Chicago Brewery Tour: Part 2, The North Side

Part 2, The North Side – Read Part 1: The West Side here.
Chicago’s North Side is teeming with brewery taprooms. Thanks to a comprehensive public transit system and (mostly) bike-friendly roadways, drinkers can navigate North Side brewery taprooms with ease. Seriously, get a bike or a Ventra card. Cycling is ideal, but the CTA’s buses and trains (Blue, Brown, and Red lines) can take folks from one North Side brewery to another in a jiffy. – Calvin Fredrickson

 

Photo supplied by Half Acre

 

Half Acre

 

Start here. You’ll probably end here, too. If you didn’t already know, Half Acre is a Chicago beer institution. Their 16-ounce cans of Daisy Cutter Pale Ale, Pony Pils, and rotating seasonal IPAs are icons of Chicago’s obsession with hoppy beer. At Half Acre, aesthetic and concept can be as important as the liquid itself. Their social media and blog posts are a testament to the eccentricity that runs in the water over there. Rest assured, the beer’s as good as its story.

 

Finding a table or seat at Half Acre’s taproom is tough some evenings, so get there early and let the staff guide your choices. When in doubt, order a pint of Pony or freshly-released Tuna extra pale ale and coast into a reliably delicious experience.

 

Photo by Steph Byce

 

Dovetail

 

Ales – mainly IPAs and big stouts – have long dominated Chicago’s tap lines. That domination may be due to a lack of representation of lager, limited mainly to elder statesman Metropolitan and, more recently, Baderbrau. Add to the lager-brewing movement newcomer Dovetail, your continental European-inspired huckleberry. Take the Brown Line to Irving Park and stroll over to their brewery/taproom, where tradition, balance, and patience are sacrosanct brewing tenets. With crowds at Dovetail often reaching capacity on weekends, and seeing an increasing number of Dovetail tap handles at bars around town, Chicago may well be falling for lager.

 

An amicable mix of big 10 bros, regular Janes and Joes, and old money tickers will find themselves rubbing elbows at Dovetail’s relaxed taproom. Food trucks are usually parked nearby, but if you don’t feel like getting off your barstool, order a dried sausage and a pretzel. If you’re lucky, Jenny will have some stinky cheese on hand. Be nice and she’ll save you a wedge, on the house.

 

Saturday brewery tours at Dovetail allow guests to drink beer straight from the fermentation and brite tanks while listening to the story of liquid dreams turned reality from co-founders Hagen Dost and Bill Wesselink themselves, offering an up-close view and taste of Dovetail’s heart and soul, fermentation. Buy a ticket to their tour, ya’ Scrooge – if it isn’t already sold out. Photograph their brewhouse – a 106-year-old copper vessel formerly of Weihenstephaner may catch your eye – coolship room, open top fermenters, horizontal conditioning tanks, and barrel cellar, filled with barrels of spontaneously-fermented beer brewed in the tradition of lambic.

 

Photo by Tricia Scully

 

Old Irving Brewing Co.

 

At last, the Northwest Side finally gets a brewery/taproom. Take the Blue Line to Montrose. Excellent food and great beers are the game at Old Irving Brewing. Formed in the wake of the Crooked Fork concept – a project put forth by now-deceased Homaro Cantu – Old Irving feels like a vision carried out by Cantu’s friends. Highlights from our visit include a few hoppy numbers and the dessert-like Krampus Cookies, a double chocolate stout brewed with cacao nibs and Madagascar vanilla bean.

 

Looking to play some drinking games while you, err, drink? Hold my beer, Old Irving has cornhole boards for casual gameplay, and a bocce league for the serious player. They also rent out space for birthdays and other events. Parents without a sitter will be glad to find Old Irving offers several kid-friendly food options, along with an attentive waitstaff. Their elevated, wood-fired pub fare and sound contemporary American beers make Old Irving a fine addition to Chicago’s North Side brewing scene.

 

Photo by JJ Jetel

 

Hopewell

 

This clean, airy brewery/taproom is the 2017 zeitgeist of Logan Square. Spacious as it is, Hopewell’s taproom is packed most nights, due in part to their central location and selection of thoughtful, peppy beers, brewed with the consideration of seasonality. Take the Blue Line to Logan Square. Order a Squad – quad brewed for Hopewell’s one year anniversary – and scribble on a coaster while soaking in the bubbly atmosphere of Hopwell’s taproom, marked by well curated music and conversation of area socialites.

 

As a brewer at Brooklyn Brewery, Hopewell co-founder Stephen Bossu gained an appreciation for brewing lager – an appreciation that informs Hopewell’s lager-friendly portfolio, including year-round First Lager and several other rotating lagers. Their kettle-soured Clover Club – brewed in collaboration with The Whistler – is a gin botanical and raspberry puree-infused saison, and tastes like an invitation to spring. Lately, Hopewell has been hosting pop-ups with area restaurants like Parson’s, Green Street Smoked Meats, and Dimo’s Pizza. Indeed, the Hopewell folks have made fast friends with Logan Square/Avondale businesses and residents alike – stop in for a beer and count yourself among them.

 

Revolution

 

In 2010, Revolution’s brewpub invigorated the food and beverage scene in Logan Square, attracting droves of thirsty patrons to a once quiet strip of Milwaukee Ave.

Located steps from the California Blue Line, the brewpub sees a lot of foot traffic – it’s a packed house most nights after 5 p.m. If you’re solo, grab a seat at the bar, order a Workingman Mild, and thank your lucky stars the reuben sandwich is back on the menu. And by Jove, don’t forget to order it, either.

 

You won’t find a barrel aged beer as consistently good and affordable as theirs, made possible, in part, by the opening of their production facility in 2012, located near the Belmont Blue Line stop. Connected to Rev’s production facility is a sizeable taproom, where you can ogle their prodigious barrel aging program and take pictures in front of a gigantic American flag. Ask for a Straight Jacket Barleywine. It may 1. turn your ears red, or 2. make you feel photogenic. Probably both. The two-year-aged version, V.S.O.J. – Very Special Old Straight Jacket – is a drinking experience bordering the sublime.

 

Of all their beers, Revolution’s hoppy ones have won the hearts of drinkers. But if you’re jonesing for yeast-driven, lower-ABV beers, Rev’s brewpub is the ticket, which still champions English beers – draught and cask – in a way few others in the region have. The sustained success of their Logan Square Brewpub and growth of their Avondale production facility and taproom has made Revolution a role model to new school Chicago breweries. Pay your dues.

 

Begyle

 

Despite their penchant for dad jokes and pop punk, Begyle packs their North Center taproom on a nightly basis. Maybe it’s the green chairs. Accent chairs, so hot right now. Since opening their taproom, located off the Irving Park Brown Line, Begyle’s production has been focused on supplying kegs to the taproom’s insatiable appetite – a demand that limited the availability of six-packs in the off-premise market. That constraint was eased recently with the help of Midwest Mobile Canning and contract-brewing partner Great Central Brewing Co, allowing Begyle to launch four brands as year-round, six-pack 12-ounce cans: Begyle Blonde Ale, Crash Landed American Pale Wheat Ale, Free Bird APA, and Hophazardly IPA.

 

The Begyle crew is the sweetest you’ll come across. Co-founder Kevin Cary is no exception – he’s basically a young Santa in flannel. One of their most beloved beers, Imperial Flannel Pajamas Coffee Stout, drinks like a lazy Saturday afternoon. Begyle’s hop-heavy year-rounders will hit the mark for hopheads, but that’s not all Begyle’s known for – their malt-forward offerings like Tough Guy Brown Ale and Neighborly Stout make Begyle’s beer menu a well-rounded one. Ipsento’s cold brewed is served via nitro pour for those in need of caffeination. If you find yourself without socks, Begyle with happily sell you a pair of branded argyle ones. Wait a minute. Argyle… Begyle…

 

Dryhop

 

Though the space inside this Lakeview East gastropub/brewery is snug – the brewers and bartenders know that better than anyone – the cozy confines of Dryhop do not hinder the high quality experience of their beers and food. People in the area looking for a tropical IPA and delicious, juicy burger could do no better than Dryhop. Grab a seat at the bar and you might catch brewer Brant Dubovick drinking a shift beer (or two or three). Take the Brown Line to Belmont Ave.

 

Dryhop’s walls are adorned with artwork that is showcased on a rotating basis, and usually pertains to booze of some sort. Featured artists include locals Andrew Wright and Tara Zanzig, among others. In the warmer months, patio seating invites guests to pound a few Shark Meets Hipster IPA while watching the vibrant Broadway Ave traffic whizz by. Fans of dry, American-focused beer will hang their hat at Dryhop.

 

Corridor

 

As the sister restaurant to Dryhop, this West Lakeview brewery is decidedly more rustic, with an emphasis on farmhouse ales and “hop forward American trailblazers.” Lately, this Southport Corridor brewery, located near the Southport Brown Line stop, has been leaning toward beers in the latter category, American beer. With the return of brewer Roger Cuzelis, formerly of Forbidden Root, and Corridor before that, expect to see more hazy, hoppy goodness from Corridor.

 

Sitting on their sidewalk patio in warmer months, Cubs fans can be seen walking in packs to Wrigley Field. Southport Ave: where you can overpay for ice cream, be nearly run over by Land Rovers, and push a stroller with a 32-ounce crowler in the cupholder. Corridor is a source of joy on this bougie strip of Southport, offering fancy pizza and delicious beers to all comers.

 

Band of Bohemia

 

Refined food with tasty, culinary minded beers. As the first Michelin starred brewpub in the U.S., Band of Bohemia has proven that beer has asserted its role in the world of fine dining. If you’re traveling by train, take the Brown Line to Damen. Co-founder Michael Carrol’s history as a bread baker at Alinea and brewer at Half Acre lend a Chicago-heavy credibility to Band of Bohemia’s brewing side. Their food program is no slouch either, boasting staff with experience at numerous other Michelin-starred restaurants.

 

For an elegant evening of beer and food, book a reservation at Ravenswood’s Band of Bohemia. A glance at their menu reveals beers brewed with a sense of whimsy, like their Maitake Wheat – brewed with roasted maitake mushrooms – and Parsnip and White Pepper Rye ale. Heady stuff! Brewpubs like Band of Bohemia are moving the needle forward for imaginative brewers and drinkers.

 

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