As Ryan noted earlier, perhaps you noticed Chicago being covered with a 20-inch-thick sweater of snow last week. For some, the storm inspired a need to hunker down and hide. Others decide the only proper way to face down the largest blizzard in decades was to be right out in the middle of the damned thing. You can imagine the side of the snowpile I came down on.
I was discussing the storm with a friend of mine who had moved to California. I told him about strapping on the snowshoes (metaphorically, of course) and heading out to get a drink while the snow flew sideways. He distilled it down to its essence when he expressed zero surprise, and said: “Well, yeah. You wouldn’t be a true Chicagoan if you weren’t at a bar.”
We spit in the eye of Nature and ask for a second round in this city.
While Ryan and his bride settled in for a pint at his particular local, the Four Moon, my equally-not-scared-by-snow wife and I put on the boots and trudged a full freaking half mile through accumulated snow drifts and 60+ MPH gusts, out to the Huettenbar in Lincoln Square. A regular stop for us in our nearby neighborhood, we knew that a bar of Germanic heritage wouldn’t blink at the storm. We were right.
Huettenbar is, for us, prime afternoon-beer territory. It’s small, dark, totally German/Austrian-beer-centric, so ask ye not for anything American Craft-centric lest ye be disappointed. Plus, they have a staff we’ve come to know decently well over the years (it’s the only place I’d call myself “a regular”) and they enjoy beer and cocktails almost as much as we do. The fully-openable front window is an absolute destination on a nice summer afternoon, and one could easily imagine this as a simple neighborhood bar – if your neighborhood is in Frankfurt.
At nights and on weekends it gets a little too cramped for our personal tastes, especially since they kinda take the Chicago Brauhaus overflow from across the street, especially since Brauhaus will send you over to the Huet to wait if their own bar gets too packed. Rather neighborly of them, methinks. (The Brauhaus will call your cellphone when your table is ready and it’s just across the street, so everyone wins. Very cool.)
The crowd during the blizzard evening in question, however, was like Goldilocks’ third porridge. Just right. A dozen other patrons, obviously not Chionophobic, huddled around the bar and a few tables. I thought about being a smartass and ordering a hefeweizen and going for the obvious sweet wheat spring/summer afternoon beer of choice. Instead, I found myself with a nice dark Hirter, the color of which I imagined equalling the black moods of those trapped on Lake Shore Drive.
While Kostritzer has traditionally been my schwarzbier of choice, the Hirter hits me on all the same happy places. Not too heavy but with a distinct gravity, not overpowering but with a nice roast-y flavor, and definitely benefiting from some gentle German hops, it was a nice light blanket of a beer on a cold, unfriendly night.
The only thing that would have been more ironically perfect would have been a Goose Island Mild Winter (get it?) but for a nice chilly night where we all hid from the thundersnow and watched the flakes blow sideways all evening, it was just the mix we needed.