The Windy City's steadily building cred with craft beer enthusiasts for its spectacular selection of craft beer-focused taverns around town. It's such an impressive community, in fact, that Chicago Craft Beer Week occurs every year in May.
That occasion is an opportunity to taste the best of what the city has to offer as well as selections from regional, national and even international outfits. But where to patronize on the regular? Our favorites include a James Beard award winner, a South Loop sensation and another offering the best list for Belgian-style beers in the city.
Band of Bohemia
What's On Tap: The guys over at Band of Bohemia wear their most significant achievement proudly: It's the first Michelin-rated brewpub. The team's resumes include stints at Alinea, Longman & Eagle and Waldorf Astoria Chicago, so the talent shouldn't come as a surprise. Weekend brunch is especially popular, and yes, most dishes complement whatever is on tap. The seasonal beers are all brewed in-house, and those who cannot make up their minds are encouraged to order a tasting of the five beers on tap. They may also order growlers to go.
Half Acre Beer Co.
What's On Tap: The North Center neighborhood--adjacent to Lincoln Square--gets many props for its varied food and drink options, but most area residents see Half Acre as its shining gem. Regular tours conclude with tastings of signature suds such as Daisy Cutter pale ale and Sky Devil saison, and there’s also a tap room that’s open almost every day of the week. That’s an opportunity for fans to really delve into what’s on offer, including “Firkin Friday,” when owners tap a 10-gallon firkin filled with a different craft beer each week. There's a full kitchen that cranks out small bites and entrees like grilled hanger steak, pickled vegetables and nachos.
What's On Tap: The Andersonville beer hall highlights a well-curated list of Belgian-style beers. Its immense popularity resulted in extended seating to accommodate all the diners and drinkers who had to wait up to an hour on weekends. Hopleaf carries more than 250 bottled beers from North America, Belgium and other European countries. Every first Monday of the month is Belgian Fried Chicken Night and also discounts on bottled beers.
Old Town Pour House
What's On Tap: The trendy, beer-focused Old Town Pour House gets plenty of action for its scene and suds selection. Guests choose from more than 90 options, and those who face a hard time deciding may order one of the rotating beer flights. Choices include seasonal, wheat, ales, lagers, Belgian, IPAs and stouts. The food is chef driven, with regular choices such as a bone-in pork chop and smoked duck club.
What's On Tap: James Beard winner Paul Kahan (also of Blackbird fame) focuses on pork, seafood and international beers at his German-style beer hall. All servers, bartenders and managers boast extensive training in a specialized beer certification program in order to speak with authority on each selection. There are a number of beers on draught, plus a strong variety by the bottle (including lambics and trappist). Publican is also the only green-certified, beer-focused restaurant in Chicago.
What's On Tap: While Old Town Pour House caters to a moneyed, trendy crowd, Revolution attracts a different type of customer: neighborhood focused and distinctly hipster because it's located in Logan Square. In a few short years of existence, the spot has managed to produce more than 50 of its own beers, which are paired with seasonal dishes. Beer titles are quirky and cool with such names as Anti-Hero, Black Power, Coup D’Etat and Fistmas.
What's On Tap: The near west side pizza joint features its own signature beer produced by a local brewery, plus all-Midwestern choices from other breweries. That includes 15 draft lines, 70 bottles and approximately 60 craft cans. Roots’ house brew consists of a French-style country ale that’s meant to complement the signature malt-style pizza. The Wicker Park neighborhood is less than five minutes away. There's a second location in Lincoln Square at 2200 W. Lawrence Ave.
Vice District Brewing
What's on Tap: Every Monday is reserved for non-profit organizations at this ambitious South Loop brewery opened by two homebrewers in 2014. The philanthropic duo donates profits from beer sales to local charities and participates in many neighborhood events. Vice District Brewing's taproom is set up in communal style, encouraging guests to interact with one another as they sip craft beers from the tap. From the blonde ale Pleasure Trip to the black IPA Habitual, there’s a ton to choose from, as well as pretzels at the bar and menus from surrounding restaurants if you want to order in food.