Thanks to infamous bootlegging gangster Al Capone, Chicago's Prohibition Era hooch history is known worldwide. But things change. Today, Chicago enjoys acclaim for its sophisticated craft beer culture. Indeed, the Chicago-based Hop Review blog currently tallies 65 craft breweries in the city. Get a taste of Chicago's diverse suds scene on one of these brewery tours.
Lagunitas Brewing Co.
Lagunitas Brewing Co., founded in California by a Chicago native, opened its sprawling brewery in 2014 in a former steel fabrication plant in Douglas Park. Tourgoers watch forklifts wheel around the production floor and brewers at work monitoring bottling conveyor belts and gleaming stainless steel fermentation tanks.
The approximately 4,000-square-foot taproom overlooks the brewing operation. Patrons seated around a huge bar and at communal tables sip their choice of 16 brews on tap, sometimes more. Food options include shareable appetizers, salads, sandwiches and desserts.
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"Lagunitas can easily be a half-day, full-sensory experience from the entertaining tour led by a comedian guide through neon lit hallways with 'Willy Wonka' movie music playing [to] tasting beer flights while live bands perform in the taproom," says Kristen Klus, head concierge at Four Seasons Hotel Chicago.
Free tasting tours run daily. Taproom hours are Wednesday through Sunday, noon to 9 p.m.
According to the Brewers Association, Revolution Brewing is one of the nation's top-50 craft brewing companies, based on sales volume. The original brewpub opened in Logan Square in 2010. The nearby Avondale neighborhood's production brewery opened in 2012 and was the filming site of the 2013 romantic comedy "Drinking Buddies."
Free 45-minute tasting tours fill on a first-come, first-served basis at the Avondale location Wednesday through Sunday. For food, head to the original brewpub that dishes wings, burgers, pizza and pierogies, plus weekend brunch.
Half Acre Beer Co.
"This North Center neighborhood brewery is an all-time favorite because of its beer choices and food-centric taproom," says Meg Stewart, concierge at The Gwen, A Luxury Collection Hotel, in Chicago.
Opened in 2008, Half Acre Beer Co. on Lincoln Avenue offers more than a dozen beers, as well as small plates and creative burritos stuffed with fried chicken, pork loin, Asian noodles and barbecue beef brisket.
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Saturday tasting tours for the first 60 guests to line up outside cost $10 cash. The taproom is open Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Thursdays from 11 a.m. to midnight, Fridays and Saturdays from 11 to 1 a.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Goose Island Brewery
Named after an island in the Chicago River's North Branch, Goose Island Brewery tapped into the nation's craft beer movement early on, opening a Lincoln Park neighborhood brewpub in 1988. Then in 1995, Goose Island opened its Fulton Street production Brew House housing 32 fermenters on Chicago's West Side and recently adding the taproom and tours.
Tour participants learn about the brewing process, as well as the brewery's experimental small-batch brews and bourbon barrel-aged beers, a technique Goose Island pioneered. In the classy taproom with 20 tap handles, guests pick from weekly rotating brews.
The 45-minute tours cost $12 and require online reservations. Taproom hours are Thursdays and Fridays from 2 to 8 p.m. and weekends from noon to 6 p.m. No food is served, but you can bring your own.
5 Rabbit Cerveceria
5 Rabbit Cerveceria, a Latin American-inspired brewery named after a god from Aztec mythology, was founded in 2011 in suburban Bedford Park.
Vibrant murals of Our Lady of Guadalupe, artist Frida Kahlo and folkloric images liven up the industrial space. Rabbit Hole Tasting Room taps eight beers infused with traditional Central and South American cooking ingredients, including piloncillo cane sugar, ginger, citrus, hibiscus and ancho chiles roasted on-premises.
Tours, conducted Saturdays, are $10. Tasting room hours are Wednesday through Friday, from 4 to 10 p.m., and Saturdays from 2 to 8 p.m. Hang out playing board games and ordering eats from food trucks out front or local restaurants. On Thursdays after 5 p.m., killer tacos are made on-site, three for $6.
Opened in 2009, the father-son-owned Argus Brewery celebrates its history while using wind energy and solar heat to help power the production facility. Evidenced by the terra-cotta horse heads mounted on the brick building, this Pullman neighborhood brewery is in an early 1900s Joseph Schlitz Brewing Co. stable for horses and carriages that once delivered beer to the company-owned drinking establishments throughout Chicago.
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The public can only access the brewery on Saturday afternoons, and 90-minute tours can be booked online for $15. Visitors learn about craft brewing and the brewery's historic neighborhood. Pullman was constructed in 1880 by George Pullman as a model industrial town for his Pullman Palace Car Co. workers building luxury railroad sleeping cars.
Moody Tongue Brewing Co.
One of the city's newest craft breweries, Moody Tongue Brewing Co. blends creative brews with sleek, midcentury modern furnishings inside a 100-year-old glass factory in Pilsen.
Guests gather around a massive white marble bar and commune at beer hall tables, or choose private booth seating and Eames-style chairs. On display is one of the country's largest brewing library collections donated by Chicago's Siebel Institute of Technology. There are 12 beers offered and two menu items: raw oysters and decadent German chocolate cake baked in-house.
The tasting room is open Thursday through Monday. Brewery tasting tours are complimentary and offered weekends at 1:30, 3 and 4:30 p.m.
To experience more of what Chicago has to offer, check out the U.S. News Travel guide.
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