A crowd of local beer enthusiasts was on hand January 13, 2011, to celebrate the first anniversary of the Watkinsville steakhouse (and beer bar) Chops & Hops. For the event, Chef Richard Miley prepared five courses, each paired with a beer from Stone Brewing Company and Terrapin Beer Company. While both breweries may be known for their IPAs, it was the slightly sweeter imperial IPAs and richer stouts that complemented the Southwest-inspired flavors of Chef Miley’s cuisine.
The night began with a reception and cask-conditioned Stone Pale Ale dry-hopped with Simcoe hops. This was a great, easy-drinking beer that highlighted the piney notes of the Simcoe hops perfectly.
Light citrus notes from the Amarillo hops in Levitation (dry-hopped with Amarillo) and So Fresh & So Green, Green (“wet”-hopped with fresh Amarillo) paired well with the spicy bite of the wasabi lime dressing. The lighter body of both beers was well-suited for the salad course, standing up to the strength of the dressing and bleu cheese without interfering with the delicateness of the crab and avocado.
The beers paired with the second course took two different approaches in working with the flavors of the food. Burnt sugar flavors of the Lukcy Basartd played off of the caramelized onion in the soup and the creaminess of the goat cheese quesadilla. The smokiness of Hoptaneous Combustion (the smokiest of any keg or bottle I’ve had of it) went beautifully with the smoked flavors of the soup.
The increased malt sweetness of both double IPAs brought out a sweet coconut flavor from the rice and were a well-balanced match for the light, fresh flavors of the conch and calamari.
Another pair of double IPAs,Ruination and Hopzilla did anything but terrorize the course. Both beers offer strong hop aromas and flavors with notes of citrus and tropical fruit. These sweeter hop monsters accentuated the subtle sweetness of the tomatillos in the chili verde while also providing a contrast to the actually chili peppers in it, which kept the heat fresh with each bite. The smooth and savory potatoes and bean puree also popped against the sweetness of the beers.
For the final course, the beers found their way into the dish, creating an effortless pairing situation. The entire course was well-balanced, never becoming too sweet, but remaining rich in flavor. The dark, roasted flavors of both stouts helped to bring out a true chocolate flavor in the pudding. The whipped cream contained just enough of the Stone RIS to give it a deep flavor while remaining silky. Finally, candied bacon was the perfect sprinkle, teetering delicately between sweet and savory.
The dinner was wrapped up with yet another cask: Terrapin’s Wake-n-Bake Coffee Oatmeal Imperial Stout with coconut. The coconut provided just a hint of milky sweetness to go along with the roasted coffee and oatmeal smoothness–a unique end to an unforgettable meal, and a year of great food and beer at Chops & Hops.