Home of the Hoppy Belgian 

Longtime Rock Bottom brewer Pete Crowley strikes out on his own with Haymarket Pub and Brewing

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Crowley's creations for Rock Bottom have won top honors at national and international beer festivals, and he bristles at any suggestion that because it's a chain it might be inferior to smaller breweries. He recalls a recent discussion on Beer Advocate's Web site: "Someone didn't like an IPA that Brian Shimkos from Flossmoor Station had made. And they said, 'What do you expect from an ex-Rock Bottom brewer?' I said, 'That's funny, because the two top-rated breweries on the Web site are Surly and Three Floyds, and they're both run by ex-Rock Bottom brewers. It was like, dude, you're not making any sense."

Crowley, who currently serves as president of the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild, is passionate not only about Rock Bottom's products but also other local beers. In fact, at Haymarket he's planning to have about eight "guest taps" to spotlight other area brews. "There's a lot of local beer now," he says, "and it's good. So I don't want to have ten beers on tap from overseas when there's great beer right here."

"Right here" increasingly means the city of Chicago rather than the suburbs. The last two years have seen the launch of Metropolitan Brewing in Ravenswood, Half Acre in North Center (which contract-brewed in Wisconsin for about two years before building a facility in town), and Logan Square's new Revolution Brewing; a brewer called Pipeworks is looking at locations in Garfield Park and hopes to start selling beer in the next six to nine months.

Crowley thinks that's just the beginning. Partly, he says, the recent surge is due to the recession: declining rents and property values have made it feasible to build in the city. Brewing equipment takes up a lot of room, and square footage in Chicago hasn't always come cheap. But more than that he sees a general upswing of interest in craft brewing: "Craft beer was really the only part of the entire beverage segment that showed growth in 2009. Craft beer is hot."

Crowley and Neurauter plan to expand their brewpub into a brewing and bottling facility, the way Goose Island has. But about a third of their 8,000-square-foot space is already devoted to the brewery, and there's no room to grow. So if and when it gets to that point, they'll have to find another location for the production arm.

They're also scouting locations for another brewery and restaurant, this one in a LEED-certified building that uses reclaimed and recycled materials. The place will be "much more driven by zero waste, green building, ecofriendly practices—everything from composting all the food waste and grains to reusing the gray water for other functions in the restaurant," Crowley says. "But that's down the road."   

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