Thursday, June 9, 2011

Half Acre Beer/Apart Pizza Company/Hopleaf

This past Saturday was designated as another of our "Visit Your Local Brewery" days (fortunately for us, we have enough of them in the greater Chicago area to continue this tradition for at least a little while longer). As always, my brother-in-law Dan, cousin-in-law Bobby, and I made plans to converge on a microbrewery that we had yet to tour, namely Half Acre Beer Co. on N. Lincoln Ave. in the heart of Lincoln Square. This establishment had been on our hit list last summer; however, the tour format was changed after we had made our reservations and they basically required everyone to start over using the new format (apparently, allowing free tours was causing them some staffing issues in dealing with the demand, so they established a $10 per-person fee with a limit of 60 patrons per tour, first come, first served). Half Acre emailed me at some point to let me know that they would honor our prior reservations, but alas, I promptly misplaced them somewhere in the digital ether.

Which bring us back to Saturday. Dan arrived an hour before the 1 pm tour at the brewery's front door, while Bobby and I fought weekend traffic into and around the city to get to Lincoln Square. He was first in line, but by the time we finally showed up, there were quite a few beer enthusiasts behind him in the queue, not all of whom were guaranteed entry or were very happy to see 2 yahoos immediately advancing to the front of the line (the 95-degree heat and high humidity weren't helping matters). No matter - most everyone who wanted in got in. Since I was unable to produce our old reservations, we still had to pony up the $10 fee, but this bought us a nice souvenir pint glass and a full pour of each of their offerings: Daisy Cutter Pale Ale (a refreshing, hoppy brew that I'd had once before and quite enjoyed), Half Acre Over Ale (a bit of an underwhelming brown), and Gossamer Golden Ale (a little more robust than the Daisy Cutter, but not as refreshing). Given the heat inside the tiny brewery (an example of their fermentation vessels is provided in Photo #1 above) and my empty stomach, I opted for half pours after my first full pint so as not to become s$&tfaced in record time (see Las Vegas, August 2010). The tour itself was pretty laid back as tours go, with one staffer trying his darnedest to shout over the drinker din about hops, fermentation, filtering, and the like. In the end, he was mostly drowned out, with the beer leading most of the conversation.

Feeling fine/alright, the three amigos wandered a bit up Lincoln Ave. towards Montrose to get some grub. I managed to talk Dan out of a visit to the Wendy's drive-thru in lieu of one of the city's alleged best thin crust pizzas, Apart Pizza Company, listed as #16 of the top 25 local pizzerias in the July 2010 issue of Chicago Magazine (yes, I clipped the article - it resides on my bookshelf). The magazine describes Apart's thin crust as an amalgam of Neapolitan, Roman, and New York styles. Taking a seat at one of the two tables inside the even-smaller-than-the-brewery pizzeria, we ordered a large (18") Cacciatore, featuring ham, bacon, pepperoni, and garlic (we held the onions for Dan). After a few short minutes, Photo #2 above shows what arrived from the oven - an elegant-looking, wonderfully-tasting pie with a chewy, blistered crust and loaded with toppings (and, at $19, a downright bargain to boot). Bobby and Dan both pronounced it among their all-time favorites and I was not inclined to disagree (especially since I had just received from my wife what shall henceforth be referred to as "The Call", announcing my unlikely inclusion in a 4-top reservation at Next Restaurant the following evening - much, much more on that dining extravaganza in the subsequent posting).

Departing pizza nirvana, we motored up to Andersonville just ahead of advancing thunderstorms for a brief drop-in at our favorite watering hole, Hopleaf, home of the city's best selection of Belgian beers (and many others). Having had my fill of brew on our tour and facing a long drive back to the 'burbs, I poignantly limited myself to a single offering during our visit, a Great Divide Hoss Rye Lager, from Denver, Co., which was a little on the sour side for my tastes. With its vast beer selection, I've found that Hopleaf is a place best taken advantage of when one hasn't already pickled his liver earlier in the afternoon (and when one isn't designated driving), so a return trip will be in order not far down the road....

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