#IllinoisCraftBeer – PorchDrinking.com
The innovative and imaginative District Brew Yards, new home to Burnt City Brewing, Around the Bend Beer and Bold Dog Beer, stands as the nation’s first brewery collective, pour-your-own beer hall, eatery and swag shop all operating under one roof. With an ability to provide customers an expansive — and routinely experimental — beer menu, Brew Yards (opening Friday, April 12) adds tremendous allure to the already impressive Chicago Brewing District on the west side comprised of nearby All Rise Brewing, as well as On Tour, Great Central, Finch and Goose Island.
Would you be willing to fall in love with a new beer? Maybe even reconnect with a beer you already tasted before? February is a short month, but enough time to show our craft beer community some love. This week was interesting since I tried new beers as well as a beer spa experience. I wanted to celebrate a birthday in a different way, and I definitely accomplished that. Cheers to trying new beer experiences, even if it means submerging yourself in a hot tub full of beer ingredients! PorchDrinkers have a cool lineup of diverse beers and we are all over the country sharing this week’s What We’re Drinking.
The addition of suburban-Chicago’s Oswego Brewing Company (May, 2018) further demonstrates that the craft beer industry is far from “too crowded.” Oswego Brewing has fit in nicely, thank you, and is drawing in its own new loyal crowd of craft beer fans. Operating out of spacious building — the town’s former fire station — and under the direction of the multi-award winning head brewer, Marc Wilson, Oswego Brewing deftly balances the art of offering sophisticated special releases alongside solid, versatile year-round and seasonal choices.
Brickstone Brewery has won medals at FoBAB, the World Cup, and GABF. One can find Brickstone at every Jewel, several Buffalo Wild Wings, throughout Guaranteed Rate Field (White Sox games), at beer fests — and even gas stations these days. It’s tough to find a Chicago-area bar without some tap handles adorned by Brickstone artwork. Yet, most Chicago-area beer fans have never been to Brickstone. Born of a family-restaurant in the 1990s, the Bourbonnais business added a brewery in 2006 and has since evolved into a dually-located, full-fledged, 9k to 10k barrel-per-year brewery (with a capacity for 18k) and, as it always has been, family restaurant. Located 45 miles south of downtown Chicago, Brickstone has simultaneously discovered a way to cater to its local clientele while also existing among the biggest names in Chicago beer.
Solemn Oath Brewing, located in the large and populous Chicago suburb of Naperville, has remained a stabilizing force within the broader, changing Chicago craft beer market. Since opening in 2012, the brewery has adapted to internal and external changes without ever losing its identity, nor its popularity among beer fans; that’s what good people serving well-executed beer will do for a brewery.
Solemn Oath is now ready to take the next step in its craft beer journey by expanding to a second location and joining a slew of breweries in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood. But first, a pop-up bar is in the works.
First, a piece of advice. Do not speed as you travel the picturesque country roads of southern Illinois. The first reason is, of course, the cops. The speed limits drop quickly from 55 to 35 as you near and enter the small farming towns along Highway 158. The second reason is the simple beauty of the drive. Country roads should be cherished and with the debut of Lieferbräu Brewery as a reward for heading in this direction, you’ll be driving with a smile the whole time.
Noon Whistle Brewing beers have become staples on the shelves of craft beer shops all over Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. From pale ales to stouts to sours to their well-known Gummy New England IPA series, the brewery has an extensive portfolio of beers.
We sat down with owner Mike Condon and their other owner and brewer Paul Kreiner to learn more about this small, but growing (1,900 barrels in 2017 and pacing for 4,100 barrels in 2018), brewery and do a deeper dive on some of their thoughts on topics related to the craft beer industry.
The vast majority of craft brewers take immense pride in every beer they produce, and it shows in the exuberance they demonstrate while discussing their creations to patrons during Illinois Craft Beer Week. Sure, beer releases, festivals, events and tap takeovers during craft week are wrought with stressful, logistical challenges. Nonetheless, whatever might betide, in those moments when a beer fan inquires as to the details of a beer served, sheer joy routinely arises. In fact, all those associated with the brewery exude palpable excitement when presented with an opportunity to speak about their products.
All that hard work. All that cleaning. All that blood and sweat is worth it when it gets boiled down to the very essence of beer making — the beer, itself.
The ubiquitous nature of craft beer fests suggests that the novelty of simply offering nothing but an array of craft beer has diminished; a lively competition among fests exists. As a result, festivals routinely engage in the “craft-plus” strategy, such as a “craft + a theme” or “craft + an appealing venue.” One such craft-plus fest occurred on May 5 in the Chicago area at the Schaumburg Boomers’ minor league baseball stadium — the 6th Annual Ballpark Brew Fest (co-hosted by Bigby’s Pour House).bot
The alluring venue coupled with breweries who brought A-game brews, mostly served by its all-star staffers, made for a successful fest and one for which has the potential to maintain its year-to-year viability.
A principal attribute of craft brewing involves the confluence of creativity and tradition. The summer ‘18 opening of the newest Tribes Beer Company location—a brewhouse, tasting room and beer garden—exemplifies that characteristic. Tribes draws on tradition while simultaneously adapting to an ever-evolving beer industry.
In Chicago, in November, it’s almost impossible to not run into a great barrel-aged beer. Begyle Brewing will release two of its own starting on Friday (Nov 17) and both are worthy of standing in line to get. Barrel-Aged Imperial Pajamas will be released on Nov 17th, with Batch 500 being released the following Friday.
The wall of barrels, two-deep and floor-to-ceiling, that stretches along the length of the brewhouse captures the eyes of those walking through the Scorched Earth Brewing taproom doors. The tantalizing tower of aged beer induces salivation in a manner that would make Pavlov proud. Still, the diverse beer menu and exceptionally warm, inviting taproom environment amounts to a brewery that is attractive to just about every type of beer drinker.
On a weekend usually dedicated to the high-flying Air and Water Show, Half Acre Beer Co. delivered its own high-octane experience at their second annual The Big North beer festival. The Big North II was a celebration of Half Acre’s 10 years of business; and it also was a moment to open its Balmoral facility to the public for the very first time, and it did not disappoint.
Whether it’s in a can, bottle or on-draft, craft beer can be consumed in many ways. Now, thanks to a new state law backed by Chicago suburban brewery Noon Whistle Brewing, there will be a new way to drink: cans with completely removable lids.
Craft brewing and community are synonymous, but no community can exist without its first responders, the brave souls who serve and protect the town. Both Tribes Beer Company and Tribes Alehouse (suburban Chicago) will honor Police, Fire and EMTs/Paramedics, as well as their spouses and children, throughout September. First responders can enjoy 25% off their food bill as a gesture of appreciation for the hard work for which they bravely perform each day.
The third leg of the Illinois Craft Beer Guild Festival Grand Slam occurred on Aug 5, 2017 at Welles Park on the north side of Chicago. Festival goers enjoyed sun, 78-degree temperatures, terrific beer and a venue that was tough to beat. Sadly, though, for various reasons, attendance seemed a tad lackluster for Welles. It’s unlikely that will be the case at the next one; the Festival of Barrel Aged Beers (FoBAB) is the Wimbledon or Masters of Illinois beer fests.
The Chicago metro area certainly has a multitude of beers available for consumption these days, given its now 175+ breweries in operation. But, every once in awhile, a beer comes along that inspires a beer writer such as me to, well, write about it. This time, the beer comes from the mad geniuses of Chicago’s Dovetail Brewery. The Dovetail motto, “We brew like monks (minus the vows),” notes its dedication to traditional, continental European-style brewing methods and that is why the Dovetail Hefeweizen is one of the best you’ll ever have.
The breweries that lie north of Chicago’s Saison-Dixon line regularly play the role of the ugly red-headed stepchild. Granted, Mikerphone receives endless, well-deserved praise, but Mikerphone is a transplant that gained its fame prior to moving to Elk Grove Village. Meanwhile, breweries located in the North Burbs, such as Light the Lamp, Ten-Ninety, ZumBier, Chain O’Lakes, Side Lot, Tighthead, Only Child, Flesk — a brewery in the process of moving to Barrington, and countless others are oft-ignored among the pantheon of Chicago-area breweries.
Don’t do it. Don’t rob yourself of that joy. Refuse to ignore northern-suburban breweries. The brewing scene of the North Burbs is too good to miss!
The Only Child Brewing story involves several unique chapters. Some sections are straightforward, yet compelling, such as mentioning the brewery’s ultra-hip, slick taproom or the brewery’s personable, enthusiastic staff. Of course, one can also talk about its beer that exemplifies the term, “artisanship.” However, other portions of the Only Child Brewing story are far more complex, including the nearly simultaneous, and tumultuous, birth of both the brewery and its owners’ newborn twins. The story may not be a fairy tale, but all signs point towards a happy ending.
Photo Credit: Noon Whistle Brewing via Facebook
The Noon Whistle Brewing story resembles one enjoyed by innumerable craft breweries, especially in Chicago. The brewery first sought to create a niche within the booming craft beer market by becoming Chicago’s premier session-beer location. But, now in its third year, abundant success has forced the Noon Whistle Brewing crew to adapt its vision, both to accommodate its growing business, and also satisfy a desire to brew a variety of great beer. Noon Whistle has transitioned from audience-seeker to a trusted name brand.