Craft Beer in Chicago
Chicago has earned its reputation as a city that embraces alcohol. During the Prohibition era we had Al Capone and going back even further than that, into the 1800’s, we had a booming Vice District where the spirits flowed like water. So it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that the city now has a thriving craft beer industry. It was only a matter of time before we added our own unique flair. Home to the oldest brewing school in the United States, the Siebel Institute of Technology, aspiring brew masters have access to a wealth of knowledge in their own backyard. All things considered, the only real shocker is that it took so long for our craft beer industry to develop! These days it doesn’t matter what state you’re in or how small the liquor store, you’re guaranteed to find a Chicago product sitting on the shelf.
Vice District Brewing Co. is a perfect example of Chicago craft brewing. Started by two local Chicago home brewers who decided that their product was too good to keep for themselves, they left corporate America and set up shop. Not just a brewery, but also a taproom, Vice District Brewing is a great place to visit so you can try a lot of their newest and seasonal beers. Located in the South Loop their taproom is big and airy, with a feel that’s a cross between industrial and warehouse. Long wooden tables and big metal beer vats set it apart from most places you’ve been. At first glance that may sound cold, or uninviting, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Vice District is an amazing atmosphere. 70” flat screen TV’s that show sports, old photos on the wall highlighting the history of beer in Chicago, and even old maps that honor the history of the city. It’s dog-friendly and on random nights they even have games and trivia.
Have you ever heard the phrase “Old School” or the saying “The Old School is the best school.” It’s used from time to time to refer to anything from sports, to food, or even personal opinions. In this case it applies to beer and Forbidden Root is honoring the oldest school of them all with their craft beer varieties. Located in West Town Forbidden Root is bringing back brewing traditions that are as old as the drink itself. They’re a botanic brewery and use ingredients like bark, stems, blossoms, sap, herbs, spices, leaves, flowers and honey…all to bring you the best tasting beer you’ve ever had. I have to admit, when I first heard they were using bark and leaves in their beer, I wasn’t exactly intrigued. That doesn’t sound like the type of thing that my favorite beers were missing. However, I was absolutely wrong. With names like Hay Fever, Wildflower, and Strawberry Basil you can feel confident that the flavor profile of these beers are unlike anything else you’ve tasted. Their taproom offers many favorites and also seasonal selections for you to try.
Band of Bohemia is a true craft beer company in every sense of the word, but they don’t stop there. This place is on a quest to elevate beer to a food-like experience. The founders, Craig Sindelar and Michael Carrollare, classically trained chefs that used to whip up masterpieces at Alinea restaurant. For those of you not familiar with Alinea, in 2017 it was Chicago’s only Michelin Guide 3-star restaurant and in 2016 it won the James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Restaurant. Needless to say, these two gentleman brought a wealth of knowledge to craft beer brewing. Self-described as “culinary brewhouse” Band of Bohemia focuses not only on unique flavors for their beers, they also keep in mind how they’ll pair with food. When you serve masterpieces like Hen of the Woods and Kurobuta Pork you’ll get guests who will come for the food, and find they love the beer. And when you brew beers like Honey Fuggle Rose and The Noble Raven Ale, you’ll get guests that come for the beer and are wowed by the food. Is there anything they don’t do here at the highest level.
If you’re visiting Chicago, or playing tourist in your own city for a day, don’t get caught up in just doing mainstream stuff. One of the beauties to Chicago is the hidden gems; from Mom and Pop restaurants to local breweries, there’s something around every corner. Open up and embrace the new experiences, you won’t regret it.