The area within the borders that define Chicago is packed with breweries. However, it wasn’t always that way. Chicago was a bit of a brewing desert until Goose Island arrived barely three decades ago. While Goose Island (now a product of Anheuser-Busch) placed the craft beer revolution tinder it would still be another decade before Three Floyds added the much-needed spark across the border in Hammond, Indiana (they’d later move to nearby Munster).
Today, according to The Hop Review‘s absolutely essential Chicago breweries list (bookmark it), there are no less than 70 breweries within the city proper (and a whopping 114 breweries in the burbs). We’ve previously documented the fact that between the dates of May 25 and July 18 no less than 12 breweries opened taprooms in Chicagoland as a whole. That’s roughly 1.3 breweries opening per week. It’s hard to keep up.
We’ve gone ahead and compiled a list of the some of the essential Chicago breweries pouring beers in tap rooms or restaurants (before someone says anything, the taproom distinction is the only reason badass breweries like Pipeworks didn’t make the cut. That will likely change once they open the new facility).
Did we miss your essential brewery? Probably, we can only drink at so many places, but let us know where and why. We’re happy to add to this list.
2747 N Lincoln Avenue, North Centerfor reasons), Burnt City has some of the most badass and iconic beer cans on the market. Not only are the images striking, but the names of the beers walk along the sensationalistic edge without going over. And what about the product inside? Yes, in this rare case, you should judge a beer by the container. Burnt City as a whole has a healthy 88 point score on RateBeer (although some of that is leftover from Atlas).
Try these: If it’s Fall/Winter straight for the Freight Handler Milk Stout. On a hot summer day, you’re throwing back the Balloon Boy Farmhouse Wheat Ale. If you’re at the pub see if they have the Pterodactyl Deathscream or the Barrel-Aged Duncan MacCoconuts.
4257 N. Lincoln Ave., North Center
Try these: The Daisy Cutter Pale Ale is the go to Half Acre. It’s a lucky day if you arrive and the Galactic Double Daisy Cutter is on tap. You also can’t go wrong with most of the Akari Wheat Ale variants. When available the Akari Shogun brewed with strawberries is a destination beer.
4055 W. Peterson Avenue, North Park
Try these: The standard Alarmist beer is the Entrenched IPA. If heavier dark beers are more your style, the Skewmageddon is one of the best Oatmeal Stouts around.
1800 W. Belle Plaine Ave., North Center
Try these: It could and should be argued that Dovetail makes the best Hefeweizen in the Midwest. This is the ideal beer for a hot Chicago day grilling out.
2760 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Logan Square
Try these: You can’t go wrong with the flagship First Lager. The previously mentioned Off-Black is also on the top of the list. The Clover Club, brewed with gin botanicals, is a brilliant and tasty riff on the pre-Prohibition cocktail of the same name. Of course, you can’t go wrong with the flagship Swift IPA.
2101 S Carpenter St., Pilsen
Try these: Drink the malty list. Seriously. If available be sure to get the Far North Declaration which is a collab with Minnesota’s Far North Spirits. It comes from putting the delicious Public Declaration Imperial Stout into Roknar rye whiskey barrels. The Memory Fault Scottish-Style Strong Ale is well-balanced with roasted malt and hops. If your preferences lean more on the Belgian side of the dial check out the Barrel-Aged Primary Element Saison.
2337 S. Michigan Ave., South Loop
Try these: The Fleetwood Black was on the menu and then off, but it looks like it might be back to stay (fingers crossed). This black lager is light to drink with a soft roasted flavor. The fairly recent entry, The Future is Unclear, is the one for all of you unfiltered hopheads out there.
1460 N. Kingsbury St., Lincoln Park
Try these: One of Chicagoland’s most fascinating beers is Off Color’s Troublesome. This Gose style beer is the combination of two beers; a wheat beer and a beer fermented with lactobacillus. Those beers are blended and reinforced with salt and coriander. Viola, you have Troublesome. Off Color’s Scurvy is, surprisingly, seasonal. This dark honey ale is plenty sweet but also dry. Oh, and if you can find it the Yuzu Fierce.
1801 W. Foster Ave., Ravenswood
Try these: Is it Halloween? If so, see if they have the double IPA Kitten Brainz on tap. It’s a beer to undie for. If it’s spring go for the Double Helix Imperial IPA and in winter hit the Phase Transition Robust Porter.
4419 W. Montrose Ave., Old Irving Park
Try these: Of course, treat yourself to the Dunes of the Capes. We hope they’ll bring back the Krampus Cookies double imperial stout. Of the flagship beers, check out the Guten Tag Kölsch and the 1760 Berliner Weisse.
1746 W. Chicago Ave., West Town
Try these: It’s difficult to choose! Definitely get a taste of the previously mentioned Frenetic. You’ll probably want to spend as much time sniffing it as you do sipping it. Have a friend who’s resistant to IPAs? Snoochie Boochies is the perfect gateway IPA. If you’re craving something a bit more herbal forward see if they’re tapping the Strawberry Basil Hefeweizen.
3340 N. Kedzie Ave., AvondaleTop 50 Craft Brewing Companies. That success hasn’t impacted the product and Revolution is producing some of the finest Chicago beers that can be found in seven states.
Try these: Is it Christmas? Go get the Fistmas. Are you feeling lucky? Ask if they’ve opened a Café Deth or Very Mad Cow. Any other day of the year? Citra-Hero or Fist City.
2136 S. Peoria St., Pilsen
Try this: Try the Shaved Black Truffle Pilsner because you can’t ignore the star of the theatre, but the Carmelized Chocolate Churro Baltic Porter is the breakout understudy you’ll applaud at the end of the night. Want something lighter? The Steeped Emperor’s Lemon Saison is like drinking a lemon meringue pie.