A Trip to Hopleaf
Initially, it looks like a hole in the wall. Not a huge entrance, just a small sign letting you know it’s there. The front bar fits only about 50, so you’ve gotta get there early if you want bar space. The dining area to the back is surprisingly large. Likely room for another 80 people. The bare brick walls are lined with old Belgian paintings and beer signs.
We visited on a Monday, and the place was packed. There were no open spots in the bar area, but we were able to get a table in the dining area without too long of a wait.
The food was great. Mainly Belgian food (the place is a gastropub after all). We ordered Belgian-style mussels. They were fantastic. Their brisket was tasty, a little dry though. It came with mac and cheese that was surprisingly delicious (it seemed to have gorgonzola, or one of those really stinky cheeses in it). The rabbit saddle was impressive, very moist, lots of flavor. Also, the house-made pickles were very good!
And now, the important part: the beer selection was incredible. About 20 regular beers on draft, along with another 20 or so Belgians also on tap. The bottle list was intimidating. It took me about 10 minutes to work my way through the list, eventually deciding I would stick with some local drafts.
First, the Goose Island Green Line. This beer is the first in Goose Island’s “green initiative”. Gotta think about the environment. Anyway,the Green Line is only available on draft and in Chicago, so I had to make sure I got it while I had the chance. It’s golden in color and slightly cloudy, with a nice slight citrusy hop scent. It has a mild wheat flavor, crisp mouthfeel, with a slightly bitter hop finish. A great beer. One that I could easily pound through a dozen. I give it an 8.
Next in line, the Two Brothers Hop Juice. With a name like Hop Juice, it was very easy for me to figure out what I was getting into. It has a nice bronze color, with a huge hop scent, very floral, almost piney. The big test is the taste, and this thing lives up to its Double IPA name. Hops, hops, and more hops. Considering the huge hop flavor, it only has a slightly bitter finish, with a mild alcohol burn (it is nearly 10%). I’ve had better double IPAs, but this ones quite impressive. I give it a 7.
And, last but not least, the Goose Island Bourbon County Stout. I have a hard time not getting this beer whenever I see it available. Plus, considering it was brewed right down the street and is here on tap, I couldn’t in my right mind turn it down. This beer’s incredible. Looks like motor oil in a glass. The aroma is undeniably all bourbon. The flavor is powerful. It seems like your actually drinking straight bourbon at first, but then the chocolate and coffee flavors from the malts work their way in. It’s thick and strong (around 13% strong), and definitely a one glass kind of beer. Perfect for winding down after a miserable day at work. I love this beer. Gotta give it a 9.
Side story. So, I enjoyed myself at Hopleaf, and I especially liked the glassware. I decided that I was going to take a glass. As I went to put it into my pocket, our waitress came walking toward me. My awkward attempt at making off with a glass was thwarted. But I decided I would try anyway:
Me: “What would happen if I were to take this glass?”
Waitress with tattooed arms and bigger muscles than me: “You’d get in trouble.”
Waitress: “But you can buy one at the bar for $5. So, I’ll take this one, and you can go to the bar.”
Me: “Thank you.”
So, I did end up with a glass. Just not the one you see pictured here: