By the end of 2018, Chicago was home to the most breweries in the nation, surpassing Denver, Seattle and San Diego with 167 breweries.
It’d be easy to list the favorites, some of which have been around for decades, like Goose Island Beer Company (which has since been sold to Anheuser-Busch) or Revolution Brewing, which started in 2010 as a brewpub in Logan Square and is now the largest craft brewery in the state of Illinois. Those who don’t love IPAs tend to love Off Color Brewing in Lincoln Park since it doesn’t do IPAs. Those who like their organic beers head to Greenstar Brewery at Uncommon Ground since it’s the state’s first organic brewery.
It’d be impossible to list Chicago’s best breweries because it’s so subjective, but what we can do is list nine breweries that are worth the visit and might not get as much love as their nearby counterparts. With that lens, here are nine different breweries in three different parts of Chicago, from the north side to the south side, to whet your palate.
North Side: Malt Row
There are just more than half a dozen craft brewers within a few blocks in an industrial area affectionately called Malt Row in Ravenswood, including the country’s first Michelin-starred brewpub Band of Bohemia.
The area also includes Half Acre Beer Company, perhaps best known for its Daisy Cutter Pale Ale and Begyle Brewing Company, the first taproom to open in the area and host to a ton of events throughout the week (Monday evening 50 cent Skee-Ball, anyone?). One of the most recent additions is Urban Renewal, whose beers feature traditional ingredients and an ever-changing rotation on tap to keep things interesting.
Here’s a highlight of three others that are worth visiting in Malt Row.
1. Spiteful Brewing
Image source: Facebook / Spiteful Brewing
- Where: 2024 W. Balmoral Ave., Chicago, IL 60625
Spiteful Brewing may be small but it packs a punch. Situated next to Half Acre, the nano-brewery’s flagship is an American IPA but their taproom features more than a dozen different styles on rotation from a double IPA to lagers, pilsners and stouts.
2. Empirical Brewing
Image source: Facebook / Empirical Brewing
- Where: 1801 W. Foster Ave., Chicago, IL 60640
Empirical Brewing Company claims it’s exploring the science of beer and the team behind the brewery admits they’re a bunch of nerds. They call their brewery a laboratory in which they test new recipes on their custom one-barrel pilot to explore new styles or refine previously created recipes. Releases include IPAs, pale ales, porters and stouts.
3. Dovetail Brewery
Image source: Facebook / Dovetail Brewery
- Where: 1800 W. Belle Plaine Ave., Chicago, IL 60613
Neighbor to Begyle is Dovetail Brewery’s taproom. These brewers specialize in European beer styles by using old-brewing methods. Their motto is “we brew like monks (minus the vows).”
Expect to enjoy a German-style hefeweizen, Vienna lager and rauchbier which you can pair with snacks like pretzels, a cheese flight or landjäger (a semi-dried sausage).
West Side: Chicago Brewing District
Like Ravenswood’s Malt Row, the West Side has the Chicago Brewing District, which includes a number of breweries within a short radius. It includes Goose Island Beer Company, as well as almost a half dozen others well worth checking out.
4. District Brew Yards
Image source: District Brew Yards
- Where: 417 N. Ashland Ave., Chicago, IL 60622
Designed like a traditional food hall, District Brew Yards is a production brewery collective, pour-your-own beer hall and retail shop with beer to go all under one roof. The home base for Burnt City Brewing, Around the Bend Beer Co., Bold Dog Beer Co. and Casa Humilde Cervecería Artesanal, the Brew Yards is a creative partnership that brings small breweries together to share resources and knowledge. This means craft beer enthusiasts have a one-stop-shop to sample a wide variety of beers from multiple breweries across 40 taps. The beer hall also serves a menu of smoked meats and creative sides. As it’s a pour-your-own beer facility, the Brew Yards is for those who are 21 and up.
5. All Rise Brewing Co.
Image source: Facebook / All Rise Brewing
- Where: 235 N. Ashland Ave., Chicago, IL 60607
Whether you’re a fan of IPAs, lagers or sours, All Rise Brewing will rise to the occasion and happily serve you a pint to enjoy alongside homemade mac and cheese, burgers or salads. And since the brewing company is conveniently located alongside Cobra Lounge, guests can enjoy some live music several nights of the week, too.
6. Goose Island Beer Company
Image source: Goose Island Beer Company
- Where: 1800 W. Fulton St., Chicago, IL 60612
It’s not hard to find Goose Island beer these days since Anheuser-Busch bought it a decade ago and expanded its distribution but it’s still a beloved beer in these parts and some people don’t even realize this taproom exists.
Visitors can hit up the Goose Island production brewery where the tap list can include everything from the classic favorites to some rare, one-off beers you can’t find anywhere else. Daily tours include a tour of the brewing process, plus a complimentary custom glass.
The South Side has a lot of breweries but they’re not centrally located like in other parts of the city. Be ready to explore several new neighborhoods while enjoying some pints with the locals from Pilsen to Beverly–Morgan Park.
7. Lo Rez Brewing
Image source: Facebook / Lo Rez Brewing
- Where: 2101 S. Carpenter St., Chicago, IL 60608
Straddling the borders of the west and south sides (so, technically the near southwest part of the city), Lo Rez Brewing in Pilsen is worth a visit. The duo behind this brewery started brewing in a garage before moving to a loft-like space with exposed wood beams and exposed brick that hosts a ton of community events year-round. Enjoy playing board games or darts while drinking an ale, saison or a fruited Berliner Weisse, among other options on tap.
8. Argus Brewery
Image source: Facebook / Argus Brewery
- Where: 11314 S. Front Ave., Chicago, IL 60628
Located in Pullman, Argus Brewing is housed in the historic Schlitz distribution stables, where two ominous horse heads still greet guests. Enjoy locally-crafted IPAs, lagers, pilsners and more at this family-owned neighborhood brewery. One-hour tours on select Sundays, which includes a ride on their century-old horse elevator, gives guests a little neighborhood history lesson, as well as details about their brewery and beers.
9. Open Outcry Brewing Company
Image source: Facebook / Open Outcry Brewing
- Where: 10934 S. Western Ave., Chicago, IL 60643
Enjoy some beer-battered cheese curds or Neapolitan-style pizza with your IPA or ale or whatever else might be on tap at this brewery and pizza kitchen located in the Beverly-Morgan Park neighborhood. Open Outcry Brewing Company is a family-friendly place and offers guests a full kitchen menu alongside their beers. When the weather cooperates, the rooftop is where it’s at.
Want to step it up a notch, try new beers and support local craft brewers? Pick up a Drink Illinois Summer Passport at any official pickup locations starting May 15. Those who manage to get 40 stamps in their passport between May 15 to August 15 are eligible for a one-year membership to the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild’s craft beer enthusiast program, ImBIBE.