36 Hours in ChicagoBy beerinator • May 22nd, 2009 • Category: Beer, Other Stuff
Chicago is a great city to visit and a super city to drink beer in. We’re starting our theoretical trip on Friday around 5pm and we’re running it through Sunday brunch/lunch. We’re going to assume that you brought some money and we’re going to assume you don’t mind taking public transportation or cabs. And here we go!
5:00 pm Friday: Your cab from the airport has safely transported you and your belongings to some shanty hotel that you probably won’t see very much of. You have now made your way to one of Chicago’s best beer bars: The Map Room (beermapping link) at 1949 N. Hoyne Ave. The Map Room is phenomenal, the taplist consists of 25-ish taps always rotating and a very large list of bottles. Map Room does not have food on any consistent basis, but at 5pm you’re just getting started so you can settle into a fairly comfortable table near a window and enjoy a couple of great beers.
7:30 pm Friday: a half mile stroll south down Damen Ave would put you right in the middle of the trendy neighborhood of Wicker Park. We’re not here to look for “black frame” glasses stores or starbucks though. We’re headed to Piece Pizza (beermapping link), one of Chicago’s best brewpubs. Piece is well known for their award winning wheat styles and over the past few years they have started blasting palates with really hoppy beers with rather dirty names (Camel Toe IPA, Moose Knuckle Barleywine…). If you’re getting hungry, you may want to order a New Haven style pizza with bacon, mashed potatos and a white sauce. Or you may want to hold off on eating a bit longer until our next stop.
9:30 pm Friday: another short half mile stroll south brings you to East/West running Division Avenue. There are two bars down here that we will be checking out. If you neglected to grab some pizza at Piece, you will probably be in need of some food, so we’ll go east a few storefronts to Jerry’s Sandwiches (beermapping link). Jerry’s only has 100 sandwiches to choose from, but hopefully that will be enough. The tap selection here is usually very solid, and if there is nothing available there to please you, there are lots of bottles too.
Further to the west down Division, you will find Small Bar (beermapping link). Small Bar also has food so you could hold off for some fried cheese curds with honey mustard dipping sauce or an Awesome Bacon Jam Burger! The taps at Small Bar are often somewhat similar to Jerry’s Sandwiches, but there should be a few differences. They both focus on craft American beer with a few imports sprinkled in. Small Bar and Jerry’s both have nice patios, so if you are here with someone who doesn’t like sitting at the bar, you might find yourself enjoying some Chicago weather. You can easily kill 2 or 3 hours between Small Bar and Jerry’s, so this is where we will end our night and catch a cab back to our Hotel/Motel/Hostel. We’ll need our energy for Saturday!
11:00 am Saturday: We’re making our way down to State and Grand and we’re hitting Chicago’s Rock Bottom (beermapping link). Pete Crowley, head brewer, makes some awesome beers here. Usually you can find a barrel aged beer or two on tap, make sure to ask your server or bartender for the special beers available. The food at this location is pretty good too, so we’ll be grabbing an appetizer to get our day started (recommended appetizer: Titan Toothpicks). Our next stop will also include many food options, so don’t go nuts and order a whole entree.
1:30 pm Saturday: We went underneath Rock Bottom Chicago and we caught the Red Line of the El (Chicago’s public transportation train). Headed north, we only travelled three stops to the Clybourn/North stop. From here we walked three blocks up Clybourn to Goose Island’s original Brewpub location (beermapping link). They usually have more than 15 Goose Island beers available for you to drink here and at least 1 cask at all time. The restaurant has recently undergone some changes and they are heavily focused on “gastropub” like fare. Pork is king at Goose Island Clybourn and we suggest you get a solid base for the rest of the day’s drinking by ordering the Cubano sandwich. Pair that with something from the cask engine and you’ll be thanking us, guaranteed.
3:30 pm Saturday: Next is a short walk up Sheffield to Local Option (beermapping link). Local Option isn’t well known outside of the Chicago beer scene, but it usually has one of the best taplists in town. The taplist doesn’t focus just on regional or American beer, it’s a strong reflection on what is happening in beer today. And if you can’t find anything on tap that excites you, ask the bartender if they have anything special in bottles!
6:00 pm Saturday: Our next stop is a bit further north. We have again jumped back on Chicago’s El (red line) to get to Sheffield’s Wine and Beer Garden (beermapping link). Sheffield’s is home to the Beer School bar (along with two other bars inside the building). If the beer school bar is open, you should definitely head back there and check out their available taps. You will not be disappointed at Sheffields in either the front bar or the back bars. Relax and enjoy. If the weather is nice, you can hang out in the beer garden, or if it’s nasty outside sit back by the fire and enjoy the warmth.
8:30 pm Saturday: We now have our name on the list for dinner at Hopleaf (beermapping link) in the Andersonville neighborhood. We have used the red line again to get this far north and by now we’re a pro at catching a train and avoiding eye contact with bums. Hopleaf is a belgian focused bar with some incredible food. I suggest ordering the CB&J (cashew butter, fig jam and creamy morbier cheese pannini) or just go with the Mussels Frites (Steak Frites is also one of my favorites). With 30 taps of Belgian and regional beer and a bottle list that may well blow your mind, you can’t go wrong at Hopleaf. Make sure you try a Metropolitan Brewery beer, brewed three blocks away.
We will end our night here, thumbing through the list and dreaming of a bottomless wallet and limitless time to enjoy it all. Head to bed. By now, you need the rest.
10:00 am Sunday: We are now officially packed up and we’re doing brunch at the Publican (beermapping link). With a Publican Mimosa (Berliner Weisse and orange juice) in front of us, we’re waiting for dishes full of pork and egg to be delivered to our table. We have fond memories of the past few hours, some hazier than others. And we are in desperate need for another 36 hours before we have to return to work. We are also not 100% sure that we won’t be calling in sick on Monday.
Mental Note: Chicago’s beer scene is A-OK!