Hector and Alessa’s fabulous trip to Chicago
On a whirlwind trip to the Windy City, where we would have a total of two days to fit in as much beer and good food as we can, I think we did fairly well. Out of approximately 280 breweries located in Chicao and the surrounding areas, we managed to hit six and one restaurant which made their own beers and paired them with fantastic food. We could have made it to more, but there is a story there and we traveled completely at the whims of the trains. Here is a rundown of where we went:
Our first stop after getting into the city, eating lunch with family and then making our way to our AirBnb was Begyle Brewing, in a part of town aptly called “Malt Row.” As soon as we walked in, we were greeting at a small bar space with no seating. The tap room is a small quaint spot with seating and a small game room off to the side. We asked the very-friendly staff if we could try some small pours. Hector tried an imperial barrel-aged stout called Imperial Pajamas, which won at the 2019 GABF and a wheat pale ale. I tried their ESB and pale ale. All very sorry beers. We sampled a couple more before we left. Absolute great first stop with a wide offering of beer styles to choose from.
Band of Bohemia
Thanks to the awesome Mike Malley, we made reservations for that night at Band of Bohemia, the first Michilin starred brewpub. The place is amazing, can’t say enough about it. They offer a fixed beer pair menu or a regular menu with beer pairings. We decided to go with the regular menu, but both looked fantastic. For appetizers we shared the walleye crudo paired with the Noble Raven (their flagship beer, a German and Belgian malt blend), and the Peanut Agnolotti pared with the Honey Rye. For entrees, I had the venison loin pared with the Honey Rye. Hector got the Pozole pozole braised pork shank pared with the Beer of the Woods, which was a roasty darker beer. For dessert we had Masala ice cream. Everything was delicious, we walked out stuffed and very happy. Highly recommended for anyone that visits Chicago. A little pricey, but the food, beer and service are worth it.
Sweetwater Tavern and Grille
Disclaimer: This is not included in my brewery count, but worth noting for a beer I tried there. This is a brewpub with a good number of local beers on tap and friendly staff that I found while I was lost looking for the Metra while Hector was testing (why not grab a beer??) While I was there the bartender recommended trying the Pseudo Sue beer by Toppling Goliath Brewing Co. in Iowa, named after the most complete T-rex dinosaur skeleton ever found, which is located in Chicago’s Field Museum. I was heading to that very museum when I got lost. The bartender told me that after the brewery named the beer the museum sued them to stop them from using the name. The owners suggested a compromise: sharing ownership and rights to the beer. The museum agreed and now
they actually brew some of the beer onsite at the museum and distribute all over Illinois. Cool story or at least I thought so.
Another brewery near where we stayed and on Malt row is Dovetail. They specialize in European styles and using spontaneous fermentation. Everything I tried was excellent. Regular taproom atmosphere, kinda small. Bartenders were 50/50. The two guys were friendly and willing to discuss beers when not busy. The other two (who were girls) were pretty rude. There is a nice upstairs area they use for barreling and private parties and events. We crashed a party up there so we could check it out.
While at Dovetail, we met some locals who told us to go to Halfacre and to try the food. So we did. Small brewpub atmosphere with a shop to buy bottles and merchandise next door. It was very crowded when we got there around 9 ish, so I would recommend going earlier to get a table. We managed to convince a couple of locals to let us sit with them. Yay. The food was fantastic for a brewpub. Burritos and the bee cheese soup was incredible. We ended up getting two bowls it was so good. Beers were again solid. Traditional beers and an IPA heavy beer list with some wild fermentation stuff as well.
This Mexican brewpub was recommended to us by a friend and unfortunately we were only able to make a quick stop because we were rushing to get to our Lagunita’s tour time. They are known for their tacos, and the beers we sampled were delicious. We brought some back (and they might already be gone … )
Where do I start? This place is literally like being a kid in a candy store – in true Willie Wonka fashion. If you ever go to Chicago, set up a tour here in advance, it is well worth it. Beers are fabulous and the building is a sight to see. Believe me. There is also really fantastic food here in a restaurant at the brewery, so I would plan this around lunch. Everyone was friendly and amazing. We were only supposed to go here for a decent visit and ended staying half of the day and getting blitzed.
On the subway going back to the city from Lagunita’s we just happened to see this gem of a brewery and stopped. It was worth it. A wide variety of styles and rotating taps. A favorite of mine was Sloth loves Chunk. You are always going to get me with a Goonies quote. They serve good pub-style food here.
Chicago was a blast. I can’t wait to go back and try to make a dent in some more of the breweries. It was hard to find a “bad” beer anywhere. Cheers!