What’s a successful Chicago brewery to do during the cold, winter months, when people would rather stay warm inside than come out and drink?
You throw your anniversary party, of course.
Such is the case with Haymarket Pub & Brewery, which celebrated its third year in existence on January 12, 2014. Pete Crowley, head brewer and owner, decided it was a good idea to unleash most of his specialty brews for the occasion, including numerous barrel aged beers and specialty one-offs.
I arrived at around 12:30, worried about a full house and a long wait for a table or a spot at the bar. Those fears were immediately assuaged as I was able to get a table in the back room (while few, there were spots available at the bar). My friend and I sat down and were greeted with the following menu.
The server greeted us, gave us water and allowed us to peruse the tap list. Without hesitation both of us ordered Clare’s Thirsty Ale, an imperial stout aged on raspberries in Woodford Reserve barrels. A mere minutes later we were drinking it, in all its bourbon raspberry glory. This, as well as the other specialties available on this day, was so easy to get because of one simple tactic I wish more breweries would use at events like this – staggered tap times.
I have been to events where the beers everybody was there for getting tapped at the exact same time, leading to massive waits and tons of people at the bar. Here, each specialty was released at half hour intervals, starting at noon and going until four. This both made it easy to get any of the them, as well as allowing you to savor your current beer long enough to finish it and then go on to enjoy the next one.
While the bar and the front dining area were full, the back room was still sparsely filled, but that began to change as the day wore on. Musical acts Karl Neurauter and Sound Proof were prefaced by Crowley toasting to three years and the Chicago beer drinkers that made this possible.
Both acts played well and were a welcome diversion from the usual TV audio (featuring NFL playoff games), but it did make it difficult to talk with my group (a minor gripe but a grip nonetheless).
Meanwhile, new beers kept tapping every half hour, necessitating a different 4 ounce beer in front me at that interval. There was the outstanding (the aforementioned Clare’s Thirsty Ale, Uber Mathias), the great (BA Rosemary’s Red Devil, Mandarin Bavaria Pale Ale), the good (Clare’s Right Hook), and one I would pass on (Smoked Chocolate Coffee Porter, but then again I’m definitely not a smoked beer fan). All the while, at what seemed like hour intervals, small dishes with various meats and sauces were brought by on the house.
Making this day even more enjoyable was that it never got too crowded. People were standing at various points throughout the day, but never to the point where you had no room or couldn’t easily get to the bathroom (which is always key at these events).
At four o’clock, I ordered my Uber Mathias, savored the 4 pounds of dry hopped Citra per barrel, paid my bill and hit the road. If only more events were run as well as this one was. I will definitely be attending next year. Happy 3rd Beerthday Haymarket!