Oscar's Pardon Belgian Pale Ale, Speakerswagon Pilsner, and Mathias Imperial IPA.
Oscar's Pardon Belgian Pale Ale, Speakerswagon Pilsner, and Mathias Imperial IPA. Credit: Eric Futran

Haymarket Pub & Brewery may have been named in honor of the historic Haymarket affair—it’s located in the area where it took place—but the kind of working-class folks who participated in the riots don’t seem to be flocking to it. In fact, none of the yuppie types who were there during a Thursday evening recording of the Drinking & Writing Brewery radio show seemed much interested in Haymarket’s history, despite the broadcasters’ best attempts to talk over the din. Compared to its high-end neighbors on Randolph—places like De Cero and the Girl & the Goat, with Blackbird, Province, and Sepia just a quarter mile east—it’s not that expensive. But prices still aren’t low enough to attract your average working stiff. Sandwiches are $7-$10, without sides—those cost an extra $4, on average. Appetizers fall in the same price range, and most pints of beer are $6 to $7.

The enormous space feels like a cross between a sports bar and a gastropub, flat-screen TVs and dark wood present in nearly equal measure. The front room, with tile floors and exposed-brick walls, is separated from the wood-paneled and -floored back room by a hallway that affords a look at the kitchen and views of the brewpub equipment. When the place is full, noise levels in both rooms can be nearly deafening.

And the food was hit-or-miss. The Riot, an Italian pork patty topped with pulled pork and mozzarella and served on a brioche bun with a side of giardiniera, was rich and tender; a side of spicy red cabbage slaw went well with the sandwich. House-made sausages, including bratwurst, Italian, and a hot link, were also top-notch, juicy and flavorful with a nice texture—not surprising since one of the owners is Sausagefest organizer John Neurauter. But the mac ‘n’ cheese, pale and pasty, was unbelievably bland. Our waitress noticed while clearing the table that it was almost untouched, and confessed that she didn’t like it either and had been trying to convince the cooks to punch it up a bit.

Chef Chris Buccheri, a former sous chef at Three Floyds Brewpub, has added beercentric touches to the menu like stout mustard and an Amarillo hop vinaigrette on the Haymarket salad. We were excited to try the latter, but unfortunately couldn’t detect any dressing, hopped or otherwise—which may have been why the roasted root vegetables ended up being overwhelmingly sweet. Brewer’s Salad, with healthy portions of bratwurst and potato, was better.

Most everything else we tried fell into that category: decent, but not outstanding. Mussels were tender and mild but slightly sandy; a pretzel light and fluffy; beer-battered fish crispy and mild, and the garlic chicken pizza respectable if also a bit bland. (Adding barbecue sauce helped, though.) Haymarket boasts of its house-made sausages, but neither of our waitresses bothered to suggest we order one to accompany the crispy sweet-potato tots or unremarkable fries. We took the initiative, but the oniony ketchup lacked tomato flavor and the barbecue sauces were so-so; all arrived straight from the refrigerator, too cold for my taste.

The emphasis at Haymarket, though, is on the beer, and the house brews could make the place a destination even if the food doesn’t. They’re all offered in 4-, 12-, and 16-ounce pours (a few are also available in 20-ounce glasses), with no upcharge for smaller portions. With IPAs comprising the majority of the beers on tap, it caters to a certain sensibility—that of brewmaster Pete Crowley, a former Rock Bottom brewer who’s fascinated by hops and Belgian beers (close to half of the current beers are Belgian-style, including one of the IPAs). If you’re in the mood for a darker beer you’ll have to look to the guest taps, which are wide-ranging but also favor hoppier styles. But as IPAs go, the house drafts are fairly restrained: though the Ombibulous Double IPA was as bitter as you’d expect, Last Chance Belgian IPA was pretty mild. Speakerswagon Pilsner and Oscar’s Pardon Belgian Pale Ale were light and crisp, neither of them very hoppy. The Mother Jones Trappist-style Dubbel—brewed with dark candi sugar and billed as “the most dangerous beer in America” because of its 7.5 percent ABV and purported drinkability—started off with pleasant enough caramel and coffee flavors, but as it warmed up a banana aroma emerged that quickly became cloying. More dangerous was the citrusy Mathias Imperial IPA, its strong hops balanced by a pronounced malt sweetness: despite weighing in at 10 percent alcohol, it went down surprisingly easy.

Haymarket Pub & Brewery
737 W. Randolph