BEST BEER BARS IN CHICAGO
Hello brew crew!
We stop at several great beer bars on our beer tours, but that just scratches the surface in this wonderful, huge city of ours. We wanted to create a resource for you to explore even more of all of the fermented goodness that Chicago has to offer. And, for the first time ever, we are awarding “Golden Goblet” and “Silver Pint” awards to our favorite sud slingers here in the Windy City.
In awarding these goblets and pints, we focused on bars only. We tried to stay away from the more restaurant-y bars this time, and generally did not include breweries, brewpubs or taprooms because we will include them in a later listing. While we tried to be comprehensive, I’m sure we missed some, so send us your thoughts and we will update. All bars are listed in alphabetical order for each category. Without further ado – the best beer bars in Chicago!
Golden Goblet – Best Beer Bars in Chicago
Bangers and Lace, Wicker Park, 1670 W. Division St.
I’ve walked into here and not known over half of the beers listed, even though it’s my job! Their tap list can be eclectic and a bit on the pricey side, but they more than makeup for it with their fantastic variety, quality, and usage of appropriate glassware. The bar itself carries a whiff of the hipster vibe that the neighborhood was known for until fairly recently, paying homage to the gentrification that has passed through the area. The crowd tilts a bit older and is not bro-y; these are positives. They also have a location in Evanston. Website.
Emporium Arcade Bar (two locations) Wicker Park, 1366 N. Milwaukee Ave.; Logan Square, 2363 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Pairing video games with beer = pairing your inner child with alcohol. Result? Amazing! What makes these bars even better is that they curate excellent beer lists and often have fun, local tap takeovers. When I first started visiting them on our Bucktown & Wicker Park tour, I would often be frustrated because the beer I had listed was gone and replaced by another delicious brew, as indicated on their chalk menu above their bar. That, my friends, is the mark of a great beer bar – regularly rotating stock to keep it interesting. Website.
Fountainhead, North Center/Ravenswood, 1970 W. Montrose Ave.
This was one of the first places I visited where I remember their beer list felt like a wine list, with pages and pages and pages of beers listed. They definitely treat their beers like wine, and expect a bit of pretension to the atmosphere. Although they have perhaps slightly switched their focus to whiskey lately, the beer is still elevated in this distinguished spot. Website. Photo courtesy of Diane Yee.
Headquarters Beercade, (two locations) – Lakeview, 2833 N. Sheffield, River North, 213 Institute
Similar to Emporium, pairing vintage video games with craft beer. The games are free, but we’re pretty sure that the beer appears to be a bit more expensive to make up for it. A fun place nonetheless! And when winter comes (or before), I am going to play that Game of Thrones pinball machine. Website.
Hopleaf, Uptown, 5148 N. Clark St.
A granddaddy beer bar here in Chicago, with a distinct specialty in the Belgian category. This is where I like to take the non-beer drinkers, get them loaded on some delicious maltier strong Belgian ales, and watch as the beer love starts to overwhelm them. Their food is incredible as well – I could eat their mussels all day. A can’t miss. Website.
Howells & Hood, River North, 435 N. Michigan Ave.
I’m not really a big fan of just throwing in a bunch of taps and then using that as an advertising edge – which Howells & Hood certainly does. But they do have a legit beer menu. If in the River North of the city, you can definitely check them out and will find some excellent beer, although you’ll pay the River North price for it. Website.
Kaiser Tiger, West Loop, 1415 W. Randolph St.
Having known beer man Pat Berger, and co-owner Chris Latchford, since they turned Lawry’s into Paddy Long’s on the city’s north side, we were pumped when they opened up a new spot in the West Loop. Their beer list does not disappoint, as Pat curates specifically for variety, quality, while still keeping a local focus. Pairing their beers with the sausages on their meat-focused menu doesn’t hurt, either. Nor does the large patio with bocce ball or curling. Website.
Links Taproom, Wicker Park, 1559 N. Milwaukee Ave.
The only beer bar on this list to have a real high tech hook – their large digital beer menu indicates how much beer is left in the kegs so that you can snag that pint of your favorite beer before it is empty. Beyond that hook though is what gets them on this list – the beer menu is local, interesting, and very legit. Website.
Local Option, Lincoln Park, 1102 W. Webster Ave.
The fact that this bar is in the heart of Lincoln Park makes me smile, as the hard rock/punk bar is definitely different than the neighborhood or college bars in the area. I’ve been here in the middle of summer and they’ve had all dark heavy beers on tap with death metal blaring. When someone asked them to turn it down, they turned it up. Rock on! Their beer list is fantastic, and they have been contract brewing their own beers for some time, too, which are high quality. If you see their barrel-aged DIE KÖNIGIN on tap, buy it. Website.
Map Room, Bucktown, 1949 N. Hoyne.
Like most beer people, I consider Map Room and Hopleaf to be the cool grandparents of the craft beer bars in Chicago. Map Room has trended more and more local over time, which is just fine with me. You’ll still get their delicious beer selection, funky, neighborhood vibe, and older atmosphere. A true beer nerd paradise, they even open up early – so I’ve been told – to serve coffee and serve as a meeting spot in the community. Wear your flannels and bears proudly. Website. Photo courtesy of Bernt Rostad.
Maria’s Packaged Goods and Community Bar, Bridgeport, 960 W. 31st St.
A true neighborhood bar that is a bit of a throwback to a different era, with half the building a packaged goods store, and the other half a traditional bar. They have recently renovated and expanded, but still, have a passion for the neighborhood and its people. This shows in their local, delicious beer selection. They have between 500-700 on-site, with 200-300 available in the bar area. Marz Brewing sort of came together on site here, where Ed Marszewski, one of Maria’s sons, is among the brewers that came together to form it. Website.
Old Town Pour House, Old Town, 1419 N. Wells St.
Similar to Howells & Hood, this a definitely more of the corporate “we have 100 taps” type of bar. However, although it does feel a bit corporate, it does make up with an extensive beer selection that has a local focus. You’ll find some real gems here. Website.
Quenchers Saloon, Bucktown/Logan Square, 2401 N. Western Ave.
Not only do these guys have a great beer list and a friendly, fun, unique setup, but also they regularly feature fun, interesting bands. The last one I saw here had a tuba player as their lead. A truly unique, awesome place, with a definitely neighborhood vibe. Website.
Sheffield’s, Lakeview/Wrigleyville, 3258 N. Sheffield Ave.
I always tell people to stop by here when going to a Cubs game, as it’s just a 5-10 minute walk south on Sheffield. I generally prefer it to the bars on Clark, which are often corporate and expensive. They also serve good BBQ and have a beautiful beer garden for those sunny summer days. Website.
Honorable mention: Fischman Liquors, Jefferson Park, 4780 N. Milwaukee Ave. This neighborhood legend is sadly pouring its last pint on July 17, 2016. However, we couldn’t not provide them with one last well-deserved accolade. Thanks for all of the beer and memories. Website.
Silver Pint – Other Great Beer Bars in Chicago
These bars also serve delicious pints around the city.
Alive One, Lincoln Park, 2683 N. Halsted – A more underrated bar in the city, the beer list is decently large and local, and the backroom will be bumping with DJs on the weekend. Check out their $2 drafts on Tuesdays. Website.
Beer Bistro (two locations) Lincoln Park 1415 W. Fullerton; West Loop, 1061 W. Madison – Two locations for a casual bar that serves great beer. Website.
Beermiscuous, Lakeview, 2812 N. Lincoln Ave – One of the newer “coffee shop” style bars/bottle shops that we are seeing popping up. Outstanding place to get some work done while sipping on a first-rate local brew. Website.
Clark Street Ale House, River North, 742 N. Clark St – An old-school, high character place. There are wonderful beers here and less of a scene compared most places in the River North neighborhood. Website.
Crown Liquors, Logan Square/Avondale, 2821 N. Milwaukee Ave. – A beer shop with an extensive selection that recently added a very cool taproom with 24 handles. Website.
Delilah’s, Lincoln Park, 2771 N. Lincoln Ave. – Not only are they an incredible whiskey bar, but this punk rock bar also has an eclectic beer list that we’re able to enjoy at the end of our Lakeview & Lincoln Park beer tour. Check out their cool beer events that they throw often. Website.
Dusek’s, Pilsen, 1227 W. 18th Street – If you are looking for a spot to sip on excellent local craft beers in Pilsen, this is your place. Great spot in the neighborhood. Website.
Fatpour, Wicker Park, 2005 West Division St. – A bro-y sports bar with a comprehensive, lengthy beer selection. Website.
First Draft, South Loop, 649 S Clark St, – A casual beer bar in the South Loop with an impressive tap selection. Website.
Hopsmith Tavern, Rush & Division/Viagra Triangle, 15 W. Division – We welcome this update to Rush & Division corridor that was getting a bit stale, this place offers a good beer selection to prep for a 4 AM night at the Hangge Upee. Website.
Lemmings Tavern, Bucktown, 1850 N. Damen – On our Bucktown & Wicker Park tour, this is a classic example of a small neighborhood pub here in Chicago. Welcoming and unpretentious, it also offers up evidence that you can do a lot in the beer department with only ten taps – you don’t need to have 100 to make a difference. Expertly crafted beer list. Website.
Longman & Eagle, Logan Square, 2657 N. Kedzie Ave. – We bent our rule a bit here – this place is perhaps more of a restaurant, but an awesome beer list nonetheless. A popular and worthy spot. Website.
Monk’s, Loop, 205 W. Lake Street – This old school pub has a surprisingly sophisticated beer list. A popular spot for lunch, but it also can hold its own for happy hours. A nice throwback compared to the more corporate spots downtown. Website.
Northdown Café & Taproom, Lakeview, 3244 N. Lincoln Ave. – A nice local place with a delightful beer list. Website.
Northman, North Center/Lincoln Square, 4337 N. Lincoln Ave. – This is actually a bit of an oddity, but a worthy one – the city’s first cider pub opened this year. They also have some great beers, but head here especially if you want more of the apple fermented variety. Website.
Paddy Longs, Lakeview/Lincoln Park, 1028 W. Diversey Pkwy. These guys anchor our Lakeview & Lincoln Park tour for a reason. Co-owner Patrick Berger always rotates his taps featuring an awesome and diverse selection of excellent beers and has his fingers on the pulse of the beer scene. And, of course, the bacon centricity of the place doesn’t hurt. Website.
Public House, River North, 400 N. State. Similar to Howells & Hood, Old Town Pour House, and Fatpour, this is more of a corporate scene bar, but with an extensive beer list, it is a good option in the downtown area, just north of the Chicago River. Website.
Smallbar, Logan Square, 2956 North Albany – The original Smallbar in all its glory, still serving first-rate craft beer. Website.
Three Aces, Little Italy, 1321 W. Taylor Street – If you are going to get some delicious Italian food, stop here for a pint of craft beer beforehand. Website.
We hope this helps you on your craft beer drinking journey!
Bruce, Founder & President of Chicago Beer Experience Beer Tours