I think about history daily. And I think about Chicago history constantly. Maybe it’s because it’s always around us. I tend to look for history no matter where I go. Whether it’s in a train station, an office building, or one of my beloved bars, I know it’s in there. So when I discover a tavern that purposely exhibits history, I get pretty darn excited.
That’s what happened and that’s why I found myself at Haymarket Pub & Brewery. I received an e-mail one day from a gentleman by the name of Steve Mosqueda who identified himself as one of the founders of the Drinking & Writing Theater. Drinking and writing? Excellent, it’s one of the things I do best. Steve asked me to be a part of their annual Drinking & Writing Fest, so on a Saturday afternoon in 2011 I found myself at Haymarket talking about tavern history and, well, drinking and writing.
It was no surprise that Steve and I became fast friends. Steve is also a brewer at Haymarket and he introduced me to a good guy, Pete Crowley, a guy who happens to be an owner and head brewer at Haymarket. Over time, I’ve become pals with most of the staff over at Haymarket, so much so, that they even let me guest brew a deliciously smoky porter with them in honor of the 140th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire. And that speaks volumes about Pete’s constant efforts and willingness to teach people about beer and how to make it, collaborate with Chicago organizations, and the overall friendliness of the staff and the Chicago beer community as a whole. It’s pretty amazing. But when I learned that Pete and his business partner, John, chose to name Haymarket after that moment in Chicago history, I knew it would be a match made in heaven for me. It’s a great place, with great people, great beer, and great history. Here’s Haymarket’s history, written by what has now become one of the many drinkers & writers in my life, Steve Mosqueda.
Haymarket Pub & Brewery
By Steve Mosqueda
Haymarket Pub & Brewery is the best brewpub in the world and brews some of the best beers in the world! Ok, maybe I’m a little biased since I’m fortunate enough to work as a brewer at Haymarket. And I also get to write and perform original plays in the Drinking & Writing Theater which is attached to the joint. But it is actually true about best beer in the world. We won gold medals at the 2011 and 2012 World Beer Cup Competition. But that’s a different story. You’re here to read about the story of Haymarket so that’s what you’re gonna get.
Haymarket Pub & Brewery is the brain child of Pete Crowley and John Neurater good friends who love good beer and good food. Their goal was to own a place where a person could grab a delicious hoppy and belgian beer and hand made, slow cooked food. The result is Haymarket Pub and Brewery. I met Pete Crowley about 10 years ago when he was the brewmaster at Rockbottom Chicago. As an ensemble member of the Neo-futurists I was doing research for a new show called “Drinking & Writing” and my assignment was to learn as much as I could about the brewing process. So I stopped into Rockbottom a place I’d walked by plenty of times but never stopped in for a beer. When I asked to speak to the brewmaster this guy came out wearing a backwards university of Iowa cap and a dirty t-shirt stained with yeast. I told him about my task and he told me he was busy that day but to come back the next day. I did. When I arrived the next afternoon Pete had already begun filtering a beer in the basement which is directly underneath the city of chicago. It was about 2 o’clock in the afternoon when pete handed me a sample of the filtered beer. Here I was, standing underneath the greatest city in the world, in the middle of the afternoon drinking a delicious German Pilsner. As I sipped on that beer and dreamed of my refill I remember telling myself, somehow I want to be a part of this for the rest of my life. I had a lot of free time in those days so Pete took advantage of it and put me to work. I spent the next few months working with Pete and learning about how beer is brewed. My passion for brewing took off and soon I began homebrewing with my Drinking & Writing partner Sean Benjamin. We brewed some pretty good beers including our Buk Stout, Kerouac Kolsch and our Saison also Rises.
I became good friends with Pete and he often talked about one day opening up his own place which seemed like a no brainer. So when he and John figured out how to make their dream come true I tried to help out any way I could. I would tag along as they scoped out potential sites, listening asnd learning about what went into opening up a brewpub. It took a few months and then it happened. They found an old vacant restaurant on the corner of Halsted and Randolph. West Loop. There had to be more to this location. So Pete started doing research and found that Haymarket square was just a couple blocks down the street. Haymarket square? What was that? He asked around and surprisingly most Chicagoans have no idea what Haymarket was and it’s significance to the world. To the world, really?
Haymarket square is the sight of what is considered the origin of May Day, the observance of workers in the world. It began with the Haymarket affair, or incident or massacre as some call it. On May 4th, 1886, a rally was held in Haymarket square just north of the corner of Randolph and Desplaines. The rally was in support of workers striking for an 8 hour day. Several years before that, labor unions called for a general strike on May 1st, 1886 to protest the terrible conditions and long hours workers endured. 7 day work weeks, 18 hour days, dirty conditions and no rights. Hundreds of thousands of workers around the country went on strike, over 40,000 alone in Chicago. The workers held rally’s and marches in the streets of Chicago with local anarchists. The protests lasted until May 4th when during the Haymarket rally a bomb exploded killing 7 police men and 4 strikers. They never figured out who threw the bomb but police blamed 8 organizers who came to be known as the Haymarket martyrs. Despite any credible evidence they were charged and convicted of conspiracy. 7 were sentenced to death, four were actually hung and one committed suicide in jail. The remaining 2 were sentenced to life in prison before being released all together. Before being hung August Spies, one of the main speakers at Haymarket square said “The time will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today”. To this day May Day or International Workers Day is celebrated in over 80 countries but not so much in the US. I guess the most important event in labor history was kind of an embarrassment to the powers that be.
But it was important enough for Pete and John who decided to name their brewpub in honor of such an important piece of Chicago history. And it’s not just the name of the place but names of beers and items on the menu. The Riot sandwich, an explosive combination of an Italian sausage patty, bbq pulled pork shoulder, mozzarella and giardiniera. Beers like Speakerswagon Pilsner, Mathias Imperial IPA, named after Officer Mathias Deagan, the first police officer killed at the Haymarket Riot.
We also named a beer after Barney’s Market Club for years considered the best steak house in Chicago where Haymarket stands now. Owned by Barney Kessel it was frequented by everyone including politicians and mobsters. According to legend Barney had a terrible memory so he took to greeting everyone who entered as “yes sir, senator” to avoid offending any true politicians. “Yes, Sir Senator” became the popular slogan for the restaurant and the name of one of our most popular IPA’s. Barney’s closed in the early 90′s and despite a few failed attempts pretty much remained vacant until Pete and John discovered it. Haymarket Pub and Brewery sports two beautiful bars, a large front dining room and a great open view of the brewhouse. A hallway connects the two bars which allows customers to walk past the kitchen and fermentation room and into the back bar otherwise known as The Drinking & Writing Theater.
Since its inception Drinking & Writing was a rogue Theater, staging events and performing shows wherever we could. When Pete and John found the building and saw the back bar they knew this would be our new home. There’s even awning which faces Halsted with our name and logo. I’ve never been prouder. So after two and a half years, almost 300 brews and 8 original shows that’s the scoop, that’s most of the story of Haymarket Pub & Brewery. But wait, there’s something missing, hmm… oh yeah! An ending! Well you’re not gonna get it, not from me. Come and sit down at the bar at Haymarket and sample one of our flavorful hand crafted beers or our homemade sausage platter. Or see a show in the Drinking & Writing Theaterand explore the connection between creativity and alcohol with us. Or examine the photos on the walls that tell the story of the Haymarket affair and the Haymarket martyrs. That’s the only real ending to this story, you’ll see. Salud!