Creativecommons.org/Steve Browne & John Verkleir
Chicago is a town that loves its beer, and takes it very seriously. A history-laden rising star in the world of craft beer, Chicago is the founding place for several craft breweries entrenched in tradition and local pride. But in Chicago, it's not enough to have more than 70 breweries in Illinois with plans for 40 more in the near future.
With unique and individualized beer tours and openings sprouting up across the city, Chicago is embracing its rising reputation as a major brewing force to be reckoned with across the country - and the world - and is paying homage to its historical roots that led to today's fervent craft brewing scene.
As the summer winds come to a slow close, check out what's brewing with some of the hottest - and most unique - beer experiences Chicago has to offer.
History on Tap
There are few things Chicagoans cherish more fiercely than its history, and the city's love of its beer is one of them. And when it comes to these essential Chicago passions, combining the two seems to be just about a match made in Chicago heaven for History on Tap founder Liz Garibay. With stories rooted in humble beginnings, History on Tap tours will take you on a walk through Chicago's celebrated beer history with beer and tavern historian Liz Garibay as she guides you through neighbourhood-based tours such as "Old Town Taverns," "Pints & the Past on Devon Avenue," and "Cubs & Pubs: Wrigleyville Taverns" to name a few. History on Tap uses beer and tavern history to teach participants about the past, because, as Garibay says, "Taverns, beer history and drinking culture are useful and familiar tools to teach diverse audiences about a city's past."
The Chicago Beer Experience
For an experiential glimpse into the "off-the-beaten-path" craft breweries in Chicago, The Chicago Beer Experience is at your service. On these mindfully crafted tours, groups of up to 18 are led on foot through Chicago's neighbourhoods in pursuit of a variety of beer tastings, light bar snacking, and general good-time-having (bacon munchies and Chicago-style hot dog, anyone?) The Chicago Beer Experience invites tour takers to get to know the city through its beer and through its very own history, present in each neighbourhood brewery along the way. Newcomers will find the Lincoln Park & Lakeview and the Bucktown & Wicker Park Beer Tasting and Bar Tours a great place to start. Great for tourists and locals alike, The Chicago Beer Experience promises "you'll learn something new - and you'll be drinking beer, too!"
Chicago Brews Cruise
A true "behind-the-scenes" experience that is guaranteed to forever change the way you taste and think about beer, Chicago Brews Cruise is dedicated to getting visitors and locals into the inner workings of the craft breweries that make this city such a brewing power house. Based in different areas of the city, Chicago Brews Cruise invites you aboard the Brews Cruise tour bus to learn about the beer brewing process, learn about the nuances of different beer styles and meet the people who make local beer great, tasting as you go.
This is not your average beer tour - master brewers of local breweries will invite you into their world and explore the gritty science behind the taste that is eventually bottled and shared. Founder of Chicago Brews Cruise Rick Julien will be the first to admit that his tours appeal more to the "beer geek" than to the college beer enthusiast. Book your tour for an "After Work Wednesday Brews Cruise," a "Goose Island Production Facility and City Breweries" focus, or maybe even a general "North Chicagoland Beer Tour." Whichever you choose, you're sure to be a certified "beer geek" come the end.
A true testament to Chicago's massive, and growing, presence on the national beer scene, just this summer California-based Lagunitas Brewing Company officially opened its Chicago brewery, distribution centre, and TapRoom in Chicago's white hot Pilsen neighborhood. Upon opening, Lagunitas Chicago instantly became the largest brewery in Illinois, housing a 300-seat taproom and supplying all company's markets east of Denver with product. This $25 million-plus facility can produce more than 500,000 barrels of beer per year. After the entire warehouse is built out, Lagunitas will be able to brew and ship one million barrels a year, making it larger than all the craft breweries in Chicago combined. Thirsty yet? The enormity of this recent addition to Chicago's brewing scene is something that Lagunitas invites all Chicagoans and visitors alike to enjoy, with free tours offered every day of the week.