If you’re looking for a place near downtown where you can get a great burger and a great beer, Hop Haus is halfway there. Riding on the growing appreciation for craft beers, the owners (also the muscle behind the Leona’s chain) enlisted Justin Leone, a local drink consultant, and Dave Frost, a local rep for beer importer B. United International, to come up with 20 pairings for 20 burgers. Whatever they paid these guys, it wasn’t enough. The pairings are fantastic, but most of the burgers are mediocre.
The eggy buns are too bready, making the burgers almost impossible to pick up and eat. Kick off the top bun and dig in with a fork and you’ll find that on the German burger, the butterkase, sauerkraut and brown mustard meld perfectly with the suggested Wostyntje Mustard Ale; the meat itself is more medium-well than the specified medium-rare and far from top-quality beef. The smoky, wheaty Schlenkerla Rauchbier Weizen is perfect with the smoked Gouda, applewood-smoked bacon and garlic-peppercorn sauce on the wild boar burger, but the greasy patty has a strange, chopped-formed, seitanlike texture. Ground lamb is flavorful, juicy and well matched with feta, cukes and smashed kalamatas, but again, the beer—a tart, brown Liefmans Goudenband—steals the show. With cocktails from stellar (though already departed) mixologist John Kinder, 25 great bottles under $35 and the best beer list in River North, we’ll stomach the corporate-feeling TV-aganza that is the dining room and cross our fingers that the kitchen figures out what medium-rare means. Until then, we’ll just keep drinking.