Drink of the week:
Wostyntje aka "mustard beer" at Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro
The damage: $7.
Thousands of bars in Chicago, why this one? During the three-month period between New Year's Day and April, even the most thick-skinned, die-hard Chicagoans question why they don't pack up their things and hightail it to Phoenix. They cope by reminiscing about sunny days on North Avenue Beach and icy sips of beer at street fests—reminding themselves that spending summer in the city is worth suffering through the cold months. I handle winter a bit differently: I ignore it. That's not to say I don't break out my knee-length parka at the first snowfall, but I still walk two miles to work, and I never hesitate to hit the bars during a blizzard; I just slip on my snow boots instead of my heels and often opt for a different kind of watering hole—one that'll warm me from the inside with something more than booze.
Even though I was a bit skeptical of a place billed as an Irish Bistro (isn't that a bit of an oxymoron?), Mrs. Murphy and Sons' promise of a glowing fireplace, warm-wood interior and classed-up Irish comfort fare sounded too cozy to ignore.
How it went down: My friends and I stopped by the Bistro on a Wednesday, when bottles of wine are half-off. Knowing we'd slug plenty of merlot during dinner, we started off with a round of brews. The bar boasts an impressive selection of beers on tap, like Allagash White, Hobgoblin and Tripel, but I had my eye on a bottled beverage: Wostyntje, a fairly typical Belgian pale ale, except that it's brewed with mustard seeds. Now, I'll take a squirt or two of the yellow stuff on a brat, but, as far as condiments go, mustard wouldn't make my top five. Even so, I figured the stiff, tingle-your-nose spiciness of the spread would add an interesting layer of zing to my suds.
Had I not known ahead of time that the De Regenboog Brewery slipped in some crushed mustard seeds about an hour into the hops boiling process, I likely wouldn't have noticed the touch of tang the unexpected ingredient added. The golden-amber suds did have a mustard-y scent to them, but I think it was the slightly sour, almost bitter flavor that I picked up toward the end of each sip where the mustard had the most impact. Overall, the beer tasted somewhat sweet, even a touch spicy, and was highly drinkable.
Would I want to become a regular? Once we polished off round one, we went on to ordering dinner. The eats ended up being completely bistro-worthy, with sophisticated plates like a crunchy oat-crusted trout stuffed with caramelized onions and crisp bacon. It far surpassed standard pub fare, and tasted just as comforting as fish and chips with peas—and eating it was a heck of a lot more convenient than moving to Arizona.
Dana Kavan scours the city for drink deals so good you'll offer to buy a round and creative libations that outshine your average on-the-rocks concoctions. Want to give Dana tips on where to rack up a bar tab? Share your finds before her next night out.