Words and photos by Holly Brown
What is one to do when one is freezing? One is to drink, that is what one is to do.
It was a Friday, there was kind of a blizzard, but hey! Ryan (trusty boyfriend/roommate/side kick) and I wanted beer, and we were going to be damned if a little snow and/or ice and/or wind and/or some combination of all three flying through the air, were going to stop us.
We got in the car and drove, albeit slowly, down 77 south. After some expert maneuvering by Ryan, we arrived at Hoppin’ Frog Brewery. I have heard much praise about Hoppin’ Frog; I know it’s internationally recognized as home to some of the best beer in the country. However, my only experience with Hoppin’ Frog had been taking down an entire 22 oz Turbo Shandy in one sitting over the summer. If that wasn’t enough indication, I seriously, seriously enjoyed it.
When we arrived, the parking lot had a nice solid layer of snow, a plow roared behind the wind as we trudged, layered up and booted, to the very welcoming light of the Hoppin’ Frog Tasting Room.
Met with warm air and a pleasant glow, as well as the general light uproar and chatter that accompanies any good bar, we strolled in the front door. Looking for plenty to drink and a light snack, Ryan and I perused the menu.
Self described on their website as “an every-week beer festival,” I could not think of a more accurate description. With the option of a flight of four 5oz beers, between the two of us we were able to take down most of the beers they had featured this blistery night in February. While I would love to go in depth into each and every beer we tested (I seriously did not *not* thoroughly enjoy each and every one), I’m going to showcase our favorites.
Ryan took quite a shining to the Hop Heathen Imperial Black IPA. He gave me insight into the finer points of what he, a connoisseur of dark beer, considered what he liked most. It’s a darker beer that’s not quite as bitter as some other IPAs, yet not at all sacrificing hops for it. It’s a bit sweeter, with a nice roasted flavor, perfect for coming in out of a snowstorm (which is basically what we did).
I, on the other hand, could not deny the Gangster Frog IPA. It was hoppy but unassuming with is hops. What really got me was the citrus. It’s the kind of beer that’s light enough that you can easily drink more than one, but dense enough that it still gives you that belly warming, cold fighting blanket from the first sip. It’s the closest thing I’ve found to a summer/winter beer. It may be the best IPA I’ve ever had (I’m not even just saying this here, I said it to Ryan right after I took my first sip…he can vouch for me).
Now, I went a bit rogue this month, going big for beer as opposed to food, but as I’m sure you’ve come to know over the last year, I wasn’t going to go somewhere that serves food and not try something. We picked two appetizers which looked especially…appetizing: Winter Warmer Stuffed Peppers and Garlic Hummus.
The hummus was a perfect almost palate cleanser in-between beers, especially when loaded onto a crisp slice of cucumber. The garlic gave it just enough kick while still maintaining its distinct hummus-ness. Because it comes with delicious grilled pita as well as cucumbers, I was even able to make my own pseudo cucumber sandwiches (basically, layer cucumber on hummus on pita and shove into mouth).
The stuffed peppers literally tasted like pizza without the crust. With spicy peppers stuffed to almost the point of explosion with sausage, beef and bacon, it was all the makings of a great meat lovers. When topped with the spicy marinara and parmesan sauce, it stuck the landing. These things….are so good. Certainly spicy, they helped to push that last little bit of cold out of the tips of my fingers. The spice hits you late, which I believe allows you to enjoy the flavors and the heat in equal measure.
When beers were had and food was finished, Ryan and I had one last thing we had to try: a beer shake. I love ice cream and beer, perhaps in equal measure. To combine the two is almost so genius it shouldn’t be allowed. Ryan made the pick of the Frosted Frog, a combination of Frosted Frog Christmas Ale and butter pecan ice cream. This being my first beer shake experience, I’m still not entirely sure how to describe the majesty. My recommendation? Just get to Hoppin’ Frog and have one yourself.
Holly Brown is trying to stay warm in Highland Square by snuggling with her toothless, meow-less cat, Hedwig, after he lays next to the heater.
Hoppin’ Frog Tasting Room
1680 East Waterloo Rd. Akron, OH
Mon 5pm-10pm, Tues-Wed 11 am – 10 pm, Fri-Sat 11 am -11 pm