Chicago’s 15 Best Bars, Gastropubs, and Liquor Stores for Craft Beer

Which spots rise to the top like a nice foaming head on a cold pint? We crawled the city and suburbs to bring you our favorites

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By Lena Singer
 

Liquor Stores

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THE SUBURBAN GEM
Armanetti Wines & Spirits (Shorewood)

It only looks like any other strip-mall liquor store. This outpost, one of 15 independently owned shops in the Armanetti buying group, is worth the drive for its 300-strong selection of craft beers, including a cooler brimming with at least 100 varieties of domestic four-packs, six-packs (Wild Onion’s Paddy Pale Ale, $9), 12-packs, and artisanal bottles (look for special releases from The Lost Abbey). When he opened this shop about a year ago, Mario Dukovac tapped more than three decades of experience in the beverage industry, most recently with a distributor, to build his list (single-malt Scotches are also a specialty) and admits to being “an alcohol fanatic.” You said it, Dukovac. 345 Vertin Blvd., Shorewood; 815-609-1690, armanetti.com

THE BEHEMOTH
Binny’s Beverage Depot (Lincoln Park)

There’s often an urge to take the big guy down a few notches, but quantity and quality coexist in skillful balance at Binny’s sprawling flagship, one of 25 area locations. The beer list peaks at about 1,600, with nearly 800 imported and 300 domestic crafts, plus 50 craft kegs, including half barrels from Brooklyn Brewery ($173.99). Beyond frequent tastings and generous discounts (call for details on July’s annual keg sale), the store just began a cellaring program: Select bottles from brewers such as Arcadia, Firestone Walker, and Lagunitas will be stored, aged, and then released in 2012 for the benefit of beer geeks citywide. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. 1720 N. Marcey St.; 312-664-4394, binnys.com

THE BY-THE-BOTTLE SPECIALIST
Lush Wine and Spirits (West Town)

Yes, it’s a wine store. But for beer fans who prefer to taste a new brew before committing to a six-pack, Lush’s West Town location carries close to 300 different craft bottles priced for individual purchase—primarily small-batch varieties, such as Founders’ Kentucky Breakfast Stout ($6/12 oz.) and Meinklang’s Ancient Grains Ale ($3.75/12 oz.). Recent larger-format offerings have included Goose Island’s 2006 Imperial Brown Goose ($30/750 mL) and Cantillon’s Kriek ($42/750 mL). 1412 W. Chicago Ave.; 312-666-6900, lushwineandspirits.com

An honorable mention in the à la carte category goes to Armanetti’s Lake View shop (3530 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-529-0288), which recently freed up nearly 200 domestic crafts for build-your-own six-packs.

THE LOCAL STANDBY
Vas Foremost Liquors (Logan Square)

Vas Foremost feels like your go-to beer shop—even if you live miles from Logan Square, where the Vaselopulos brothers have run this store, one of three owned by the family, since the 1950s. Every brew in the stock of about 1,000 varieties is kept cold, and 26 of the 31 refrigerator doors open onto large-format bottles (Dogfish Head’s Squall IPA, $9.99/750 mL) or six-packs (Three Floyds’ Gumballhead, $12.49). The cooler-only approach saves storage space but also puts an enticing rainbow of labels on display: “It’s attractive, just like when you go window-shopping,” Bill Vaselopulos says. Buyer, beware frequent impulse purchases. 2300 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-278-9420, vasforemost.com

THE IMPORT SOURCE
West Lakeview Liquors

You’ll find a smart selection of American craft beers at this snug 23-year-old shop in North Center, but real beer fiends flock for the rotating lineup of rare, and sometimes exclusive, imported bottles lining the shelves like a parade of nations (Brasserie de la Senne’s Zinnebir from Belgium, $4.49/330 mL; Almond ’22’s Torbata from Italy, $19.99/750 mL; Mikkeller’s Black Hole from Denmark, $9.99/ 375 mL). Later this summer, West Lakeview’s supply of wine and spirits will move next door to the space that formerly held its sister shop, a grocery, making way for an all-beer expansion that will bring the total inventory to 30-plus countries, represented by more than 1,000 different beers. Prepare for global takeover. 2156 W. Addison St.; 773-525-1916, wlvliquors.com

 

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2 years ago
Posted by barguy101

How about Fatpour Tap Works?? New bar on Division and Damen, best beer selection I have ever seen!!!

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