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Chicago’s West Side Has a New Brewing District

Chicago Brewing District
Taylor Laabs

With more than 200 breweries within its city limits, Chicago’s brewery scene can be a bit overwhelming for newcomers or tourists visiting the city for a weekend. Thankfully, many breweries have started to take the guess work out of where to visit by joining together to create uniquely branded brewing “neighborhoods” that offer beer drinkers a structured map of several breweries in close proximity to each other. It’s more a branding play than anything, but it does help each brewery in the allotted “district” brand themselves as being part of the collective – adding extra appeal to those who want to make a day out of walking to several spots in one day. The breweries in the Ravenswood neighborhood were the first to pioneer the idea in Chicago, as the adeptly branded “Malt Row” offers drinkers a robust list of unique breweries and beer styles from the likes Dovetail, Begyle and Band of Bohemia, all located within a near mile radius. Now, Chicago’s quickly growing West Side is getting into the picture with the newly created “Chicago Brewing District,” which includes beer giant Goose Island, GABF-winner On Tour Brewing, large contact brewer Great Central Brewing Company, All Rise Brewing and Finch Beer.

According to the newly-minted Chicago Brewing District, the appeal to join together into this new format came from a common desire to show off the unique brewing qualities of the West side neighborhood. “We are all fiercely proud to call the West side of Chicago our home and we are passionate about brewing beer and making people happy. Our commonalities brought us together and our enthusiasm for our craft and neighborhood inspired us to put a name on it.”

Layout of the CBD. Photo Credit: CBD

The idea to come together came about a year ago as members from each of the five breweries regularly discussed the future of the young neighborhood and how they could be vital in growing its popularity throughout the city. Instead of something fancy, the brewers stuck with a simple brand that they knew consumers would resonate with – and Chicago Brewing District was born.

Formally announced by macro brewer Goose Island in mid-March, the move is a strategic one for several of the breweries. For Goose, being associated with smaller craft brewers gives them some added local cred that they might have lost following their purchase by AB InBev. For the likes of less well-known breweries like All Rise and Finch, being part of the larger district will most likely mean more foot traffic from patrons who aim to visit all five of the breweries in a day. It also gives each brewer a chance to make a larger impact on the neighborhood as a whole: “Historically an industrial part of the city, the Chicago Brewing District gives us a chance to introduce people to a neighborhood that has been overlooked as a place to relax and unwind with a beer in hand. We’d love to see even more breweries come into the area and join the CBD.”

The breweries of CBD had grown close to each other well before the actual district came to be. The proximity to each other made things like visiting each other’s taprooms, helping out with events, and participating in beer collaborations a common occurrence. Now with a solid name and the simple structure that the CBD offers, these one-off activities become a bit easier to manage for both breweries and tourists alike. For example, this past winter, the breweries offered a free holiday trolley via the Barrel Run that stopped at each brewery in a continuous loop. According to the CBD, branded bar crawls and trolleys like this will now be even easier to coordinate, with even bigger things on the horizon. “We hope to do more things like this in the future, and even have something big in the pipeline for this summer.”

I for one can’t wait to make my maiden voyage around the Chicago Brewing District soon – hopefully you will as well. Cheers!

Feature image courtesy of On Tour Brewing

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