Taste the Local Craft Beer Scene at 5 Local Breweries

August 2016 View more

Five years ago, if you told a friend you were going to hang out in a taproom in the western suburbs, they’d assume you meant Two Brothers. The Warrenville brewery—which now has a second location in Aurora—was one of the only games
in town.

As the demand for craft beer continues to soar, the brewery scene in the Naperville area has picked up the pace, with a handful of new entries over the past few years.

There’s hardly a better time to make the rounds than late summer, when brewery staff roll open their garage doors and tap refreshing warm-weather brews. Stop in for a quick taste, linger all afternoon, or fill up a growler to take home at a few of the top taprooms in the area.


Solemn Oath Brewery

1661 Quincy Ave. #179, Naperville, 630.995.3062


Opened: May 2012

Backstory: President John Barley (yes, that’s his real name) credits his parents move to Belgium—and the eye-opening experience of drinking beer there while visiting—with inspiring him to start Naperville’s first brewery. Head brewer Tim Marshall, formerly from Rock Bottom, uses Belgian yeasts and American hop profiles to create the brewery’s takes on traditional styles. The taproom is tucked into the corner of the brewery building, located behind the L-shaped complex at 1665 Quincy Avenue.

For newbies: Punk Rock for Rich Kids, a single-hopped Belgian pale ale with hops changing quarterly.

For beer fans: Snaggletooth Bandana, a citrusy West Coast-style American IPA. For access to barrel-aged releases, join The Old Order, a members-only club with open enrollment in late November or December.

Notable: Pay it forward by buying a beer for a buddy through the Beer For Friends program; your friend’s name goes on the chalkboard and he or she can claim next time they visit. Also good to know: Credit only, no cash—and bartenders don’t accept tips. To express your gratitude, you can buy them a beer.

Upcoming events: Every Tuesday, the staff taps a new beer. Members of The Old Order also get access to Hammer Down events, aka mystery field trips planned by the brewery crew.

Take home: 6-pack cans, bombers, growlers.

Penrose Brewing Company co-founder and brewmaster Tom Korder chats with customers in the brewery's taproom.

Penrose Brewing Company co-founder and brewmaster Tom Korder chats with customers in the brewery’s taproom.

Penrose Brewing Company

509 Stevens St., Geneva, 630.232.2115


Opened: March 2014

Backstory: Founders Eric Hobbs and Tom Korder (also brewmaster, pictured) have been in the beer business since college and met at Goose Island before linking up to start Penrose, located just a couple blocks off downtown Geneva’s main drag – about 1 mile north of the Metra station. With its concrete countertop and wood-planked bar, the taproom is just as eye-catching as the brewery’s red-and-gold geometric logo. “We take a lot of inspiration from the Belgian brewing tradition—utilizing wild yeasts and alternative fermentation methods—and put an American spin on it,” Korder said.

For newbies: Devoir, a crisp and dry saison. Session Sour is also smart entry-level option for drinkers starting to dabble in sour beers.

For beer fans: Taproom IPA is a good go-to for hop heads. In August, look for a wet-hopped IPA made with fresh locally grown hops.

Beer alternatives: The European-style Radler combines low-ABV beer with grapefruit soda for an easy-drinking summer sipper.

Notable: Look for limited release barrel-aged wild ales during your next trip to the taproom.

Upcoming events: Celebrate a draft-only collaboration with New Belgian Brewing at an August release party, details to be announced.

Take home: 4-pack bottles and cans, growlers.

AlterBrewing_800pxAlter Brewing Company

2300 Wisconsin Ave #213, Downers Grove, 630.541.9558


Opened: December 2015

Backstory: Alter’s owners worked at Chicago Board of Trade years ago and then reconnected over a shared love for craft beer, altering their career paths for good (get it?). Three blocks from the Belmont Metra station in Downers Grove, brewer Mark Hedrick welcomes a varied crowd—from hipsters to parents with babies in tow—to the taproom, where contemporary design elements such as sleek orange lighting fixtures, communal tables and a back bar paneled with wood planks make it feel more like a cool neighborhood bar than an industrial taproom.

For newbies: Center Line golden ale is a popular entry-level pick.

For beer fans: Keep an eye out for barrel-aged releases—such as Smashtun stout aged in bourbon barrels—being tapped this fall.

Beer alternatives: The spicy, citrusy Ginger Snapper soda is tasty by itself or mixed with beer as a shandy, while the dry, tart King Balaton cherry wheat ale made with Michigan cherries is a good cross-over beer for wine and cider drinkers.

Notable: Most of Alter’s beers don’t have a name at their genesis, said Hedrick, so he crowdsources names from the whole staff via group messaging app Slack.

Upcoming events: Alter Fest in October will feature a family-friendly daytime session (think face-painting, a bubble station) before going adults-only for the evening with bands and more brews.
Take home: Growlers, howlers.

One of Hopvine Brewing Company's specials is the chicken and waffles entree, which is crispy buttermilk fried chicken over a homemade waffle, topped with jalapeno slaw and maple ginger syrup. The Ruffled Feathers Hopped Up Brown Ale is a perfect pairing to the dish. Jane Donahue / Special to the Tribune User Upload Caption: One of Hopvine Brewing Company's specials is the chicken and waffles entree, which is crispy buttermilk fried chicken over a homemade waffle, topped with jalapeno slaw and maple ginger syrup. The Ruffled Feathers Hopped Up Brown Ale is a perfect pairing t - Original Credit: Handout

Hopvine Brewing Co.

4030 Fox Valley Center Drive, Aurora, 630.229.6030


Opened: October 2013

Backstory: Husband and wife owners Jan and Doug Isley met brewer Ken McMullin at church and decided to go into business together. They envisioned not just a brewery but a full-service restaurant, and now you can fill up in the dining room, or at the bar, with views of the brew tanks through floor-to-ceiling windows. Inside a roomy strip mall space near Fox Valley Mall, all signs of former tenant Enchanted Castle—think wizard-emblazoned carpet—have been replaced by stacked stone walls, black booths and red wood chairs.

For newbies: Urban Tumbleweed, a German-style hefeweizen with banana and clove notes.

For beer fans: Sourora, a summery sour ale, and Brew Monkey, a Belgian-style trippel that packs a punch at nine percent ABV. For those sweet on the adult root beer trend, All Growed Up Root Beer is creamier and less cloying than others on the market.

Beer alternatives: In addition to McMullin’s housemade sodas, there’s also a full bar for cocktail-making, including mojitos made with muddled mint leaves from the patio garden.

Notable: McMullin brews with local ingredients when possible, such as honey from Smith Talbot Apiaries in Naperville.

Upcoming events: Listen to acoustic music Friday and Saturday nights, either indoors or on the patio if weather permits. Like Hopvine on Facebook to watch for details regarding their third year anniversary celebration in October.

Take home: Growlers, howlers.

Urban_800pxUrban Legend Brewing Company

1115 Zygmunt Circle, Westmont, 630.442.7864


Opened: June 2013

Backstory: “We like to say it started with a home brewer and a plumber,” said Shannon Hancock, chief operating officer. In an tan-brick building in an industrial park two miles south of downtown Westmont, brewer Dan Rosenberg dreams up recipes ranging from chocolate-habanero stout to grapefruit IPA to hazelnut milk stout. Their mission? To serve something for everyone. “We have light beers, dark beers, big beers, easy beers,” Hancock said.

For newbies: Hasen Fuss cream ale is light and approachable for craft beer beginners.

For beer fans: The Creature black IPA delivers a piney, hoppy punch. A seasonal pumpkin cream lager called The Devil and Jack, will return this fall.

Notable: The brewery’s 1971 Volkswagen bus with two taps installed in the side is available for special events.

Upcoming events: New releases are tapped on Fridays. The brewery also hosts two block parties a year (the next is in September) with food trucks, bands and plenty of beer.

Take home: Growlers, howlers, bombers.