The ultimate guide to Chicago brewery tours | Food & Drink Feature | Chicago Reader

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The ultimate guide to Chicago brewery tours

The best tours for beer geeks who're also cat lovers, home brewers with a dream, gluten-intolerant cyclists, experts who think they've seen it all, and more

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PAUL JOHN HIGGINS; THINKSTOCKPHOTOS.COM
  • Paul John Higgins; thinkstockphotos.com

The craft beer boom of the past several years has gifted Chicago with much more than some really fine suds. A dizzying number of new breweries have become the creative homes of brewers who're taking a kind of auteurist approach to making inspired, sometimes unconventional beers using recipes that seem limited only by their creators' imaginations. Nearly two dozen of those breweries in and around the city offer regular tours, giving the public the chance to drink in the distinctive culture around each brewery—and an excuse to drink lots of freshly made beer.

In addition to this guide, the Reader is also offering an opportunity for you to come with us on a crawl of brewery tours (to On Tour Brewing Company, Greenstar Brewery, Dovetail Brewery, and Begyle Brewery) on Saturday, April 8.


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GENIE LEMIEUX
  • Genie Lemieux

Temperance Beer Company

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Best for: joining the new temperance movement

The name of this congenial taproom and brewery in a onetime Montgomery Ward distribution center is an homage to Evanston's status as a formerly dry city and home to the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. Founder Josh Gilbert, who led the one-hour, three-beer tour when I took it, says the city still doesn't issue straight tavern licenses, so food service is a necessity, though the snacks are so limited you're free to BYO or order in. We imbibed a stout redolent of s'mores, an IPA, and a licorice-and-chicory-flavored porter from the taps while Gilbert showed off the big, shiny cylinders and contraptions with which 80 barrels of water, hops, malt, and yeast are boiled, fermented, chilled, and (in some cases) canned, every week. —Deanna Isaacs

2000 Dempster St., Evanston, 847-864-1000, temperancebeer.com. Second Saturdays, 1 PM. 60 minutes. $10, includes about 18 ounces of beer; book tickets online. Taproom on site. Limited food menu served.


VIA SKETCHBOOK WEBSITE
  • Via Sketchbook website

Sketchbook Brewing Co.

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Best for: a DIY feel

"Where do hops come from?" asked a woman on my tour of Sketchbook in Evanston. "I mean, they don't just grow in the ground." In fact, that's exactly what they do, which brewer and co-owner Cesar Marron patiently explained without missing a beat. He also informed us that while most hops are grown on the east or west coast, Sketchbook uses Wisconsin-grown hops, along with grain malted in Michigan. The nanobrewery was best known for its alleyway entrance when it first opened three years ago, but as of last April, there's a cozy taproom in an actual storefront on Chicago Avenue where you can sit down for a pint after the tour (in fact, it's included in the price). —Julia Thiel

821 Chicago Ave., Evanston, 847-859-9051, sketchbookbrewing.com/tours. Second Saturdays, 3 PM. 60 minutes. $10, includes 24 ounces of beer during the tour and afterward a 16-ounce pour in the tasting room and a Belgian glass; sign up on location. Taproom on site.

Tasting notes: There are nine trillion yeast cells in a typical batch of Sketchbook beer.


COURTESY EMPIRICAL BREWERY
  • Courtesy Empirical Brewery

Empirical Brewery

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Best for: beer geeks who're also cat lovers

Empirical's impressive 30-barrel brewing system was made in Wisconsin. I remember this fact in particular because my tour happened to also be attended by a pack of bachelor-party bros from Milwaukee who loudly cheered and chugged their beers at every mention of their home state. A friend and I made a similar ruckus at another stop: the cat tower, located in a storage area that, with a dart board and a couch, doubles as the brewers' break room. Empirical is home to three feral cats (Egon, Ray, and Venkman) who help keep rodents out of the grains. Don't worry: the cats have no interest in the ingredients. In fact, they spend most of their time sleeping in an attempt to ignore the loud beer guzzlers who invade their home on Saturdays. The brewery's motto is "exploring the science of beer." On a pair of whiteboards, brewers map out the chemistry behind their beer and experimental formulas to come. At least one new beer is served in the taproom every week. —Brianna Wellen

1801 W. Foster, 773-654-3104, empiricalbrewery.com/tours. Saturdays 12:30 and 2 PM. 45 minutes. $10, includes 16 ounces of beer and a pub glass; sign-up for 20 spots begins in taproom at noon. Taproom on site.


VIA METROPOLITAN WEBSITE
  • Via Metropolitan website

Metropolitan Brewing

Metropolitan Brewing's public tours (which have always been sporadic) are currently on hold while the brewery moves into a much larger space in Avondale. Plans for the new location, expected to open later this year, include a taproom and tours.

metrobrewing.com


COURTESY LAKE EFFECT BREWING CO
  • Courtesy Lake Effect Brewing Co

Lake Effect Brewing Company

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Best for: home brewers with a dream

Lake Effect Brewing is a home-brewing operation that grew a little too large and got kicked out of the house into an industrial space next to a costume shop near the Kennedy Expressway. The tour has the same sort of homemade feel. While brewer Clint Bautz goes about his business making beer, Ken Leja (billed on the company website as "master fixer and all-around handyman") shows off various tanks and tubs and barrels and outlines the brewing process. Despite the low-key setup, Lake Effect offers a broad and sophisticated range of stouts and ales, and you can sample as much as you like. (Our favorite was the Arbor Oak Amber, made with oats from the Morton Arboretum.) For a more formal tasting from real glasses, the brewery suggests heading over to Sidekicks half a mile east on Montrose. —Aimee Levitt

4727 W. Montrose, 312-523-5141, lakeeffectbrewing.com. Saturdays at 2, 3:30, and 5 PM. 30 minutes. Free; reserve online in advance up to an hour before tour.

Tasting notes: If you stop by often enough and Lake Effect's staff take a liking to you, you may be invited to join in the semiregular bottling parties, wherein they bottle the beer and stick on the labels all by hand. (They agree this is work a child would enjoy, but labor laws prevent that.)


BREW BOKEH
  • Brew Bokeh

Half Acre Beer Company

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Best for: making a day of it

Half Acre's newer, larger Balmoral facility (where the Daisy Cutter gets made) is not yet open to the public, but the original North Center brewery has transitioned into an experimental facility focusing on new and unusual methods, everything from decoction mashing to wild fermentation to barrel aging, as well as collaborations with other breweries and classic micro styles. The three-hour tour covers brewery history, method, and the future. Afterward you can suck on a Vallejo while shopping for hoodies and money clips in the retail shop, or chase one of chef Nick Lacasse's burritos with an Akari Shogun American wheat ale. —Mike Sula

4257 N. Lincoln, 773-248-4038, halfacrebeer.com/lincoln-tours. Saturdays 11 AM. 180 minutes. $10, includes 48 ounces of beer and a pint glass; arrive by 10:15 AM to wait in line. Taproom on site. Food served.

Tasting notes: Every few days a dairy farmer from Indiana named Ed picks up tens of thousands of pounds of Half Acre's spent grain to use as supplemental feed for his cows.


JULIA THIEL
  • Julia Thiel

Dovetail Brewery

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Best for: experts who think they've seen it all

Dovetail's German-style beers are particularly appealing to beer nerds, but plenty approachable for the layperson. The same can be said of its brewery tour: one of the owners—either Hagen Dost or Bill Wesselink—details what sets Dovetail apart from other breweries, like its coolship and open fermentation vessels. But even if those terms mean nothing to you, other parts of the tour are interactive and easy to understand. A water tasting lets you compare Chicago tap water with versions that have been filtered through charcoal or treated with a reverse-osmosis system; there are also opportunities to smell hops pellets and taste different varieties of malted barley. You can see the lambic-style beers bubbling out the tops of their barrels. And the beer samples—three ten-ounce pours—come fast enough that we often ended up double fisting. The only people likely to be disappointed are those who have their heart set on drinking IPA (which the brewery doesn't make). —Julia Thiel

1800 W. Belle Plaine, 773-683-1414, dovetailbrewery.com/events. Saturdays at 11 AM and 1 PM. 60 minutes. $15, includes 30 ounces of beer; sign up on location. Taproom on site. Food served.

Tasting notes: Dovetail has a 110-year-old copper kettle from Munich that was originally part of the pilot system for Weihenstephan, the oldest brewery in the world.


KAITLYN MCQUAID
  • Kaitlyn McQuaid

Begyle Brewing Company

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Best for: dad jokes

Begyle's tour of its converted factory north of the Irving Park stop of the Brown Line is a blast because it includes three beers and the guides—Tony Thompson and Ethan Link—are a couple of jokesters. Sample quip: "If you're a microbiologist, does that mean you only know a little bit about science?" You'd be surprised how funny things like that sound after three beers at one o'clock in the afternoon! I'm no beer expert, but I took my home-brewer pal Tim, who favored an American pale ale called Free Bird. Susan, who was also on my tour, swears by the Neighborly Stout, a smooth-drinking dry stout. Conveniently, the Timber Lanes bowling alley is around the corner on Irving Park, so you can bowl off a few calories after the tour. —Ben Joravsky

1800 W. Cuyler, 1E, 773-661-6963, begylebrewing.com. 90 minutes. $10, includes 24 ounces of beer and a glass; book in advance on eventbrite.com. Taproom on site.


VIA FACEBOOK
  • Via Facebook

Greenstar Brewing

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Best for: locavores scared of GMOs

As the first certified organic brewery in Illinois (and one of only two in the state today), Greenstar serves up some of the most unadulterated beer in Chicago. Alas, there are only two ways to get a taste of Greenstar beer: on a tour of the brewery or while on a visit to its sister restaurants, Uncommon Ground, all of which are owned by Michael and Helen Cameron. The beer is brewed near Uncommon Ground's Wrigleyville location with locally sourced ingredients and piped directly to that restaurant's taps. (It gets to the Edgewater location in kegs.) While the tour of the production facility—seven steel tanks in a 1,200-square-foot storefront—is rather brief, it's led by Greenstar brewmaster Martin Coad with an air of both authority and levity. Between detailing the sobering realities and dark secrets of macrobreweries, Coad also instructed tour attendees to take a swig every time he said the word "beer." We obliged. —Maya Dukmasova

3800 N. Clark, 773-929-3680, uncommonground.com/greenstar-brewing. Saturdays at 1 PM. 20 minutes. $10, includes a pint of IPA and a glass; check in at Uncommon Ground.


VIA REVOLUTION WEBSITE
  • Via Revolution website

Revolution Brewing Kedzie production facility

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Best for: chilling out

Before the start of the tour of Revolution Brewing's 90,000-square-foot Kedzie Avenue production facility—a mile and a half north of its Logan Square brewpub—Janet Jackson was blasting on the stereo, Speed was playing on a pair of TVs, and all of the tourgoers received a can of the Belgian-style pale ale A Little Crazy. We even briefly met the man pictured on the can, Matt, one of the company's brewers. Revolution may come across as loose and fun, but the tour makes clear it's also serious about sustainability. It relies partly on solar-panel energy, most of its hops are sourced from Wisconsin and Michigan, and it sends spent grain to farmers who use it for animal feed and soil. It's refreshing to see that kind of commitment to the environment from a beer company. —Danielle A. Scruggs

3340 N. Kedzie, 773-588-2267, revbrew.com. Wednesday-Friday 6 and 7 PM, Saturday 3, 4, 5, and 6 PM, Sunday 2, 3, and 4 PM. 40 minutes. Free, includes 12 ounces of beer; show up early and sign in with a bartender in the taproom. Taproom on site.

Tasting notes: Revolution's canning system was once used by RC Cola; it produces 300 cans per minute.


JJ JETEL
  • JJ Jetel

Hopewell Brewing Company

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Best for: keeping things short and sweet

It doesn't take long to see Hopewell's brewery: all the brewing equipment is contained in one room, visible from the tasting area through a large window. After handing out cups of Swift, Hopewell's flagship IPA, our chipper, engaging tour guide led us around the 20-barrel brewhouse, noting that when the tanks arrived they turned out to be just a bit too tall to fit into the room (a problem solved by cutting the feet off the tanks). In addition to a brief overview of the year-old company, which employs a grand total of seven people, she offered one of the most concise explanations of brewing I've ever heard: starch releases sugar, and sugar plus yeast spits out alcohol. After covering the essentials, she finished up with a couple of stories illustrating how supportive the craft brewing community is, concluding: "Beer people are happy people. Who's ready for more beer?" —Julia Thiel

2760 N. Milwaukee, 773-698-6178, hopewellbrewing.com/tours-2. Saturdays at 5 PM, Sundays at 3 PM. 30 minutes. $10, includes 28 ounces of beer; sign up at the bar in the tasting room. Taproom on site.

Tasting notes: Instead of filtering the beer, Hopewell has a centrifuge (as the tour guide called it, a "fancy-ass piece of equipment"), which is really unusual for a brewery of its size.


M. KISER/GOOD BEER HUNTING
  • M. Kiser/Good Beer Hunting

Off Color Brewing

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Best for: appreciators of smart-assery

Taking a brewery tour at an operation like Off Color—a utilitarian workspace, with no accommodations for the public beyond a tiny bottle shop near the front door—is a little like watching backstage footage of a great band. Because you already love the music (or in this case, the beer), the mundane, behind-the-scenes business of the people who make it becomes compelling—it's fun to pick up on their quirks and feel like you understand why they approach their work in the way they do. The Off Color folks don't allow their professionalism to get in the way of their self-effacing, smart-assed wit or their big goofy hearts: on this tour, you can find a tacked-up holiday card of the crew in animal onesies (they're especially fond of dinosaurs) and walk among beer tanks named after dearly departed pets (including Pixel, Bubba, and Waffles). —Philip Montoro

3925 W. Dickens, 773-687-8245, offcolorbrewing.com/tours. Saturdays at 1 and 3 PM. 60 minutes. $10, includes 18 ounces of beer; buy online in advance up to an hour before tour.

Tasting notes: One dollar from the sale of every bottle of Off Color's Class War, a new large-format Gotlandsdricka that was released on inauguration day, will be donated to the ACLU. It's available for $10 in the brewery's bottle shop.


COURTESY GOOSE ISLAND
  • Courtesy Goose Island

Goose Island Beer Company

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Best for: experiencing awe

If you want to feel small, go to Goose Island's production brewery and crane your neck up until the tops of the shiny stainless steel fermenters soaring above are visible. Then wait for your tour guide to tell you that those aren't even the big ones: the largest fermenters, each of which hold 460 barrels of beer (nearly 12,000 gallons), don't fit inside the brewery—they extend past the ceiling to the open air above. The tour includes plenty of other impressive facts, along with a history of Goose Island that starts with the company's founding in 1988 and highlights its pioneering use of bourbon barrels to age beer back in 1992, but skips right over its 2011 sale to Anheuser-Busch InBev, the largest brewing company in the world. Many of the taproom offerings, though, are decidedly noncorporate: there are several wild sour ales, a Belgian-style saison brewed with peppercorns, and a cask of Belgian-style quad. The company's Clybourn brewpub is currently undergoing renovations but will also offer tours when it reopens this summer. —Julia Thiel

1800 W. Fulton, 800-466-7363, gooseisland.com/fulton-wood. Thursdays 3, 4, 5, and 6 PM; Fridays 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 PM; Saturdays 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 PM; Sundays 1, 2, 3, and 4 PM. 60 minutes. $12, includes 12 ounces of beer and a pint glass; book online in advance. Taproom on site.

Tasting notes: Goose Island's 143,000-square-foot barrel warehouse currently holds 120,000 barrels of beer and is the largest barrel-aging system in the world.


VANESSA BUHOLZER
  • Vanessa Buholzer

On Tour Brewing Company

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Best for: Phish heads

In the wake of Chicago's brewery gold rush of the last five to seven years, what's so refreshing now ain't the added hops. Nope—it's a lack of pretension. As some breweries attempt to outdo one another with sours infused with guava and dark chocolate and triple IPAs brewed with moon rocks, On Tour, as founder Mark Legenza will tell you, just wants to make good, solid beer devoid of gaudy flair. The On Tour tour, much like the industrial West Town building in which it's conducted, is low-key and laid-back. As we snaked around the brewery's five tanks, Legenza broke down the history of the building—for about a quarter century, it housed the Hudson Boiler and Tank Co.—and passed around cups of grains to gnaw on and hops to huff. The tour began and ended with mini lectures in the brewery's open but cozy boardroom, with attendees asking questions between sipping on complimentary beers. —Kevin Warwick

1725 W. Hubbard, 312-796-3119, ontourbrewing.com. First and third Saturdays, 1 PM. 45 minutes. $10, includes about 16 ounces of beer; book in advance on eventbrite.com.

Tasting notes: The brewery's name comes from the fact that founder Mark Legenza and his friends have been known to travel around the country following Phish and other bands on tour.


DANIELLE A. SCRUGGS
  • Danielle A. Scruggs

Cruz Blanca Cerveceria

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Best for: post-tour taco access

As with each of his culinary endeavors, Rick Bayless logged years of research in Mexico before opening Cruz Blanca, his cerveceria and Oaxaca-inspired taqueria, last May. The chef's studied approach to food, beer, and the pairing of the two was skillfully communicated on a recent tour of the gleaming Randolph Row building's relatively modest production facilities. The brewery's namesake, it turns out, was founded in Mexico City in 1869 by Alsatian immigrant Emil Dercher, who was renowned for using local ingredients and botanicals in his bottle-conditioned beers. Filling our tasting glasses along the way, the guide offered a sweeping history of Mexico—conquest, invasion, European influence—in order to explain how the beer styles head brewer Jacob Sembrano is focused on, from bières de garde to Vienna lagers, ended up in the country. It was enough to make even the common act of drinking a beer suddenly seem miraculous. —Jake Malooley

904 W. Randolph, 312-733-1975, app.anyguide.com/tours/cruz-blanca-brewery-tour-chicago. Saturdays at 1, 2:30, and 4 PM. 60 minutes. $10, includes about 18 ounces of beer; book online in advance. Taproom on site. Food served.


MAGGIE MATUSZEWSKA.; GOSIA PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Maggie Matuszewska.; Gosia Photography

Haymarket Pub & Brewery

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Best for: bros who appreciate a good belgian IPA

My tour experience at Haymarket was remarkably disorganized. Though I'd made a reservation in advance, there was no record of it—which turned out not to be a problem, since there was only one other person on the tour. Our guide looked terrified, stammering his way through an explanation of the tiny 15-barrel system on which all of the brewery's beer is made. He did take plenty of time to sit with us for the beer tasting that followed—but somehow we never got the full pints that are supposed to be included in the tour price. The silver lining is that Haymarket makes excellent beer, some of which, we learned, will soon be available outside the brewpub at retail for the first time ever: a second location opening in Michigan means that before long Haymarket will have the capacity to package and distribute several of its creations in Chicago. —Julia Thiel

737 W. Randolph, 312-638-0700, haymarketbrewing.com/events. 90 minutes. $15, includes 28 ounces of beer; call for reservations. Taproom on site. Food served.

Tasting notes: Haymarket brewmaster Pete Crowley is part of a group of former Rock Bottom brewers who've dubbed themselves the Order of the Black Phoenix. Other notable breweries headed up by members of the order include Gigantic, Solemn Oath, Sun King, Surly, and Three Floyds.


APRIL ALONSO
  • April Alonso

Lagunitas Brewing Company

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Best for: hedge-fund hippies

An ongoing debate among beer enthusiasts concerns whether or not the ever-expanding Lagunitas empire has a legitimate claim to being a craft beer company—especially since Heineken acquired a 50 percent stake in Lagunitas in 2015 that expanded the California-based brewery's operations into Europe. But take the free tasting tour at the local outpost in Lawndale and it's clear founder Tony Magee and his minions still perceive themselves as a 420-friendly, gives-no-fucks kind of outfit. The first half of the tasting tour—not to be confused with the more frequent tasting-free tours—consists of sipping on four samples of hop-forward brews in an area the employees have dubbed the Purple Party Palace that looks like a cross between a college rec room and a San Francisco head shop. Then you grab a beer to drink while an enthusiastic guide takes you around a catwalk two stories above the buzzing brewery floor and gives a quick rundown of what makes the massive 300,000-square-foot facility tick—and the off-the-wall stories behind beers such as Undercover Investigation Shut-Down. —Ryan Smith

2607 W. 17th, 773-522-2097, lagunitas.com/taprooms/chicago. Tasting tours Monday-Thursday 1 and 3 PM, Friday 1 PM. 60 minutes. Free, includes 44 ounces of beer. Taproom on site. Food served.

Tasting notes: Many of the facility's beer tanks are named after employees' dead dogs or are Cheech and Chong references.


JORDAN BALDERAS
  • Jordan Balderas

Moody Tongue

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Best for: culinarians

Head brewer Brian Musinski identified himself at the tour's outset as a "sous chef." The designation came into focus as he described the so-called "culinary brewing philosophy" of Jared Rouben, the brewmaster who brings his education from the Culinary Institute of America to bear on beer: concocting recipes, sourcing and incorporating ingredients, and balancing the flavors of his brews as if he were a chef creating a dish. Tourgoers shuffled along with a complimentary Moody Tongue-branded glass in hand and blue disposable shoe covers to keep unwanted germs out of the production areas. A swing through the barrel aging room allowed the group to try one of the limited-availability beers, the bourbon-barrel-aged chocolate barleywine. It had enough vanilla and cocoa notes to serve as dessert, and still I couldn't leave without first trying Rouben's lauded 12-layer German chocolate cake, which alongside the oysters is one of only two food items served in the taproom. —Sue Kwong

2136 S. Peoria, 312-600-5111, moodytongue.com. Saturdays and Sundays 1:30, 3, and 4:30 PM; private tours also available. 50 minutes. $20, includes 15.5 ounces of beer and a beer glass; make reservations in tasting room. Tap room on site. Limited food menu served.


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Baderbräu

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Best for: art gazing

Baderbräu's South Loop taproom greets visitors with exposed brick, wooden beams, and a colorful mural by local street artist Brain Killer. The bartender serving beer before the tour began—alas, no complimentary drinks here—would be our guide. Although he was familiar with the brewing process and the building's history, he admitted that he was new and not the usual docent. His inexperience showed in the rushed pacing as we cruised by the brewing tanks and through the refrigerator room, and he skated over more substantive information about what makes Baderbräu's approach to beer distinctive. The showstopper award goes to the immense canning machine—tourgoers pleaded with the guide to power up the beast but to no avail. The tour ends in the gallery, across from the taproom, which turns over its art exhibit every three months. —Sue Kwong

2515 S. Wabash, 312-890-2728, baderbrau.com. Saturdays 1, 3, and 5 PM. 20 minutes. Free; arrive before the tour begins. Taproom on site.


VIA WEBSITE
  • Via Website

5 Rabbit Cerveceria

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Best for: those looking to spice things up

The tour of the production facility, located in a remote industrial park, started off awkwardly in the taproom. A ticket entitles you to a beer, but only the 5 Rabbit brews you see in supermarkets, not the more interesting taproom-only offerings. Hurried into ordering a full pint, I saw people getting flights after it was too late for me to take advantage of that more interesting option. Once the tour got going, we learned a lot about 5 Rabbit's devotion to making beers with flavorings of Central and South America, and how problematic those ingredients can be. The brewer giving our tour talked about the quirks of working with everything ranging from chiles to chapulines (grasshoppers), and having to cook 5,000 pounds of plantains on a small kitchen stove for one brew. —Michael Gebert

6398 W. 74th, Bedford Park, 312-895-9591, 5rabbitbrewery.com. Saturdays at 3 PM. 35 minutes. $10, includes 16 ounces of beer and a pint glass. Taproom on site.

Tasting notes: Using specialty ingredients to make Latin-flavored beer has presented 5 Rabbit's brewers with difficulties. For instance, in a beer modeled on arroz con leche, getting rice (which has no hull and gets gummy) to go through the pipes turned a one-hour transfer process into seven-hour slog.


BRIAN WILES
  • Brian Wiles

Argus Brewery

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Best for: a taste of Chicago drinking history

As brewery tours go, the very friendly and informative one offered by Argus drips history: the building was a stable for horse-drawn Schlitz carts circa 1910 and was part of "Schlitz Row," which offered laborers in dry Pullman every form of vice the working man could want. (At one point a law was passed outlawing drinking on the sidewalk, so a worker would carry a pail of fresh Schlitz to his house.) From the historical overview it's straight to the tasting room, where there are seven or eight choices on tap, often including formulas Argus is playing around with, like barrel-aged ales. Taste as much as you like and be sure to offer your feedback, as that helps determine what goes into production. —Michael Gebert

11314 S. Front, 773-941-4050, argusbrewery.com. Most Saturdays 12:30, 2, and 3:30 PM. 90 minutes. $15, includes a generous variety of pours and a pint glass; purchase tickets online.


PAUL LECAT
  • Paul Lecat

Two Brothers

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Best for: gluten-intolerant cyclists

The Prairie Path is the bikeable gravel trail that leads 40 or so miles west from suburban Forest Park almost directly to Two Brothers Tap House in Warrenville, Illinois. Prairie Path is also the name of what is arguably the best (only?) locally made gluten-free beer. Two Brothers bills Prairie Path as "crafted to remove gluten," a process further explained on a tour of the brewery: After fermentation, brewers add an enzyme to clarify beer turned cloudy by yeast. According to the guide, brewers discovered that this unnamed enzyme also ate away gluten, producing a golden ale with undetectable levels of the wheat, barley, and rye-derived protein. Three free samples are served after the tour; if you're gluten sensitive, you'll have to stick to the Prairie Path. Still, while celiac sufferers are a niche market within a niche market, bike-riding beer lovers with a gluten sensitivity have much to celebrate here. —Robin Amer

30W315 Calumet Ave. W., Warrenville, 630-393-4800, twobrothersbrewing.com. Saturdays 1, 2, and 3 PM; Sundays 1:30 PM. 45 minutes. Free, includes 12 ounces of beer. Taproom on site. Food served.

Tasting notes: The enzyme Two Brothers uses to make Prairie Path gluten free is also an ingredient in several of its other beers, which means they also likely have a reduced gluten content. But the brewery hasn't paid to have those brews certified and tested, so it can't advertise them as being suitable for people with a gluten sensitivity.


LINDSAY GALLUP PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Lindsay Gallup Photography

Three Floyds Brewing Company

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Best for: finding a reason to visit northwest Indiana

Beer geeks remain so devoted to Three Floyds' curious combination of comic art, heavy metal, and hop-forward brews that the wait for a table at the brewpub in the middle of an unassuming industrial park in a small Indiana town on a Saturday afternoon can stretch in excess of 90 minutes. The primary utility of a tour of the sizable production facility next door is to ease the boredom of hanging around in the drab parking lot until the host texts you. The 30-minute behind-the-scenes jaunt is somewhat lacking in frills (no beer samples) and rather casual in tone—the equivalent of shooting the shit with Three Floyds' hard-core hop heads about the secrets of their beloved craft beer while you work up your appetite for the boozy main event. —Ryan Smith

9750 Indiana Pkwy., Munster, Indiana, 219-922-4425, 3floyds.com. Saturdays at 12:30, 1:30, 2:30, 3:30, 4:30, and 5:30 PM. 30 minutes. Free; sign up on first-come-first-served basis in the brewpub. Taproom on site. Food served.

Tasting notes: When Three Floyds started selling its flagship beer, Alpha King, in 1996, Indiana residents were so used to the watered-down lagers of domestic macrobreweries that they couldn't take the hoppiness of what is now considered a mildly hoppy beer, so many tried to return it.

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