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There’s no doubt that Chicago is a beer city, and it has some of the best breweries the Midwest has to offer. No matter which neighborhood you’re in — Wicker Park or the South Loop, Bucktown or Lincoln Park — there’s a cold pint waiting for you to stop in and sample. The only thing Chicago does even better than beer, however, is food: Pizza, bacon, hot dogs, and cupcakes — yes, cupcakes — all tend to go extremely well with a glass of those hoppy, malty, suds.
There are plenty of ways to dig into this rich food and brewing scene, and plenty of ways to get around doing it: walking, biking, or one of the most unique tour buses we’ve ever seen. Ready to sip some suds? We’ve rounded up the best brewery and beer tours the Windy City has to offer — and most of them have plenty to offer besides. Read on for a little trip inspiration, whether it’s your first trip to this ever-intriguing city, your 10th — or whether you’re lucky enough to have all of this is in your own backyard.
Best Pizza and Beer Tour: Chicago Pizza and Beer Tour
If anything goes better with beer than pizza — or with pizza than beer — we’ve yet to hear it. For three hours, you get the best of both on this tour, which takes visitors by mini-coach to three local pizzerias, beginning in Chicago’s South Loop before exploring further afield. As you go between stops, you’ll also learn a lot about the history of Chicago’s most famous interpretation of the Italian dish — including its take on it, the famous deep-dish pie.
Each restaurant will showcase different types of pizza, highlighting how variations in crust type, thickness, and preparation can affect the overall result and taste. As for the booze, each stop will include a glass of wine or pint of ice-cold beer alongside your slice. The specific itinerary changes from tour to tour, but you’re in the hands of total pros who know incredible pizza from the simply “fine.” If you possibly have room at the end, the tour wraps with a stop at the rightly famous Stan’s Donuts for a bit of a sweet treat.
Best Walking Tour: Bacon and Brewing Beer Tour in Lakeview and Lincoln Park
Lakeview and Lincoln Park are two of Chicago’s most well-known neighborhoods, and this three-hour walking tour shows off the very best of their bars and breweries, with an emphasis on both regional and international brews. The city’s beer culture would be nothing without the immigrants that got the brewing scene going in the 1800s, and this tour gives a great overview of their contributions over the years.
You’ll taste several different types of beer, beginning at a super-local establishment, followed by a visit to a microbrew pub, an Irish pub for a pint of Guinness, a beer-and-bacon bar (what could be more delicious?), and a pre-Prohibition punk rock bar known for its great selection of beers and whiskies.
Along the way, you’ll also get to see a home-brewing demonstration and chat with the owner of a specialty beer and wine store for an intimate look at how he carefully selects his unique inventory.
Best Neighborhood Tour: Sin and Suds Beer Tour in the Loop and South Loop
The Loop and South Loop are two incredibly central neighborhoods, and while they absorb their fair share of tourists to the city, they’re some of the oldest in the city — making them great places to start learning about the history of the city, from its complicated politics and criminal past to its notable history of brewing beer.
You’ll take all that in on this guided three-hour tour, which takes you to popular establishments to Exchequer Pub and the Berghoff, which have their own fair share of history: Notorious gangster Al Capone was known to stop in at the Exchequer, while the Berghoff, started by German immigrants, is one of the oldest bars in the city and the first to be licensed after Prohibition.
Your lessons about Chicago’s mobster and crime-family history continue with a stop to the aptly named Vice District Brewing, and you’ll also learn about the city’s jazz history with a stop at Buddy Guy’s Legends.
Best Food Tour: Tastes of Chicago Bike Tour: Pizza, Beer & Hot Dogs
Over the course of 1.5 miles and 2.5 hours, you’ll explore some of Chicago’s best beer and comfort foods on this incredibly delicious walking tour — and you’ll also get a great overview of the city’s history and architecture. Guides are incredibly knowledgeable about the city’s history, and you’ll also explore some of Chicago’s most iconic landmarks, like the Palmer House hotel, Millennium Park, and the Chicago River.
All of this exploring definitely works up an appetite, and you won’t be disappointed by attempts to relieve it: You’ll start the food journey at Giordano’s Pizzeria, home of an incredible deep dish pizza, before walking through scenic sights of the Loop neighborhood, stopping for a hot dog, brownie, and a couple of beers.
During the winter, you’ll stay out of the city’s notoriously cold weather with a walk through the Chicago Pedway system, made up of a network of tunnels, concourses, and bridges that keep the cold at bay.
Best Unique Bus Tour: Chicago Craft Brewery Barrel Bus Tour
If there was ever a more unique means of transit, we’ve yet to see it: The brewery barrel bus is exactly what the name conjures up a vision of, and the Prohibition-style vehicle (complete with speakeasy-esque door) is a great setting in which to learn about Chicago’s beer history, which kicked off shortly after the turn of the 19th century and was closely entangled with city politics (the first mayor of the city owned a brewery).
The four-hour tour takes you to three Chicago breweries, both large and small, for generous amounts of beer samplings and a look back at what breweries were like before Prohibition kicked in from 1920 to 1933 — as well as a lesson about how the ban on booze affected the city.
You’ll also visit a working production facility for a behind-the-scenes look at how beer is made, from the step-by-step process to the blend of chemistry and art that produces the perfect pint.
Best Hipster Tour: Pioneers and Pints Beer Tour in Bucktown and Wicker Park
Wicker Park and Bucktown are two of the Windy City’s trendiest neighborhoods, and exploring them on foot is a great way to soak up the hipster vibes. During this three-hour walking tour, you’ll take in the neighborhoods’ gorgeous architecture while sampling some of its best brews and learning about the history behind those, too. And there’s a lot: Chicago brewing history extends back to at least the 1830s when European immigrants came over and started making the good stuff.
You’ll pay a visit to Beer Baron Row, where Germans settled in the late 1800s, then you’ll visit a 19th-century bar for some suds and a hot dog. You’ll also visit the real-life location of Chicago Fire ’s Molly’s bar for some craft brews, then head to a bar, butcher, and restaurant to end the tour. The tour covers about a mile, so it goes at a good pace for most fitness levels, but walking shoes are recommended.