We at Hopjacks find ourselves with new beer to try all of the time. Brewery reps drop in with samples of their latest creations, I hunt down an under-the-radar one-off or seasonal, allocations arrive to fill voids on our tap wall and in our display cooler. We still get excited and geek out over the really cool stuff that shows up, but it’s a routine of our work-a-day week.
Now, when new food arrives, that’s cause for a little more excitement. It’s not often we make any changes to our menu, but when we do we’ve given it a lot of thought. (FULL NEW MENU: HERE)
First off, what’s coming off? It doesn’t make sense to keep around dishes that don’t sell very well. If we just kept adding to the menu, we’d end up like that eccentric curmudgeon from the documentary “I Like Killing Flies” with over 100 menu selections.
Next comes what to add. We do a fair amount of market research to determine what’s trending, but we also look at what our neighbors don’t have on their menus. For example, we just added a dry-rubbed, hand-sliced pork loin sandwich with bacon, provolone and a cilantro-lime cream sauce called Roast Beast. There’s also the Bollywood; oven-roast, hand-pulled chicken with lettuce, tomato, pickled onion and curry mayo. Both are on French baguette.
How about tweaking the classics? Instead of potato skins, we have something we like to call Porktatos; baby potatoes wrapped in bacon, skewered and topped with horseradish cream, scallions and cheese. We’ve also made our Brie, Bacon & Artichoke Dip even more sinful by rolling portions in Panko bread crumbs and deep-frying them.
Then, you give your guests what they’ve been asking for. Case in point, we are now serving Sweet Potato Belgian Fries with – of all things (and it totally works!) – Basil Mustard dipping sauce. Now, how about something to drink with those fries?
Naturally, brown ale would work best; its caramel notes and off-dry finish a complement to the sweetness of the potato. What I’m interested in is if there’s a brown ale that delivers any flavors that traditionally accompany sweet potato.
St. Arnold Brewing just released their Christmas Ale in time for the holidays. I find that this Texas brewery has crafted an Old Ale with a rich malt bill that imparts a soft amber color. A very fluffy head echoes the cloud of scents wafting out of the glass; bread dough, toffee, cinnamon and dried fruit. Despite the heavy malt, Christmas finishes clean and crisp with well-defined flavors of cinnamon, caramel, a hint of brown sugar and earthy hops. The beer’s sweet qualities amplify those of the potato while contrasting the flecks of Kosher salt used to finish the fries. Meanwhile, the dry finish and slightly bitter hops balance everything out.
Two gifts came early this Christmas: new menu items and great beer to go with them!