Chicago is renowned for its dynamic brewery culture, boasting a plethora of craft breweries that offer a wide range of flavors and experiences. What better way to immerse yourself in this flourishing beer community than by pedaling your way from one brewery to another, taking in the sights, sounds, and, most importantly, the delectable brews along the way?
By embarking on a bike tour of Chicago’s craft beer scene, you’ll have the opportunity to explore the city from Lincoln Park to Logan Square at your own pace, stopping at carefully selected breweries to savor their signature beers, connect with fellow beer enthusiasts, and learn about the craftsmanship behind each pint. With the wind in your hair and the taste of hops on your tongue, you’ll experience the unique thrill of discovering the best that Chicago’s craft beer scene has to offer.
In this guide, we’ll provide you with valuable insights, tips, and recommendations to ensure that your beer-focused biking adventure in Chicago is nothing short of exceptional. From planning your bike tour and mapping out the route to highlighting must-visit breweries we’ve got you covered.
So, hop on your saddle, adjust your helmet, and get ready to pedal your way through Chicago’s craft beer scene like never before. Whether you’re a local looking to uncover hidden gems or a visitor eager to experience the city’s renowned beer culture, this blog post will serve as your ultimate companion on this two-wheeled, beer-filled adventure.
Cheers to exploring Chicago’s craft beer scene on two wheels! Let’s raise a glass and embark on an unforgettable journey together.
Chicago’s Craft Beer Scene: From Past to Present
It is debated when the first brewing company opened its doors in Chicago, but one thing remains true; Chicago’s beer history is ripe with succession. Most brewing companies in Chicago have been obliterated by anti-drinking sentiment, local tragedies such as the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, and most notably Prohibition, but after one craft beer king falls, another rises to take their place.
One of the earliest companies in Chicago, founded by German immigrants William Haas and Conrad Sulzer, was run by none other than William Ogden, Chicago’s first mayor. His reign would last a measly three years before a new king arrived to take his place in the brewery, Michael Diversey. Lill and Diversey Brewing would dominate the scene until their facilities fell victim to the infamous blaze in 1871.
Fire would not be the only hindrance to artfully brewing craft beer. Tensions in the city would rise over immigrants from Ireland and Germany and their intense drinking culture. In 1855 these would crescendo into what we now know as the Beer Riots of 1855. During this time, in an attempt to chasten the bawdy immigrants and their drinking culture, new laws were enacted that made drinking alcohol on Sundays illegal and raised the price of a liquor license by 300%.
Considering how Sundays were the only day off for most of these immigrants you may be unsurprised to find that these new laws were ignored and hundreds of civilians were arrested in the aftermath. Protestors took to the streets during the arraignment dates and the city responded by shooting into the crowds resulting in an estimated sixty injuries and at least one death from the incident. The city’s response did not win them favor with the populace and when the polls opened the next year, Chicagoans showed up in droves to vote the nefarious mayor and his anti-immigrant party out of office.
In the years that followed we would see the rise of The Siebel Institute of Technology in 1868 which to this day still holds courses in how to brew craft beer. We would also see the rise of a popular lite beer called Meister Brau that would eventually be sold and rebranded as Miller Lite. It wouldn’t be until 1988 when Goose Island opened its doors that we would see the rise of modern craft beer here in the Windy City.
Getting Started: Planning Your Bike Tour
First things first! If you’re planning to embark on a beer tour by bike you need to consider your safety first and foremost. This is a non-negotiable: Wear a helmet. We’re all adults here, let’s act like it and protect ourselves.
Now that the obvious is out of the way, we would highly recommend planning your route in advance, especially if you’re going out with friends. GPS has definitely made running around a new area significantly easier but sometimes in Chicago GPS has a hard time locating your exact position if the directions have not been downloaded for an offline map. Make sure that everyone in your party knows where the next stop is so if you get separated on your bike ride, the entire party knows where to meet up. Finally, make sure you look up the local laws of traffic while cycling. It is illegal to bike on the sidewalks so you’ll want to be versed on how to bike on the street.
To recap, we recommend doing the following:
- Wear a helmet
- Plan your route in advance
- Download an offline map on your preferred method of GPS
- Make sure everyone in your party knows what the next destination is before you start biking
- Make sure everyone in your party knows the local laws of street cycling
Breweries for Consideration
Dovetail Brewery is a no-nonsense establishment. THeir beers are not trying to hide their identity behind smoke and mirrors, they’ll let you know who they are in the name.
Half Acre Beer Company
Half Acre is home to one of Chicago’s most quintessential beers: Daisy Cutter. They, however, have a selection of draft beers that you can only find onsite at their taproom, and let’s just say it’s worth the visit.
Since opening in 2010 Revolution Brewing has become Illinois’s largest independent brewing company. You’ve probably seen their most popular beer, Anti-Hero around the city, but to experience the revolution for yourself, you’ll have to try their full portfolio of artfully crafted beer.
Off Color Brewing
A favorite on the list, Off Color Brewing, serves some of the best farmhouse Ales in the city. Their second tap room is located across the street from IO, making this a perfect spot to grab a libation and catch a comedy show this city is oh-so-famous for.
Maplewood Brewery & Distillery
One of Logan Square’s darlings, Maplewood Brewery is conveniently located off of Maplewood Street. They keep their selection interesting with rotating seasonal taps as well as a few core staples you can be sure to find year-round.
Metropolitan Brewing, Bricktown
Few taprooms can compare with Metopolitan’s. This riverfront venue boasts a dog-friendly patio, year-round views of the Chicago River, and Tacos. If you’re not a fan of tacos, don’t worry you can always bring your own food to pair with their beer.
Forbidden Root Restaurant & Brewery, West Town
Forbidden Root is by far the most adventurous of the breweries. Their style is in the name, of being the first botanical brewery in the city. They make use of roots, bark, flowers, and leaves to create a truly natural flare.
Marz Community Brewing
Art meets Beer at this creatively conceived space. Grab an eccentric brew and wander the space looking at its curated selection of art pieces or take advantage of the arcade. Either way, you’re in for a treat.
Mapping Out Your Route
The main consideration when mapping out your route is your time constraints. Many of these breweries are in different neighborhoods and you’ll want to be sure to give yourself ample time to get around. Another main consideration is how much drinking you’re going to be doing. You cannot bike drunk in Chicago unless you want to be slapped with a DUI.
Chicago has wonderful bike trials, most notably the Lakefront trail which spans 18 miles along the coast of Lake Michigan. We would highly recommend choosing routes that will allow you to enjoy the pace of the bike path as well as the natural beauty of the lake.
If planning out a route is something that gives you pause, consider joining a tour and letting them do the work for you! Here at Bobby’s Bike Hike, we run the Bikes, Bites, and Brews Tour. It is a combination of Chicago’s favorite foods and its favorite beer. You’ll be able to bike Chicago, eat its foods, and enjoy some of its favorite beers, all while learning more about the history of the Second City.
We have already discussed this but it seems prudent to mention one more time safety considerations while biking through Chicago. It is imperative to wear a helmet. Although rare, there are accidents on bikes just like in a car. If you have members in your party that cannot ride a bike confidently you may want to consider changing your itinerary and mode of transportation. Finally, make sure you’re watching how much you drink during this excursion. As previously mentioned, you cannot bike drunk in Chicago so you will want to pace your tastings accordingly.
Explore Chicago’s Craft Beers!
Chicago may have a rocky past with the rise and fall of many breweries but we are no doubt living in a golden age of creativity and innovation within the bear spectrum. You will undoubtedly find beer to delight tastes of all kinds from no-nonsense beers at Dovetail to inspired beers at Marz to naturally enhanced elixirs at Forbidden Root. Grab your helmet, jump on your trusty steed, and bike to Chicago’s best beer.