By: Marty Nachel

 

As a craft brewery with a kitchen, Chef Joel Pillar plays a crucial role at DryHop Brewers. He brings the mindset that “food and beverage are best when working as one” and breathes life into the motto: “Craft Beer Culture on a Plate.” His focus is the pairing of his culinary passion with the great beers made by the brewers, and he can back that up with an impressive resume.

After receiving formal training at the French Culinary Institute in New York City, he developed his foundation working at Michelin-Starred Oceana and later Telepan where he developed a fine dining approach to simple and accessible food. Pillar was also the Executive Sous Chef at the Sherwood Inn in Skaneateles, NY and a Jr. Sous Chef at the Purple Pig in Chicago.

Upon his hiring at DryHop, Pillar quickly rose through the ranks from Lead Cook to Sous Chef to Executive Chef. His forte is combining classic culinary execution with the artisanal, neighborhood attitude of the brewery. His passion for classic, flavorful, and experimental fare is unyielding. The menu abounds with dishes that showcase the flavors and seasonality of the brewery. His presentation even comes with a caveat: “Our menu changes as frequently as ingredients and our whims allow. Please come with an open mind.”

IMG_1374Open minds are also at work in the brewhouse at DryHop. Brewer Brant Dubovick, who is deferentially referred to as a “ninja-genius,” produces scores of different beers throughout the year. He confesses that he brews primarily hop-centric ales (pale ales, IPAs, Belgian beers), but one look at the brewery website exposes his predilection for creating all manner of weird and wonderful beery libations, otherwise called experimental beers. Dubovick has an innate ability to balance important elements such as maltiness, acidity, bitterness, aroma, and mouthfeel to achieve the perfect combination of flavor and character.

From whence comes this talent? Dubovick, 44, is no Spring chicken –at least in the brewing world– and with age comes knowledge and experience. Now twelve years into his brewing career, Brant spent six of those as an Assistant Brewer at Church Brew Works in Pittsburgh (located in a restored 1902 church). It was there in 2005 that he experienced his first measure of success with a Gold Medal at the Great American Beer Festival for that brewery’s Maibock.

Since being hired on as Brewmaster at DryHop in 2011, Dubovick was instrumental in helping to plan the brewery, designing the space as well as all the beer recipes. Part of that design was insulating the unitanks with dual zone glycol jackets for precise temperature control throughout the fermentation process; likewise, the individually controlled serving tanks enable them to serve each beer at the perfect temperature.

And has he designed beer recipes! Another page on the website enumerates the list of beers created there: 135 and counting in just the first two years of operation. Almost as fun as tasting these varied beers is checking out their intriguing names. Imagine the source of inspiration for Angry Samoan coconut milk stout, We Need a Bigger Boat double IPA, Mr. Banana Grabber hefeweizen, Dandelion Disco Ball oat pale ale, Kitty Whipped, Punch the Tiger and Take Me to Your Lemur. The only beer that is produced on a semi-regular basis is Shark Meets Hipster wheat IPA, the closest thing you’ll find to a flagship beer here. Needless to say, Dubovick creates craft beers that are rebellious, challenging, unconventional, and always pushing the boundaries of brewing.

This visionary attitude towards the craft is why many other brewers in the Chicago area and across the IMG_1371country vie for the opportunity to brew a collaborative beer with Dubovick. To date, he has done over 30 of them. Collaboration beers, especially those done with newer, smaller brewers, hold a soft spot in Dubovick’s heart; he says doing them with other brewers years ago helped him get his foot in the door of the brewing industry.

Collaboration also takes place in-house. That means creating flavors in the brew kettle that complement the flavors on a plate, and vice versa. Dubovick’s creativity and level of expertise is what makes it happen. At DryHop, they believe in the power of the palate over a recipe any day.