If it weren’t for the tap handles behind the bar, it would be easy to mistake the bright, airy Hopewell Brewing Company taproom for a modern-looking coffee shop. Pale wood is everywhere, from the wall panels to the tables and stools to the bar itself, while floor-to-ceiling windows flood the space with light. White accents and high ceilings (not to mention the hanging bulbs) make the minimalist taproom even sunnier—there’s even Ipsento nitro coffee on tap.
To be sure, the massive brewing tanks on display behind a window on one wall are a dead giveaway that this is a brewery rather than a cafe. But on a recent visit, a couple of patrons were sitting alone with a pint of beer and reading in the early evening light, just as they might do up the street at Gaslight Coffee Roasters. There’s Wi-Fi too, making this a promising destination for getting some work done (at least until the third or fourth beer).
Coincidentally it was a coffee beer called Cold Brew that impressed me the most from the nine-beer lineup. We started with a tasting flight, which includes Hopewell’s five core beers (listed on the left side of the board behind the counter) and your choice of one selection from the new arrivals on the right side of the board. For the other three we ordered half pours, and I was happy to have eight ounces of the Cold Brew rather than a four-ounce tasting portion. It smells and tastes just like iced coffee, with zero bitterness and undertones of milk chocolate (though the beer isn’t sweet at all). After one sip, my friend declared, “This is everything I’ve ever wanted from iced coffee.” I’m not even much of a coffee drinker, but I had to agree.
Another style that isn’t usually a favorite of mine became one: a kettle sour called All Hope, which is based on the brewery’s Farm and Family saison. Unlike the saison, which is full-bodied, with bubble-gum and banana flavors (much like a typical hefeweizen), the sour starts off slightly metallic and morphs into a lingering orange flavor and a funky finish. Rather than mouth-puckeringly sour, it’s pleasantly tart and easy to drink.
The two new beers I was most excited about, on the other hand, were disappointing. The floral Old Duck Barleywine had plenty of complexity but was too syrupy-sweet for my taste (and I’m usually a fan of barleywines). Meanwhile the black pilsner started out with a pleasant light maltiness similar to a brown ale, but then fell flat.
I had better luck, though, with the beer that the black pilsner is based on: First Lager, the earliest beer that Hopewell—which is focusing on lagers—ever brewed. Light and creamy, it has a distinctly bready flavor but still manages to be clean and refreshing. The Endgrain Dark Lager is similar in flavor but sweeter and maltier, a creamy, medium-bodied beer. The Swift IPA is a solid entry for those seeking a straightfoward, balanced pale ale that doesn’t hit you over the head with hops. But it’s the 24:37 Red IPA that I’ll be ordering again. It smells eerily like coffee, though the bartender swore no coffee is used in brewing it; the aroma apparently comes from the roasted malt. The flavor delivers more coffee along with unsweetened chocolate for a restrained but distinct bitterness, finishing with piney hops.
Since opening its doors in early February, Hopewell has expanded its hours slightly and is now open until 11 PM on weekdays and midnight on weekends. Personally, though, I’m hoping not for later hours but earlier ones. If it opened before 4 PM during the week, the brewpub could be an ideal place to, say, sit and write bar reviews.
Hopewell Brewing Company, 2760 N. Milwaukee, 773-698-6178, hopewellbrewing.com