Best Beer Selection at a Liquor Store | Best of Chicago 2010 | Food & Drink | Chicago Reader

Best Beer Selection at a Liquor Store

Critics' Picks

West Lakeview Liquors

2156 W. Addison

Best, not biggest. It’s hard to compete with Binny’s when it comes to inventory, but West Lakeview Liquors, like In Fine Spirits and Drinks Over Dearborn, has a lovingly curated selection—and unlike those places, it crams bottles onto every inch of shelving, sometimes with a second row of beers on a sort of terrace behind the first. I’m sure this makes for terrible feng shui (and it’s hard to get your hands on the Cantillon St. Lamvinus, say, without bumping into the Lou Pepe Framboise ’05), but it allows the shop to indulge in some impressive eccentricities.

There’s an entire row of pricey single-hop IPAs from Danish brewers Mikkeller, more than I even knew they made. There are eight different vintages and barrelings of the J.W. Lees Harvest Ale, one of the world’s best English barley wines, dating back to 1999. Choose from five Fantome saisons, including the chocolate-chile version, and just as many kinds of Paradox imperial stouts from Scotland’s BrewDog, among them the ridiculous Smokehead—made with smoked malt and aged in Islay whiskey barrels, it smells like a pirate ship on fire at low tide (and will set you back almost $13 for a 12-ounce bottle). BrewDog’s Atlantic IPA—brewed to an 1856 recipe and matured for two months on a ship at sea, in an attempt to replicate the effects of the voyage to India that supposedly gave the IPA its name—is so limited that only 960 bottles were shipped to the States, but West Lakeview had a handful of them in stock when I last dropped in, at $27.99 apiece.

There’s craft beer from Japan, Norway, and Italy, and the selection of Belgians includes just about anything you might’ve fallen in love with at the Hopleaf. Of course there are also coolers full of American beer from the usual suspects, with a strong tilt toward midwest operations like Three Floyds and Great Lakes. If you absolutely, positively have to keep it under $8, you can always pick up a sixer of Schlitz. But when you’ve got a few more dollars to throw around there’s an education to be had here. I’m only just getting started myself.

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