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Brewpub fills gap in the 'burbs

by: TRIBUNE PHOTOS: JONATHAN HOUSE - ABV Public House opened three months ago to an enthusiastic crowd. Beer - with hundreds of bottle choices and more than 30 on tap - and a hearty food menu go well together at the Hillsboro establishment.You’re a little uneasy, not quite sure where a brewpub could be located in this business park just off Highway 26.

But when you see the row of cars parked out front, the home-brew supply store and the shooting range, you know you’re in the right place.

ABV Public House opened Feb. 14 and — despite the owners trying to keep it a secret by not posting a sign outside — the place has been slammed.

Walking into the taproom is like discovering an underground speakeasy. The large warehouse space is made warm and festive by strings of patio lights, rustic furniture and an impressive patchwork of brewery posters and flags.

With 32 beers and ciders on tap and another 600 bottles (which can be opened on-site for a $1.50 corking fee) in the two massive walls of beer fridges, plus a short wine and mead (honey wine) menu, it can be intimidating deciding what to drink.

But they’re working on getting beer flights onto the menu, and the servers go out of their way to make recommendations. They’ll offer to bring you shotglass-size samples and make sure you’re happy before you commit to a pint.

If you’re ordering tableside, you’ll have to find the tap list on your smartphone. At the bar, there’s a digital display board with handy color codes to denote beers of the same type and how much is left in each tap.

The bartenders are quick, and the food service is crazy fast. The wait for dinner on a recent Saturday night was less than 30 minutes.

Open for lunch, happy hour and dinner, ABV’s food menu is ambitious and enterprising, with nearly two dozen snacks and small plates, seven soups and side salads, five burgers, and six big plates.

The food is truly beer-inspired, pairing well with hoppy IPAs and often using beer to braise or marinate the meat.

For starters, the green chili poutine, $8, is a hearty rendition of the classic, with crispy shoestring fries, cheese curds and beefy green chili in place of traditional brown gravy.

A roasted cauliflower appetizer, $5, turns from blah to zippy with a dip of smoked paprika and romesco sauce. Pulled pork sliders with cabbage slaw, $7, came three to a plate, a solid way to kick off the night.

The elk meatloaf, $18, comes from the Meating Place Butcher Shop, just down the road. It’s served with whipped potatoes, roasted baby carrots, asparagus and smoked beer gravy — the ultimate comfort food.

The ABV cassoulet, $16, is a decadent one-pot meal in a cassole (earthenware pot), with a confit of chicken thigh and smoked ribs, Southern-style navy beans with a sauce of onions bacon, brown sugar, smoked beer and mustard.

Vegetarians can be excited, too. A portobello mushroom burger, $11, was delectably messy, all dolled up with a buttery brioche bun that almost melts under the weight of the beer-braised kale and boursin cheese. Oh, and save room for the “beer-amisu,” or beer float for dessert.

ABV draws a big high-tech, male-heavy crowd during happy hour; on weekends it’s casual dates and families. There’s a standing-only area with barrel tables near the bar with beer and wine books and magazines to peruse.

It’s also family-friendly: the kids’ menu is adequate, and if you’re stuck waiting for a table, there’s a secret play area for kids next door at Mainbrew Beer supply store, which sells a huge array of supplies for making beer, wine, mead, cheese, soda and kombucha.

Owner Kevin Stahr, who also owns Mainbrew, says ABV means “alcohol by volume,” but Stahr says customers like to come up with their own acronyms, like “artisan beer venue” or “amazing beer variety.”

Cheers to that.

Twitter: @jenmomanderson