There’s no doubt Pete Crowley is a great brewer—the former Rock Bottom brewmaster probably had to put an addition onto his house for all of the awards he’s racked up at beer competitions. But a great brewer isn’t the same as a great bar owner. Crowley’s break-out effort, Haymarket Pub & Brewery, takes up the Randolph and Halsted corner that Bar Louie gave a go: a massive space filled with a jumble of high-top and low-top tables and dark wood that melts into rust-colored walls. It’s generic, with no decor details to pull off an identity, and the Any-Bar-&-Grill-USA feel isn’t helped by the staff: In a city packed with beer-geek bartenders, Crowley hired college-aged kids who don’t know a thing about beer. In addition to not being able to represent the brewer’s hard work, the staff can’t handle Haymarket’s amazing bottle list, either. (After making up a few nonsensical answers to my questions, one bartender finally deferred to a coworker who was “a beer guy,” who explained that Brasserie Dupont’s Bon Voeux and Moinette are “the same, except one’s in a bigger bottle.” They’re not.)
So I settled in with tastes of each of Haymarket’s seven beers on tap. Some were great (the Mathias Imperial IPA and Oscar’s Pardon Belgian Pale Ale) and some were a little haphazard (the syrupy Mother Jones Dubbel and the watery Speakerswagon Pilsner). But while the majority of the beer lineup is solid, the same can’t be said about the food. A full-flavored medium-rare burger was the sole standout in a crowd of flaccid frozen fries, pasty mac and cheese, purchased pizza dough with no rise and dry housemade sausages. As much as I wanted Crowley’s spin-off to be a hit, it’s more like a repeat: We’ve all seen this show before.