3:13 pm: My husband receives a photo of last night's Hops & Pie "Beers on Tap" list from one of his friends. The beer menu includes his beloved - and extremely hard to find - "Supplication" by Russian River.
3:14 pm: Unable to turn down the immediate potential for Supplication on tap, we cancel our reservations at Linger that we'd made a month earlier.
3:33 pm: My husband calls one of his beer aficionado buddies and informs him that he and his wife must join us on the journey for some craft beer on tap.
4:30 pm: We leave our place down south to head 35 minutes away for Supplication on tap. Sorry, Linger. Your international street food menu will have to wait.
5:06 pm: Hello, Hops & Pie.
And that is how we ended up at Hops & Pie, and not at Linger, on the Saturday night after Thanksgiving.
So Hops & Pie offers just about the best craft beer selection in Denver. And they sell pizza. It's really the simplest, most genius, and most inevitably successful business model imaginable for a front range establishment.
Located at 38th and Tennyson in the historic Berkeley neighborhood, Hops & Pie lies off the beaten path of Denver's main restaurant and bar scenes. Alongside Hops & Pie on Tennyson street are an eclectic mix of restaurants, coffee shops, a yoga studio, and an antique store that my mother would be happy to spend all day in.
Hops & Pie's location is small, really too small to accommodate the beer-loving Denver public. It comprises one long, narrow room, with the bar area taking up half the space.
Despite our early arrival just after 5 pm, the restaurant's tiny space and the fact that three groups of people had monopolized all available tables meant we were in for a bit of a wait. Half an hour later, after squeezing the four of us around a small table sandwiched between the bar and another table, we were all seated.
The beer menu at Hops & Pie is really unmatched by any other bar in Denver. They have managed to offer - either on tap or in bottle form - some of the absolute highest regarded and hardest to find craft beers in the country.
Unfortunately, this being complete beer-snob territory, the menu was extremely sparse on the light, "girly" pilsners and wheat beers that I prefer.
My husband enjoyed a 375 mL bottle of Pliny the Elder, an IPA from Russian River ($11), followed by a 375 mL bottle of Consecration, also by Russian River, a barrel-aged ale ($19). I drank water and longed silently for a Michelob Ultra.
|Pliny the Elder IPA by Russian River|
|Consecration Barrel-Aged Ale by Russian River|
For dinner, we started with their IPA Mac & Cheese ($7.5), made with cheddar, smoked ham, peas, herbed bread crumbs, and of course, IPA.
|IPA Mac n Cheese|
Think of an outstanding home style mac and cheese, made even better with the use of beer. The rich, cheesy sauce had subtle, pleasantly bitter IPA undertones. The addition of sweet green peas and large, smoky ham pieces further improved the flavor. The four of us ate every last bite.
The mac n cheese was followed up with one of their 16" Artisan pizzas, topped with prosciutto, mozzarella, sauteed spinach, banana peppers, cherry tomatoes, and roasted garlic ($17).
|Artisan Pizza slice|
After our excitement at Hops & Pie's beer selection and delicious mac n cheese, this pizza was a letdown. Basically, it was bad. The crust was bland, and there was no sauce. While I enjoyed most of the toppings, the banana peppers were straight from a jar, and their briny flavor overwhelmed everything else on the pizza.
Good pizza should be pretty easy to crank out, right? Especially by owners who are smart enough to tap into Denver's palate for craft beers, and who have enough kitchen skills to put together the incredible IPA Mac n Cheese we had just consumed. So I was perplexed that the pizza would be so completely disappointing.
I did notice, however, that surrounding diners had stuck to the "create your own" pizza selections made with hand-tossed crusts and served with their house-made tomato sauce and cheese blends. They looked much tastier than our pizzas, but of course I have no way to verify how they tasted.
Anyway, we couldn't walk away from Hops & Pie without trying some of their cereal-based marshmallow treats. We ordered their Super Treat, containing Cocoa Puffs and Peanut Butter Captain Crunch ($3), and a Crispy Treat ($2), made of traditional rice crisp cereal.
Not to brag, but I'm pretty much a cereal-and-marshmallow-treat connoisseur, and I must say that all such treats should be evaluated based on the following criteria: 1) Ratio of marshmallow cream to cereal, 2) Ductility, 3) Butteriness
Both treats were a resounding success in all three categories, although I must say the butteriness of these treats was extreme, and some people may find them too rich.
The service at Hops & Pie was very good. Our waitress removed one of our beers from the tab when we notified her that it tasted basically awful (likely on the brewer's end and not Hops & Pie's).
By the time we got ready to leave, which was only about 7:30 pm, the small restaurant was packed with patrons mulling around the bar area as table and bar seating had long ago filled up.
If Hops & Pie can upgrade its pizza offerings, it will rule Denver. Otherwise, its still worth the long drive if you love craft beer, mac n cheese, and cereal treats.
Pros: Unmatched craft beer selection, excellent IPA Mac n Cheese and Cereal Treats, good service
Cons: Not crazy about pizza, crowded