Chicago's beer enthusiasts have an embarrassment of riches these days, what with more than 100 breweries in the metro area, and nearly half of them arriving on the scene in the last two or three years. The beauty of this rapid growth lies in the variety of breweries, both in brewing style and in an overall business philosophy. These 15 up-and-coming breweries that have recently opened serve to provide a glimpse into Chicagoland's unique beer-making techniques and attitudes. Cheers to all the new breweries -- our palettes thank you.
Located in a three-floor, 22,000sqft, 88-year-old industrial building in Ravenswood, Dovetail concentrates on German and Central European brewing. Dovetail Brewery owners and master brewers Hagen Dost and Bill Wesselink are unafraid to tackle any brewing style or method, including open-air fermentation. The portfolio consists of lagers, pilsners, hefeweizens, Franconian-style Rauchbier, and even a Polish Grodziskie. Moreover, they’ll soon offer traditional Belgian-style Lambic brewing, a unique form of sour beer. An experienced beer aficionado can appreciate the nuances, but the beauty of the beer at Dovetail involves its simplicity -- it tastes great, and it’s easy to drink.
Motor Row Brewing not only reclaimed an old building, but the brewery also helped invigorate the iconic Motor Row district of Chicago. In fact, Mayor Rahm Emanuel cut the ribbon during the brewery’s opening. Once a bastion of automobiles, the district transitioned into a thriving African-American neighborhood that was once the home of the highly influential Chicago Defender and a home to many famous Chicago blues venues and musicians. Motor Row Brewing celebrates the entire spectrum of Chicago history with its German brewing that evolved in Chicago during the Industrial Revolution, as well as regularly hosting live Blues bands. The beer is fantastic, and the brewery has put energy into a neighborhood once on the brink of extinction in the late 20th century.
Located in the historical “Smokey Row” district of Lemont, a place that grew up almost simultaneously with Chicago, Pollyanna has enjoyed rapid success. In a mere two years, Pollyanna is found already at Cellular Field, the production has expanded mightily, and the brewery won a 2016 Great American Beer Festival Bronze Medal for its Oktoberfest/Marzen. None of the success is surprising when you consider Pollyanna Brewmaster Brian Pawola spent six months in Munich, Germany, where he graduated as the salutatorian of Siebel Institute of Technology’s Master Brewer program. Pollyanna offers more than just German bier, though; plenty of ales and various barrel-aging emerge from its brewhouse, too. More than that, Pollyanna offers a gorgeous taproom, and with its location right next to the river, provides patrons with one of the more spectacular patio views found in the metro area.
Speaking of history, Noon Whistle speaks to the birth of American beer culture, notably in Chicago. The massive European immigration during the 19th century provided Chicago with a population boom, much of which were wage earners. When the noon whistle rang, those European immigrants longed for traditional, low ABV (alcohol by volume) beer -- Americans transition from ales to lagers was underway. Noon Whistle pays homage to that concept, albeit with both low ABV lagers and ales. However, Noon Whistle also provides beer that enjoys a bit more muscle with its “big beer” series. And, like many Chicago-area breweries, barrel-aging is prominent, including cabernet-barrel-aged beer.
Whiner Beer Co. also embraces history, as well as the art of barrel-aging beer. Whiner is located near Chicago’s historic Back of the Yards neighborhood, known for the large meat-packing area that turned Chicago into the “hog butcher for the world.” Older than that tradition is the barrel-aged brewing techniques of Belgium and France that involve things such as wild yeast, and souring techniques. But, it’s not all traditional at Whiner. Brian Taylor and Ria Neri also understand modern needs, such as running a brewery that is a net-zero energy business, aiming to promote environmentally responsible brewing. The result is beer you can feel good about drinking, and beer that makes you feel good because it is so good.
Environmentally conscious brewing and distilling continue to gain immense popularity, and Hardware personifies that movement. Hardware is a completely self-sustaining establishment that is capitalizing on an entire wave of craft-mania. In addition to the beer Hardware brews, one will find 350 whiskeys with which to choose, elevated mixology, and a full list of organic, biodynamic and sustainable wines. Meanwhile, the food is all grown and prepared on-site; there is no waste. Indeed, Hardware operates a 1.5-acre hop farm, a greenhouse, a mini-orchard for fruits and nuts, a garden, and reuses water to negate any waste, including turning roof water into garden hydration.
It is hard to imagine that craft breweries of the last few years can be differentiated from the breweries the first forged a craft-beer revolution twenty years ago. But, the craft-beer world is old enough to account for changes found within the industry, as well as its effect on the overall imbibe culture. Arrowhead resembles that change. The daily beer menu includes an array of beer once considered innovative, such as rye, wheat, a session honeydew-IPA, Gose, Belgian Tripel, cream ales, and of course barrel-aged beer. Arrowhead is also a brewpub, serving food with its beer, a concept growing in popularity. Despite evidence of change, a recent homebrewing meeting hosted by Arrowhead confirms that the core of what makes craft beer attractive remains stable: the whole of the industry is greater than the sum of its parts.
Side Lot Brewery is another place that celebrates good food, but the brewery also offers coffee, boutique wine, and of course beer. Side Lot prides itself on being a multi-faceted establishment that serves many needs -- a one-stop shop. With the addition of small plates that take advantage of locally sourced produce, such as Charcuterie Board and candied bacon, Side Lot is truly a “hangout place,” and the cozy atmosphere bolsters that status. But, don’t forget the beer. One can enjoy out of the box beers, such as Snake in the Grass Raspberry Double IPA and Coq En Blanc Session Bière de Brut or partake in standards, such as pilsners, IPAs, Belgian Wits, and Irish red ales. Sit on a long, padded, wooden bench, use a throw blanket, enjoy a drink, and hang out; that’s Side Lot.
Food is one thing, but how about dinner and a show? The first brewpub in Oak Park since Prohibition also resides next to Hamburger Mary’s show lounge, which features nightly entertainment such as “Dining With the Divas” and weekly drag shows. Sure, it’s unlikely Frank Lloyd Wright witnessed many shows like that, but Oak Park Brewing doesn’t let its patrons forget the city’s most famous citizen with beers such as Frank Lloyd Rye. Although the two places are intrinsically independent, they work together harmoniously, which provides for a unique craft beer, burger, and entertainment experience.
Elk Grove Village
With names like “Smells like Bean Spirit,” “S’more Cowbell,” and “Travelin’ Man,” it’s easy to see the connection between music and beer at Mikerphone. Indeed, the website describes the beer list as a “set list.” Mikerphone already possesses the RateBeer Best New Brewery of Illinois in 2015, as well as a few competition awards, so you know the beer is top notch. But, when its new taproom opens soon in Elk Grove, Mikerphone will be able it to enhance the musical aspect of this brewery.
Speaking of music, it’s hard to miss the music theme of this fun place in Chicago’s Southwest suburbs. Metal Monkey may seem like an “in your face” establishment, but don’t expect to walk into a loud taproom with ear-deafening music. The owners like heavy metal, but they aren’t going to beat you over the head with it. Two decades of brewing experience means the staff at Metal Monkey are not your average monkeys. Metal Monkey Brewing loves all things craft, often featuring local artists, musician, and of course -- typical of craft beer these days -- food trucks. And don’t miss the pop-tv-cultural references at Metal Monkey: Monkey Knife Fight American pale ale, These Pretzels Are Making Me Thirsty porter, and Bikini Bottom Pineapple gose.
If music isn’t your thing, maybe slide over to Darien and enjoy a little literature-inspired brewery. Of course, rather than reading, the “chapter series” at Miskatonic, you drink each chapter as it is “written.” The owners’ combined resume includes lengthy experiences at Two Brothers, Goose Island, and Gordon Biersch, thus brewing styles of all types fill Miskatonic’s menu. Like the beer served at Miskatonic, the story of Miskatonic Brewing taproom involves many twists and turns. While there, one can sit in a traditional taproom with shiny vats in plain view, the English Pub room, or sit outside on the patio.
Alter represents a new style of craft breweries. Instead of a brewer just deciding to take his or her home brewing to the next level, a businessman looked to open a brewery and found the brewer that would be perfect for that vision. In other words, craft is such a good idea nowadays, that even non-traditional beer geeks are deciding it’s worth the investment. For you the drinker, it’s worth investing your time and energy, too -- the beer is delicious. Typical of many breweries where a long-time homebrewer is in charge, one can expect variety and an array of new beers to try. Yes, you’ll get the comforting standards, but Alter is the perfect place to order something familiar while also expanding your horizons. As the staff at Alter notes, “Alter” your mind!
After numerous years homebrewing, Dan Schedler decided to put away the coat and tie and concentrate his efforts on professional brewing. However, being a sound businessman, he went out and found a seasoned professional brewer... and he found a good one. With 20 years of experience, and numerous Great American Beer Fest and World Cup awards, Head Brewer Joe Cuozzo is the perfect compliment to Schedler’s homebrewing experience and vision. Beer from Around the Bend includes brown ale with cocoa nibs, a pale ale with galangal, and a double IPA with Seville oranges among other innovative beers arising from Around the Bend fermentors. Today, those fermentors are located in the building owned by fellow brewer Ale Syndicate, but an Around the Bend Taproom is in the plans (investments are being made).
From the outside, the Hopewell Brewing Co. taproom reminds one of a 19th-century dry goods storefront. Inside, there’s a large sign that reminds one of a 1950s diner, yet the seating and decor hint at a modern cafe or a sunroom. They also host monthly bocce ball. The eclectic mix of decor and activities is fun, to be sure, but what brings people back is the excellent beer. Hopewell is run by three close friends, who once camped their way from brewery to brewery. That experience and a ton of passion result in beers that are far from boring. For example, try the Off-Black Pils, which is described with “subtle roasty astringency of the dark malts interacts in concert with the Styrian Golding hops to give a refreshingly new palate to our take on a pilsner.”
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1. Dovetail Brewing1800 W Belle Plaine Ave, Chicago
2. Motor Row Brewing2337 S Michigan Ave, Chicago
3. Pollyanna Brewing Company431 Talcott Ave, Lemont
4. Noon Whistle Brewing800 E Roosevelt Rd,Unit C, Lombard
5. Hardware2000 W. Orchard RD N. Aurora, North Aurora
6. Arrowhead Ales Brewing Company2141 Calistoga Dr, New Lenox
7. Side Lot Brewery110 Slocum Lake Rd, Wauconda
8. Oak Park Brewing Co.155 S Oak Park Ave, Oak Park
9. Mikerphone Brewing107 Garlisch Dr, Elk Grove Village
10. Metal Monkey Brewing515 Anderson Dr #900, Romeoville
11. Miskatonic Brewing Company, Darien
12. Alter Brewing Company2300 Wisconsin Ave #213, Downers Grove
13. Hopewell Brewing Company2760 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago
Situated in a three-floor, 22,000 square-foot industrial building built in 1928 in Ravenswood, Dovetail concentrates on German and Central European brews, featuring a lineup of lagers, pilsners, hefeweizens, a Franconian-style Rauchbier, and a Polish Grodziskie. The pair behind this laid-back, bare-bones taproom are deeply invested in their craft, using creative techniques like open-air fermentation and traditional Belgian-style Lambic brewing (a unique form of sour beer). It's a spot for everyone from beer geeks to those looking for an easy pint to sip.
Motor Row Brewing is a must-visit for beer lovers.
Situated in the historical “Smokey Row” district of Lemont, Pollyanna is at the helm of a brewmaster who graduated salutatorian at the Siebel Institute of Technology’s Master Brewer Program in Munich, which means you're in for the highest quality German beer at this bright, industrial-chic taproom. There are also plenty of ales, plus barrel-aged beers from its brewhouse. Once you've made your pick, head out to the patio for a side of stunning river views.
With its name derived from a Wisconsin tradition to crack a beer when the town whistle went off at noon, this Chicago brewery is an operation we can get behind. Because of this inspiration, the brewery focuses on session brews that have a low ABV, like the year-round The Parker (dry, hop-forward witbier) and the dangerously drinkable Lilacia (a smooth, refreshing saison with citrus notes and a bit of a bite). They also brew barrel-aged beers, like Da Percolator (a malty Scotch ale brewed with actual coffee), that are much higher in ABV. Beat the buzz with food from rotating local food trucks, and yes, your pooch is welcome at this laid-back, cozy taproom.
Located on a 1.5-acre hop farm complete with greenhouse and mini-orchard in North Aurora, Hardware is a self-sustaining taproom that focuses on environmentally conscious brewing and distilling, offering beers that you'll feel good drinking, plus organic wines and 350 whiskeys. It cooks up refined small plates on-site, too, which range from charcuterie to a Wagyu hanger steak. They're served inside Hardware's contemporary, wood-laden dining room and on its open-air patio with twinkle lights.
Arrowhead isn’t your average craft brewery in that they don’t just stick to the pale ales and wheat beers. While founder and brewmaster, Mike Bacon, brews these varieties like the dry hopped, pleasantly malty Entry Level Snob IPA and the hoppy, citrusy Weed Wacker wheat ale, he focuses on tailoring his own tried and true recipes. We like the german-style sour wheat, Gose to Mexico and All I got Was This Lousy T-Shirt, for its notes of coriander and prickly pair and the finicky American stout, The Stubby Fiddler, for its chocolate-forward hopped, roasted flavor. Have a seat in their kitsch-free taproom and enjoy a menu just as American as the craft brewing tradition; think snacks, burgers, and chicken and waffles.
A brewery of all trades, Side Lot in Wauconda offers snacks, coffee, boutique wine, and high-quality IPAs, ales, and pilsners. You can chill on comfy couches or padded wooden benches inside the homey space, which are full of cozy patterned pillows and blankets, while you nosh on small plates like a charcuterie board or candied bacon, and sip on box beers, such as Snake In The Grass Raspberry Double IPA and Coq En Blanc Session Bière de Brut.
Oak Park Brewing is the first brewpub in Oak Park since before the days of Prohibition. Located inside a former veteran’s clinic, Oak Park Brewing tips its hat to Chicago history with an entire room devoted to Ernest Hemingway, a beer called the Frank Lloyd Rye IPA, and reclaimed wood and bricks throughout. You won’t find the need for a food truck or local restaurant delivery at this brewery; Oak Park is connected to Hamburger Mary’s, an entertainment destination with a titillating combination of fried fare and karaoke drag shows.
This is one of our favorite new breweries in the Chicago area.
If you like to pair your beer with heavy metal music, Romeoville’s Metal Monkey Brewing is for you. With arguably scary tunes playing all day long and colorful concert tour posters almost everywhere you turn, Metal Monkey’s atmosphere might seem, to put it lightly, niche. But the beers are quirky in name, unique in flavor, and made weekly in small batches (favorites include the Fonkey Mucker, Bikini Bottom, and Simian Fever), so we give a tipsy thumbs up. End the day right with bites from a local food truck standing proud and tall outside.
Tucked away off a winding road near Interstate 55, Darien’s Miskatonic Brewing Company lives up to its namesake of H.P. Lovecraft’s Miskatonic University. The microbrewery’s interior is spacious and offers rooms filled with bookcases and board games, meaning you will likely make your own adventure between growler pours. The outer taproom’s bar gives you a glimpse into the brewhouse and cellar, while the inner taproom is climate-controlled and is perhaps the more comfortable place to be in the winter and summer. If you get hungry, a brewer will provide you with info about local restaurant delivery.
Alter Brewing Company in Downers Grove is a large, modern industrial brewery and taproom designed to welcome as many beer-lovers as possible. With a spacious seating area including pipe-legged wooden tables flanked by bright orange chairs, take a seat and enjoy Alter’s beverage program, which leans heavily on IPAs. Raw materials and supplies in the taproom, like spicy Belgian yeast and citrusy and piney hops from the Pacific Northwest, are sourced from all over the country and the world. Though Alter doesn’t serve food, you are more than welcome to BYO.
This taproom has something for every type of beer drinker imaginable, whether you are a casual drinker, a beer geek, or anything in-between. Inside you'll find a series of communal tables that encourage lively conversation and a variety of beer on tap to sample.