PorchDrinking’s Best in Beer 2018 | Chicago Metro Region
What a year for Chicago (and it’s neighboring suburbs). Amid winning a bevy of medals from high-profile events like GABF and FOBAB, the Windy City also took home the title for most breweries (167) within the metro region – an impressive feat indeed. With so many breweries making so many amazing beers, it’s safe to say Chicago beer drinkers were more than spoiled this year as they indulged in some of the best barrel-aged stouts and hazy IPAs in the U.S.
PorchDrinking’s Chicago crew diligently drank through many amazing beers this year. Some wowed us, others impressed with their creativity and several just made us warm and fuzzy.
The Chicago Area’s Top Beers of 2018
In a metro region spanning more than 10,000 square miles, catering to more than nine million people and possessing more than 160 breweries makes assessing the area’s “best beers” and “best new beers” an exceptionally daunting task. So, for Chicago, it was best to let a few writers mention three memorable beers from 2018.
It was a tough task to drink them all, but someone had to do it.
1. Cruz Blanca Lady Luminda Imperial Blonde Stout
“With so many great barrel-aged beers in Chicago, this exquisite stout from the West Loop-based Cruz Blanca stands out thanks to its expert blend of dark chocolate and rich blueberry that elevates the drinking experience to the highest level.”
2. Corridor Brewing & Provisions SqueezeIt American IPA
“Corridor had a very successful year, earning recognition at GABF and executing several seamless on-premise can launches of their much-hyped SqueezIt IPA. This hoppy number provides huge bursts of citrus and hops with enough of a creamy body for you to forget that this beer tops out at 8%.”
3. Marz Brewing Jungle Boogie Pale Wheat Ale
“The small southside operation has greatly expanded its beer creativity and distribution in the past year, but their bellwether remains the delicious Jungle Boogie. This delicate wheat ale is perfect for any type of drinking setting, providing a bright spark of Rooibos tea and fruit with a supremely drinkable wheat body.”
1. Maplewood Brewing Peanut Butter Cuppa Imperial Stout
“The balance between peanut butter, chocolate and coffee was perfect.”
2. Dovetail Brewing Kriek
“2 years in the making was worth the wait for this beer which was the first true Kriek made in Chicago.”
3. Revolution Brewing Deth by Currants Barrel Aged Imperial Oatmeal Stout
“Revolution took this beer from concept to full-blown production and it worked. The currant flavors are present but not overpowering in a really well done fruited stout.”
1. Only Child Brewing Peach Be Humble Pinot Noir Barrel Aged Wild Ale w/ Local Peaches
“A terrific fruited wild ale. My review of the beer after the brewrey’s third anniversary (when it was served) remains true: “A beer that takes all the great qualities of a beer cocktail (or Sangria, perhaps) along with all the best parts of a beer and combines them to make for an exceedingly flavorful, yet masterfully balanced beer offering notes of tart, sour, oak and peach.”
2. Imperial Oak Rum Barrel Aged Dark Abbey Belgian Stout, aged for one year in Jamaican Rum barrels
“The Imperial Oak crew has a gift for barreling, be it tequila, bourbon, rum, or sitting in a foeder. This past May, IOB produced Rum BA Dark Abbey, a Belgian Stout aged for a year in Jamaican Rum barrels. Plenty of rum, with a bit of dark fruit and chocolate. Smooth, aromatic, flavorful — fantastic.”
3. Begyle Barrel-Aged Imperial Pajamas 2018 with Cinnamon:
“In a city abound in BBA (and related style) beers, it is awfully tough to be considered the best on anyone’s list, but the 2018 Imperial PJ variants blew me away, and the cinnamon version proved to be my favorite with its spice, sweetness, barrel character and a touch of booziness simply knocked it out of the park.”
Top Beer Fests (not named FoBAB or B.U.G.)
Two staples each year involve the Festival of Barrel-Aged Beer (FoBAB) and Beer Under Glass, located at the Garfield Park Conservatory and kicks off Illinois Craft Beer Week. Those are not only favorites for those who attend, but also the brewers. So, in addition to those easy choices, Chicago’s writers selected:
- Lagunitas Beer Circus – Rachel Morrison
- Half acre Big North Event – Taylor Laabs
- Half Acre Brewing Far & Away (Local/National Brewers) – Matt Powers & Mike Zoller
Top Beer News
- The aforementioned study by Bart Watson (Brewers Association) that determined Chicago and its suburbs possessed more breweries than any urban community.
- Wil Turner, a mainstay at Revolution Brewing, moved to Open Outcry Brewing.
- Werk Force Brewing pulled off the triple crown of awards: The brewery took home a Silver at World Cup; Bronze at GABF; and both a Gold and Silver (same category) at FoBAB.
- Several breweries opened new, bigger locations while others announced plans for expansion (or moves to bigger spaces) in 2019. The craft scene is booming in Chicago.