Chicago, IL (and surrounding areas)
Chicago is large and has beer. In fact, it gets some of the best beer. Too bad Finch's totally sucks.
- 1 Breweries
- 2 Brewpubs
- 3 Bars
- 4 Bottle Shops
- 5 Distribution
- 6 FAQs
9750 Indiana Parkway, Munster, Indiana 46321
Though in Munster, IN, Chicago claims it as it's own. Forty-five minutes (assuming no traffic) out of downtown, FFF is considered one of the best breweries on the planet. Their distribution footprint extends outside of the region, but demand outstrips their production. Not impossible to find, but even in the area, do not expect their beers to be available at every shop.
For a decade, FFF has hosted the increasingly popular Dark Lord Day in the spring, a festival for the release of their world-renowned Russian Imperial Stout. DLD has been a prototype for limited release events that has been emulated by numerous other breweries. The beer, unfortunately, doesn't make it out of the brewery that day and tickets sell out in minutes. Unless you're there (or have a mule), you won't find it.
The brewpub is open to the public and takeout (up to two cases per person) of their year-round releases is available. The brewpub also occasionally releases bottles that are not considered "rare" but are not distributed (Lord Rear Admiral, In The Name of Suffering, etc.). Expect a wait during evenings and weekends. Food isn't to die for.
On many (but not all) Tuesday afternoons, Three Floyds will release a very limited, small-batch of (usually) barrel-aged beer. These are pricey, and are usually a total crapshoot. Sometimes the BA releases are amazing (Murda'd Out Stout) but other times they make you wonder why they released the beer in the first place (Bully Guppy, Battle Priest).
Notable brews: Dark Lord (Russian Imperial Stout; Very limited release), Zombie Dust (IPA; Year-round), Gumballhead (Hoppy wheat beer; Year-round), Dreadnaught (IIPA; Year-round), Alpha King (Pale Ale; Year-round)
A brewery with Latino roots. Highlight is Missionario, a seasonal wit beer brewed with Muscat grapes and almonds.
Notable brews: 5 Lizard (Wheat beer; Year-round), Missionario (Wheat beer; Spring seasonal)
Avoid for now. Their first two beers (the hoppy wheat and the stout) were not very good. Give them time to work out the kinks.
Their beer is not good.
Seriously, it's not good. Don't buy it.
Not even Secret Stache.
Located in the far-south suburb of Flossmoor. Distributes a small number of beers in 22 oz. bombers, and has a few brewery-only special releases every year. Especially well known for the bourbon-barrel aged barleywines, beginning with the very famous Wooden Hell. Subsequent releases have been solid. The brewpub has a lot of exclusive beers on tap, which range in quality. Food isn't anything to write home about.
Notable Brews: Pullman Brown (Brown ale; Year-round), Annual bourbon barrel aged barleywines (Bourbon-barrel aged barley wines; Annual release, usually around Dark Lord Day)
One of the staples of American craft brew. Founded in 1988, GI has been an innovator in the industry for years. In particular, their Bourbon County Brand Stout is recognized as the first major U.S. beer to use barrel-aging as a secondary process. Years later- after every brewery on the planet has tried their hand at it- it's still the standard barer for BA'd beers, especially stouts. Variations on the beer using coffee, vanilla, and dark fruits have been released in recent years.
In 2011, owners controversially sold the company to InBev (owners of Budweiser and a billion other macro breweries). The decision was a divisive one in the beer scene, though the only changes seen thus far is an increase in production of their rarer, more delicious beer. Their Clybourn brewpub still operates mostly independently of the larger corporation, allowing the experimentation that brought the brewery to the forefront of the American craft beer market to continue.
Notable brews: BCBS (Bourbon barrel-aged Imperial Stout; Special release in fall), Matilda (Belgian Strong Pale Ale; Year-round), IPA (IPA; Year-round), Lolita, Juliet, and Madame Rose (Wild Ales; Limited releases)
After only a few years, HA has established itself as one of the midwest's most consistently good breweries. Daisy Cutter, all day.
Notable Brews: Daisy Cutter (Pale Ale; Year-round), Double Daisy Cutter (IIPA; Special release in January), Big Hugs (Coffee Imperial Stout; Special release in November)
Bucking the craft trend of bigger, badder ales, Metropolitan specializes in lagers. Solid but small lineup that provides a nice alternative to both craft and macro beers.
Notable Brews: Iron Works (Alt; Year-round), Krankshaft (Kolsch; Year-round)
RateBeer's 2012 winner for Best New Brewery in the World. Bottling nearly 40 different beers before the end of their first year, it's only grown since then. At around $10 a bomber, their experimental style comes at a pricey risk, but rarely are the beers completely bad. Their single-hop ("Ninja") series is generally worth trying out.
A bottle shop/growler fill area is in the works, however there is no projected opening date.
Notable Brews: End of Days (Chile Imperial Milk Stout), Citra Ninja (IIPA), Ninja vs. Unicorn (IIPA), Abduction (RIS) and variants on Abduction.
Starting out as a brewpub in the Logan Square neighborhood, Revolution expanded with a production brewery for bottling (bombers) and canning their beers. Expansion also included a barrel-aging program called the Deep Woods Series.
Notable Brews: Eugene (Porter; Year-round), Anti-Hero (IPA; Year-round), Straight Jacket (Bourbon barrel-aged barleywine; Limited release)
One of the older brewers in the area, located in the far-western suburb of Warrenville.
Notable Brews: Domaine Dupage (Biere de Garde; Year-round), Northwind (Imperial stout; Seasonal in winter), Bare Tree (Wheatwine; Special release in January).
Goose Island Clybourn
1800 N Clybourn Ave, Chicago, IL 60614
Clybourn acts essentially as the R&D arm of GI. Tons of one-off and exclusive brews will be available on any given day. They will occasionally do tasting events called Beer Schools that feature individual styles. Previous events have included barrel aged and sour tastings.
Haymarket Pub and Brewery
737 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60661
A very large brewpub (FYI: there's a backroom past the brewing equipment) located in the West Loop neighborhood. Haymarket usually has 10 or so of their own brews on tap, plus a rotating list of guest taps (5-6) that can range from good to amazing. Everything on tap can be had in a taster or larger sizes. Solid food, can get busy at night due to it's location.
Notable Brews: The Defender (Dry Stout), Matthias (IIPA), Indignant (Barrel-aged Imperial Stout), Acrimonious (Imperial Stout), Mother Jones (Dubbel)
Piece Brewery and Pizzeria
1927 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60622
Good pizza, good beer, good luck getting in. Located at the Wicker Park tri-corner, it gets absolutely mobbed on weekends and not much better on weekdays. The food is better than most brewpubs in the area (it might be the best) and the beer is only available here.
Notable Brews: Moose Knuckle (Barleywine), The Weight (APA)
2323 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
Their first location. Like a lot of brewpubs in the city, it can get very crowded at night. It usually has a similar taplist to the brewery's taproom, but with food (very good) available and much easier to reach via public transit.
Bangers & Lace
Located on Division in Wicker Park. Often has a very solid, large, tap list. Food tends to be finger food/small and expensive.
Half Acre Taproom
4257 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60618
Do you want to drink Half Acre? You can do that here. They have a shop right next door for packaged beer (cans and bombers), growlers, and merch.
Far northside Chicago beer institution. Like The Map Room, local opinion can be a little divisive. On one hand, their selection is top-tier across the board, with a Belgian-heavy list that sneaks in harder-to-find things on occasion. On the other, it's gotten a reputation as being snobby towards customers. YMMV. It's pretty small and there will definitely be an issue getting a seat on certain nights (I see a theme going here...).
1938 W. Division, Chicago 60622
For a while, this was a bit of a sleeper in Chicago's beer scene, then they started doing events where they bust out rare kegs and attracted all kinds of beer nerds. Generally a good taplist and they also put on fairly good events. Mostly reasonable prices too. They've recently added cellared bottles, but their selection on those isn't great yet.
They semi-recently opened a new location in Andersonville near Hopleaf as well.
1102 W Webster Ave, Chicago, IL 60614
One of the better beer bars in the city that doesn't get overcrowded often. Tap list is top notch, the bottle list will feature some hard-to-find beers often, and events are usually excellent. They also contract brew with Central Waters, Dark Horse, Against The Grain and others on their own beers. Of note, Barrel-Aged Le Petite Mort (w/CW) and the barrel-aged variants of Kentucky Common (w/ATG) are beyond excellent when available.
1949 N. Hoyne Chicago, IL 60647
For a long time, this was THE beer bar in Chicago. World class taplist and great bottle selection. Now, it's still a great beer bar, but it doesn't quite have the lustre it once did - Local Option is better curated and has food. However, their prices beat the crap out of the 'new kids'.
Also, St. Bernardus 12 on tap year round. This alone is a good reason to go here.
960 W 31st St, Chicago, IL 60608
Best bar on the South Side. Usually a great selection on tap along with a large bottle list. Entering through the take-out section gives it a cool speakeasy kind of feeling. One of the better atmospheres in the area. Take-out usually carries local and national standards along with some harder-to-find bottles.
139 S Marion St, Oak Park, IL 60302
A hidden gem in the near-suburb of Oak Park (Green Line to Harlem/Lake). Technically a restaurant because of Oak Park's liquor laws, Phil's is usually filled with families and groups in for dinner and drinks. The tap list, though, will rival any in the city on any given day. Twenty-five taps dedicated to craft beers, one beer engine, and 80+ bottles. Gets crowded with dinner people on weekend nights. In the summer, there's plenty of sidewalk seating available.
3258 N Sheffield Ave, Chicago, Illinois 60657
Along with Hopleaf, Clark St. Ale House, and The Map Room, Sheffield's carried the beer banner for Chicago for years. Easy to get to via public transit and the best beer option if you're heading to a Cubs game (why you'd ever do that is beyond me, but whatever...). Beer garden is open in the summer. Selection is usually top-tier, including lately putting cellared brews on their bottle list.
SmallBar on Division
501 N Ogden Ave, Chicago, IL 60642
The Spoke is primarily a whiskey bar (and a damn good one, with literally hundreds of varieties available), but it's also quietly one of the best bars in the city for beer, especially stouts/porters and barrel-aged brews. They don't advertise often when they tap something special, so a lot of it is just show-up-and-be-surprised. Ask about their special cellared beers. They haven't handed lists of those in a while but may have stuff available depending on the day. In the past, things like Dark Lord, BCBS variants, etc. have been available.
Stick around Saturday night for Smut & Eggs...
5996 S Archer Ave Chicago, IL 60638
This is the best option for southsiders with cars. Good prices, and they will split any four or six pack in the store into singles. Archer also carries assorted homebrewing supplies, but their selection on those does not compare to a dedicated homebrew store.
The largest liquor store chain in the area. Stores range from medium-sized to practically warehouses. Because of their size, they're usually the first place people call for limited releases. Selection will vary from store to store, but their two flagship stores (South Loop, Marcey St.) have huge beer departments. South Loop has a tap room, often featuring high-end or rare beers. Marcey St. (often referred to as Vav's for the head of the beer department) is adjacent to GI's Clyburn Brewpub and one of GI's biggest single accounts in the world.
South Loop: 1132 South Jefferson Street, Chicago, IL 60607
Marcey St.: 1720 N Marcey St, Chicago, IL
4109 N Lincoln Avenue Chicago, IL 60618
Excellent neighbourhood shop with fair prices. Awesome mixed-six selection. If you don't see it in the mixed-six section, ask: In most cases, they will split up any four or six pack in the store!
3185 N. Elston Ave Chicago, IL 60618
Gaining a rep as one of the best shops in the country and an absolute must stop. Prices are very good, and bottles are almost always open for tasting. Freshness dating to the best of ability prominently featured on every package, which is very unique to beer stores in Chicago. Owner/operator Chris is totally nice and incredibly knowledgeable.
2156 W Addison St, Chicago, IL 60618
West Lakeview is small but world-class shop on the north side of the city. Also the only shop in Chicago that carries Jester King and one of the few in the midwest.
It's the Chicago location for Cantillon's annual Zwanse Day. That's all you really need to know.
The Chicagoland region (Illinois) has access to the following breweries' delicious (sometimes) beers:
Boston Beer Co. (Sam Adams)
FiftyFifty (Eclipse only?)
Jester King (very limited; Maybe at West Lakeview only...)
Left Coast Brewery
Sand Creek (Lilja's)
Shelton Brothers (importers)
Where can I get Bourbon County <and variants>?
Are you in Chicago on Black Friday? No? Good fucking luck. Variants are usually bought up in a day. Regular can be found occasionally afterwards, but usually at a markup.
Where can I get Zombie Dust <or other 3 Floyds>?
The only place you can reliably get 3 Floyds beers is at the brewery. Even then, the brewery will not necessarily have everything, especially Zombie Dust. 6 packs are around $11-$12, bombers about the same. Due to demand, some stores will charge more for Zombie Dust. It's been spotted as high as $16/6!
Generally, the year-round bombers (Arctic Panzer Wolf, Dreadnaught) are much easier to find than the 6 packs, however given the lack of freshness dating, your best bet is buying these from the brewery.
Sometimes, stores (especially some Binnys stores) will not put Three Floyds on the shelf. Ask someone about it before you walk away empty handed.
What are the liquor laws in Chicago?
Most establishments are allowed to sell alcohol until 2am. Some bars have special licenses that allow them to serve until 4am.
Can buy beer, wine, or liquor pretty much anywhere (grocery stores, gas stations, etc.). No off-premise sales before 11am on Sundays. This may apply to on-premise sales too, however some restaurants will serve before 11 on Sunday regardless of the law.