really good, and I will continue to do this.