All of My Friends Came To See Me Last Night...
I woke up Saturday morning just outside of Ft Wayne, IN after playing Chapman's Brewing in Columbia City Friday night. A friend had told me that Sweetwater's headquarters was there, so I figured I'd go check it out. For those who don't know, Sweetwater is one of the largest sources for pro-music gear, and Ft. Wayne was not only home to their massive distribution warehouse, but also a big retail store, as well as used-gear shop.
I wasn't really in the market for anything, at least nothing with an immediate need, but there were a few things I wanted to research, and this turned out to be the perfect stop for that, as I could just chat it up with their employees/experts and cut through a lot of personal research time. That turned out to be really good, and I got exactly what I needed.
Haymarket Brewery & Taproom - Bridgman, MI and Chicago, IL
The beer is available at the taprooms and to go in growlers and cans.
The retail store itself I thought was a bit lacking. They had a lot of accessories and stuff like that, but I was expecting to see a lot of higher end guitars with interesting unusual finishes, etc. and instead they had pretty much the same middle-of-the-road stock that the other big retailers (Guitar Center, Sam Ash, etc.) have. Oh well.
I headed north to Bridgman, MI, which is a quaint little town right on the shore of Lake Michigan, just north of South Bend, IN, where I would be playing at Haymarket Brewing on this Saturday night. I was excited to play here, as I hadn't played on Lake Michigan yet, and also because their taproom looked rather high-end, with a big wood-fired pizza kitchen, a large beer garden, etc. There are two Haymarket locations... this one, and another almost directly across the lake, in Chicago.
Running a bit ahead of schedule, and with nothing else on my to-do list, I arrived at the brewery a few hours early, which would give me plenty of time to sample a few beers, and allow me to set up well ahead of time, which really helps me relax before playing (I hate rushing and then having to play right away... it's the not the ideal headspace for playing).
The next couple of hours were pretty amazing. As it happens, this was my birthday, and I guess what many would consider to be one of the “big ones”, as I turned 50. Now, birthdays don't mean much to me, I'm not one to be caught up in the numbers or anything like that the way some people are, but it did knock me back a step when I received an AARP card in the mail a week or so earlier. An AARP card at 50??? So I guess at least now I get 10% off my coffee at Big Boy....
Anyway, I had booked this weekend around my birthday because months earlier we tried to make some family plans, but people were off in different parts of the country and it just wasn't going to be easy, so I made other plans. This was fine with me, as we'll have the whole extended family together in a few weeks in June, and again, birthdays have never been a huge deal for me (plus I usually have to share it with Mother's Day, which this year was the next day).
That said, about 15 minutes after I arrived, sipping my beer in Michigan, more than 5 hours from home, my mother and my sister walk in! They both live in Chapel Hill, NC, had secretly flown into Chicago the day before, saw Hamilton, and then drove to Michigan to surprise me on my birthday. About an hour later I'm tapped on my shoulder and asked to scoot over, I turn and look and it's my best friend from high school (in Williamsburg, VA) Ben and his wife Melissa! Beyond occasional hellos on Facebook, we hadn't seen each other in more than 25 years! So we had a very nice (and most unexpected) reunion, and soon it was time for me to start playing my set.
About an hour later I happen to glance across the room as I'm playing, and am about to call out to my sister to take a picture of a certain guy over near the bar who looks a little like our brother Paul, and then he turns around and it IS Paul. He drove 5 hours from Cincinnati and had just arrived.
So that made this night pretty special for me, and one I'm not apt to forget. The next day we also had a nice brunch for Mother's Day, thanks to the suggestion of one of the ultra nice servers at Haymarket.
Haymarket was packed the whole night, the only downside being that the outdoor beer garden was closed due to the rain... but that just kept everyone inside, which kept the energy up, and the crowd was very enthusiastic about the music.
The beers, I should mention, were fantastic. I'm sure I had more than these, and my apologies for not taking notes as I normally would, but tonight I was obviously a little distracted. I do recall a few of them quite clearly, though:
The Hazy Is Lazy (8.75%) they called an American IPA, but it seemed more like a New England style (haze) combined with a western style IPA. It was a light golden (hazy) New England look, loaded with citra and simcoe hops, bringing out nice refreshing fruity flavors, smooth yet pretty well carbonated, and then with a clean dry finish. I was a little warm while playing my sets, and I found this to be a really satisfying, quenching, and refreshing brew... and I had a few of them!
Mathias Imperial IPA (9%) was another very tasty one, again built on citra hops, a western-inspired DIPA. An amber pour with a rich head, very aromatic, somewhat fruity but heavier on the pine, but then more balanced on the taste side. Medium bodied, all sorts of rich flavors coming through at different times, it was a rather complex yet still refreshing and satisfying drink, rather bold (yet balanced) flavor, but also a little dry and with a clean dry finish. This is a fantastic beer that I'll look forward to trying again some time.
The other beer that really stands out in my memory is the Defender American Stout (8.75%). This beer has one at least 10 medals, and it's no wonder. Roasted barley, rich chocolate and coffee flavors, the perfect body... just a fantastic stout.... one of my favorites.
Obviously my own personal circumstances made this night particularly special, but Haymarket has a special thing going here regardless. My family members, who have seen me play at quite a few breweries, kept raving about how much they were enjoying the place (I should add that our clan also consumed a pretty good variety of the wood fired pizzas and salads, and rave reviews for those as well!).
My only regret is that I got a little distracted and didn't take the notes I normally would have on the beers... I'm sure I tried one or two other varieties... but maybe the good Haymarket people will have me back some time for a more thorough review of the rest of the beers. Suffice it to say, the ones I tried were all rather spectacular, and Haymarket has found a new spot on my short list of favorite breweries, which people are always asking me for.
Thanks to everyone at Haymarket (and my friends and family) for a fantastic night and birthday, and I hope I can look forward to either playing the beer garden here in the near future, and/or the Chicago location!
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