Beer, Beer, & Better Beer | HopCat

Beer, Beer, & Better Beer

Unicorn beers to try at HopCat Madison's Wood & Wild festival
Kyle Montgomery, HopCat Madison Beer Manager | October 11, 2017
Wood & Wild

As we continue the countdown to our Wood & Wild Festival -- taking place Oct. 22 at every HopCat location -- we're checking in with our expert beer managers for suggestions about beers to try at each of our restaurants. Here, HopCat Madison's Kyle Montgomery suggests a few "unicorns" (beers so epic and legendary they defy comprehension) that will be featured at Madison's W&W event:

Victory Brewing Co. – Java Cask 

As a Pennsylvania native very proud of the PA beer scene, including this 14.3% ABV bourbon barrel-aged behemoth of an imperial stout in my list was a no brainer. If you haven’t heard of it, that’s because it very seldom makes it out into the market. It’s big, it’s bold, and it’s loaded with coffee. RateBeer Score: 99%. 

Upland Brewing Co. (Prairie Artisan Ales Collab) – Cursed Kettles

This beautiful little collab makes my list for several reasons. For one, Prairie Artisan Ales makes some pretty sought after stuff (Prairie Bomb! anyone?) and is not distributed to the state of Wisconsin, so collaborations like this are the only way we can get our hands on it for the time being. Also, if you haven’t heard, Upland has one of the most highly acclaimed sour programs in the country. At 6.3% ABV, this fig & black cherry-infused American sour ale is sure to quench your thirst without putting you on your back.

Hoppin’ Frog Brewery – Barrel Aged B.O.R.I.S. 

Not many people picture Akron, Ohio as a hotbed for craft brewing, but thanks to Hoppin’ Frog and a handful of other small breweries in the area, that is starting to change. Known for their big & boundary pushing brews, Hoppin’ Frog knocks it out of the park with this bourbon barrel-aged imperial oatmeal stout. RateBeer Score: 100%. 

Oskar Blues Brewery – Barrel-Aged Ten Fidy ‘16 & ’17 

Okay, so technically this is two beers, but that’s part of the appeal. Trying two beers of different vintages side by side (also known as a vertical tasting), can be a fun & rewarding experience. You can taste how the beer changes over time, and often how the brewer has tweaked a recipe from one year to the next. Oh, and I suppose it doesn’t hurt that they’re two vintages of one of the best bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout in the world. RateBeer Score: 100%. 

Lagunitas Brewing Co. – High West-ified

When it comes to the craft beer scene, a beer’s perceived value is derived in part from its quality and in part from its exclusiveness. When we talk about Lagunitas’ High West-ified, we’re dealing with a whole lot of both. Not only is it an incredibly smooth and full-flavored imperial coffee stout, but due a dispute with the producer of the bourbon barrels it was aged in, it is no longer produced. Drink it while you can, because once it’s gone, it’s gone. RateBeer Score: 100%. 

Read more Comments
20 things to love about Founders
Troy Reimink, BarFly/HopCat webmaster | October 11, 2017

In honor of Founders’ 20th anniversary, and our upcoming Founders tap takeover, our webmaster offers an appreciation of the brewery based on his extensive experience drinking, eating and performing there as a musician:

Founders is almost old enough to buy itself a drink!

The brewery has spent 2017 commemorating its 20th anniversary – and there’s plenty to celebrate. HopCat Grand Rapids joins in the festivities on Thursday, Oct. 12, when it will host the Founders XX Anniversary Party, the biggest tap takeover in Founders history with 35 favorites and rarities.

With HopCat’s own 10th anniversary fast approaching, it fees like a good time to toast a neighbor on a job well done. In honor of Founders' landmark birthday, here are 20 things we/I (your humble webmaster), love about Grand Rapids’ biggest brewery:

1. Founders Fest - It’s not summer in Michigan until you spend an afternoon stand outdoors, on pavement, in blazingly hot weather, drinking heavy beer, in line for a portable bathroom. The music more than justifies it -- Founders Fest has become a fixture on downtown Grand Rapids’ summer calendar, offering big-name headliners like Umprhrey’s McGee, Charles Bradley, Lettuce and Galactic.

2. The FBC All Stars - The brewery and taproom employ a ton of musicians, many of whom perform semi-regularly in a supergroup, which, unlike a lot of supergroups, is good!

3. The original Pale Ale - Never as beloved as the marquee beers, the original Pale will always hold a special place in my heart and liver: the first Founders beer to cross my lips at my first brewery visit in Grand Rapids. (Not to date myself, but there wasn’t much around back then.) And it still holds up to my memory – bold but not overpowering, refreshing but not too light.

4. All Day IPA - I know I’ve lived through summers before Founders began producing All Day IPA, but I can’t remember what they were like.

5. Oatmeal Stout + Rubaeus = magic - Not sure there’s a nickname for this combination, but my god, it’s magnificent.

6. They treat musicians like real people - Any performer booked at Founders gets a generous food discount, beer tab and ample compensation. These things might not seem like a big deal until you’ve been a musician long enough to understand how rarely it happens. Take it easy on the heavy beers, though, especially if you’re playing last. They sneak up on you.

7. Welcome to Detroit - Founders is preparing to open its Detroit taproom sometime this winter. Located in the Cass Corridor/Midtown area near Little Caesars Arena, the new facility won’t be far from HopCat Detroit. You can't escape us!

8. Great touring bands - Founders’ regular Thursday and Saturday shows contain a solid mix of local and national acts in most genres. But once in a while, the booking team pulls off something really special, like Built to Spill in 2015, the Joy Formidable in 2016 and the Meat Puppets earlier this year. Next up: Dinosaur Jr!

9. There's something familiar about that stage - A bit of lore for longtime Grand Rapidians: The sound-dampening curtain behind the stage is from Theater One at the old Studio 28.

10. The KBS phenomenon - Kentucky Breakfast Stout has a ravenous fan base, obviously, and an entire week on the calendar set aside in its honor. The brewery’s canny control of its supply provides a useful lesson in the economics of scarcity and effective management of demand.

11. Canadian Breakfast Stout - KBS deserves all the praise it gets, but its northern cousin – aged in bourbon barrels also used for maple syrup – is even more mythic. Word on the street is that CBS will be available in bottles for the first time since 2011 as part of the 20th anniversary celebration.

12. PC PIls - The worthy All Day IPA follow-up is just as crushable while performing shirtless yardwork on a summer afternoon.

13. The Big Easy - Back in my red-meat-eating days, this sandwich – salami and capicola topped with olive tapenade(!) and red onion – was the guiltiest of all pleasures. Just reading its name causes the mouth the water and the heart to seize.

14. The Tree Hugger - For the health-conscious (or just those of us who lack the intestinal fortitude of our youths), the top sandwich on Founders’ vegetarian menu doesn’t mess around.

15. The beer menu is vegan friendly.

16. Sumatra Mountain Brown A brown ale is rarely the show-stopper on a brewery’s tap list, but a great brown can be a good indicator of a brewery’s all-around quality. Of course, there was no reason to suspect Founders’ long-sought brown ale would be anything less than excellent.

17. Founders led Grand Rapids to upgrade its water-treatment capacity.

18. The catacombs - Founders barrel-ages beer in the old gypsum mines under Grand Rapids.

19. Founders got the state of Alabama to loosen its profanity standards - In 2012, Alabama officials objected to the names Backwoods Bastard and Dirty Bastard and temporarily kept two of Founders' most popular brands off shelves because of an arcane state law. But Founders fans stepped in and got the decision reversed.

20. In Zack Morris we trust - Mark-Paul Gosselaar, otherwise known as Zack from “Saved By the Bell,” is a huge Founders fan. The actor drank Founders in an episode of his show “Raising the Bar,” and even jammed with the FBC All-Stars onstage at a Founders Fest.

Read more Comments
Fall beer tips from HopCat Chicago's beer expert
Doug Wise, HopCat Chicago Beer Program Manager | October 5, 2017
Fall Beer, Oktoberfest

HopCat hires an in-house beer expert at each of its locations to keep the tap list up to date with regional favorites, hard-to-find gems from around the world and exclusive collaborative brews. From time to time, we like to pick their brains for tips on how navigate their extensive beer menus. Here are some fall beer recommendations from our beer program manager in Chicago, Doug Wise:

Revolution Oktoberfest - This is one of the best Oktoberfest beers made in the states, and in Chicago it is local! This beer is toasty and earthy, and would pair great with our pizza rolls!

2 Towns Nice & Naughty - Nice & Naughty is an imperial cider, registering at 10.5%, with cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and honey!

Tighthead Scarlet > Fire - Part of our Local 30, Scarlet > Fire pairs sweet and roasted malt to create a balanced Irish-Style Red Ale. The name is an homage to the transition between Grateful Dead's Scarlet Begonias and Fire on the Mountain. Try pairing this brew with our Madtown Grilled Cheese!



Read more Comments