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Since reviewing DryHop during its opening week in June 2013, I've drank many a memorable beer there—among them My Mirrors Are Black, a Cuban-style coffee stout with guava; Elektra, on Oktoberfest; Half Stepper, a rye IPA; the South Loop Brewing collaboration Milkstachio, a milk stout with pistachio and cacao nibs; Moustache & a Supernova, a biere de Noel; the Devil Jumped Up!, a Belgian-style IPA; and I, O'Brien of the Black Horsemen, an oatmeal-cookie brown ale. In other words, I've been looking for an opportunity to write about DryHop again.
I'm in luck—and so are you—because on Monday the Empty Bottle hosts a DryHop tap takeover that doubles as a release party for Chicago art-pop trio Moritat, whose singer and keyboardist, Venus Sabay (stage name Venus Laurel), has worked at DryHop as a server from day one. The band's High Plus Tight EP dropped January 20, and to celebrate DryHop has brewed a wheat IPA of the same name. The show starts at 9 PM, and it's free; Chandeliers and Gel Set open.
Plenty of Bottle regulars doubtless never do their drinking in Lakeview, meaning this will likely be their first exposure to DryHop's beers. Much like sensible Chicagoans who've been persuaded to briefly tolerate Wicker Park for the sake of the house-brewed beer at Piece, they're in for a treat.
Sabay and Moritat guitarist-bassist Konstantin Jacé came to DryHop to pitch in on High Plus Tight brew day a little more than two weeks ago; its alcohol content is 7 percent, and it uses red wheat malt, flaked barley, and Citra, Galaxy, Amarillo, and Centennial hops. (The band floated the idea of a tap takeover too.) When I visited DryHop yesterday, brewer Brant Dubovick was carbonating the beer in one of the six bright tanks that sit behind the brewpub's bar. He's so pleased with it that he says it'd have a shot at becoming his flagship IPA at Corridor Brewery and Provisions (which DryHop owner Greg Shuff hopes to open this summer), except that its hop recipe isn't distinct enough from what he does at DryHop.
I caught the first whiff of my glass of High Plus Tight from six feet away—always a good sign. Dubovick says he treated the water with calcium sulfate (basically gypsum) to bring out the beer's hop aroma, and though I haven't the foggiest idea how this works—nanoscale elves, I assume—it certainly seems to work. High Plus Tight smells so powerfully of tropical fruit—mostly passion fruit, pineapple, and mango—that my dazzled brain almost perceived it as color. Once my senses adjusted to this blaze of olfactory data, I could also pick up raspberry, pine, white pepper, and sourdough toast.
Each sip of High Plus Tight begins with lush fruit (honey tangerine, custardy mango) on a pillow of creamy wheat malt, which both lift away like a bubble of steam, leaving a prickle of clean bitterness, a bit of woody funk that reminds me of cedar bark, and a biscuity finish. For me this sets up a self-sustaining oscillation between yin and yang, with the lush and full punctured by the bitter and dry, which in turn sends me back to the lush and full. That's a long way of saying this beer is highly drinkable, because I hate to say "drinkable." All beer is drinkable, unless you drop thumbtacks in it or something.
The DryHop tap takeover—really more of a tap incursion, since it involves just four beers—features High Plus Tight, of course, plus the wheat IPA Shark Meets Hipster (a DryHop staple), the imperial pilsner Saazquatch (you get one guess which hop it favors), and the Belgian-style stout Feeling That Surrounds (its name is a lyric from Smashing Pumpkins' "Crush," which was Dubovick's wedding song—this is his wife's favorite DryHop beer).
Feeling That Surrounds is brewed with orange peel, but the gentle fruity flavors that smooth over its roasty, dark-chocolate bitterness register more like blueberry and bubblegum. I'm particularly partial to Saazquatch, and so is Dubovick: "Czech pils is my favorite style," he says. "This is a souped-up version." It's only the second straight-up pils I've had from DryHop—that is, without wacky shit like beets and caraway in it (I think that one was called "Cobra Juicy"). It's heftier in body than a traditional pilsner, predictably (it's 8 percent alcohol), but otherwise it nails the style's familiar balance: the clean sweetness of crisp, bready malts and the bright pop of noble hops, with a perfect slide from floral into bitter.
I also sampled a couple collaborations that won't make the trip to the Bottle: Tart Down for What?!, a dark rye sour brewed with Breakroom, and a multigrain zwickel lager brewed with Motor Row. The former combines lemony sourness, rye spice, and "grape and raisin overtones" (to quote the menu) with a lactic, yogurty finish. The latter, made with rye, wheat, and flaked oats, starts out cleanly fruity and creamy, with the flavor but not the feel of oatmeal with peaches and milk, then segues into peppery, grassy bitterness. (I ought to point out that the DryHop folks were handing me tasting pours of stuff I hadn't even asked about—the pub was pretty quiet, so the bartenders didn't have much else to do—and that Dubovick comped all my beer at the end of the visit. I did pay for my lunch, though.)
Lastly, DryHop has a barleywine on the way in late February or early March called Hell With the Lid On, named in homage to Dubovick's previous home—old industrial Pittsburgh was famously described in 1868 by historian James Parton as "Hell with the lid taken off." (Dubovick brewed it for an event in Pittsburgh, but most of it will stay here.) It's cold aging now to soften its alcohol heat, but it's already a formidable beer, with flavors of apricot and caramel roughed up with a touch of smoked malt and a kick of American hops. You've been warned!
Concerning the music that traditionally closes Beer and Metal, well, I'm in a bit of a bind. Moritat's cool, whimsical synth-pop grooves are pretty much the opposite of metal. But posting anything else would be a gratuitous snub to the band that helped make this story possible. I might be a dick, but I'm not that kind of dick.
I hope the three of you who come here for the music can see your way to countenancing this lapse, in deference to the band's role in bringing us a truly lovely beer.
Give it a spin. Even if you never listen to anything that doesn't sound like Baphomet riding a motorcycle through a children's hospital, you've got to respect Moritat's craftsmanship.