In my mind, the two biggest breweries in Akron paired together sound something like the beginning salvo to the Biblical plagues of Egypt. Perhaps this would be the case if there was a third beer-oriented place in the area (Lupulin Locust Brewing? Hail and Fire Brewpub?) to back up this line of thought, but that's probably not the image the Rubber City would like to put forth for area visitors.
In reality, all you have to fear from these Akron mainstay breweries is to miss out on some pretty delicious beer. After our brief visit to survey the taproom of Thirsty Dog (detailed in this blogpost), we made the trip across the metro to have dinner and brews at Hoppin' Frog, which celebrated its 10th anniversary of operation just this summer.
The light industrial complex where Hoppin' Frog resides gives little clue to the slick taproom and kitchen setup within. Opened in 2013, this space provides an appealing atmosphere to sample the brewery's brews. In a nice touch, it seems that the brewpub doesn't simply broadcast television programming just to broadcast it (adding noise to what can be an already noisy space) only switching off the rotating view of the taplist to feature specific events (in this case, the Ohio State Buckeyes football game.) Noise can also be alleviated, weather allowing, by opening up the garage door on the front side of the facility.
Head brewer Fred Karm's modus operandi for Hoppin' Frog concentrates on brews that feature bold flavors and higher ABV content. This has led to numerous accolades over the years, including a spot in Ratebeer.com's Top Brewers in the World and numerous awards at prestigious competitions like GABF and the International Beer Fest.
Indeed, hearty brews like their T.O.R.I.S. (their Imperial Oatmeal Stout brewed in celebration of the elimination of Ohio's ABV cap on beer) and their Old School Baltic Porter, which were must orders in our beer flights, are perfect fare for the cooler temperatures to come. Other brews in our flights that hit that spot for both of us included the Outta Kilter Wee-Heavy Scotch Red Ale (just plain good) and the Infusion A: Chocolate Peanut Butter Coffee Porter (perhaps the most pleasantly fragrant brew of this style we've tried, with big hints of cocoa before a dry, peanut-filled finish.)
Unless you have had a good solid meal prior to your visit, it's almost a necessity to have something off of Hoppin' Frog's menu to temper the effect of these heavyweight brews. We appreciated that the the brewery's gastropub-styled menu, while not overly extensive, strives toward seasonality and veers away from the more typical fried or grilled brewpub options (for Columbus locals, the closest comparison may be Lineage Brewing's food menu.)
The menu also has enough dishes across all price ranges and sizes to meet most culinary needs, including a full-sized dinner, which was our goal on this visit. As it turned out, the Famous Cajun Pasta (handmade papardalle pasta with a nicely spicy Andouille sausage link mixed with Cajun spiced shrimp, crawfish, onions and peppers) and Shrimp and Grits entrees we ordered may not have been the most memorable versions of those dishes we've ever had, but they were competently made, generally flavorful, and provided the needed digestive padding to offset the potent, tasty brews we were sampling.
Hoppin' Frog Brewing
1680 East Waterloo Rd. (Google Maps)
Akron, OH 44306
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