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Homegrown Hops Are Hot in the Local Beer Scene

Three hometown brews that come with a taste of Illinois terroir

Lake Effect Brewing Company’s hops; Wil Turner of Revolution Brewing   Photos: Jeff Marini

No matter how hard you try to drink local, the truth is that most of Chicago’s craft brewers get hops (the plants that provide the bitterness to balance the sweet malt flavor in a brew) from the Pacific Northwest. But hops do grow here—and you can taste the Chicago harvest in these three limited-release beers, available only on tap at the breweries.

Lake Effect’s 45th Ward
Lake Effect’s 45th Ward

45th Ward Pale Ale

Lake Effect Brewing Company

Lake Effect produces this nutty, not-too-bitter ale each fall using hops donated from home gardeners around the brewery’s Northwest Side neighborhood. Growers can bring in their hops fresh or trimmed and dried, and they (and you) can sip the end result by the first week of October. 4727 W. Montrose Ave., Old Irving Park

Penguin Hops American Pale Ale

Revolution Brewing

Chicago’s largest independent brewery teams up annually with the Shedd Aquarium to produce this ale, and proceeds benefit the aquarium’s conservation efforts. The hops are grown on the grounds of the Shedd and harvested by volunteers before being sent to Revolution head brewer Wil Turner. He mixes them with his own homegrown hops and some from the West Coast, resulting in a brew with floral, grapefruit, and pine notes. 3340 N. Kedzie Ave., Avondale

Otis India Pale Ale

Wild Onion Brewery

This medium-bodied IPA is made in the late summer or early fall each year with hops grown on the brewery’s property. The fresh hops are dumped directly into the mash tun (the vessel in which the malt’s starches are converted into sugars) to sit for half an hour to impart flavor and act as a natural filter bed. Several days later, the beer’s ready to pour, delivering a bracing bitterness. 22221 N. Pepper Rd., Lake Barrington

Looking to grow your own? We got tips from Revolution’s head brewer, Wil Turner.

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