Sunday Sesh: Support Your Local (Beer) Scene – Chicago Edition
Beer no longer supports the event, it is the event.
Like many people in my age group, I have fallen down the craft beer rabbit hole. Maybe a little too far. If I have to travel somewhere, the first thing I think about is what breweries I can hit on the way. I’ve spent hours in line for beer releases. I go to obnoxiously expensive festivals. I’d say I try at least 15 new beers a week (many of them 1oz samples at bottle shares, so it’s not that problematic, I swear). I’m all in.
The Illinois Craft Brewers Guild has encouraged my insanity this summer by releasing the “Beer Passport”. If you can hit 40 breweries in 3 months and get a sticker from each one, you get a free yearly membership that gets you some mildly cool benefits. Though I am at a very sad looking 6 (planning on getting 2 more today), I have had beers from many of the 150+ locations on the list and can give you a must-see guide to the city.
Where else to start but with Goose Island, the godfather of Chicago craft, but controversially still considered “craft” for the obvious reason that they are 100% owned by AB InBev. I’m reading a book that goes into detail the history of Anheuser-Busch and Goose Island, specifically about the 2011 takeover, which is giving me mixed feelings about my continued support. That being said, I’m still getting in line every Black Friday for the some of the most consistently great beers in history (let’s not talk about 2015). Their barrel aged program is the gold standard, and even their plain Bourbon County Brand Stout is one of my favorite beers ever. Their wild ales can’t be ignored either. 312 and other their other middling brews can be found all over the world, but don’t let those steer you away from their good stuff.
The other big name on the block is Revolution, who has one of my favorite BYOFood taprooms in the city, mostly due to it being gigantic. Their “Hero” series is made up of consistently good IPAs and their barrel aged program (primarily Deth’s Tar) is catching up to Goose in quality. I was lucky enough to be able to share my last can of Deth by Cherries with the Dischordia boys, so ask them how good it is.
Corridor came out of nowhere to become (arguably) the Double Dry Hopped (DDH) champions of the city. Currently, the only way to get their beer is at their little brewpub, which is probably for the best since freshness is key to this New England style of beer. Added bonus, they are neighbors with this car wash that has some spelling and syntax issues.
Mikerphone is the brewery that has jumped the shark when it comes to experimentation, which leads to very mixed results. I’ve had perfect beers by them (their Imperial Smells Like Bean Spirit stout series is usually solid), and others that have I poured out two oz samples (a Piña Colada beer attempt comes to mind). They’ve recently brewed a beer with Fruit Loops (yes, dumping the actual cereal in the tank) and another with Chicago-staple Portillo’s chocolate cake. So if you head out there… good luck picking your beers, you’ll need it.
Now if you’re tired of every brewery mostly just doing the same things, I’d suggest you try out Dovetail. They use super traditional brewing methods to make super traditional beers, like lagers, hefeweizens, rauchbiers, maibocks, and dunkels. A lot of current beer snobs aren’t really into these European styles, and I usually am not either, but they do them so well that I always enjoy stopping by. Sometimes I just want a beer that tastes like beer, ya know?
A few other highlights:
- Maplewood – Their Juice Pants line-up is worthy of note, and a few experimental things I’ve had on tap there were quite unique.
- Half Acre – Kings of the dank and grassy IPA, and they make other neat stuff too. The consensus from most people is that they always make passable beers, but experiment so much that they often strike gold.
- Marz – Again, great juicy IPAs.
- More – In the suburbs, but their Barrel Aged Henna line-up is world class.
- Off Color – Run by one of those genius dudes who doesn’t seem to care about reception. He brews what he wants, usually with wild yeasts, and nothing is ever boring.
- Pipeworks – Currently only in bottles and cans, but you won’t be disappointed by anything they put out. Usually my go-to at concerts, since they seem to be in most venues.
- Solemn Oath – Also in the suburbs, but I love their experimentation work with Belgian style stuff. Their metal aesthetic doesn’t hurt either. CyBro wrote about it forever ago.
- Une Annee – Suburbs again, but a must-attend for sour fans.
If you’re in town and need a drinking buddy/beer guide, get my attention somehow. First beer is on me. Also, help me pick travel destinations. What makes your beer scene special?
Oh, this was supposed to be about local BANDS?! Shit. Uh. Check this out, I guess.