DryHop may not need a good review, but they're getting one | Bleader

Monday, June 17, 2013

DryHop may not need a good review, but they're getting one

Posted By on 06.17.13 at 02:00 PM

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Big things happening under this sign
  • Big things happening under this sign
When DryHop brewpub threw a preopening party on Saturday, June 8, it sold 300 growler fills and 300 tasting flights to an estimated 400 guests in just two hours. When I visited on Saturday, June 15, two days after DryHop formally opened, I showed up around 3 PM, hoping to squeak in between the lunch and dinner crowds—but there was no "between." The 3,000-square-foot space at 3155 N. Broadway, which allegedly holds 70, was standing room only, and a line for growlers stretched out the door. I stayed about four hours, and not a minute went by that at least three people weren't waiting for a growler fill. Around 5 PM, Hopleaf co-owner Michael Roper dropped by to see what the fuss was about, then drank his way through half the beer menu.

In other words, Atlas Brewing Company has hardly sated the neighborhood's appetite for brewpubs. (It opened last summer less than a mile away, on Lincoln near Diversey.) DryHop was so slammed during my visit that the kitchen ran out of food and had to stop serving for two hours in order to recover for dinner. Head brewer Brant Dubovick told me that if the current frenzy of demand for DryHop's beers keeps up, it'll make it tough for him to brew lagers or high-alcohol styles—they tie up his equipment for too long. Because DryHop's landlord also owns the storefront immediately south, the brewpub is already considering expanding into that space. It's almost certainly going to staff up posthaste, at least at the bar.

All this is to say that DryHop probably doesn't need a good review from me to take off like gangbusters. But it's gonna get one anyway, because Dubovick is doing some great work.

Dubovick comes to DryHop from Church Brew Works in Pittsburgh, where he worked for seven years. He's been developing DryHop's recipes since August 2011, and began collaborating with Chicago brewers in February 2012. General manager Greg Shuff started a nanobrewery called Last Bay in Indianapolis when he was in college (he's only 25 now), and DryHop's third brewer, Adrian Vidaurre, interned at Moonshine in Wicker Park and made the rounds with a homebrewing operation called Corazon.

This is hardly as intimate as DryHop brewer Brant Dubovick has gotten with this ten-barrel brew house.
  • This is hardly as intimate as DryHop brewer Brant Dubovick has gotten with this ten-barrel brew house. Please note the Mercyful Fate T-shirt.

DryHop's ten-barrel brew house (with a capacity of 1,500 barrels per year) sits opposite the bar behind glass walls, and the fermentation vessels are off to the left as you head past the kitchen to the restrooms. Bartenders pour DryHop house beers from six brilliant bright tanks behind the bar, stacked in two rows of three—and in addition to those half dozen, they serve two collaborations (at present there's one with Solemn Oath and one with Begyle) and two guest drafts, for a total of ten handles. There's not a single television on the premises.

At least at present, ten-ounce pours cost three or four bucks, and none of DryHop's beers—not even in a 21-ounce mug—will set you back more than six. Growlers cost $10 to $13 (with one beer per week on special for $6), and if you've already got the glass a refill is usually $6. (DryHop occupies the old Pleasure Chest location, and the owners of that store, now on Lincoln, have joked about running a "growler and vibrator" promotion.)

I tried six DryHop beers, including one collaboration, mostly in tasting glasses; in the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that Dubovick very generously comped them all. (I tipped extravagantly.) Given how crowded the bar was, I made no attempt to take photos, but I figure you folks know what beer looks like.

Look at the condensation on those beautiful bright tanks. That is mighty sexy.
  • Look at the condensation on those beautiful bright tanks. That is mighty sexy.

DryHop's Czech pilsner, Velvet Divorce, was 48 hours old when I drank it. Dubovick says pilsners are among his favorites to brew because they're so hard to get right—and he got this one right. It's nicely substantial at 5.2 percent alcohol, with a plush, stable head and an intensely lemony, biscuity aroma. Peppery hops and bready malts (a bit like sourdough) balance the clean citrusy notes on the palate, and there's not a whisper of an off flavor.

Angry Samoan, a coconut stout, is gentle and accessible despite its punk-ass name, with an alcohol content of 5.5 percent and none of the roasty, astringent coffee notes common to the style—it's light bodied but lushly chocolatey. Brewed with 15 pounds of unsweetened flaked coconut in the boil and "dry hopped" with another 15 pounds in the bright tank, it's got a finish like a macaroon. The beer almost tastes like a Mounds bar, if a Mounds bar weren't sickeningly sweet and loaded with sodium metabisulfite and sulfur dioxide.

Heavy Metal Parking Lot is a dry-hopped Belgian red ale made in collaboration with Solemn Oath; it's the strongest beer I had Saturday at 7 percent. Solemn Oath's house strain of Belgian yeast and a cocktail of Galaxy, Falconer's Flight, Citra, and Chinook hops give it flavors of peach, apricot, ripe pineapple, and cedar, riding atop rich caramel that shades into toffee.

The facade of DryHop, open to the sidewalk to take advantage of a lovely afternoon
  • The facade of DryHop, open to the sidewalk to take advantage of a lovely afternoon

Shark Meets Hipster, a 6 percent wheat IPA made with Chinook and Citra hops in the kettle and dry-hopped with Galaxy, was the only beer I can't say I was crazy about—but given the stiff competition, that's not much of a knock. It's a bit like a lighter Gumballhead, without all the fresh citrus aroma from Amarillo hops; something licoricey, prickly, and herbal mingles with peach and white grape, and the bitter finish reminds me of grapefruit rind.

Dubovick says he thinks the Judge is one of the best beers he's brewed, and it was probably my favorite of the afternoon. Named after a model of Pontiac GTO sold from 1969 till '71 (shades of American Muscle!), it's a 5.4 percent APA inspired by the Three Floyds-Half Acre collaboration Anicca. Brewed with Mosaic and Amarillo hops, it smells powerfully of passion fruit, tangerine, and mango, and the flood of fruit continues on the palate: blood orange, lychee, and lime, spiked with pine and grapefruit and undergirded by chewy caramel malts with a biscuity base.

I said "probably" about the Judge because I also had a couple glasses of Vampire for Your Love, a 6.2 percent saison made with Sichuan peppercorns (which I couldn't really taste) and a veritable bushel of kaffir lime leaves (which I adore). The flavor begins with dried apricot, banana, and a touch of clove (presumably from the saison yeast), plus some orange and lemon (I assume from the hops), but toward the end of each sip a bright clear wedge of lime rises up and through. Kaffir lime leaves impart intense fruitiness without the bitterness of pith and peel or the acidity of juice, and I never got tired of that wonderful taste blooming over the top of the beer.

Right now Dubovick has most of the rest of his year planned out, and he mentioned a few beers he's got in the pipeline that piqued my interest, including a blood-orange witbier, a single-hop IPA with Sorachi Ace, and a Cuban-inspired coffee-guava stout. I think we're both hoping he has time to pull off a doppelbock or two as well.

DryHop's beer names give me one easy segue into the metal portion of this Beer and Metal post: the short video documentary Heavy Metal Parking Lot. Jeff Krulik and John Heyn went to a Judas Priest concert in Landover, Maryland, in May 1986 and filmed tailgaters outside the Capital Centre. Here's the whole thing.

"Vampire for your love" is a lyric from the T. Rex song "Jeepster," from 1971's Electric Warrior. Not metal but still relevant.

Lastly and also not metal, this is the 1982 Angry Samoans album Back From Samoa, a "full-length" that's not quite 18 minutes long. It includes the immortal numbers "They Saved Hitler's Cock" and "My Old Man's a Fatso."

Philip Montoro writes about beer and metal, singly or in combination, every Monday.

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