Chicago Craft Beer Bars
Top Spots for Independent Ales

Chicago’s craft beer industry was scorched more than a century ago in the Great Fire of 1871. Milwaukee brewers quickly started sending their suds south, and incidentally secured a decades-long control over the local market. But starting with Goose Island in the 1980s, the local industry has slowly gained steam, particularly with the introduction of craft breweries such as Half Acre and Revolution. Chicagoans can’t get enough; a wave of craft-beer bars has crashed upon the city, bringing with it a bounty of local and international brews.
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Logan Square: United Nations of Beers

Organized by country and punctuated with tiny flags, Quenchers’ chalkboard menu lists brews from all six beer-producing continents. If the nearly 300 types of beer served daily isn’t enough of a draw, patrons can also get excited about the vintage photo booth, a kitchen that serves food until midnight, and the adjoining room that hosts improv comedy and live music.

River North: Midwest Obsessed

Farmhouse has adopted a “farm-to-tavern” mentality, collecting most of their nearly 30 on-tap beers from Midwestern breweries such as Finch’s, Barley Island, and Central Waters. Most of the décor is reclaimed from around Chicago, including a vintage Bevador cooler that was recovered from a body shop on the city’s southwest side.

Bridgeport: Nearly 500 Types of Beer

Under the glow of bomber-bottle chandeliers, patrons try not to drown in a selection of 470+ craft beers that might just be the largest in the city. While a selection this large could easily breed beer snobs, the bar’s hardly pretentious: many regulars call former owner Maria Marszewski ‘mom’, and the on-site liquor store sells 40s of High Life.

Bucktown: International and Unpretentious

As its name implies, the Map Room carries an international selection of beers, though when the bar first opened the owners weren’t exactly the most worldly drinkers. In that spirit, they host beer schools and are patient with patrons that get lost attempting to navigate an oft-changing list that has included Thornbridge’s Raven and Eggenberg’s Samichlaus.

Uptown: Nearly 300 Different Beers

The Belgian-centric menu at Hopleaf reads more like a beer encyclopedia—descriptions often include a story about the brew’s name or origins. The draft list also tells you what type of glass the beer will be served in; the bar keeps many of the beers’ branded glassware on hand, such as Kwak’s duckbill-shaped goblet that perches in a wooden bracket.

Sheffield Neighbors: Craft-Beer Brewers

Accumulating an impressive selection of craft beers wasn’t quite enough for Local Option—they eventually decided to start brewing their own. At various breweries around the country, Local Option’s Bierwerker label churns out brews such as a gose spiced with black lava salt, and hybrid ales spiked with coffee or aromas of bourbon.

North Side: Hand-Pumped Beer Engine

Though there’s some debate about which ‘hood Fountainhead definitively lies in, there’s no confusing the distinctive taste of the bar’s pints. A hand-pumped beer engine pulls beer into glasses with suction instead of pushing it out with added carbonation. The result is a warmer draft; those who don’t like the temperate taste can choose one of the 160+ bottled beers.

North Center: Drink and Eat Craft Beers

The Bad Apple staff is so obsessed with craft beer, they not only maintain a painstakingly organized beer room, but also introduce brews into the food wherever possible. Virtue’s RedStreak cider adds tartness to a sweetbread po’ boy, mushrooms soaked in Founders’ Dirty Bastard cap a steak sandwich, and Great Lakes’ Edmund Fitzgerald infuses a burger topped with fig-and-bacon relish.

Lakeview: Year-Round Beer Garden

Though there are multiple bars inside Sheffield’s, patrons can also take their drinks out to the year-round beer garden. In warmer months, sunshine glimmers through a canopy of tree branches. In the winter, patrons may be so taken by sips of limited-run brews such as Two Brother’s Red Eye Coffee Porter that they won’t mind standing in the snow.

Logan Square: In-House Cicerone

Though, as the Chicago Tribune puts it, O&E’s staff “can discuss the subject [of beer] intelligently”, the bar’s in-house Cicerone can plug any leaks in their knowledge. The British-inspired menu boasts brews from around Europe and North America, including BBQ from Boulevard Brewing Co. in Missouri and Primator Maibock from Pivovar Nachod in the Czech Republic.