Best Brews: Chicago-Made Beer To Get Your Buzz On

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If you’re wondering what the designer-beer buzz is about, we can assure you it’s not some sort of Martha Stewart-Budweiser collaboration, but rather a flourishing culinary scene brewing here in Chicago. The craft-brew culture has been alive and well for quite some time, and has expanded beyond a scattering of small (dare we say micro) breweries and home-brewing freakshows cooking up five-gallon batches in their parents’ basements. We took some time off from Icehouse to indulge ourselves in the flavors, aromas, and high alcohol contents of our city's engulfing passion for beer. Because you couldn't possibly come up with as many excuses as us to leave work early, we did the dirty work to present The BYOBandits' top four picks for drinking locally this summer. While these may cover the who's, what's and how's of Chicago brewing, we're leaving it up to you to decide what to wear.

the best beer in chicago

Haymarket Brewery
The prodigal motherless son of Pete Crowley and John Powers opened its doors earlier this year at the corner of Randolph and Halsted streets. The sprawling space (and newly christened outdoor patio) gives craft brew fans a new place to slam 10% A.B.V. pints in the West Loop. Though new to the scene, the guys behind Haymarket are no virgins to the brewpub game. Crowley made his name revitalizing Chicago's über-chain Rock Bottom Brewery location in the late '90s. At Haymarket, you can find between seven and 11 one-of-a-kind beers on their state-of-the-art taps at all times. They run the gamut from perennial favorites, such as the citrusy Mathias IPA, to more, um, experimental beers. When sipping on the dangerously dark Defender Double American Stout, Crowley giddily chimed in, "This is the kind of shit they showed on The X-Files!" We didn't quite understand that reference (nerd alert). You can't find any of Haymarket's extraterrestrial beers in stores, but you can pick up a reasonably priced growler seven days a week. Haymarket Brewery, 737 West Randolph Street (at Halsted Street); 312-638-0700.

Our Rooftop Drink of Choice: Living Wage Belgian Pale Ale, because at 4.5% alcohol, we could drink it all day long without putting any potential evening hookups in jeopardy.
the best beer in chicago

Goose Island
Goose Island is Chicago's king, reigning champ, and number-one sellout when it comes to craft brewing. But that doesn't mean they're incapable of putting out some kick-ass beers! While you're likely to see Goose Island 312, Green Line, and their Kölsch-style Summertime Ale on taps and in stores all around the city (and the Midwest), it's their small-batch brews that make Goose Island worth sexting home about. Paragons of bourbon barrel-aging, Goose's Bourbon County Stouts are a treat, albeit not anything you want to be caught drinking in a tankini. Instead, try Marisol on for size, a Latin-style ale brewed for Rick Bayless' Mexican cuisine empire. Or the Scully, a white pepper-strawberry saison with the crispness of a champagne that proves itself somehow more drinkable than André. The brewpub on Clybourn generally has the best selection of small-batch beers on tap, complete with food offerings if you’re trying to put something in your stomach before you go out, which we generally frown upon on Fridays. Goose Island Brewery, 1800 North Clybourn Avenue (at Willow Street); 312-915-0071.

Our Rooftop Drink of Choice: Marisol by day, Demolition by night.
the best beer in chicago

Half Acre
This up-and-coming Lincoln Square brewery, known for their Daisy Cutter Pale Ale, is definitely run by a group of stand-up guys. From offering free brewery tours for most of their existence (now $10…but you get a pint glass) to grilling up lion and bear burgers, this crew will go out of their way to make customers happy. While Daisy Cutter is their delicious, hoppy flagship beer found all over the city, Half Acre brews a number of other great beers with even better labels. The Gossamer Golden Ale, Big Hugs Imperial Stout, and the Ginger Twin India Red Ale are other notables that might not be on the shelf at Binny’s (well, Gossamer is), but are definitely worth the trip up Lincoln. If you bring a redhead to the brewery, you even get 8% off of the Ginger Twin, probably the best thing to ever happen to your fair-skinned friend or awkward co-worker who tagged along. Half Acre Brewery, 4257 North Lincoln Avenue (at Cullom Avenue); 773-248-4038.

Our Rooftop Drink of Choice: Daisy Cutter for sure. Feel free to bring a keg of it to an al fresco BYOB.
the best beer in chicago

Piece
You may have heard about the New Haven-style pizza at Piece, but did you know they also boast a wide array of small-batch beers that have been winning awards for the last ten years? No disrespect to the clam and spinach with white sauce, but you should save some room for the wide range of euphemistically named beers. Work your way down the list from the Top Heavy Hefeweizen to the Camel Toe Egyptian Pale Ale—you won’t be disappointed. Piece also has live-band karaoke for your Saturday night Alanis-singing needs (screw Dave Coulier!), and you can’t beat the to-go $25 growler and a large pizza deal they have on Sundays. Piece Brewery, 1927 West North Avenue; 773-772-4422.

Our Rooftop Drink of Choice: Full-Frontal Pale Ale, but keep your tank-top on if your rooftop is less than four stories up. Conveniently, our rooftop is exactly four floors high.