Chicago’s beer renaissance focuses on city brewers such as Metropolitan, Half Acre, Revolution, and the soon-to-open Haymarket. But standing on the shoulders of Two Brothers and Three Floyds, suburban craftspeople are quietly closing the gap. Here are five operations that keep the burbs hopping.
1. STOCKHOLM’S It would be easy to pass Stockholm’s—located on the main drag of a downtown that defines “quaint”—and not recognize it as a brewpub, despite the large vat in the front window. Stockholm’s beer is unfiltered, and it avoids bitterness without sacrificing flavor, so the Aegir’s ale retains a delightful kick and fresh crispness without any excess hoppiness, and Lorazz weiss is so light it’s like liquid raspberry air. Stockholm’s also offers beer classes through the park district, where you can learn to throw around terms like “mouthfeel” and “hop presence” like a true beer dork. 306 W. State St., Geneva; 630-208-7070
2. LUNAR BREWING COMPANY This blink-and-you’ll-miss-it microbrewery looks like a prototypical suburban old man’s bar: dart games, wood paneling, blues on the juke, guys rolling their own smokes. It’s only when you notice the seven moon-shaped tap handles and the table tents listing house beers such as a smooth Jumping Cow cream ale and a lightly tart raspberry cream ale that you get the idea that something more potent than any ol’ macrobrew is going on here. Pints average $5, and dedication to the astral theme continues through the tap list: Moondance IPA, Nebula Nut Brown, Total Eclipse stout, and Full Moon IlLunaRator rounded out the options on our last visit. 54 E. St. Charles Rd., Villa Park; 630-530-2077
3. AMERICA’S HISTORIC ROUNDHOUSE Walter Payton’s name is no longer affiliated, but the Roundhouse still makes the same quality craft beers it’s been brewing since before doing so was cool. Mike Rybinski has taken three gold medals at World Beer Cup competitions since 2000 with a pilsner, a light beer, and the kind of monster stout that seems to dominate brewers’ attention these days. And at a recent Roundhouse event, Rybinski dry-hopped beers with fresh hops through a homemade engine made from an industrial water filter. 205 N. Broadway, Aurora; 630-264-2739
4. LIMESTONE BREWING COMPANY Bringing some character to an otherwise dreary stretch of Route 59, Limestone has been a beer destination for the southwest suburbs since it opened in December 2009. Running the gamut from a standard golden ale (on hand for those asking, “What’s the most like Miller Lite?”) to obscurities like a beautifully balanced India brown ale and a mellow, roasted, 2.7-percent-alcohol-by-volume “small” stout, Limestone doesn’t dumb down the offerings. Ten house taps, a variety of guest drafts, and a huge bottle list bolster the brews—and the menu features a must-have appetizer: Bottle Caps, a.k.a. red and green jalapeños deep-fried and served with Cheddar beer sauce, though most order it with the requisite ranch dressing. 12337 S. Rte. 59, Plainfield; 815-577-1900
5. FLOSSMOOR STATION RESTAURANT AND BREWERY Located in what used to be the town’s train station, and a few steps from the current Metra station, this microbrewery is the best option for public-transit-access drinking. Its brewers have won just about every known beer medal with standards like Gandy Dancer honey ale and Panama Limited red, and they continue to push forward with seasonals including a pomegranate sour and an organic cocoa. Flossmoor is also one of the few brewpubs around to offer bottles for retail: 22-ounce bombers of three beers—an IPA, the Station Master wheat, and the Pullman brown—went on sale in 2008, on the 75th anniversary of Prohibition’s repeal. 1035 Sterling Ave., Flossmoor; 708-957-2739
Photography: (Limestone) Owen J. Murray, (Lunar) Mick Meyer, (Flossmoor) Karina Shimkos