Wet Your Beak: Chicago Top 10 Craft Beer Bars

I often get asked by friends and acquaintances coming to Chicago what my favorite places are to get a great beer in the city of Chicago. I’ve lived here since 2010, and jumped in the scene in 2012 or so. It’s been interesting watching how things have progressed and changed as time went on as old reliable stalwarts of the craft scene in Chicago have kept up with the times or in some cases, fallen behind as beer has changed.

This post will be updated periodically as establishments come and go, or change. I don’t consider this to be the definitive list of Chicago beer, merely my favorite joints to go for a good pint. I’d also add there is a bit of location bias skewed towards the Northwest side, based on where I’ve lived in the city.

In no particular order, I present my Top 10 Chicago Craft Beer Bars.

Local Option
Nestled between a college campus and the Lincoln Park neighborhood is Local Option. Typically known for having one sizable beer event every month, Local Option hooked me in 2013 when I went to my first event there, called Pi Day on of course 3.14. You can always count on them to have multiple events throughout the year with BCBS variants and other rare stuff you might not see elsewhere in the city like kegs from De Struise or the occasional Loon. They also are home to a great tradition of Air Guitar championships. Food is available.


Links Taproom
Well known for their realtime updated beer menu displaying not only what’s on tap, but how much of a beer is remaining in the keg, Links became one of my favorites upon opening a few years ago. Being able to see what is about ready to kick, or what was just tapped is a nice feature that I’d like to see offered more. They typically have several notable beer events each month and often times, revered hype stouts last more than just a few hours here.

Their kitchen offers some fine encased meat options and their fries are pretty money as well.


Where as Map Room has kind of lost relevance over the last couple years as the beer scene has developed, Hopleaf continues to wow and progress. Hopleaf is one of the best restaurants with an excellent beer program that has continued to offer great events and one of the better Belgian beer lists in the city. This is a great date spot as it has many quiet tables spread throughout the upper portion of the bar. Hopleaf is definitely the place to go if you’re in the Uptown/Andersonville area.


Bangers & Lace – Wicker Park
I imagine some might find this place pretentious. The crowd can be a little bit sometimes. I think Bangers & Lace is one of the bars I feel most welcome in by the staff. Sit at the bar, and talk beer with their smart and aware crew. This is one of the bars I value most for being able to bring non-beer friends to as they have a great cocktail program and a solid bourbon selection. Bangers & Lace is a place that generally doesn’t heavily promote its big beer tappings, which means some really great beers can sit here for days. The most notable of which was Lou Pepe Kriek 2007 that sat on tap for almost 2 full days back in 2014.

Bangers & Lace has a nice level of dark intimacy which makes it a great choice for a date as well. Their outdoor seating is also enjoyable when the weather is nice. Bangers & Lace serves food with a menu that regularly changes.


The Beer Temple
Brand new to the Chicago tap room scene, but an obvious pillar in the craft scene in general, The Beer Temple’s taproom is an excellent new facility with a taplist curated by one of the more admirable personalities in Chicago beer. The list features a very well rounded array of options from currently topical and popular hazy IPAS, to farmhouse ales/saisons, to ESB’s, imperial stouts and a spontaneous/wild beer line.


Timothy O’Tooles
Throwing this spot in to the list as one of the better downtown beer locations, as well as one of the better craft joints to watch sports at. Far too often, many craft beer joints turn their nose up at athletics on TVs if they have televisions at all. That’s fine. There’s a place and time


The single best option for a Cubs pre-game or post-game beer is Sheffield’s in Lakeview. Sheffield’s does carry some great credit as a bit of an OG beer destination. Typically Goose Island does one of their Bourbon County Black Wednesday events here. They also typically have some really enjoyable cellar bottles they bring out from time to time or tease in a wine fridge near the back bar. They have some solid barbecue here and hold tap takeovers very frequently.  Definitely the best beer bar in the Wrigleyville/Lakeview neighborhood.


Emporium Arcade Bar – Wicker Park
There are two Emporium’s, One in Wicker Park and another in Logan Square. The Wicker Park location is the specific one making the list. The Logan Square location is enjoyable in its own right, but home to less events, but feels much more roomy and expansive

The Wicker Park location typically has several enjoyable events per year from Darkside, a celebration of dark and barrel aged beers, to specific brewery tap take overs. It’s a bit of a packed bar many nights due to its 2 room split but as a Barcade, it’s an enjoyable spot and their live concert portion of their bar brings some entertaining acts. No food present but you’re welcome to bring your own.


The Beer Bistro
I’m a big fan of Beer Bistro for its normalcy. It’s not a high end dining location, it’s not a dive, it doesn’t have a fancy electronic tap list, or an overly stylized chalkboard list. It’s just a good middle of the road gastropub with American cuisine, a fairly nice taplist and the occasional high profile event. I find Beer Bistro to be a good choice for a drink after dinner, if you’ve just finished up a meal in the Randolph Street area.


The Map Room
I’m honestly a little half hearted about Map Room. It was the first craft bar in Chicago I had an affinity for. This is an OG craft beer spot in Chicago that has had many great beers available over the years including things like Vanilla Dark Lord, typically without much build up or hype. Over time, many great craft beer bars have opened in this area, including other locations on this list. Map Room feels like it has gotten somewhat stale in its offerings. That’s not to say it has fallen off with their offerings, rather they haven’t kept up with trends and new breweries in the same way another older pillar of Chicago beer like Hopleaf has. Still, Map Room continues to have a reliable list of Belgian stuff like Rodenbach and Tripel Karmeliet and I sentimentally value it for its history and charm.

Food is not available but you may bring in food from elsewhere. Also the tamale guy is known to make stops here



First 5 Out

Twisted Spoke


The Green Lady

Binny’s Tap Room Lincoln Park

Header photo courtesy of Kevin J. Miyazaki, New York Times

Hip Hop Beer Names for IPA Brewers – Vol 2

Delivering another serving of unused hip hop inspired beer names. Feel free to use them at your convenience.

In a bid to contribute and help the brewers to continue focusing on the product, I’ve produced this entirely unsolicited list of hip hop lyric inspired beer names.  As of the publish date, none of these names have been used before on Untappd.

See Volume 1 here

New York City Gritty Committee – Simon Says [Pharoahe Monch] This would be perfect for a collab with Other Half and maybe Threes or Finback

Alligator Seats – Still Fly [Big Tymers]

I Got the Antidote – Real Slim Shady [Eminem]

My Potency Is Deadly – Dead Wrong [Notorious BIG ft Eminem]

Little Older, Better Roller – Kick, Push [Lupe Fiasco]

Four Fifteen’s, No Wires – Still Fly [Big Tymers]

Thinking of a Master Plan – Paid in Full [Eric B and Rakim]

M-O, N-E, but why? – Po Pimp [Do or Die]

The Opposite of a Winner – Juicy [Notorious BIG]

Straight from the Windy – Still Po Pimpin [Do or Die]

Diamond in the Back – Still Fly [Big Tymers]

Drop the Biscuit – Guilty Conscience [Eminem ft Dr. Dre]

Mr Macho, Head Honcho – Dead Wrong [Notorious BIG featuring Eminem]

Copywritten, So Don’t Copy Me – Get Your Freak On [Missy Elliott]

Shit Pastry Stout Bros Say

It is with some level of humility that I present the list below. If you’re this far down the rabbit hole, you’ve absolutely dabbled in the pastry stout game at some point. Whether you’ve eventually moved on and gravitated towards lambic and saisons or you proudly raise the banner of Barleywine is Life, it’s inevitable that you’ve probably passed through this stage. Maybe you’re still there. I don’t swing a gavel. You have to live with your life choices.

With that out of the way, here’s a listicle of the hackneyed tropes coming out of your bottle share when the pastry stouts get popped.

“I was hoping for more Vanilla”

“This beer is chewy as fuck”

“Wait until that beer warms up a bit, then you’ll really taste the [Insert Adjunct here]”

“I hate drinking big boozy stouts when it’s this hot out.”

Priam doesn’t want to drink Chocolate Rain when it’s 95 out. No one does.

“Batch 1 was so much better”

“This maple variant is so good. A friend told me this is what CBS originally tasted like when it came out”

“Holy Cinnamon!!!”

“Where’s the whale slayer? I can’t get through this Terrapin wax.” It’s impossible to take Wake N Bake Cinnamon Roll’d to a share and someone not make a wax bukkake joke 

Yes, it’s META. We get it. Move on.

“That bottle is straight liquid Cocoa Puffs”

“I’m blown away by all this hazelnut. It’s practically like Nutulhu”

“So they take a bourbon barrel and after they dump it, it gets filled with maple syrup from like Vermont or something. Then they take the maple syrup out and THEN……”

“The fuck is a Skillet Donut Stout anyway? I liked that Westbrook thing better.”

“So Marshmallow Handjee and BVDL is the same beer?”

Born too late to explore Earth. Born too early to explore the galaxy. Born just in time to sully whales with store brand mallows

“You know where Kopi Luwak comes from right?”

“That beer was an absolute coconut bomb when it was fresh!” RIP Prop 13. Miss you.  Miss you everyday

“It’s like malted milk balls. Like Whoppers, you know?”

“Wicked Weed made a french toast beer?…….Like intentionally?”

“Not a lot of coffee but the ‘Nilla is unreal”

mexican break
Why are you like this?


Wet Your Beak: Copenhagen Denmark

I unabashedly love Copenhagen. It’s a fantastic city on the water, full of diverse cuisine, friendly people, and delicious beers. I’ve been to Copenhagen twice, going back to back years for the Mikkeller/Copenhagen Beer Celebration. If you’re going to Copenhagen soon, here’s a list of places to wet your beak.

Mikkeller Viktoriagade

This bar has served as the Capital of the Mikkeller empire to some extent. It’s clustered with Mikkel’s fine dining restaurant Ol & Brod as well as the new restaurant Hyggestand. This important outlet of the Mikkeller brand is a decidedly small, and cramped environment when the bar hosts events. The bar exists in a sub-ground level location where you enter what would often be cellar stairs at some establishments. The ceiling is low which can add to the ambiance when the bar is calm, but can be a bit stress inducing during a packed event. This Mikkeller outpost is composed of 2 rooms, with the bigger of the two containing the bar. A chalk taplist is behind the bar, and if you seek out the bottle list, there is a fantastic collection of Mikkeller one-offs, collaborations, and incredible barrel aged beers. Some are certainly expensive, but you can’t find barrel aged Dark Lords at any price at most bars you go to, right?

Tell your friends, to get to Mikkeller & Friends, and we can be friends.

Mikkeller & Friends

Norrebro is a neighborhood, as the name might imply, in a Northern part of the city. On foot, it’s about a 45 minute walk from Viktoriagade, or a 10 minute taxi ride. This location is bigger than the Viktoriagade location, both in seating, and in taps. There are 2 bars at this location. The first is just as you descend the stairs into the building (not unlike the entry into Viktoriagade) to the right. The second bar is off to the left, in the next room. This bar is a good choice for a smallish group, as there are not many spaces easily able to accommodate bigger groups of more than 5 or so people. In addition to the main rooms near the bar, there is a smaller nook area with some crates serving as tables and some stools along a rail area to set drinks. This area is located next to the men’s room, which is alright as long as no one leaves the door wide open.

There is a bottle list here as well, with a fair overlap of things from Viktoriagade but things that are not seen there, as well. Personally in this facet, I think Viktoriagade is slightly better, but the abundance of taps here and sheer availability of seats does make this location desirable in its own right.



There’s a pretty small club that exists of incredible lambic bars with deep cellars and fun inventive beers in that style. If you’re keeping track, this list consists primarily of Grote Dorst, Akkurat, De Heeren Van Liederkerke and Koelschip. If your favorite establishment routinely has seasonal loons, 10 year old lambic, and bottles from defunct producers, there’s a good chance they belong in this list as well. Koelschip is the newest of this group. This tiny location adjoining Mikkeller & Friends features décor that evokes some of the things I love about Grote Dorst. It has a charm that, while manufactured and not authentic in the same way Grote Dorst is, seems to fairly channel the spirit of that world class lambic cafe. Their beer also follows in this vein.

They only possess about 4-5 taps, but your time may be better spent in the extensive bottle list. Finding old Saint Lams and Oude Kriek is par for the course here. Interested in trying some old Bellevue or Eylenbosch? This may be one of your last options to pursue those bottles. Interested in trying something exciting from Bokkereyder? There’s a chance they have it, as they are one of only 3 bars currently receiving bottles to serve of Raf’s delicious goat lambic. Denis Vansant aka “The Belgian,” tends bar and provides expert service and will happily be your Sherpa up the Lambic Mountain. He is an exceptionally knowledgeable person with a warm personality, and lends to the excellent reputation of this place.



Brus is a brewpub associated with To Øl. Like Mikkeller & Friends and Koelschip, it is up in the Norrebro neighborhood. By comparison to the Mikkeller bars, this place feels quite large with 2 big dining room areas. Place your food order at a counter, let them know where you’re sitting and they bring the food out to you. On my trip there, I had some very enjoyable hot chicken as well as a side of broccolini. The beer list primarily consists of options from To Ol as well as the house labeled Brus. If you’ve seen many of To Ol’s beers, you know they take chances on some styles. The tap list does seem to channel this as well.

In addition to the brewpub, there is an attached bottle shop selling things both to go, and for on site consumption. You will probably not see an establishment with more To Øl beers than this location. In addition, there is a fair amount of other Belgian lambic selections (3F, Cantillon, Tilquin,) Swedish brewers, and several American options as well.

When the sun is out, the patio is a great place to be at Warpigs


I unabashedly love this place. From its seamless transition from a meat processing building, to a world class meat smoking building, Warpigs is an incredible find in Europe if you fancy yourself a barbecue enthusiast. Often considered the best example of American style smoked meats, Warpigs brewpub is a must visit for beer nerds and foodies alike.

Immediately upon walking in, the food counter stands before you. They have a board with all their daily available selections. Look carefully as a small sign will be next to the menu item if they’ve sold out for the day. I personally love the brisket and hot link, with a side of hush puppies and pimento cheese. I haven’t had a meat selection that I didn’t like, but those shine a little brighter. It might also be worth checking to see what the special Hot Link of the day is. For mac and cheese lovers, their mac is fairly unusual using a small noodle, similar to Kraft Mac & Cheese noodles, but even a bit smaller, and the cheese is close to soupy. It isn’t, but it is close.

After getting your food, a small chalkboard of their current draft list is available at the cashier. This can all be fairly overwhelming as you may not have much time to peruse the board, before ordering while paying for your food selection. You can always go drop off your tray at one of the many large communal tables and return to the main bar to place your order. Some claim that hops dominate the tap board here. I think they are a large integral part of the taplist, given what people are attracted to, but there are also interesting stouts, barleywines and wild ales I experienced while there.

Near the bar you may find a smaller menu of available Warpigs bottles. Most are available to go, or for on-site consumption if you’d prefer.

The daily menu of barbeque at Warpigs


Don’t try to pronounce the name of this place. It’s mostly impossible. You’ll find Danes pronounce it where it sounds like the name is “Him-il-uh.” This bar has ties to Jeppe and the Evil Twin brand, but there is a stellar array of other American beers from breweries that often do the contract brewing of Evil Twin stuff like Westbrook. There is no shortage of great lambic to be found here, as well.

What most people know Himmeriget for is its availability for on-site consumption of Cantillon Blabaer. During my visit, they have several vintages and multiple bottle sizes of several of those vintages. If you’re in Copenhagen, this is a reason to visit Himmeriget on its own. After you have your fill of blueberry, visit the liberal selections of other bottles of Cantillon and Drie Fonteinen. You may find bottles of Armand & Tomme available. On our visit, we found it comical that an A&T cost only about 10€ more than a bottle of fresh Abraxas. That’s a no brainer for Americans, any time.

The bourbon selection available is exceptionally impressive if you need some strong water between your lambic forays. If you seek some big stouts, typically multiple variants of barrel aged Mexican Cake may be on the menu, including the very rare ones like Pappy, Coconut, or Reserva.



Before more of the establishment of these places above, there was Fermentoren. Fermentoren is an excellent beer bar with a divey feel to it. Inside it has a low ceiling and some of the intimate qualities you’d find at some of the Mikkeller bars but it is noticeably darker. Draft beer leads the way here. Fermentoren has no shortage of great American imports, including lots of desirable hoppy things and a strong selection of Danish and Swedish beers. This is not a strong lambic spot, but there’s other places to scratch that itch. Outside, there are several picnic tables semi blocked off from the roads and sidewalks by greenery. They don’t serve food but occasionally do host an outdoor barbecue session with a grill outside.

Paper Island


Inevitably you’re going to do the touristy stuff like check out Nyhavn. When you’re in the area, across the channel, there is Papirøen. Google Maps refers to it as “Copenhagen Street Food,” but it’s more commonly known as Paper Island. It’s a large warehouse building once used for paper storage, that’s been converted into a sizable food market. You’ll find easily 10+ styles of food options, from street sushi, chicken sandwiches and falafel to dessert pancakes and cheesecake.  There’s also a scattering of bars and a beer trailer. Some of the beers here, were frankly interesting craft options that you might not see going through the Mikkel circuit of bars. If the weather is nice, you can grab a seat along the channel and enjoy the sea breeze. This is a great spot to go to, whether you’re starving for a big meal, or are just feeling a little peckish.



Tucked between a small pizza shop and one of the best beer stores in Copenhagen, Rbabarrab is a small bar with a nice selection of taps. It’s fairly ordinary to find great Omnipollo pours here. There’s about 8-10 taps of great things. This bar is clustered in the same stretch as Fermentoren and Warpigs, so if you’re cruising that area or pop in to Kihoskh for bottles to go, Rbabarrab is convenient to duck your head into and see what’s flowing.

The birds on Paper Island will literally rip your face off

Hip Hop Beer Names for IPA Brewers – Vol 1

Monkish, Mikerphone, and Other Half (and several more) are consistently putting out some of the most enjoyable New England style Juice incendiary devices anywhere. They are also commonly sourcing names for these beers from notable hip hop songs from the early 90s to the mid 00’s. I’m a huge fan of this naming convention.

In a bid to help the brewers to continue focusing on the product, I’ve produced this entirely unsolicited list of hip hop lyric inspired beer names.  As of the publish date, none of these names have been used before on Untappd.

These names are offered freely, without any conditions. Just keep cranking out delicious NEIPAs that look like orange juice and chicken broth and we’re all square.

Mikerphone has never formally declared allegiance to either coast

Loose Myself, Juice Myself – Po Pimp [Do or Die]

Soothing Souvenirs – Don’t Sweat the Technique [Eric B and Rakim] 

Take it Back to 79 – Triumph [Wu-Tang]

Raw Flows – Notorious B.I.G. [Notorious BIG]

I Want to be Saved – Captain Save a Hoe [E-40]

Tyson, Jordan, Jackson – Victory [Puff Daddy]

Moonwalk Platoon Hawk – Da Rockwilder [Method Man and Redman]

Diego to the Bay – California Love [2 Pac ft Dr Dre] Probably ideal as a Modern Times/Fieldwork collab

Mack Millimeter Rhymes – Nothin’ [NORE]

Tripped, Fell, Landed – Guilty Conscience [Eminem ft. Dr Dre]

Elevator to the Top – Still Not a Player [Big Pun]

Boogie Down Professional – Still Not a Player [Big Pun]

Gentle, Sentimental – Bitch Please [Snoop Dogg ft. Xzibit]

Candy Coated Helicopter – Bling Bling [BG]

Jelly Jam and Preserve – How Ya Do Dat [Young Bleed ft Master P and C-Loc]

JUICE! JUICE! JUICE! JUICE! – Juice [Chance The Rapper] I’m going to be real underwhelmed if a Chicago brewer doesn’t collaborate with Chano on this one. I can already see the trade forums lighting up for “JJJJ”

Have at it brewers.

Socrates’ philosophies and hypotheses require brewers to drop these


Wet Your Beak: Gothenburg Sweden

During my travels last Summer, I kept track of some of the better craft beer spots I experienced in Europe. This is the first in an eventual series of cities I’ve experienced with a walk through of some of the choice craft spots I have visited.


The Rover
The Rover was my favorite beer spot that I spent time at while in Gothenburg. This relatively newer establishment has a diverse tap list, about half of which is Swedish. They also had several UK beers from Brew By Numbers and American stuff as well. They had an impressive bottle list with better prices than neighboring locations. Their food menu is relatively short, but they take pride in making great stuff. I had an enjoyable burger here. I love the decor of this place, from the brilliant green tile behind the bar, to a really cool collage of many of the Omnipollo doodles Karl has made so famous.

The Rover

Tre Små Rums
The bar name simply means 3 Small Rooms. It’s a cozy bar composed of the 3 aforementioned rooms. They maintained a short list of taps with a lot of American stuff. They also had a few selections of their own beer. I tried the Persian Cake. It seemed to be a work in progress. Bottle selection looks deceptively good, except the best 1/3rd of bottles are not for sale. The full trophy bottles displayed but not served included Thomas Hardy’s, Lou Pepe Kriek and Sam Triple Bock. In the year since I was there, their selection now seems to be much more of their own house beers.

3 Small Rooms

Described as a Dive bar, this place seems much more relaxed, as a craft centric bar. Bottles comprise 90% of their offerings. There’s >6 big coolers spread out in a few sitting rooms so you’ll have to float to see them all.  This also includes 2 which feel like you need to ask permission to see, as they’re kind of behind the bar at a difficult angle to see, if you’re facing the bar. Very short tap selection. Food is available.

Ölstugan Tullen
Prides itself on being a Swedish only bar. About 10 taps, but most of the locals might just be drinking “Guld.” No formal bottle list, but they have a fair amount of bottles. Look for selections from Omnipollo, Brewski, Beerbliotek

The Gothenburg waterfront

Brewers Bar
Clean looking place that feels like it could be a bistro. Short menu primarily consisting of pizzas. Pretty balanced between taps and bottles. Very friendly staff

This was my last stop in Gothenburg. Unfortunately it was in the process of closing for the evening. The space was fairly open. The beer list seemed to have a fair amount of stouts. No shortage of good imports and their logo/theme was enjoyable.

Chicago Craft Beer Week – Illuminated Brew Works Bonfire

Last night Illuminated​ Brew Works hosted a semi-secret Chicago Craft Beer Week event in Chicago. It required an RSVP and in return offered an address and instructions to those not previously initiated in the ways of the mystical West Loop brewery operation.

I arrived via an alley into this expensive vacant lot covered in rock, shipping containers and leftover Halloween skeletons.

It had rained most of the early evening and the rain then took a pretty prolonged 2-3 hour break right in the middle of the bonfire event.

Touted to be pouring at the event were Around The Bend, Maplewood, Illuminated, and Maplewood. In addition a home brewer made a bit of a debut at this event, called Summerdale.

If Illuminated Brew Works doesn’t yet have a semi cryptic name for this space, they need one

The event was mostly self-serve, which was refreshing in some facets and a short fall in others. For instance, there was an overcarbed Around The Bend beer pouring from a pitcher with no label. I still have no idea what it was. It smelled like apple cider but tasted kind of like a brown ale.

The event also touted the welcoming of bottle sharing. There was a small table space where bottles were out, but it seemed that there were more people taking than contributing.

Live music was a welcome addition to the space

The biggest most glaring shortcoming of the event was how Illuminated Brew Works poured their own beer. It was not separated from the rest of the taps or seemingly special from the crowd in any way. This is your event. You’ve promoted this, you’ve built a cool atmosphere that really no one else in the city limits has, and your beer is taking a backseat.  I don’t mean just any backseat but like that third backseat that faces backwards, found in station wagons from the 80s.

This could be/should be/is a fun branding event that you’re hosting. Illuminated has made many beers with unique and cryptic labels. Their style honestly is likely underappreciated in the marketplace. In an event where they should be doing everything short of strapping matching Nikes on to your feet and preparing you for that next plane of existence, they didn’t pour the Koolaid right.

I came last night to be indoctrinated by a brewery I didn’t know enough about. Frankly it felt like a great unique CCBW event with an opportunity left on the table. That said, with the gorgeous city view and the open bonfire pit they have, I’d certainly come back, but please, get the Koolaid right next time.

Marshmallows and an open flame: an undefeated combination

Standout Event Beers

  • Passion Fruit Gose – Brewer unknown. This could easily be a potential favorite summer crusher. Now if I can only find out who makes it.
  • Life is a Peach, and then you Pie – Summerdale Brewing. Tart peaches up front, rounding into a tasty sweet crusty pie finish.
Omnipollo/Buxton Texas Pecan Ice Cream giving locals that H. H. Holmes treatment