I have been contacted from time to time by out-of-towners who want to know my must-visit breweries/beer bars where they can grab a taste of Chicago craft beer. So, I decided to put together a series of articles for individuals to get information prior to setting off on beery adventures around the Second City. My rules for choosing places are pretty basic: they must be easily accessible by public transportation, and they must have an extensive, unique list of Chicago craft beer. This is by no means an exhaustive list as more places are opening up all of the time, and I tend to stick to my homebase of Bucktown. But that is where you come in! Know of a great place I left off of this list? Leave a comment! Cheers!
Trip 1: Rockin’ the Red Line
This trip starts in the north Loop at the Lake Red Line stop. Take the L one stop north until you reach Grand. As you emerge from underground, you will literally be steps away from the entrance of Rock Bottom Chicago. Yes, Rock Bottom is a chain but the beers are all brewed on site, and Brewmaster Chris Rafferty takes creative license with all of the seasonal and one-off offerings. Also, Pete Crowley, Master of Fermentation at Haymarket Pub and Brewery, used to be the Brewmaster at this Rock Bottom. I think he’s done OK for himself. Grab a pint of one of the seasonals, or toss back one of their tried and true regular offerings. They also usually have something interesting on cask, so be sure to ask what is currently available.
Next, take the Red Line north one stop to Chicago. Walk south on Wabash until you hit Superior and you see Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap beckoning you to come inside. I have become familiar with this place over the last few months and they have some truly exceptional (and rare) beers on tap. And they have amazing wings. Beer and wings? You’re welcome.
After you’ve gorged yourself with wings and beer, you could probably use a bit of a walk. Head back to Chicago Avenue and walk west. After about half a mile, you will reach the Brown Line L tracks and directly underneath them is Farmhouse, a quaint, farm-to-table restaurant that has an amazing local beer selection. You gotta love a place that lists beer from outside the Midwest as “imported.”
Clark Street Ale House is pretty close so you might as well stop there for a pint on your way back to the Red Line. It is located on, you guessed it, Clark Street and it has a great selection of craft and local beers. The owner used to work with Two Brothers so they get a nice selection from that suburban Chicago brewery.
Up for one more stop? Awesome! You’re my kind of people! Walk east on Chicago Avenue to the Red Line stop and take the L north two stops until you reach North/Clybourn. Head northwest on Clybourn until you reach one of the first brewpubs in Chicago, Goose Island. Grab a pint of one of Goose Island’s flagship offerings such as Honkers or 312, or try something new. New beers are released every Thursday so there is always something interesting on tap.
At this point, you are probably ready to call it a day (or night) and head back to the hotel. Not so fast. Binny’s Beverage Depot is right across the street and has an insane selection of craft beer thanks to Adam Vavrick, the Lincoln Park location’s Beer Manager. Pick up a bottle or two of one of Pipeworks’s new brews or a six-pack for Metropolitan Brewing’s Iron Works Alt. Then walk back to the Red Line and head south (towards Dan Ryan-95th) and get off at the stop closest to your hotel.
I hope this has helped out-of-towners get acclimated with a portion of the Chicago craft beer scene. I know there are many great places on the northern tier of the Red Line that I have left out; they will have to wait for another post. I hope to have a new post up each week outlining a new beer-focused agenda. Tune in next week for my picks along the Blue Line!