It didn’t take me long to unleash a post in which Rock ‘N’ Roll and beer converged. Get used to it. This past Saturday, my wife and I made a much-needed day of leisure out of two of our favorite activities, buying records and drinking beer. We took a short drive into Chicago to hit the CHIRP (Chicago Independent Radio Project) record fair. Held at the Chicago Plumbers Union hall, this put us about a mile away from the Haymarket Pub and Brewery, which we had yet to visit. After three and a half hours of digging through seemingly endless crates and battling other record collectors for great finds (I missed out on a nice T.Rex – Electric Warrior purchased right in front of me for $8), we decided that we should leave while we still had some money in the budget for the brewpub and were happy with our purchases (me: a lot of old Metal and a little funk; she: a lot of old country).
Haymarket opened in late ’10, though the West Loop, where it is located, isn’t a part of the city I hang out in very often. With so many quality beer lists in the Logan Square (my former neighborhood) and Wicker Park/Bucktown areas, I tend to get a little too comfortable with my favorite spots and forget that the city is quite large. Creature of habit I suppose. So getting over to Haymarket to drink a few of head brewer/owner Pete Crowley’s brews had been long overdue. Pete had been brewing at Rock Bottom’s River North location (another place I never got over to much) for years and his brews have won plenty of awards from all of the right festivals us beer nerds pay mind to. When he left to do his own thing it was local beer scene news and expectations were high. And since Haymarket opened, I’ve heard nothing but high praise for the IPAs and Double IPAs Pete has been serving. So it was time to try a few myself.
We knew that we’d be trying the IPAs on the menu in larger pours, so we started with the flight you see pictured above to get a taste of a few of the other brews on the long draft list.
The Saison Also Rises – I didn’t get much, if any, of the peppery funk I would normally expect in a Farmhouse Ale. Which is fine, because admittedly, Farmhouse Ales are far from my favorite style. What I got was a very crisp, dry finishing Belgian Blonde-like beer with a fairly strong lemon character and a hint of bubblegum. Jumps out as a nice summer brew.
Devil In The Wit City – Looks, smells and tastes like a Wit. A very cloudy one at that. However, not one of the better Wits I’ve had. The coriander comes through well enough, but not much else stood out to me.
Dynamite and Roses Belgian IPA – The Belgian IPAs I’ve tried thus far have been drastically different from beer to beer. I don’t really have a good handle on this style. I’m not sure that anyone does. All I know is that this was a really nice beer with a seemingly complex profile that was slightly overpowered by the dominant tangerine/grapefruit notes from the bittering Summit hops. The dynamite in the name I suppose. I wanted more than the 4 ounces we shared and that is always a good sign. I look forward to this one again sometime.
Black Wobbly Robust Porter – Black is right. This looks more like a Stout than a Porter. I know Amarillo hops when I smell them, and that’s what it smelled like. Which fools the senses when that first taste is heavy on the chocolate. I continued on a little confused by it, and then it was gone. I’ll have to try this one again. Interesting, though. Sweet, roasty, hoppy.
Comeback and Guzzle Spiced Belgian Dark Ale – Wow. A lot going on with this one. A noticeable alcohol presence bit on the first sip, followed by some fruity sweetness, which left a sticky mouthfeel and more of a cherry cough syrup aftertaste. I didn’t hate it, but I don’t know that I’d want to sip on 12 ounces of it either. Another comment at our table referenced the dentist’s office. Safe to say they didn’t like it.
On to the 12 and 16 ouncers…
We started with the Bronzeville IPA and worked our way up the ABV ladder. Bronzeville is basically a showcase for the earthy Willamette hop variety and that is exactly what you get. Comes off closer to a Pale Ale than an IPA to me, actually, even at almost 7% ABV.
Anarchy Double IPA was up next. A hazy, unfiltered, full bodied, bitter brew full of high alpha hops. I got pine, grapefruit and a slight black tea note along with some noticeable alcohol as it warmed. This is definitely a keeper, but we kind of sold Anarchy short on this trip. We had ordered the Anarchy and the Mathias at the same time, sharing our last beers of the day and ended up having a bit of a face off between Anarchy and the Mathias. Mathias won.
Mathias Imperial IPA – Upon one sip, my wife declared this beer “magical.” I’m not sure I disagree. A bright orange (my pic doesn’t do it justice) citrus hop bomb that could fool one into thinking this was a 50/50 tropical fruit punch/Double IPA blend. Hugely sweet up front (peaches, passionfruit) with just enough bitterness behind it to remind you that you are drinking a pretty serious beer. The 10% ABV is alarmingly 100% hidden which makes this quite a dangerous pour. Nice to meet you Citra hops.
I tried a 4 0z. pour of Three Floyds Topless Wytch Baltic Porter, but it arrived with the Double and Imperial IPAs. Not the wisest choice as it got kind of lost in all those hops. But by then I was getting a little beer happy anyway. It was sort of a “Hey, I didn’t see they had 4 oz. pours of the guest drafts too. That looks good. Let’s order it.” That type of thing. So hopefully I’ll see the Topless Wytch again sometime and can offer a fair assessment.
My virgin voyage to Haymarket was a success, as was the vinyl haul from the record fair. Combining that with the wonderful spring weather we had and this past Saturday was all around pretty stellar. And as far as Double IPAs go, Haymarket may very well currently make the best of any brewpub in Chicago. Piece is on notice. I’ve actually read a couple of reviews in which Haymarket was criticized for having too many IPAs and not enough other styles on draft. Who are you people and where do you come from? I know there is the ever-present hophead backlash among serious beer nerds…but you can’t seriously be complaining about a great brewer occupying two or three out of twenty taps with multiple Double/Imperial IPAs, can you? Well, I suppose you can. I did see a server at the pub deliver a can of Blatz to a nearby table while we were there, enforcing my belief that you are never really all that far away from someone that is completely insane. To each their own is what I tell myself…even though I know whoever ordered a Blatz there is a bad person. Which leads to the question: Hey Haymarket, whats up with the Blatz on the beer list?