Summers in Chicago are jam-packed with festivals, baseball games, and warm(ish) weather and I just want to take advantage of every minute of long and light evenings. Somehow, time gets away from me and I haven’t had much of a chance to try new restaurants I’ve read about and added to my color-coded to-go spreadsheet categorized by location, cuisine, and type of meal (breakfast, dinner, dessert, etc.). This week, I had the opportunity to try the most recent addition, DryHop Brewers in Lakeview at Belmont and Broadway and the experience was memorable in my mind and on my tastebuds. I’ll share what I mean. As I walked up to the entrance, I felt like the light grey and white building facade with large open windows opening up to the street would be suited for a quiet, secluded spot in Logan Square (like Revolution Brewing), but it quickly seemed to fit in with the homey neighborhood around it, and I fit right in as soon as I stepped foot inside. I couldn’t take my eyes off the shiny, seemingly massive beer vats behind the bar and in the enclosed, transparent glass space inside the restaurant.
The six DryHop Brewing beer varieties are made on-the-spot and just feet away from where I tasted them all in the beer flight that was a surprising, light, hoppy, refreshing, herbal, and sweet experience. We were advised to taste the less hoppy beers first (White Rabbit Belgian Wit, Batch 001 pre-prohibition style ale, and the As the Crow Flies Vanilla Bourbon Porter) and save the earthier brews to accompany dinner. The Batch 001 was light, smooth, and easy. (Can I describe a beer as easy?) The White Rabbit reminded me of the midwestern, lemony Leinenkugel Summer Shandy I tasted in Milwaukee last weekend. And the As the Crow Flies – well, it was right up my alley since I’ve come to appreciate bourbon since living in Chicago. It was bittersweet and seemed to have a coffee essence as porters do. The Shark Meets Hipster wheat India Pale Ale (IPA) seemed to have notes of basil, which may have come from the passion fruit. It was more herbal than any other beer I’ve tasted. The flight is a fantastic way to go to taste DryHop’s beer portfolio – or ask to taste a beer before ordering a pint.
While at the bar, we watched the bartenders use contraptions that filled 32 and 64 ounce glass growlers, or what DryHop calls ‘the best thing since sliced bread’, with brews customers purchased and took to indulge at home.
And then there was the food. Oh, the food. This was not just any ol’ pub grub. While heavily meat slanted (I mean, there’s a photo of a pig’s head on the homepage), we found some lighter options and tasted a few things. Much of the DryHop Brewing menu includes small plates that are meant to share, except for a few sandwiches. I stepped outside my no-red-meat comfort zone to try the Lamb Pastrami sandwich and it was the star of the show. The toasty multigrain bread with thinly sliced and toasted lamb, pickled onions, fresh greens, just enough melted Gruyere cheese, fig-shallot conserve (like a jammy chutney), and a tad of lemon aioli was just the perfect crunchy, sweet, savory proportionate bite…well several bites.
And the other stars of the show were the pickles. These were not ordinary pickles. They.were.intense. When I asked our very attentive waiter, T.J., about the spiciest pickles I’ve ever crunched on, he mentioned the spears came from New York and had cayenne pepper in the brine. I felt the invigorating burn for 12 hours after dinner! I noticed diced ginger and another note of strong heat in a bite I took of the bread and butter pickles, so I asked about the ingredients. T.J. left to inquire in the kitchen and came back with…a printed recipe from the chef! While I would love to share the recipe here, I feel it is my duty to safeguard it in my kitchen where it will possibly inspire my very first batch of homemade pickles and I wouldn’t want to share the secrets of DryHop openly without permission. So, I’ll mention some of the ingredients that make their bread and butter pickles unique, which includes mustard seeds, red jalapenos, cloves, and ground mace. And in case you were wondering, they make batches 40.5 pounds of cucumbers at a time!
Needless to say, now’s the time to check out DryHop before you’re in a pickle and can’t get a table without waiting for hours. (Okay, bad joke, I know). But really, from the well-thought-out craft beer made in-house, to the unique space that makes you feel a part of the brewing experience, and the beyond flavorful food that leaves you wanting more, DryHop is more than just a neighborhood hangout. Hop over and dry, I mean, try it!
DryHop is also open late night with a limited menu from 10pm-1am and for lunch!