Last updated: 9/5/2019
Following our previous list of Top 10 Best Chicago Craft Beer Bars, we’re continuing our series on places to drink great beer. We present our top 10 Chicago based brewpubs and taprooms. This is a list inclusive of both locations from the city proper, as well as from the greater Chicagoland area. The list is not ranked in any particular order.
- If any brewery has multiple locations, I’m limiting them to one entry to the list.
- Brewery must originate in the Chicagoland area (eliminating Lagunitas, Ballast Point, and Jolly Pumpkin.)
- Brewery must have a physical location of their own to pour their product (eliminating Hop Butcher, but including the breweries associated with the District Brew Yard)
- Locations in “The Region” aka the portion of Northwest Indiana on Central time are eligible as a part of the Chicago market
My personal favorite of the breweries food wise, Cruz Blanca is the vessel of craft brewing from celebrity chef and Chicago culinary icon Rick Bayless. Cruz Blanca offers fantastic takes on Mexican taqueria food including delicious tacos and unique shareable giant tostadas called tlayudas. Cruz doesn’t have an enormous tap list but it is filled out with approachable beers for those less fanatical about beer, while simultaneously offering popular trends of the day including fruited wilds and stouts. This location is particularly the easiest to access for out of town visitors staying in the Loop or River North. It’s also a great before or after stop if you are hitting one of the high end restaurants on the Randolph Restaurant Row.
I was half-hearted about More for quite a while. For a good chunk of time I felt a lot of the beers previously coming from RAM (where the head brewer originated) were terribly overrated. This place also chose a pretty horrid logo initially. After some early underwhelming releases, I was won over with More. They’ve nailed down the adjunct pastry stout game. Their fruited berliners have been very on trend and their food menu is full of great finds. Their bottle releases also tend to be a great time, similar to highly touted releases at Perennial and Side Project with open bottle sharing permitted by the village. It’s a great atmosphere and full of mostly amicable folks.
Just go here. Enjoy the art. Don’t leave without getting some food. The styling of Marz is prevalent throughout this great south side space. Though some of their packaged beer pricing can skew far too high, their products shine at adequate prices in their homebase. The location is also reasonably convenient if you plan to attend a White Sox game.
Time after time, so many breweries you go to will be in some office park, or industrial park in a pretty forgettable area. The Mousetrap is not one of those places. The Off Color Mousetrap is in Lincoln Park, located next to a Whole Foods. That’s not to say its pretentious. Their space is actually a fantastic vehicle for this Chicago original. This taproom features a great draft lineup of saisons and less prototypical taproom styles. They also typically have some guest drafts and a reserve bottle list. There is no food, but they do possess a pizza phone. What else would you need? The Off Color Mousetrap is a personal sentimental favorite of mine, as their team helped me to set up a marriage proposal to my fiance. From here you can also easily get other beers at Binny’s Lincoln Park Taproom or the Goose Island Brewhouse, both just 2 blocks away.
We’re not going to get caught up in the minutiae of Goose Island’s ownership. It is what it is. Goose Island has 2 locations here in Chicago. The original brewpub which lost most of its identity in 2017, and the Fulton & Wood production brewery and Taproom. The Fulton & Wood taproom typically carries more inventive and fresh options, and lately has had steady availability of cellared Bourbon County variants. The prices aren’t great, but certainly better than secondary market pricing. Food is not offered but is allowed to be brought in from outside. They do also offer a nice brand experience tour as well.
Located in the West Town/Ukrainian Village area, Forbidden Root quickly blossomed as a great destination for fine cuisine and a great assortment of different styles of beers brewed on site. Offering some of the best NEIPAs in Chicago, Forbidden Root is not to be missed if you find yourself in this area of Chicago. The space is built out of an old movie theater, with inventive decor. It’s also reasonably close to Goose Island Fulton & Wood so its easily to do both, and also easy to make it up to one of our Top 10 Chicago Craft Beer Bars, Bangers & Lace
Joining More in the suburban contingent, Mikerphone has become a staple of the Northwest Suburban brewery scene. Their tap list is well filled out usually consisting of 3 or more hoppy selections, 2 or more wilds, and 3 or more stouts, though they have 12 draft lines. Their taproom has doubled in size as they have moved into the adjacent space located next door to their existing location. Mikerphone’s identity is heavily worn on its sleeve with nearly all beers referencing a song, band or music lyric, and their tap handles are all actual microphones. There are weekly bottle releases of new items here, that you can typically rely on Thursday’s and Frdays. They do not serve food but outside food is welcome.
There are two Revolution locations in Chicago. The original continues to be a great brewpub and a staple of the Logan Square neighborhood, but for this list, we’ve chosen the Kedzie Taproom. The Taproom is a large indoor space with barrels aging beer stacked 6-8 high. The brewing operation is glass enclosed behind large windows making the space feel a bit seamless despite the partition between functional brewery and taproom. There is no food served but there are periodically food trucks. This location is also where Revolution runs their big packaged releases.
As with Revolution, Half Acre also has two Chicago locations. The original on Lincoln where their bottle shop and tasting room is, as well as their brewpub with food next door. I won’t discourage you from going to the original. It’s very good, but can often be very crowded, as it is small. Instead, head north to the Balmoral location, which much like Revolution above, is at the production facility. Unlike Revolution, the Half Acre Balmoral location does have a full food menu, and we strongly recommend eating here. In addition, Balmoral has more taps than the Lincoln location and a nice large outdoor patio location to enjoy when the Chicago weather smiles upon you.
I like to look at Maplewood as one of the best date options for going out and including a brewery in the date. Maplewood is located at a somewhat nondescript space at the end of a dead end street that ends at the Metra railroad tracks, but is only 2 blocks from a large movie theater making Maplewood a great spot for dinner/beers and a movie, or a movie and drinks to enjoy breaking the film down after. The food is good. I’ve eaten here twice and it’s a bit of elevated bar food. Get the cheese curds. They often have several beers not packaged for distribution. They also have a distillery in house making their own spirits, and serving beer-cocktails and slushies. You can also easily pair drinks here with a meal from Owen & Engine just a few blocks away, or easily pivot up to The Beer Temple.
First 5 Out
The group above are all good places in their own right, and are well worth visiting but they just aren’t making the cut of my Top 10 right now. Some of them easily pair with visits to other locations above, like Metropolitan with Maplewood, and Goose Island Fulton and Forbidden Root.