The 15 Most Essential Craft Breweries in Chicago
From craft beer giants to baby breweries just hitting the scene.
Chicago’s status as a beer town is known nationwide, and it’s for good reason. Not only does our selection of cheapo Midwestern mass-market domestics like Old Style, Hamm’s, and Schlitz put the rest of the country to shame, but we also boast over a hundred breweries ranging from the tiniest nanobreweries to gargantuan, corporate productions. If you’re wondering where to start, don’t worry—we’ve got your back. Here are our favorite sud-slingers in the second city.
After Half Acre closed its Lincoln location in March 2020, it meant there were only three breweries within walking distance in North Center. Rejoice! Hop Butcher For The World arrived in its place last November, very quickly building a reputation as the specific kind of beer sickos this city loves. The beers here are incredibly hoppy, but there’s really no better place to go in the city for a little bit of bitter floral chaos in the suds.
Must-try beer: The Plush Berry fruited IPA is perfect for warm-weather drinking. Tasting like a combination of marionberries and tangerines, the addition of fruit makes an already special IPA even more so.
A Malt Row favorite, Begyle Brewing attracts Chicagoans with its finely considered list of brews that somehow—despite all featuring different styles of brewing, flavors, and ingredients—all manage to taste like the first 15 minutes of sunset on a 75-degree day. Pop in for a fresh draft, or take your suds outside to the spacious patio and enjoy the greenery.
Must-try beer: There’s nothing on the menu that’s not worth tasting, but if it’s your first time and you’re not ordering at least two pints of Begyle Blonde, you’re making a mistake. Even for those used to fancy-pants, Belgian-style blonde ales, this decidedly Midwestern blonde still stuns with a clean, balanced flavor and a slightly dry finish. It’s brewed with local honey.
Though Alarmist strays awfully close to suburban territory, it’s on this list for good reason. Not only does the taproom serve wine and cocktails, but live music makes it even more fun. To top it off, a large grassy outdoor courtyard, perfect for sipping in the sun, opens for the season in May. Alarmist features a wonderfully eclectic lineup of beers, from the simple pleasures of the Crispy Boy pilsner to the flavor bomb of the dry-hopped, low bitterness Pantsless pale ale.
Must-try beer:Le Jus, Alarmist’s hazy IPA, won the first ever gold medal from the Great American Beer Festival in the Hazy/Juicy IPA category for good reason. Incredibly balanced, blending the bitter and citrusy flavors of citra and mosaic hops with a touch of lactose for body and sweetness, Alarmist’s own website describes Le Jus as “overrated.” We respectfully disagree.
Old Irving Park
Eris Brewery and Ciderhouse takes its name from the Greek goddess of mayhem, known for sowing chaos by throwing golden apples into the center of parties. The brewery follows suit, itself a golden apple (with some of the best ciders available) dropped into Chicago’s crowded brewery market. A tantalizing selection of 10 ciders on tap includes a range of flavors like pear, baked apple, cherry, melon, and blueberries. Eris’s food menu satisfies a range of diets, with plenty of vegan and gluten-free options alongside burgers, steak frites, and shrimp and grits for those with a broader range. Enjoy it in the beautiful dining room with ceilings that soar 20 feet high or on the expansive, heated patio that opened for the season in mid-April.
Must-try cider: In collaboration with Sleeping Village and the Chicago Independent Venue League, Eris has created a wonderful cherry cider with soft notes of vanilla.
Though smaller than some of the other breweries on this list, Hopewell Brewing Co. consistently punches way, way above its weight. You can taste the dedication to top-knotch products, from the sticky, citrusy, and piney Going Places IPA to the, frankly, adorable Lil Buddy lager served in half-size cans. Don’t overlook the Neon series of sour ales fermented with fruit, giving them a bright hue.
Must-try beer: Always go for the Arrow Of Time in the taproom or at the local grocery. Hopewell ages these limited-run wild ales in its best oak barrels, and brews them specifically to offer a snapshot of the quality of the wood at that specific moment in time. Grab two: Drink the first, and then save the other in a cool dark place until the next release to track how the flavors have changed.
Dovetail founders Bill Wesselink and Hagen Dost met at beer school in Munich, where they learned how to implement Old World brewing techniques including open fermentation modeled after the traditions of continental Europe. In other words—their words—they “brew like monks.” Cool without trying too hard, Dovetail’s laid-back North Center digs boast a biergarten and sidewalk patio welcoming both dogs and BYO-food (although Dovetail does sell snacks). Merging newfangled styles with European standards has proven to be a winning formula for this on-the-rise team.
Must-try beer: Like most Dovetail brews, the flagship Helles makes the most of its easy-drinking capabilities. The delicate, balanced lager is supposedly brewed especially for baseball season and—whether or not that’s true—it sure beats the hell out of a $24 Budweiser at the stadium.
Fans of efficiency will love this affable brewery/distillery combo located on (you guessed it) Maplewood Avenue near the Regal City North IMAX. Its brews spark joy, with a lineup spanning Sidewalk Surfer double IPA and Pulaski Pils Chicago-style pilsner. Grab a brew or up your cocktail game with a refreshing It’s Nececelery made with Maplewood Brewer's Gin; celery, pineapple, and lime juices; and a splash of simple syrup. Bring your drink out to the Maplewood Lounge outdoor patio to kick back with suds and a selection of the city’s best frozen pizzas. It’s pretty much a required post-movie experience at this point.
Must-try beer: Maplewood is best known for the delightful Son Of Juice IPA, but go a little bit off the beaten path and enjoy Maplewood’s Fat Pug oatmeal milk stout. This hearty stout packs in the flavor with comforting notes of coffee and cocoa mixed with a roasted grain aroma that is mellow and complex.
Back of the Yards
Housed in The Plant, a net-zero emissions energy business incubator in Back of the Yards, this small-but-mighty operation is known for its environmentally responsible brewing techniques paired with what might be the cutest can designs and drink names in existence. Le Tub is by far its most well-known export, but it also brews up an array of offerings from large-format ales to kombuchas. With a focus on barrel-aged brews and a penchant for experimentation, you might just walk out with a favorite new beer.
Must-try beer: One can’t sample Whiner without a dive into its flagship Le Tub wild farmhouse ale, a good-time-in-a-can offering notes of white grape and tart lemon. It’s so, so, so good.
Those working up a thirst hiking the 606 won’t have to travel far for a fine bit of refreshment. Ditch the Gatorade and head directly across the street from the trail (near the Spaulding exit) to find yourself in Humboldt Park’s very first brewery, housed within the Kimball Arts Center. The brewery, cocktail bar, and Nordic-themed kitchen provide an artsy hangout in which to familiarize yourself with food-friendly beers, all named for cute little anthropomorphic characters—like the Jim Jim Summerset, a malty lager that will remind you of your favorite breakfast cereals.
Add in Scandinavian-style Smørrebrød (try Spambrod with fried Spam, gochujang mayo, poached egg, scallion and American cheese, all on Hawaiian Bread) alongside cocktails like the Nysnö (mezcal, lemon, cream of coconut, rosemary simple syrup, chicory and pecan bitters), and you’ve got a party on your hands.
Must-try beer: Get a taste of what this creative incubator is all about with a pint of Chauncey Delaware, a spicy, lemony, and peppery rye saison guaranteed to quench your thirst on a hot day—or on any day.
Founded in 2006, well before the current craft beer craze took hold, Half Acre is one of the OGs of the Chicago brewing scene and is regarded by many as the finest in the city. Recently, the brewery moved from its founding location on Lincoln Avenue to a massive, 60,000-square-foot Balmoral facility, which is a testament to Half Acre’s increasing popularity and thirst for experimentation. Daisy Cutter (one of five year-round ales) is the beer that put Half Acre on the map, and it’s a big part of why most people know Half Acre for being one of the city’s most unabashedly hop-forward breweries. That said, don’t discount its pilsners and lagers. You might be there to try Daisy Cutter (or Double Daisy Cutter, if you’re lucky), but you’ll be going home with a sixer of the Pony pilsner as well.
Must-try beer: We can say all we want about how great Pony, Bodem, Fader, and the rest of Half Acre’s lineup is, but Daisy Cutter remains the must-try offering. With touches of blended pine, citrus, papaya, and mango, the deliciously dank and dry brew skyrocketed Half Acre from a literal garage to beer superstardom for good reason. It’s basically summer patio drinking in a can.
A haven for German-style beers and lagers since 2009, Metropolitan might not have the name recognition of, say, Revolution Brewing, but it continues to reign as one of the most respected makers in Chicago. While many contemporary breweries fall all over themselves trying to get your attention with the weirdest or most hop-forward beers they can dream up, Metro keeps things simple with flat-out good beer that puts drinkability front and center. Better yet, its Rockwell on the River Tap Room is truly one of the best taprooms in the city thanks to its homey atmosphere spanning reclaimed wood furnishings and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Chicago River.
Must-try beer: Krankshaft, its flagship Kolsch, is brewed in homage to Cologne, Germany, featuring a burst of lemony aroma and a dry, clean finish characterized by Metro’s trademark smoothness.
Founded as a brewpub in 2010 by former Goose Island employee and Handlebar founder Josh Deth, Revolution has spearheaded the local craft revolution and become the largest independently owned brewer in Illinois. Picking up the mantle left by Goose following its sale to InBev, Rev’s massive 90,000-square-foot Kedzie facility houses a German beer hall-style taproom that starred in the 2013 film Drinking Buddies. Famous for its aggressive flavor profiles and hop-heavy creations, Rev is known for year-round numbers like Anti-Hero and Fist City, but the popular seasonals and excellent Deep Wood series ales showcase its bottomless talent pool.
Must-try beer: For something a little different, dig into the Deep Wood series with an award-winning Deth’s Tar barrel-aged imperial oatmeal stout brewed with English specialty malts to create a rich, chocolaty profile with notes of vanilla, toasted coconut, and caramel candy.
Once a hidden gem frequented by Bridgeport beer nerds, Marz is now widely regarded as one of Chicago’s top purveyors thanks to endless word-of-mouth buzz and a beautiful taproom serving as an essential beer pilgrimage site. Founded by the Marszewski family (owners of Maria’s Packaged Goods) and known for Chicago-centric offerings like The Machine and Bubbly Creek, Marz has amped up its production to feature offbeat offerings like the Catch 22 milkshake IPA and the Bubble Gumz hazy pale ale made with bubblegum tea. Sip Marz’s latest creation in its art-heavy South Side space while discussing the latest Pitchfork review with a crowd of boho beer lovers, homebrewers, neighborhood locals, and everyone in between. And stop by the new Bucktown nano-brewery, Life On Marz Community Club, for even more heady action.
Must-try beer: Marz’s flagship Jungle Boogie is an unlikely success story. The American wheat ale blends Mosaic hops with fruity rooibos tea to produce a complex crusher that’s just the right amount of quirk without verging on off-putting.
Logan Square/Lincoln Park
Known for inventive approaches and eccentric flavor combinations, Off Color continues to slay thanks to the relentless pursuit of excellence from its founders, ex-Goose Island barrel man John Laffler and Dave Bleitner, formerly of Warrenville’s Two Brothers. While the brewery has only been around since 2013, it joined the big leagues with its Lincoln Park taproom, The Mousetrap. Stop by to have your mind blown by some of their latest and greatest small-batch specials.
Must-try beer: Brewed with grain and sugar to create a hazy, golden body, the ever-popular Apex Predator Farmhouse Ale pairs superior quaffability with a dry finish and fruity bite. What’s not to love?
This “little brewery that could” has only been on the scene for a few short years, but it’s already earned a dedicated local fan base in addition to growing national attention. Opening in the West Loop in 2017 and taking home the prize for “Very Small Brewing Company of the Year” at the Great American Beer Festival that same year, On Tour is known for jam band-inspired releases like Typical Daydream Saison and Contigo Cherry Lager. Grab one to enjoy in its sunny 1,500-square-foot taproom before hitting up the Phish show with a nice buzz.
Must-try beer: On Tour’s Loose With The Truth, an eminently crushable American pale ale, features notes of strawberry, melon, and citrus, brewed with centennial hops for a nice floral finish. Fans of Daisy Cutter will love this one.