Chicago’s 36 Best Local Craft Beers

What to Drink This Summer and Beyond

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Good Island's Fleur
A rose-colored glass: Goose Island’s Fleur

Hey, Anheuser-Busch InBev: 312 is all yours, but the three Geese following represent the recipes we most hope you keep your mitts off.

FOR THE BEST ICED TEA EVER
Goose Island’s Fleur

Envision your grandma’s Southern veranda, complete with a pitcher of sun-steeped iced tea. Now imagine the scene transported to your boozy back deck. That’s Fleur, a beer brewed with hibiscus and kombucha that could have been sickeningly saccharine or stale-tea-bag sour but instead is a welcome revelation, echoing the typical pale-ale profile but pulling its flavors from the most unexpected places. 5.2% ABV. $10.99 four-pack.

FOR THE LOVE OF MEAT
Goose Island’s Pepe Nero

A so-called black saison, Pepe is dark as charcoal and primal as raw meat. Think wood chips, peppercorn, and the rarest au jus—bloody, even—with an underlying earthy sweetness. We may be in the thick of summer now, but remember those days when it was too cold to turn on the grill, much less shiver outside for five minutes a side? Pepe is for then. 6% ABV. $7.99/22 oz. bottle

Binny’s (213 W. Grand Ave.; 312-332-0012) and other locations; gooseisland.com

 

Related:

« BEST HOMETOWN BREWS
Check out the 36 best brews in Chicago

10 THINGS… »
Homebrewing and beer-drinking tips, plus our beer-making video and details on our beer release party

TOP BARS, GASTROPUBS, AND LIQUOR STORES »
Our 15 favorite places to find craft beer

BEER SCHOOLED »
A history of the Siebel Institute of Technology

WHAT’S IN YOUR FRIDGE NOW? »
Four connoisseurs tell us what they’re drinking

THROWING A BEER TASTING PARTY »
Pros tell us how to pair beer with food

CCBW 2011 »
Check out pics from this year’s Chicago Craft Beer Week

Plus:
Download your own tasting sheet (PDF)

And vote in our poll to name Chicago’s signature summer brew on our Facebook page

FOR LADIES WHO BRUNCH
Goose Island’s Sofie

Move over, Miller. Turns out Sofie is really the Champagne of beers, with more bubbles per taste bud than a jeroboam of brut. Zesty and sprightly, this saison will please sparkling-wine drinkers and seafood lovers alike, but its citrusy notes get us thinking breakfast or—better yet—a hip bridal shower. A word of advice to overworked bridesmaids: Why mix beermosas when you can raise a flute of this sassy lass? 6.5% ABV. $7/12 oz. pour, $15/22 oz. bottle. Goose Island Clybourn, 1800 N. Clybourn Ave.; 312-915-0071

 

FOR DRINKABLE SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS
Half Acre’s Daisy Cutter Pale Ale

In the old days, Dad cracked open a can of Coors after his weekly lawn-mowing expedition, but today’s sophistidad turns to Daisy Cutter, a tangy pale ale bursting with whiffs of dandelion and mulch that glides down the gullet like silky extra virgin olive oil. 5.2% ABV. $8.99 four-pack.

FOR OKTOBERFESTIVITIES
Half Acre’s Over Ale

There’s something almost briny about this cola-colored brown ale, a surprise given its malty-sweet aroma. Within a few sips, we’re craving a hearty German snack. Pass the sauerbraten and spätzle, bitte. 6.5% ABV. $8.99 four-pack

Half Acre Beer Company, 4257 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-248-4038, halfacrebeer.com

 

FOR HAMBURGLING
Hamburger Mary’s Gangster Hopped-Up Amber Ale

Need some liquid courage? This amber only smells like malt whiskey; at less than 6 percent alcohol, a nip won’t knock you flat. While Gangster probably would help steel the nerves before a bank heist, we find it a formidable partner for Mary’s criminally good half pound of Angus beef. 5.6% ABV. $4.50 pint, $16 pitcher. Hamburger Mary’s, 5400 N. Clark St.; 773-784-6969, hamburgermarys.com

 

FOR LAWN CHAIR ENTHUSIASTS
Haymarket’s Mathias Imperial IPA

There you are, about to sip a cold one after a long day at work, when suddenly you smell fresh-cut grass in the air. Or is that your brew? You take another whiff: Hello, hops—and yet this refreshing IPA doesn’t have the grab-you-by-the-ears bitterness you might expect. Launched in 2010, Haymarket doesn’t promise any official year-round beers, but, thankfully, Mathias is like some weeds: It keeps popping up. 10.5% ABV. $9 pint, $32 growler ($27 refill). Haymarket Pub & Brewery, 737 W. Randolph St.; 312-638-0700, haymarketbrewing.com

 

FOR NORTHWOODS WANDERING
Limestone’s Flying Pig Imperial IPA

Grab a growler to go, then head to Wisconsin for a weekend of the three Cs—camping, canoeing, consuming beer—or just pitch a tent in the yard and pretend you’re in nature, as this IPA packs enough pine to fill a forest. Hoppy as a hare and bitter as a backwoods hermit, the Pig smells as strong as it tastes, which might help drown out your own eau de outdoors after a couple of days in the wild sans shower. 8.14% ABV. $6.50/10.5 oz. pour, $16 growler.

FOR THE LOVE OF WHEAT
Limestone’s Wheatlander

Seriously, what’s in the water in the western suburbs? We were pleased as spiked punch with several of Limestone’s brews, but this hefeweizen had us at first sip: a big, bouncy gulp bursting with banana. When you name a beer after your home turf (Wheaton Township encompasses Plainfield), you’d better not screw it up; fortunately, this unfiltered ale ably sidesteps the soapy aftertaste of lesser wheats (we’re looking at you, Blue Moon). 4.7% ABV. $4.50 pint, $6.50/23 oz. pour

Limestone Brewing Company, 12337 Rte. 59, Ste. 155, Plainfield; 815-577-1900, limestonebrewingcompany.com

 

Photograph: Anna Knott

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comments
3 years ago
Posted by JP

Great list. There are many that I have not tried. My new summer goal will be to have a pint of each on the list.

1 year ago
Posted by dcrns287

How does Zombie Dust (3floyds) not make this list?!

1 year ago
Posted by Whatever's Cleverer

Hmmm. Some nice ones on here, sure, but far too focused on a very few breweries. 4 of 36 slots for 3 Floyds and Flossmore? 3 of 36 for Two Brothers and Goose Island? That's 14 of the 36 slots for only 4 brewers.

Why not spread the love a bit to more of the up-and-comers like Flesk, Atlas, Ale Syndicate, or Solemn Oath (whose lack of a mention shows the writer clearly isn't in tune with the Chicago beer scene)? I would put many of these beers at the same level as some of the ones mentioned, or even higher.

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