Explore Chicago Beer!

Trip 2:  Beer Along the Blue Line

Last week, we rocked the Red Line in search of craft beer and this week we are going along the O’Hare branch of the Blue Line. What’s great about the Blue Line is that there are many spots, including three breweries (well, actually four), which are worth exploring. But what’s fantastic about this plan is that you can also use it as a step-off-the-plane/Welcome-to-Chicago pub crawl, or as a last-hurrah/so-long-Chicago-thanks-for-everything expedition on the way to the airport. (I have lugged a suitcase to more than one of these establishments and I have never had a problem. Piece will even let you leave your bags at the host stand!) Whether you do either of those options, or you just decide to explore the west-north side of Chicago on a relaxing, sunny afternoon, you are in for a treat.

As with the previous post, this trip will start in the Loop, this time at the Clark and Lake stop. Hop on the L heading towards O’Hare and take it one stop to Grand. Exit the station and then either take the Halsted bus south to Randolph, or just do the 15 minute walk, until you reach Haymarket Pub & Brewery. Master of Fermentation, Pete Crowley, is brewing up some fantastic Belgian-style beers; if his Angry Birds is on tap, make it a priority to try that one. While there is always five to nine housemade beers on tap, the guest draft list is extensive and Pete frequently hosts other breweries to come in and showcase their wares.

Don’t drink too much; there are many more stops on this trip! Walk/take the bus back to the Blue Line and travel two stops northwest until you reach Division. Exit the L station and walk a quarter of a mile west on Division St. until you get to Bangers and Lace. This sausage-and-beer hot spot has garnered quite the reputation for outstanding food (I love the corn nuts and the truffle grilled cheese) and rare beer. I was there the other night and sampled some Jolly Pumpkin hibiscus saison and a Mikkeller almond cherry beer that was meant to pay homage to a Danish dessert. Delicious! If you feel like walking a bit, head north on Division and you will pass many beer bars such as Jerry’s Sandwiches and Moonshine, which also brews some house beers!

Make sure you just get snacks at Bangers, Jerry’s, and Moonshine because you are going to want to get a pizza at this next establishment. Get back on the O’Hare Blue Line and go one stop until you hit Damen. Exit the station and walk east on North Avenue about a quarter mile until you reach Piece Pizzeria and Brewery. They just celebrated their 10 year anniversary and there is good reason for their longevity: they are awesome. The pizza is New Haven, Connecticut style and is my favorite pizza in the city of Chicago. (I know it is sacrilege, but I am not a fan of deep dish and Piece’s pies have a thin crust that is still amply chewy, and the sauce is delish.) The housemade beers run the gamut from the traditional English Worryin’ Ale to Camel Toe, an Egyptian Pale Ale. If they have the Top Heavy Hefeweizen or Dark and Curvy Dunkelweizen, be sure to grab one of those as they are phenomenal representations of their respective beer styles but are vastly popular and run out rather quickly.

Now this next place is going to require a bit of a walk but it is well worth it. Hop back on the Blue Line heading towards O’Hare and go one stop to Western. Exit the station and walk one block north on Western until you reach Armitage. Walk about four blocks east on Armitage until you reach Chicago’s beer Mecca: The Map Room. This is an iconic spot that is frequently voted as one of the country’s top beer bars. Their taps are frequently changing and there are always new and interesting beers on tap. And yet they always have one or two standards for those that are not as experienced in our favorite fermented beverage.

Got a good beer buzz going? Good! But we still have a few places to go, including my favorite place in the whole wide world: Revolution Brewing. Walk back to the Western stop on the Blue Line and head northwest one stop to California. Exit the station and walk north on California Ave and cross Milwaukee Avenue. Walk northwest on Milwaukee until you reach Revolution. This place is fantastic: the food is top notch (try the house made pretzel) and beer is tasty. They release new beers two or three times a month, many of which are one offs. I am a huge fan of their Anti-Hero IPA; the World Beer Cup gold medal winner Cross of Gold; their Eugene porter; and the Double Fist, an imperial version of the Iron Fist Pale Ale. They usually have one or two barrel-aged beers on tap that are always a treat so be sure to save room for dessert!

If you aren’t too sick of Rev’s beer (how could you be?), hop back on the O’Hare Blue Line and travel a few stops until you reach Belmont. Walk east on Belmont Ave until you are right under the overpass for 90-94. Take a left on Kedzie and there, my friends, is the new Revolution production brewery. They have a tap room where you can order any of their flagship beers and see the brewing process occur around you.

If you are on your way back home, wherever that may be, just hop back on the O’Hare Blue Line and take it to the very last stop; you will be at the O’Hare Airport. And you should have a sufficient beer buzz going so you will have no trouble sleeping throughout your whole flight! If this is not the end of your trip, then get on the Blue Line headed back to Forest Park/The Loop and call it a day. Or rest up for an hour and then venture out on my Red Line beer tour I posted last week! Cheers!

Explore Chicago Beer: Rockin’ the Red Line

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!

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