Friday, March 15, 2013

DryHop Brewers Holds Warming Party for Chicago Beer Community

On Tuesday night, DryHop Brewers held a soft opening for beer industry insiders, fellow brewers, Illinois Craft Brewers Guild members, and close friends and family. The gathering took place at their future brewpub location at 3155 N Broadway Street. With boarded windows, patched drywall, the skeleton of a bar, and open pipe-works leading from tank to tank, the party had a chilly "buddy's garage" vibe to it. While it's clear they have a long way to go before their target opening date in May, seeing the progress they've already made was encouraging.

Chrome Behind the Bar. An Interesting View for Dryhop Barflies.
The DryHop crew was out in full force, meeting and greeting guests, showing off the work already done and explaining what's left to do. Head owner Greg Shuff towered over the crowd, smiling the whole evening as he told their brewery's story over and over. Meanwhile, head brewer Brant Dubovic took the time to explain how they foresee the brewing process taking place with equipment that's literally out in the open for everyone to see. Chef Pete Repak explained the seating layout and how they planned to fit 70+ people into their space.

The layout of the brewpub itself is quite unique. Seating will be in the main room near the entrance with two large doors that will open up during warm months to provide additional patio seating. The bar runs straight back from this area, just off-center of the space. The serving tanks, pictured above, sit right behind the bar, giving patrons a view of chrome and a rare behind the scenes look at the final step between brewing and tap nozzle. While seated at the bar, the mash tun and brew kettle will be sitting behind the bar stools with a path between for traffic. The fermenters sit further down the hall, off to the left in their own small room. The kitchen lays off to the right with an order window and (hopefully) enough space to feed the sure to be hungry crowds in the main room.

On this night, however, the kitchen was still quite bare. So, DryHop brought in The Salsa Truck to provide food in the form of tacos and quesadillas served from the parking garage at the back of the building. The line was long, but the wait was well worth it whether guests chose carnitas, pollo, chorizo, veggies, or other fillings to soak up the beer.

Oh yes...the beer. On tap for the evening were three varieties of Dryhop's brews. Two were collaborations, including Johnny Quest Thinks We're Sellouts, a Black IPA brewed with Begyle Brewing, and Shot a Man in Simcoe, a Belgian IPA brewed with Lake Effect Brewing. Both beers were flavor bombs in the best sense, and while I enjoyed both, I found myself coming back to Johnny Quest over and over throughout the evening for its dark, hoppy essence. 

The third beer was a Chicago Common called Shark vs Hipster. This beer had a somewhat sweet, malty appeal that balanced out the up-front hops of the other two beers. As one of the first Dryhop productions without a collaborator, it stood out as a unique offering.

As the evening continued, the crowd thinned a bit, but it was clear the entire time that one thing is for certain; while Chicago's beer community continues to grow, the bonds within it strengthen as well. Everyone in attendance was supportive of their new brethren and it was great to see other upstarts in the crowd mingling with some of the already established brewers. 

Full Disclosure: This event was free to attend by invitees and guests. Beer samples and food were provided free of charge.

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