I recently had time to stop by and pick up a pint of ice cream from a landmark here in Asheville, The Hop Ice Cream Cafe. The Hop has been in business for over 35 years and was even recently named as one of the 12 best ice cream shops in the United States to visit. Taking their experience and success into account, it was only appropriate that I try a flavor that really incorporates a local flair -- craft beer. Asheville, NC has seen its name associated with Beer City, USA on more than one occasion and I enjoy exploring the creative flavor combinations local breweries come up with. One of these breweries, located very near The Hop, is Altamont Brewing Company.
Naturally The Hop had to chose a "hoppy" beer to pair with their sweet, homemade ice cream. They settled on Altamont's Red & Black IPA. Considering beer isn't something typically associated with ice cream, my taste buds remained dubious; that is until I scooped out my first bite. The consistency of all the dairy ice cream flavors from The Hop are full-bodied and full-fat, but that's what I'm looking for if I'm buying ice cream from a scoop shop -- no low calorie or frozen yogurt for me.
The flavor of this ice cream is not only difficult to describe, but probably isn't for everyone. As an adventurous eater, I was immediately a fan. Each bite began with the simple sugary sweetness you'd expect from a super-premium ice cream. but the back-end flavors are where things got interesting. The hop-filled flavoring of the India Pale Ale balanced out the sweetness of the sugar, to a level where both ice cream and beer could be enjoyed simultaneously; something that I was skeptical of from the start. I will certainly make checking out their ever-rotating selection of ice creams a more common occurrence.
Where I Found It: The Hop Ice Cream Cafe (Asheville, NC)