The Headless Brewer

Neil Byers, of Horse Thief Hollow

photo by Zoe Kauder Nalebuff

As soon as you pull open the doors of Horse Thief Hollow, you feel at home. Despite the high ceiling with exposed metal piping and brick walls, this two-month-old restaurant and brewery feels cozy and worn in like a perfect sweater. From the rotating art on the walls to the grass-fed beef and beers, twenty-nine-year-old Neil Byers operates his gastropub with an eye toward keeping his products as local as possible. This local focus is maintained not only for the sake of sustainable food practices, but also for the sake of comfort and a desire to make Beverly locals feel at ease.

Inside, the music shuffled from The Temper Trap to Devotchka. Our server, Lauren, brought us samples of Deschutes White IPA and Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale to test. Unfortunately for us, but a good sign for the brewery, the two Horse Thief Hollow beers were sold out.  The Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, Bell’s Special Double Cream Stout, and Founders Dirty Bastard were also perfect pairings for our scrumptious entrees.

burger and fries at Horse Thief Hollow

photo by Zoe Kauder Nalebuff

The pulled pork sandwich has several options for accompaniment, which include a sweet mustard sauce, a HTH special 773-barbeque sauce, and spicy sauce. As there are reportedly still a few kinks that the kitchen is working out with these sauces (the hot sauce too spicy, the sweet sauce too mustard-y), we ordered the recommended 773.  The sandwich somehow stayed together despite being cut into many pieces to share–an impressive feat for such succulent pork–and was served with sauce on a brioche bun.

The Green Giant, a grilled vegetable sandwich, was served on thick-crusted bread. The acidity of the balsamic vinegar dressing perfectly complemented the sandwich’s charred zucchini and sweet onions. The grass-fed burger, a simple classic served with a layer of blue cheese on top, did not disappoint. The spinach burger was an interesting patty made from chopped spinach, feta, and grains. Both of the vegetable dishes kept up with the protein-heavy entrees, leaving all of us satiated and happy without being overstuffed.

The sweet potato fries won best side, delivering in ways fries so rarely do: minimal grease accompanying the crispy exterior, thick enough so as not to wilt, but not too large to fill you up after a few bites. The buttermilk slaw was a close second, and the crunchy sour pickles on our metal trays were a perfect palate cleanser between all contestants. The only just-okay part of the meal was the corn bread, its unexpected saltiness promising by slightly too dry to hold up the sides we had already devoured.

As we got the check, we asked Lauren about peeking into the brewing operation. Byers himself came out, and, empty sample glasses in hand, led the way into the kitchen and brewing areas. Byers talked to us about his process, the repurposed University of Chicago doors scrapped from construction in the 1940s, and what it was like to go through 900 pints of the Horse Thief Hollow Kitchen Sink Pale Ale in the restaurant’s opening weekend. At a rate of thirty kegs in a week and a half, Byers and his team value neighborhood help; it’s an integral part of why he cares about making his restaurant a place where the community feels comfortable.

“Haymarket [Pub and Brewery] and Saugatuck [the Michigan brewing company where Byers learned the craft] have been super supportive. I don’t want to be part of the corporate structure, and so far the community helping out means that’s what I’ve been able to do,” Byers informed us while cleaning the nozzles on the conditioning tank. At Horse Thief Hollow, the last thing one feels is a corporate structure. The works of local artists on the walls and the giant beer tanks in the dining room show how dedicated Byers is to not only his craft, but also to his neighborhood.

Three beers, four sandwiches, and lots of sides totaled $64.96 before tip–completely reasonable for the quantity and quality of the food.  Everything was made better by our server Lauren and Neil; they went above and beyond what you generally receive in a restaurant. Don’t hesitate to ask for a tour and get a preview sample of Byers’ next brews.  As we licked our glasses clean, the samples left us hoping that one day Horse Thief Hollow will be capable of selling kegs in addition to food. While it might not be the most cutting edge pub in town, Horse Thief Hollow is certainly a place where one feels welcome.

Horse Thief Hollow, 10426 S. Western Ave. Monday-Thursday, 11am-10pm; Friday-Saturday, 11am-midnight. (773)779-2739. horsethiefbrewing.com