11 Chicagoland Breweries Worth the Drive
They're located outside city limits, but that doesn't mean they're difficult to get to
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Some of these picks are off the Green Line, Purple Line and Yellow Line; most are accessible via Metra and a short Uber. Hell, one is literally across the street from a Metra stop. And, oh yeah, there’s Uber and Lyft and bicycles, so no reason to ever drink and drive.
With that out of the way, these breweries, located outside of Chicago city limits, are absolutely worth the trip.
We’re including two Indiana breweries because it’s as easy to drive to NW Indiana as it is to drive to Joliet. This brewpub has a great vibe with some great art. The second-largest brewery in northwest Indiana is also a distillery that makes really great spirits, especially their rye whiskey. Also, the place is named after 18th Street in Pilsen, where founder Drew Fox lived when he thought of starting a brewery, and who doesn’t have at least one friend that used to live in Pilsen before moving to the suburbs?
This one is for the nerds — you know, the ones who enjoy H.P. Lovecraft and craft brewing. This is not an insult; just look at their labels and logos. Their doppelbock, the Jabberbocky, is the one to take home.
Their collaboration with Feast City and ManBQue, a Gose with Mango & chile spice, put them on our map. They offer a wide spectrum of stuff, but their product is well-balanced. Their Villa Park location specifically is also good if you’re looking to host a private event.
One of the smaller breweries on this list has a welcoming, small-town vibe with a nice food menu. It’s located across the street from the Metra stop — good for the drinker who prefers a leisurely train ride back to the city. You know you can drink on Metra, right?
Twice is nice for Noon Whistle’s suburban offerings. They’re known for their tart beers, Berliners and seltzers. They have a line called Gummy Beers, so if you have a sweet tooth, here you go. Fun fact: their cans are not the typical can. They use a 360 lid, aka a “topless can.”
Despite being so close to Chicago, Oak Park was pretty much dry until last decade. One of the last suburbs to grant new liquor licenses to bars and breweries has embraced the brewery trend like most everywhere else in the state. The gorgeous One Lake Brewing is housed in a former, historic bank building; it’s conveniently located 266 feet from the Austin Green Line stop and less than 100 feet from Chicago proper. This is the least suburban brewery with the most suburban history.
If this was a ranking, Penrose might be at the top of the list. Most every brewery these days has at least one signature product worth your time, typically an IPA. What helps set Penrose apart are their Wilds releases. They’re the beer equivalent of natural wine — and where natural wine is bright and crispy, you’ll get some funky, aromatic flavors from these beers. The taproom is cozy, but with its high ceilings, you’ll feel instantly welcomed and comfortable.
In the market for bold hazies? Head to Short Fuse’s taproom. If you can’t make it to the neighborhood (just outside of Northwest Chicago and O’Hare), no worries — you can find their stuff everywhere throughout Chicago.
This Skokie taproom is especially inviting, with an open, bright atmosphere and ample outdoor space. If you’re a Chicago biker (bicycle, not vroom-vroom), it’s a very nice destination, right off the North Branch Bike Trail. If you want to try it before you venture north, you can find it regularly in local liquor stores. Their can art helps them stand out too.
The barely suburban brewery has a large footprint in the Chicago beer market, as well as some interesting combinations of flavors. Their deck is great for dates — or to let your toddler run laps.
The most well-known brewery on this list for a reason. They’re the Indiana equivalent of Goose Island in terms of prevalence, and you can find their beer across the country. Unlike Goose Island, they’re not owned by AB InBev, and beer aficionados still flock to the brewery for Dark Lord Day (a festival and beer release day with metal bands and tons of dudes with beards (hello, I am one of those dudes). Mark your calendars: This year’s Dark Lord Day is May 20.
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