I love my friends Matt & Carolyn for one simple reason above all others: they like to drink beer. Matt even makes his own beer in a closet in his apartment. So back in early March, we decided to do a little beer tour of Chicago. We’ve all been gone for a while — Matt and Carolyn were living in London too until recently — so it was a great way to rediscover the city as we made our way from the West Loop up to Wicker Park.
First discovery? I can take the bus from my house nearly directly to Haymarket Brewery on Randolph Street (aka Restaurant Row in Chicago). The only thing that would prevent me from doing this more often is the strong odor of bleach mixed with warm beer emanating from behind the bar in Haymarket. Reminds me of my summer job at the beach when I was in high school and college. Not exactly good memories.
Beer-wise, I loved that one of their beers is called “I’m so lonely.” It’s a Belgian-style session beer (i.e., works well if your plan is to drink all day long), light in alcohol and crisp and clean on the palette.
The Verdict: Too much of a sports bar for me, but if you go, ask the friendly servers for a tour of the beer-making facilities.
Next up, Beer Bistro in the West Loop, which my friend Doug from New York had told me about when he was in town in February. Doug also makes his own beer at home in his closet, but sadly, I didn’t get a chance to introduce Doug to Matt.
Matt, Carolyn and I were obsessed with the old-school ceiling fans at Beer Bistro, and we loved the old-time Chicago bar with all its woodwork. We thought the beer menu was a bit pedestrian though, even though it was quite extensive.
The Verdict: If you’re in the area, drop in and have a beer. But I’m not sure I would make a special trip unless I was organizing another “Day of Beer.”
Our last stop was what is rapidly becoming one of my favorite places in Chicago, Bangers & Lace. I love the staff here, love the vibe, love the decor, and the beer list is really really interesting. Ah, and the corn nuts are highly highly dangerous. I really really liked the caramel-y and floral Numazu Lager from Japan. Had we not imbibed so much earlier, we probably would have stayed here all afternoon.
The Verdict: If you like beer, I’d say Bangers & Lace is a must-visit.
So tell me…where’s your favorite place to drink beer in Chicago?