If one thing is true, it’s that Chicago knows how to drink.
But for a while there, Chicago didn’t brew it’s own. This is one notable way we were in the shadow of our friendly neighbor to the north, Milwaukee, referred to for years during the 20th century as the “beer capital of the world.” Chicago had a good deal of brewery action up until almost 1920, when Prohibition put a stop to that. It wouldn’t be until 1992 that large scale beer production started up again in the Windy City.
Thankfully, beer brewing is in full swing these days, and there are more than two dozen amazing options for craft beer all over town. Lucky for all of us, a number of them sport tasting rooms. Let’s take a look at some of the best tasting rooms our local craft beer brewers have to offer.
Opened in 2008, Half Acre says it brews “purposefully rough, American micro beers that push for raw intensity.” That must be why the brewer stood the test of time and even expanded. The small shop took over a sprawling warehouse and built an empire. There was a time when all you could do here was fill your growler or buy a few bottles, but now they offer a tap room, restaurant and tours.
Neighborhood: North Center
Drink: Daisy Cutter Pale Ale
Touting itself as Illinois’ largest craft brewery, Revolution (from the owner of Wicker Park’s Handlebar) has been brewing since 2010. The tasting room has been open in Logan Square since 2012. Here, they offer tours of the fifty different beers they brew annually.
Neighborhood: Logan Square
Drink: Anti-Hero IPA (alongside the bacon fat popcorn)
In 1988, some guy got back from Europe talking about how it had totally changed his life. Lucky for everyone, it was Goose Island founder John Hall, who actually did something with this life changing experience and brought the craft beer movement home to Chicago, and, some argue, the entire U.S. Tours of the brewery are $12 and last an hour, and naturally end in the tap room.
Neighborhood: Near north side
Drink: Matilda, a Belgian Pale Ale
OK, yes, it’s fair to think of Laginitas as a California brewery, but that’s only because it is. The founders, however, are from here in the midwest, and, in their own words, “converged on Petaluma CA in 1993 and ’94 with an unenunciated desire to be more than we were before. The core of Lagunitas came from Chicago, St Louis, Memphis, Walker Creek, and the highlands of Quincy.” The tasting room here in Chicago offers tours every day, an “edibles” menu and daily live music at 4:20pm…are we sensing a theme yet?
Drink: Waldo’s Special Ale…which they recommend pairing with beer-battered Twinkies Con Queso
Two Brothers is technically in the burbs. Two burbs, in fact, Aurora and Warrenville. It’s worth mentioning, however, at least briefly because this is a damn fine brewery. Not only are both tasting rooms beautiful and feature great menus (try the porcetta), but the beer is amazing. And there are rumors of a Chicago proper tap room on the way.
Neighborhood: Aurora and Warenville
Drink: The Domaine Dupage, a French country ale
The Chicago 3 Floyds tap room is less than a year out, and for now, devotees of this incredibly cool brewery have to go just across the border to Indiana for their suds. The brewery famously hosts a ‘Dark Lord Day’ each year when they try to accommodate crowds clamoring for Dark Lord, a “demonic” Russian-Style Imperial Stout brewed with coffee, Mexican vanilla, and Indian sugar.
Neighborhood: Chicago soon, far south side now
Drink: Robert the Bruce, a Scotch ale