Drink & Learn More About Haymarket

We’re all coming off that Labor Day weekend buzz and are back at a full week of work. Most people in the U.S. celebrate Labor Day by spending time with friends and family, going to the beach, traveling on road trips, grilling out, and of course, it usually involves plenty of beer. Whenever beer, family, and friends are combined, some heated conversations tend to follow.

Over the Labor Day weekend, I happened to see one conversation that popped up on Twitter, questioning the naming of the beers at Haymarket Pub & Brewery.

Pete Crowley, brewer and co-owner of Haymarket Pub & Brewery has said many times, including in The Hop Review that “We don’t take a side in the whole Haymarket affair, we just tell the story. “

The story of the Haymarket Affair should be told. Everyone should read up on the Haymarket Affair (sometimes known as the Haymarket Riots) themselves. It’s taught in history books for a reason. To understand what happened at Haymarket Square, you have to realize that back in the 1800s, workers had few rights and big business held all the cards. Child labor was rampant, and most people worked six days a week. Labor movement publications called for an eight-hour day as early as 1836, and there were strikes and rallies for an end to abuses and exploitation of workers. Labor Unions called for May 1, 1886, to be the beginning of a nationwide movement for the eight-hour day.

On May 1st, 1886, 80,000 people marched peacefully down Michigan Avenue. Hundreds of thousands of workers went on strike across the country in the following days all demanding to work an eight hour day. On May 3rd, a group picketing strikebreakers at the McCormick plant in Chicago were charged on by police, four people died, and many more wounded. On the 4th of May at Haymarket square, there was a rally protesting the killings of the previous day. Towards the end of the protest the police went after the crowd, violence erupted, and a bomb exploded. Seven policemen and four workers died. The next day martial law was declared across the nation. Hundreds of labor activists were then arrested, tried, convicted, and some executed. In the late 19th century, May Day was chosen as the date for the International Workers’ Day to commemorate the Haymarket affair.

The Chicago location of Haymarket Pub & Brewery is soaked in history and is just blocks away from where the Haymarket Square affair took place. The name of the brewery and the name of many of the beers are inspired by the historical events that have been recognized worldwide as an important piece of the organized labor movement.

I’ve been a fan and patron of Haymarket beers for a long time, so long in fact that we visited Haymarket while it was still under construction and when you could even fall through the floor.

Pete was kind enough to give us a sneak peak of the brewery in 2010 during the first Bike the Breweries event. (Yes, there was a time in Chicago when you could bike to all the breweries in a single day).

Pubs and taverns have always been a gathering place that generated political conversations. Beer can help fuel a revolution, a great idea or even stimulate some lively debates. Beer has long been considered a working-class beverage that’s production by a brewer is a time-consuming task and far from glamorous. Beer is for anyone no matter your political views, gender, orientation or status.

Haymarket Pub embraces this notion, even while it seems to be getting lost in the wave of new breweries opening all over the country with their stylishly designed interiors covered in reclaimed wood and Edison bulbs. Haymarket Pub & Brewery is dark, loud, full of TVs and if you could still smoke in Chicago, I’m sure you’d find a thick layer there. It’s by no means dirty, but it feels like it has aged even if they’ve only had the doors open for eight years. There is something familiar, and something classic about Haymarket when you step inside.

Haymarket Pub & Brewery is in a prime location. The neighborhood has changed dramatically in the last five to ten years and even more so with Google opening a massive office nearby prompting companies and restaurants to follow their lead, pushing out small shops and dive bars that were once watering holes for workers. We have seen this trend repeat all over the city. There are still places in Chicago where you can get a $2 Old Style after work, but they are fading fast, especially as certain neighborhoods become the next hot area.

Haymarket still feels like a place for working people, no matter if you work at Google or one of the few remaining area meat packers. It has maintained its identity as the neighborhood transformed around it.

“Beer’s intellectual. What a shame so many idiots drink it.” — Ray Bradbury

I am sitting at the bar and writing this at Haymarket Pub, right now. Just a few minutes ago while writing, I overheard a 60+ aged guy say “this place was named after some riots that happened around here, I’m not sure what they are, but it was important.”

Sigh. I am far from a historian, but I think that it’s a pretty significant moment in history that everyone should know more about or at least have heard a little about, especially since the tragedy of that day helped lead to more workers rights. I may not be a historian, but I am a beer lover, and one of the entertaining things to do at a brewery (besides drink) is to read the info about a beer, why a brewery brewed it and why they picked that name. Sure the name might only be a funny juice pun, but they can also provide you with a bit of history, or an insight into the brewery.

Not all the beers at Haymarket are named after events from the Haymarket Affair, but there are enough to help you learn a little and hopefully spark your interest to learn more.

Speakerswagon Pils

The wagon used as the speakers’ platform during the rally on March 4th is perhaps one of the most iconic images we have of these events. You’ll see it in drawings and as a vital part of the Haymarket Memorial Statue on Des Plaines street.

Mathias® Imperial IPA

Named for Officer Mathias Degan. Officer Degan was struck by shrapnel. He was the first of eight officers to die in what is known as the Haymarket Riot or Haymarket massacre.

Mathias is the beer that made Alex Gordon send out his tweet that perhaps sparked me down this rabbit hole even more.

Many of the cops at that time were paid off by the business leaders in the city, or worked for the Pinkertons and did whatever they could to crack down on the workers. However, Mathias and the police from the Des Plaines Street station were asked initially to be on guard by Mayor Carter Harrison as protection in case this non-violent rally/protest went wrong.

Whatever your feelings on the current police brutality cases that are happening in the U.S. or even the history of the corruption and harshness of police forces overall, I don’t think it’s fair to paint all officers with the same brush. Some of the police who died that day were no doubt attacking demonstrators and some were perhaps there just because they were working a job. All cops are not devils or saints; I know its not a career that I would want to tackle.

Officer Mathias Degan died as a result of a pipebomb which was the catalyst that set off these riots. From what I understand, the police opened fire on the crowd after the bomb went off, would anyone have died that day if the bomb was never thrown? The question remains who set off this bomb? Was it someone mixed in with the crowd of peaceful protestors? Was it one of the officers that were working or one that was paid off by a business leader?

Haymarket Oscar’s Pardon Belgian Pale Ale

Oscar Neebe was a yeast salesman and one of the three to survive the trial of the “Haymarket Eight.” Neebe was not present at the Haymarket Square on the day of the meeting and subsequent bombing. Unlike the other men who were executed, Neebe was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Haymarket Fielden’s French Farmhouse Ale

Sam Fielden spoke for approximately 20 minutes before the Haymarket Riots on the alliance of socialism and the working class and how the law at that point was the enemy of the working man.

Lizzie’s Simcoe Double IPA

Throughout her life, Lizzie Holmes believed that women and workers could achieve justice only in a society built on the principles for which the Haymarket martyrs had died. She was arrested alongside the other eight people but was released two days later, and all charges were then dropped.

Lucy’s Belgian Style Abbey Tripel

In honor of Lucy Parsons, the wife of Albert R. Parsons, who was hanged for his involvement in the events of May 4th, just outside Haymarket Pub’s front door. Albert R. Parsons was an ex-confederate soldier and was known as an “advocate for the anarchist movement.”

Albert was known for many things, but one was for protesting the relief and aid funds from the Chicago fire that were supposed to go to the needy citizens but instead went to Marshall Field’s to rebuild his store and George Pullman to expand his business.

I’m a little surprised we haven’t seen an A.R. Parsons beer too. There are still even more people and symbols to pluck from history if Haymarket Brewery did want to tell more of the story.

The story didn’t start or end at Haymarket Square, and it’s unfortunate that we don’t learn more about it in American History classes. The rest of the world celebrates International Workers’ Day or May Day in honor of the events at Haymarket and the legal establishment of the 8-hour day. Instead, in the United States, we celebrate Labor Day in September, which in a way almost distances itself from the Haymarket Affair.

Next time you’re having a beer, think about the history behind that beer, the brewery, or the city it was brewed in. Use that miracle of a device in your pocket to learn a little bit about history, especially Chicago history.

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