By Mark Loehrke | Calligraphy by John Kenzie
93 Octane Brewery
Alex Makowski took over as head brewer this past summer, introducing some new flavors while continuing the auto-themed tradition of the family that also runs Pride gas stations.
1825 Lincoln Hwy., 93octanebrewery.com
“Doppelapfelstrudelweiss is our most unique beer right now. It is an imperial apple strudel Berliner Weiss, made with Waldmeistersirup. It’s a delicious take on an apple cider beer we did in collaboration with Elmhurst Brewing Co.”
“Our newest beer is called Wingman: a gluten-reduced golden ale. A portion of the proceeds support Folds of Honor, an organization that provides scholarships to the children/family of fallen or disabled service members.”
Afterthought Brewing Company
Old World tradition meets New World sensibility at this family-run upstart, where scratch-made farmhouse-style saison beers are the focus.
844 N. Ridge Ave., afterthoughtbrewing.com
Alter Brewing Co.
The crew at Alter has built one of the most respected brands in the ’burbs over the past five years, cranking out ever more creative and sought-after brews from its comfortable, unassuming taproom.
2300 Wisconsin Ave., alterbrewing.com
Alter Brewing + Kitchen
All the tastes and techniques that Alter fans have come to love from the Downers Grove taproom get a shiny riverfront showplace in the Tri-cities, accompanied here by an ambitious new food menu.
12 S. First St., alterbrewing.com
“Heavy Squeeze is an unfiltered lemon wheat ale that combines the refreshing zing of lemon with a balanced sweetness for the perfect summer beer drinking experience.”
“If we’re talking year-round offerings, probably our Hopular Kid extra pale ale, or Alterior Motive IPA. These two core beers and have been pillars of our tap list since near the beginning of Alter.”
Arrowhead Ales Brewing Co.
Named for the subdivision in which founder Mike Bacon got his start as a home brewer, Arrowhead is now a destination for beer and food lovers alike.
2101 Calistoga Dr., arrowheadales.com
BBGB Brewery & Hop Farm
The notion of “locally grown hops” takes on new meaning at this sustainable concept from the folks behind Hardware restaurant, given that the majority of those little buds (six species) are growing next door at the onsite farm.
2000 W. Orchard Rd., eathardware.com
“Misty’s Cream Ale was a summer seasonal that became a year-round offering due to popular demand. It’s a very light easy drinker that has become as popular as our flagship Earl the Pearl American pale ale.”
“Our Saison Marilyn, named for the brewer’s late mother, is considered a ‘super saison,’ weighing in at around 8.3% ABV. It’s brewed with orange peel and three kinds of peppercorns to lend extra complexity to the bold aroma and flavor.”
Belly Up Beer Co.
Joe Fornari’s small operation follows the blueprint of
the scrappy craft brewing story to the letter, epitomizing the slow climb from hobby homebrewer to wider recognition. bellyupbeer.com
Black Horizon Brewing Co.
The classic three-buddies-just-brewing-some-beer concept is personified in Black Horizon’s laid-back taproom, where the trio’s creative craft concepts provide the refreshment to complement an evening of old-school board games and foosball.
7560 S. Quincy St., blackhorizonbrewing.com
Brother Chimp Brewing
Opening a new taproom just in time for the onset of the pandemic wasn’t exactly an auspicious start to Steve Newman’s brewing journey, but with the beer-loving community showing up over the past few months for patio pours and growler refills of his English-style ales and German-style lagers, the future looks bright.
1059 W. Orchard Rd., brotherchimpbrewing.com
“Although, our West Coast IPA For the Masses is extremely popular, our brown ale with coffee and a touch of vanilla is fairly unique and well balanced.”
D and G Brewing Co.
This off-the-beaten-path labor of love from brewer Alex Drayer and his crew has built a steady, loyal fan base in the Tri-Cities over the past two years.
303 N. Fourth St., dandgbrewery.com
“We just brewed a Grodziskie. It’s a Polish oak-smoked wheat ale. It kinda reminds us of smoked sausage. But it is somehow refreshing, light, and delicious. We just brewed it for our second anniversary. It’s definitely a style you don’t see much with a flavor unlike many beers.”
Dry City Brew Works
The tucked-away location off Main may be hard to find for first-timers, but a few hours at the bar, on the sofas, or out on the back patio will make almost anyone feel like a regular.
120 N. Main St., drycitybrewworks.com
“Pumpkin Pyro is a porter we brew each fall. Partnering with our friends at Steamboat BBQ, we smoke pumpkin over sugar maple for several hours before adding it to the boil kettle. This imparts a subtle smokiness to a solid porter and a smooth mouthfeel with no pumpkin spices added. The beer was used in Steamboat BBQ’s award-winning chili at the annual Wheaton Chili Cookoff in early November.”
“Providence Coffee Milk Stout utilizes coffee beans roasted by our neighbors at Five & Hoak Roasters and has been on tap since the day we opened. A light bodied stout with a smooth—never bitter—coffee flavor and aroma, that is a customer favorite and has proven a solid gateway beer for people hesitant to try dark beers.”
Elder Brewing Co.
Andrew Polykandriotis and his wife, Melissa, run this three-year-old operation which helped bring the craft beer party to Joliet, offering live music and fresh popcorn alongside its rotating selection of brews.
218 E. Cass St., elderbrewingco.com
Elmhurst Brewing Co.
Local owners Frazer Donaldson and Pete Dolan are passionate about not only brewing great beers, but pairing those creations with a food menu full of creatively delicious selections.
171 N. Addison Ave., elmhurstbrewing.com
“The Schwartz, our German black lager, because it’s rare to see this style these days, and ours is very dark, malty, and refreshing, with low alcohol.”
Emmett’s Brewing Co.
Founded in West Dundee in the late ’90s by Andy Burns, the Emmett’s empire has since expanded to multiple locations, including this mainstay of Downers Grove’s main drag.
5200 Main St., emmettsbrewingco.com
Emmett’s Brewing Co.
The Wheaton outlet of this west suburban minichain features the same wide-ranging food menu and rotating selection of interesting brews as its brethren.
121 W. Front St., emmettsbrewingco.com
“We use a variety of hops from the New World in our World’s End IPA that impart notes of tropical fruit. The hop aroma and bitterness is balanced with malty sweetness.”
Energy City Brewing
There’s always something new and different coming out of Batavia, thanks to a shared dedication to the science and experimentation of craft brewing from brewmaster David Files and wife/co-owner Heidi. Pick up a constantly rotating selection of specialty beers via drive-through pickup on Saturdays.
917 First St., energycitybrewing.com
Foreign Exchange Brewing Co.
Few local places are as committed to the industry’s well-known spirit of collaboration as Foreign Exchange, where everyone from fellow brewers to local bakeries stand as potential partners on the next great concoction.
New brewpub due in early 2021, foreignexchangebrewing.com
You’re just as likely to discover a new favorite band as a new favorite ale at this music-friendly taproom situated inside an historic renovated firehouse.
15025 S. Des Plaines St., garagebandbrewing.com
“Our Coffee Nitro Milk Stout is made with Guatemalan coffee roasted by our neighboring business Krema Coffee House.”
Named for the Polish brewer and great-great-grandfather of owner/brewer Tom Beckmann, this newcomer has found a pandemic breakout star in its highly sought-after original lager.
513 Rogers St., goldfingerbrewing.com
Granite City Brewery
The Freedom Drive corridor outlet of this national chain is known for its four made-on-site signature brews and rotating seasonal options.
1828 Abriter Ct., gcfb.net
Hickory Creek Brewing Co.
Many hops and fruits that find their way into owner Gary Meyer’s creations come from the New Lenox homestead where he nurtured his homebrewing hobby over more than two decades before getting into full-time brewing in 2016, opening the current taproom in 2018.
1005 W. Laraway Rd., hickorycreekbrewingil.com
Hop Butcher for the World
As the name implies (a change from the original South Loop Brewing Co.), the focus in Darien is on the almost endless possibilities to be found in the humble hop—and these guys seem intent on pursuing every flavor and aroma in the IPA realm.
1000 N. Frontage Rd., hopbutcher.com
Hopvine Brewing Co.
Fox Valley Mall (in whose parking lot it resides) may be slowly succumbing to an unforgiving retail landscape, but Doug and Jan Isley’s seven-year-old brewpub is still going strong with its solid food menu and locally influenced beer.
4030 Fox Valley Center Dr., hopvinebrewingcompany.com
“Floyd Morningsides’ Sour Old Ale is one of a kind. Sweet and sour upfront, this mixed fermentation sour finishes clean (and slightly sour). And at 9% ABV, this dark, malty beer stays true to the Old Ale designation.”
“Potentially the most dangerous beer in the western suburbs, our Brew Monkey was named for our brewmaster. When he’s behind the glass, working in the brewery, he often has people coming up and tapping on the windows. And why dangerous? It has a sweet, fruity character to it, but this Belgian Tripel is so smooth that you don’t even realize it has a 10% ABV.”
Ike & Oak Brewing Co.
The creations of veteran brewer Nathan Tertell (Two Brothers, Lagunitas, Baderbräu) complement a food menu that leans heavily on Neapolitan-style pizzas incorporating Ike & Oak’s ale yeast in the dough of their chewy, blistered crusts.
6315 Main St., ikeandoakbrewing.com
“Chatahoochee Delight (Pastry Sour) has a tart and fruity taste with a peach cobbler flavor, including the tastes and aromas of cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. A bit of lactose is added for a creamy mouthfeel.”
Imperial Oak Brewing
The small-batch operation continues its steady growth trajectory with plans to soon open a full-fledged brewpub in the former Brixie’s in Brookfield to abet its exceedingly popular six-year-old Willow Springs taproom and patio.
501 Willow Blvd., imperialoakbrewing.com
“Our anniversary beer Quiet Giant is a 14% ABV barrel-aged beer that we released in June. We brew multiple variants that include different spirit barrel aging treatments, as well as different combinations of fruit, nuts, and spices.”
Lunar Brewing Co.
Lunar definitely gives off more of a dive bar vibe than most taprooms in the area—albeit a dive bar with a very high-level beer selection.
54 E. St. Charles Rd.
Metal Monkey Brewing
The crew at Metal Monkey has built a loyal following of locals and out-of-towners alike at its comfortable, heavy metal-themed taproom over the past four years.
515 Anderson Dr., metalmonkeybrewing.com
Milk Money Brewing
Thanks to the pandemic, LaGrange may have to wait a little longer to get its first craft brewery. In the meantime brothers Matt and Lucas Bumba and head brewer Erik Pizer have been selling meal kits via an online butcher shop/marketplace while working to polish plans for a fall opening.
75 S. La Grange Rd., milkmoneybrewing.com
“While not unique or necessarily unusual, we will have an English Dark Mild in regular rotation on the tap list. It’s not a very popular style, but it’s a great classic that you just don’t see too often.”
“Our LaGrange Lager is a light, crisp, refreshing easy-drinking light lager.”
Miskatonic Brewing Co.
While the inner taproom may be more refined, the outer taproom at Miskatonic is where you’ll find the true beer nerds—chatting up the staff and enjoying their pints of West Coast Wizard with a clear view of the working brewhouse and cellar.
1000 N. Frontage Rd., miskatonicbrewing.com
“What we currently have is Soubrette—a wild golden ale (a yeast-fermented American brew with less body, hop and malt) that we age in Chardonnay barrels. We then added different floral elements to give it a unique twist.”
More Brewing Co.
With raves for the diverse food selection matching those for the beer lineup, it seems only a matter of time before More grows into something … more.
126 S. Villa Ave., morebrewing.com
MyGrain Brewing Co.
Until Vince Turrise and Greg Lesiak opened MyGrain in 2017, Joliet was one of the most populous cities in America without a brewery. Also unusual? This brewpub is situated in one of the most unique locations in the western ’burbs—the lower level of Joliet’s old Union Station.
50 E. Jefferson St., mygrainbrewing.com
Noon Whistle Brewing
Brewing in Lombard since 2014, the Noon Whistle crew recently expanded the original taproom, shifted the bulk of production to a new facility in Naperville (dedicating the Lombard site to more experimental brews), and added a kitchen with a variety of appetizers, sandwiches, and flatbreads. 800 E. Roosevelt Rd., noonwhistlebrewing.com
“We are known for our NEIPA Gummy series (Gummypocalypse, Squishy Gummy) and Sour Smack series (Smack That, Swanky Smack). The selection rotates throughout the year so customers always have a new variation to try.”
“Cozmo Pale Ale is our flagship beer and is a must-try any day of the year. The crisp and balanced beer features Falconer’s Flight hops and gives off a grapefruit nose and light orange hue.”
Oswego Brewing Co.
A prime downtown location makes this taproom a convenient spot to grab a brew after a stroll along the river or a ride on the nearby trails. Try Oktoberfest, a traditional German-style Märzen, available in the fall.
61 Main St., oswegobrewing.com
“We brewed Snap Cocoa Pop as an experimental “pastry” stout a couple of years ago, and folks loved it. It is an extremely full-bodied imperial milk stout with chocolate rice cereal, cocoa nibs, lactose (milk sugar), and vanilla, ringing in at 12% ABV.”
Penrose Brewing Co.
This passion project from two Goose Island veterans has grown into one of the most popular and widely respected brands in the western suburbs over the past six years.
509 Stevens St., penrosebrewing.com
“Every year, we brew a ‘Spontaneous’ beer here at the brewery and then take the wort in a coolship (a stainless vessel) to a local farm where the wort sits outside all night to be naturally inoculated with yeast from the air. We then transport the beer back to the brewery and age it in oak barrels for the next one to three years.”
“Our go-to amongst staff would be our Dryft Mosaic IPA, a subtlely hopped and nice crushable IPA to get you through the day.”
Pollyanna Brewing Co.
The recently expanded taproom will help absorb the crowds when Mother Nature eventually shuts down the popular patio overlooking the I&M Canal. 431 Talcott Ave., pollyannabrewing.com
Pollyanna Brewing Co.
The newest of Pollyanna’s locations features live music, large garage doors that open to the outdoor patio, and—of course—a wide selection of the brewery’s signature creations.
106 S. Riverside Ave., pollyannabrewing.com
“The Fun Size Milk Stout is brewed with peanuts, vanilla, cocoa nibs, and sea salt.”
Riverlands Brewing Co.
The recent pandemic-inspired addition of an outdoor beer garden gives fans of this Tri-Cities up-and-comer a new fair-weather option for enjoying their favorite brews.
1860 Dean St., riverlandsbrewing.com
“Yellow Kayak, our house German Pilsner, is without a doubt our Head Brewer’s beer of choice. Light and well-balanced, he’ll tell you that he drinks this more than any of our beers.”
The Bolingbrook outlet of this national chain is a nightly draw for hungry and thirsty visitors to the Promenade complex.
639 E. Boughton Rd., spbhospitality.com
The craft brewer of choice for the shopping mall set has been a mainstay at Yorktown for nearly a dozen years.
94 Yorktown Shopping Center, spbhospitality.com
If the Candy Bar Brown Ale don’t satisfy your sweet tooth, you can always move to the food menu and try a brownie topped with stout-infused fudge sauce.
28256 Diehl Rd., spbhospitality.com
“Twelve is a nitro-poured Scottish 70 shilling session ale at 3.7% ABV. Very few brew this style of beer in the U.S., so it is rarely seen on tap.”
Skeleton Key Brewery
Nothing says “paying it forward” like expanding your operation to offer classes and a hands-on incubator for aspiring craft brewers.
8102 Lemont Rd., skeletonkeybrewery.com
“Our popular ‘Migratory’ Toasted Coconut Golden Ale is unusual because you most often find coconut in dark beers, but the light golden ale base really helps it shine. We toast our coconut by hand and add it to the fermenter within a day for maximum freshness. The result is a nutty, toasty coconut aroma and flavor.”
Solemn Oath Brewery
John Barley has spent the better part of the past decade steadily building Naperville’s original homegrown craft brewery into one of the area’s most beloved and respected labels. Check out the 4,200-square-foot outdoor beer garden.
1661 Quincy Ave., solemnoathbrewery.com
This longtime neighborhood spot in downtown Geneva was brewing traditional, straightforward beers for its Swedish vardshus long before the craft beer boom arrived.
306 W. State St., stockholmsbrewpub.com
“Mike’s Blend (5.4% ABV) is a perfect ratio of our State Street Pilsner and our Third Street Ale at the tap. The Pilsner opens up the complex malt flavors of the brown ale while still retaining a crisp finish.”
Two Brothers Brewing
Given the craft beer tidal wave that has emerged in its wake, it’s hard to remember back to a time when Jim and Jason Ebel’s original industrial park taproom was considered an odd curiosity rather than ground zero for an artisan empire.
30W315 Calumet Ave. W., twobrothersbrewing.com
Two Brothers Barrell House
This multilevel concept devotes plenty of attention to its food and cocktail programs, but it wouldn’t be a Two Brothers outlet without a beating heart of craft beer love.
16 W. Jefferson, twobrothersbrewing.com
Two Brothers Roundhouse
Locals rejoiced when Two Brothers decided to take over this historic property, knowing that the space would be well preserved and utilized, while they themselves would be well fed and refreshed.
205 N. Broadway, twobrothersbrewing.com
“Our signature beer
is Domaine DuPage. This French Country Ale is a nine-time award winner and one of the most iconic craft beers in the industry. It boasts a toasty caramel sweetness with just enough hops to cleanse the palate. Truly original, this flagship beer is a perfect dinner companion.”
Two Hound Red
Wood-fired pizzas and creative sandwich options complement the tasty brews (not to mention whiskeys, cocktails, and wines) at this newish industrial-chic brewpub in downtown Glen Ellyn.
486 Pennsylvania Ave., 2houndred.com
If you like what you’re drinking in the taproom, chances are many of the ingredients and supplies used to brew it are available around the corner at the brewery’s sister supply shop, Chicago Brew Werks.
14903 S. Center St., werkforcebrewing.com
“Something that sets us a part are our experimental brews and barrel program. Barrel Aged Farmhouse Vultures—a saison aged in Cabernet French oak red wine barrels and heavily fruited with blackberries and raspberries—has won gold medals at the national Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beers.”
Whiskey Hill Brewing
The brewery’s third and current moniker honors the Prohibition-era tales of booze supposedly flowing freely throughout Westmont’s history, as opposed to any propensity for actually making whiskey.
1115 Zygmunt Cir., whiskeyhillbrewing.com
For those skittish about tossing back a pint inside the circa-1851 structure (that’s been dubbed the “most haunted brewery in Illinois”), owners Krys and Katie Wolf made sure there’s plenty of non-paranormal space to spread out in the expansive beer garden out back.
112 W. Lake St., wolfdenbrewing.com
“Each of our Zombie series of golden pastry ales is inspired by a different dessert or treat (like Key lime pie or Kolaczki) and usually contains ingredients like milk sugar, vanilla, fruit, or graham crackers.”
“Our Highlander Strong Polish pilsner is my favorite because it is crisp with plenty of hoppy character and easy to drink. I’ve always wanted to showcase a beer based on my Polish heritage. It’s brewed using a generous amount of Lubelski hops from Lublin, Poland.”
Photo courtesy Two Hound red; Photos courtesy Brother Chimp Brewing, Energy City Brewing, Penrose Brewing Co., Werk Force