Just as hailstones shatter car windows, Hailstorm Brewing in Tinley Park destroys the notion of “fussy beer drinkers” as portrayed by Anheuser-Busch’s recent marketing campaign. Akin to the thunderous roar that emerges from a storm’s electric underbelly, Hailstorm brewery forces a beer drinker to take notice.
Like many breweries, it is a rented warehouse equipped to handle semi-trucks unloading their hauls through its large garage doors. Instead though, barrels stacked high fill the warehouse next to a plethora of shiny silver vats. The tasting room is small, but more than sufficient with a nice bar, benches, and the standard chalkboard menu and tappers – just seeing that sight makes a craft-beer geek thirsty.
Hailstorm proved to be a good choice for my first beer review on my new blog, which reminds me…
Welcome to my blog.
I’m Matt. Nice to meet you.
Rather than repeat much of what is in my , “About Me” page, I wanted to pick a brewery that represents my quest to discover my place in the craft-brewing world, and my quest to find the perfect beer.
First, I used to chase tornadoes. So, Hailstorm seemed like the perfect name of a brewery for one that has seen his share of windshields morph into a web of cracked glass.
Storm chasing is also the career that took me to Colorado during the early 2000s where I caught the surging tidal wave of craft-brewing renewal. Once upon a time, 4,000 breweries (give or take) existed in the U.S. prior to the turn of the 20th century. At 3,500 breweries in 2014, we have almost made it back to brewing nirvana. I’ll toast to that.
The experience at Hailstorm represented much of who I am.
Two guys in Blackhawks gear came into sight the second I walked through the door. The Beatles, Zeppelin, ZZ Top and Black Sabbath emanated from the speakers – loud enough to hear, not nearly loud enough to detract from engaging in conversation. Later, they played Motown, Simon and Garfunkel and a little 90s rock, too – Pearl Jam, anyone?
The blue-collar nature filled every corner of the tasting room, with people adorned in sporting gear, union tee shirts, working boots and more. At the same time, a car dealer, a few moms, and a group of 20-somethings populated the bar alongside them.
In many ways, Hailstorm resembles the corner tavern that is common in Chicago’s neighborhoods. However, the quality of beer and dedication to craft represents my recent life as a beer nerd, historian, and writer; I’ve read Homer and I’m also a big fan of Homer Simpson. D’oh!
They had 10 beers on tap the day I arrived. A flight cost five bucks for five beers. You do the math. That’s 10 for 10 – so that’s what I did.
My personal favorites included their hop-heavy beers, such as the Dominatrix Triple IPA and the more bitter and “hoppier” (oddly, enough), Prairie Madness Single IPA and Captain Serious West Coast Pale Ale. The Captain Serious (Go Hawks!) will make you think that the backdoor to Hailstorm leads directly to an Oregon hops farm – delicious, strong hops flavor balanced with a fine aroma and gentle sweetness.
The most interesting beer emerged from a collaboration brew between Hailstorm and Imperial Oak Brewing (another great brewery) in Willow Springs, IL. Together, they created No Way Gosé Sour Beer. Is it a beer? Is it a margarita? This beer confused me with every taste, but I loved it. The sea-salt is ever present and the sour-lime flavor emanating from the Kaffir Lime Leaf ingredient makes one think they’ve set foot in Key West. I’ve never had a saltier beer in my life, but it only sounds bad, I promise. If you enjoy imagination and innovation, this is a beer for you. It is especially good when you have it after a beer with strong hops. Try it, you won’t be disappointed.
I also recommend Vlad – a Russian Imperial Stout. It’s almost more of an Imperial IPA due to the prominence of hops, but that’s splitting Vlad’s hair. The roasted malt flavor, hints of chocolate, coffee, and a wee bit of smoke make for a wonderful balance to this complex flavor. Enough notes dance on one’s tongue to describe this as a symphony of awesomeness, or maybe it is one helluva guitar solo. Either way, it’s great. I want that beer on the first chilly day of fall with a hot piping bowl of beef stew or chili.
I spent a great Friday afternoon at Hailstorm. I finished with a pint of Dominatrix and talked to a few patrons. This place is as down to earth as one can imagine. By 3 p.m., several people came into the room and looked to have their growlers filled for the weekend. I departed at 4 p.m and, by that point, the tasting room filled with people stopping by after work.
Sorry, Anheuser-Busch, but Hailstorm is a neighborhood joint. No fuss. No frills. Just great beer and great conversation.