I had written about HopLore Brewing, a small brewery located in Leesburg, Indiana, when I first interviewed Stefan King, one of the local guys who founded it. We had heard wonderful things about it from others who had visited. However, our addiction and convenience to restaurants in the Warsaw/Winona Lake community had always trumped our decision to head north a few miles. That all changed when I spotted on Facebook that they were offering a take on a Cuban sandwich as their special. We packed up the kids and headed north to try out their version of this southern staple.
HopLore is housed in the old Leesburg Mill which, in its past days, did what mills do. Nowadays, its purpose is to serve beer and tasty dishes. While there is plenty of space for seating, the layout of the building only permits segmented areas for dining. The first seating area you’ll come upon is in the main entrance foyer area. In this section, a few round tables with seating for around 6 are set up. Just beyond this section is another dining area. The main 21 and over bar is to the left of the entrance while the kitchen is to the right.
If you’re heading to HopLore for the first time, you’ll need to head to the bar to place your food and drink order. This part can be confusing for people who don’t normally eat at breweries. When we arrived, I was thoroughly befuddled as to where to place my order. I’ve eaten at breweries before so I know how the ordering process works. For some reason, though, the way the foyer area is set up at HopLore leads you to believe that the ordering should take place there – it just looks like a front desk/ordering area. I finally asked someone in the kitchen where to order and they pointed to the bar. I observed two of the three groups who arrived after us going through the same thing with one couple sitting at their table for over five minutes looking as perplexed as I had. I would highly recommend placing some kind of directional sign in the main foyer area that says “Order at bar” with an arrow pointing the way. That or you can just show them my video below so it can get hits which, just like in baseball, is a good thing.
One other thing (and now I’m getting picky) – in the foyer, there is an oversized Connect 4 game. When the circular pieces are released and fall onto the ground, the acoustics in this area make it deafening. A small rubber matt underneath the game would do wonders while allowing kids (and children at heart) to still enjoy the game without “crashing” into the dining experience of others. Until then, if you find yourself in this area while the game is being enjoyed, just order a beer and enjoy the sight of kids having fun.
Service was excellent. The staff understand that portion of it well and it’s easy to understand why. They’re working at a brewery so why wouldn’t they be joyful? I mean, I don’t even drink that much beer but I’d be all smiles too if I was getting paid to hang out at a brewery. Plus, Stefan’s a great guy so his personality can’t help but rub off on the people that surround him at work.
The “Cuban B” sandwich that we initially set out to experience was good. Consisting of pulled pork, capicola ham (some people call it a cross between prosciutto and sausage), bourbon bacon mustard (is there a better condiment?) and Muenster, the sandwich perfectly performed its role of absorbing our beer without taking up too much space.
As I stated earlier, I don’t drink a lot of beer. I’ve been trying to change that, however, since downing craft brews seems to be the thing to do lately. To that end, I’ve been able to find beers at breweries that I enjoy and if I end up at a restaurant that doesn’t have my handy cocktails, I can even suck down a Bud Light if it’s cold enough. All that to say I’m no beer expert so this is coming from a beer novice – my one declaration I’ll make in this article is that HopLore’s Rasta, an American porter, is the best beer I’ve had and is solely to blame for my porter obsession of late. I don’t know how to accurately describe it – maybe notes of coffee with a hint of chocolate and a tad bit of tartness to it. It’s dark but don’t let that scare you away from trying it. It was completely surprising and I’m really wishing I had one right now.
HopLore’s Rasta, an American porter, is the best beer I’ve had
We enjoyed our dinner at HopLore and were even able to converse with Stefan during our visit. You can see and hear the passion he has for his craft and you can’t help but root for him. The recommendations listed above are minor and had nothing to do with the food, drink or service. If put into place, however, they would have a positive impact on the overall experience.
HopLore is on the newly created Northern Indiana Beer Trail so make sure and get your book stamped while you’re there.
Time to go get my Rasta man on.