Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hops & Pops

On Wednesday, August 20, Hill Center hosted Hops & Pops - a beer and popcorn tasting - which sounded too fun to pass up. Keith and I enjoyed nine unique craft beers from around the world that were paired with popcorn from Capitol Kettle Corn. A team of beer connoisseurs were on site to walk us through the different pairings and explain why these flavors work so well together.

Image via Hill Center DC website
It was our first time inside this historic building, and it still had unique original elements that gave the space lots of charm akin to the Capitol Hill neighborhood.  Here is some history of the building: "Construction of the Old Naval Hospital began in 1864 in response to the critical need for hospital care during the Civil War, but the building was not completed until 1866, after the war was over. The Navy Department created the 50-bed facility to serve "seamen serving on the Potomac River and its tributaries" and as a permanent alternative to various temporary facilities, most notably at St. Elizabeth's across the Anacostia. It’s the oldest documented naval hospital in Washington and was the first institution of its kind specifically designed on a large enough scale to serve for an extended period of time. In 1962 the federal government transferred control of the site to the District of Columbia, and the Old Naval Hospital subsequently housed several social service organizations... But the facility was not properly maintained and the effects of age and moisture steadily took their toll. After a lengthy bidding and review process, the Hill Center plan was accepted by the city in August 2007, and soon after a major renovation of the site, including careful restoration of the building's exterior and monumental fence to their 19th century appearance, was completed."

First, we sampled the Blanche de Bruxelles Belgian White - Brasserie Lefebvre SA, Belgium paired with Spicy Ethiopian Kettle Corn.  This was my favorite pairing and really woke up my palate.  Featuring coriander and orange peel to lend a slight spiced nose (4.5%), this soft and smooth beer is light and summery, while the popcorn had subtle heat from the spices.

Next, we tried the Lancaster Strawberry Wheat - Lancaster Brewing Company, Pennsylvania paired with Sea Salt Kettle Corn.  The American wheat lager-style beer was refreshing and crisp (4.7%).  Both the strawberry in the beer and the salt in the popcorn were super subtle.

My next favorite of the pairings featured the 21st Amendment Back in Black IPA - 21st Amendment Brewery, California paired with a sweet and patriotic All American Kettle Corn.  Brewed like an American IPA but with the addition of rich dark malts, this beer was flavorful with a smooth, mellow finish (6.8%).  The candied popcorn rounded out the dark IPA.  While the beer had the dark color, it was not as malty as other porters or stouts.

Day of the Dead Porter
We continued with another dark beer, the Day of the Dead Porter - Day of the Dead Brewery, Mexico.  This is the first craft beer from Mexico that is available in the U.S. and features a unique label designed by a popular Mexican artist.  The porter was a full body beer with rich roasted malt and chocolate notes (5%) that was also quite creamy, and was paired with a Spicy Hot Chocolate Kettle Corn.  I first tasted the dark chocolate on the popcorn, but soon the spice-factor crept up and the heat overpowered my mouth, causing me to drink more of the beer.  The pairing was successful, but the popcorn was too spicy for me to finish.

My least favorite of the dark beers was the Xingu Black Lager - Cervejaria Sul Brasileira, Brazil paired with Southern BBQ Kettle Corn.  I suppose the smokiness of the popcorn was meant to accentuate the smokiness of the malty beer (4.7%), but it didn't work for me.

The sixth beer we tried was actually a cider, Original Sin Apple Cider - Original Sin Craft Ciders, New York expertly paired with Cinnamon Kettle Corn.  I normally steer clear of ciders, as there is something that my body doesn't like and causes me to break out in hives, but this cider was fruity and effervescent.  It is a dry traditional cider, fermented with two types of champagne yeast (6%) and is gluten-free.  The cinnamon in the popcorn gave an overall 'apple pie' feeling to the pairing, and was very enjoyable.

Continuing on, we tried the Gaffel Kolsch - Privatbrauerei Gaffel Becker and Co., Germany paired with Old Bay Kettle Corn.  Unfortunately, this was my least favorite pairing of them all.  The beer was bitter (4.8%) and just fell flat for me.  Plus, I am not the biggest fan of Old Bay (sorry, Maryland!).

The strongest beer we sampled was the Uinta Anniversary Barleywine - Uina Brewing Company, Utah George.  This rich and complex malt barley wine exhibits hints of dried fruit and caramel with a ton of American hops (10.4%).  It was paired with a classic George Washington Kettle Corn.

The last beer we sampled was the No Li Jet Star Imperial IPA - No Li Brewhouse, Washington State paired with Caramel Kettle Corn.  The malt in the beer is intentionally subdued with a double-dosed hops to show off the Washington style (8.1%).  I am not sure if I was buzzed by this point or what, but I also enjoyed this pairing this very much.

While it could have been organized a little better (i.e. put the beers in order from lightest to heaviest, and put the paired popcorn next to each beer instead of all the way across the room), we really enjoyed this Hops & Pops event.  It was a great deal for the price ($15) and all of the beer we sampled could be special ordered by Schneider's of Capitol Hill.  Check out the other foodie events offered at the Hill Center.


  1. This is awesome!! I want to try this next time were in your neck of the woods!


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