28 Jan Best Brewpubs and Bottle Shops in Chicago
The Best Craft Beer Brewpubs, and Bottle Shops to Visit While in Chicago (and the Burbs)
If you’re looking at my navigation bar and notice that this is a tech consulting stuff and are wondering to yourself what credentials I would have to tell you where to go for brewpubs and bottle shops in Chicago then my response is simply – “This is a lifestyle blog BRO, Get off my nuts!”
Go to Thrillist or Yelp if you want but I assure you that you’re going to see the same 10 breweries listed on all those wonky sites, I’m here to give you some deep cuts, I’m talking about juicy B-Sides baby!
So now that I’ve suitably proven my creds as a pompous alcoholic…
The Best Brewpubs for each area
Forbidden Root – NW Side
I almost didn’t bother to check this place out because everything they put on the shelf is forgettable. Recently however the tap room started pumping out NE IPAs that really hit the mark and are proving to be some of the tops in the city (FYI, Hop Butcher wins for best NE IPAs but they don’t have a taproom).
They use a lot of fresh ingredients for their IPAs, Sours, and Wheats so you can always some unique flavors and because they are constantly trying out new things. Come in once a month and expect to see a whole host of new items.
On top of their delicious hazy IPAs, they have a very good menu (they were even on Check Please). The lunch specials are a good value and the place has a cool hipster vibe that is more “have you tried this IPA yet?” than “you haven’t tried this IPA?”
More Brewing – West Suburbs
So small and so hard to get in cans but man do they kill it. Everything they do is amazing, including the food. It’s family friendly and creates an absolute madness when they release beers, especially Henna.
be warned that their brewing facility is small and has limited taps of their own stuff, so after you check them out stop in at Lunar for an old school craft beer experience that has been doing craft beer since before it was cool (FYI, its dark and has a lot of old guys and doesn’t even have a website).
Alulu– South Side of Chicago
Alulu is an off the radar brewpub that has some delicious sours and great food. Their beer can be hit or miss but they offer such a large selection of rotating styles that you’re bound to like something, and like it a lot.
The service is friendly, the bar is cozy (small) and the energy is a positive mix of the unique melting pot that is Pilsen.
Located in an area that doesn’t get a lot of love, Pilsen is growing and developing itself into a craft beer destination neighborhood.
Aside from the craft amuse bouche that is Alulu you can check out Lagunitas (if you want), Moody Tongue, Lo Rez and Skylark (which is a WAY old school, cash only hole-in-the-wall with Zombie Dust for like $5 or something ridiculous).
Also, be sure to check out Marz Brewing which does all sorts of cool stuff.
Marz Brewing does a wide swath of really great beer and their sister location Maria’s Packaged Goods is also awesome and has a great kitchen so check out their bottle room, amazing beer menu and unique Korean/Polish fusion food menu.
If you’re going to a Sox game than these are the craft beer spots to go to before or after the game.
Old Irving – Far NW side
Doesn’t get much love but I really like this place, they have a solid rotation of stouts and well-balanced IPAs, and show their chops with creative cocktail-inspired beers (they have a tiki beer that was quite refreshing).
Really solid food as well, burgers, chicken sandwiches and the like. Very solid menu to pair with solid beers.
The atmosphere leaves a little to be desired because the more open space is often closed which means you have to stay in the darker bar area.
I would like to see them open up the larger (and better) seating area for the entire day rather than just for the nights.
They do crowlers and have cool releases (Krampus Barrel Aged stout was very good)
I would say they are coming up and are definitely worth a stop in. Check them out and then go to Fleischmann’s for a great 1-2 punch (more on Fischmanns below)
Half Acre – North Side of Chicago
A Premiere Chicago stable and the only one of the old school breweries that I am going to mention. Full of talented and established brewers who know what they are doing and who have dominated the Chicago IPA scene for a long time.
There are places like Goose Island, Revolution and Lagunitas that are cool and all but I’m kind of done caring about them. You should go if you have never been but this list is more for the new, a little bit above casual beer dude or dudette who wants to know where the absolute key spots are at.
If you google best craft breweries in Chicago and they Goose Island listed than you might as well go check out the sears tower and take a river tour while you’re at it. (Those are actually cool things to do but my point is more that Goose Island is not worth your time if you have limited options to check places out unless there is some crazy bourbon county on tap, in which case you should definitely go)
Back to Half Acre, both of their locations are cool and worth checking out but if you want food then go to Balmoral, which has amazing Vegan food if you are looking to be picky about your plate.
If you end up going to the Lincoln Square tap room than be sure to go across the street to Bad Apple and enjoy an amazing beer list and burger.
Bavarian Lodge – Way the Fuck Out There but Worth it
Bavarian Lodge is probably my favorite craft beer restaurant.
They do not brew beer but they do import tons of German, Belgian and other assorted European beers that you will not find ANYWHERE ELSE.
It is a family friendly German Restaurant that does really good authentic German fare while offering the most insane beer list anywhere. This dude’s beer cellar is so good I picture him paying the goblins from Harry Potter to guard it.
On Black Friday they offer the most insane draft list of cellared barrel-aged beers. I sort of hope no one reads this blog so that I can still get a seat for the insanity that is Bavarian Lodge’s Black Friday tap list.
The beer list is always insane, it has that awesome old school wooden lodge feel, the staff is friendly and they don’t mind when you have 3 snot-nosed brats throwing food all over the damn place
Honorable Mentions and Travel Specific Choices-
If you’re looking for a talented brewery in the Northwest Suburbs –
Mikephone, has amaze-balls beers but the location is small, their pretty expensive and service can suck.
In the West Loop and need a craft beer fix –
Cruz Blanca – Really good trendy Mexican food from Rick Bayless with surprising good beers. Sort of like Forbidden Root but more trendy and expensive.
Haymarket – Oldie but goody in the awesome west loop area. So many choices in the west loop, but you can go here, hit up Cruz for a couple tacos, check out Ballast Point’s rooftop and then go play arcades and drink $2 PBRs at the emporium.
It is probably the coolest area in the city for food and drinks and no matter what you pick it will be solid so I’m not even gonna get started on the West Loop, Fulton Market area just walk around and enjoy.
Love Metal and Hate Hipsters–
Local Option – Loud Metal Music, Amazing beer list, surprisingly good food, and dudes got themselves a gem of a location. Pairs well with Delilahs if you want to travel a bit and see a sick whiskey list
Now to the Best Craft Beer Bars and Bottle Shops –
Amazing and knowledgeable staff with a GREAT beer list and a very good bottle room. Great for beer nerds.
Ahhhh, fischmanns… I absolutely adored their original location and the unmatched authenticity of its old school Chicago flavor.
The new spot is much cleaner and modern and still has amazing beer both in the bottle shop and tap list but truth be told, I miss the feel of the old place. Still one of the tops beer lists in the city though so don’t miss it.
Suburb shout out! A really cool family-friendly spot that has a solid tap list and a great bottle shop.
On top of the fact that they are right of the Metra, they also have a cool friendly vibe, an old-school NES and ton of tables so that you can set up shop and get drunk while your f’ing around on your laptop.
Premiere South suburb tap list and bottle shop. If like in the south suburbs this is where you should buy your beer. Tap list is also great and sees a lot of unique options that are exclusive to them because of their position as one of the best places in the south suburbs.
While you are down that way check out Hailstorm, 350 Brewing and the other cool bottle shop (across from 350) called The Open Bottle
Joe’s Final Thought about Beer and Life:
There are many great craft beer places to visit in Chicago that are really good and worth checking out but I figured that if you only have a limited amount of time to see a handful of places, then let’s cut to the chase and give you sticky wickets.
Obviously, these are subjective and dependent upon the places that I have been to so it’s not to say that any place not listed is not worth checking out.
I’ll like Hazy IPA’s, BA Stouts and Vibes so this post may not apply to everyone.
I by no means have been to every brewery (maybe 85%) and new breweries are opening up every so this list will be sure to change and be incomplete.
Enjoy and drink safely you boozy dickheads.