We like beer here in Chicago, and we really like drinking it straight from the source. Like Augustus Gloop in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, just with beer instead of chocolate.
So it’s not surprising that Chicago is home to so many brew pubs. If you’ve ever had to politely drink a friend’s terrible home brew, you know that “craft” beer isn’t always good. But the following Chicago brew pubs make beer you want to drink, and food you definitely want to eat along with it.
You’re not a true Chicagoan until you’ve been to at least one wedding or reception here. It’s one of Chicago’s most popular brew pubs, and for good reason - both the beer and the food are fantastic. You can get bacon-fat popcorn, burgers, and pizzas from a rotating list of creative options (like pulled pork or Italian beef). Drink-wise, there’s something for every type of beer drinker. They don’t take reservations, and it’s always crowded, so expect a wait if you come here with a large group. Unless it’s your wedding - you can make a reservation for that.
Empirical Brewery is a brew pub in Rogers Park where you’ll pretty much always be able to get a table, even if you’re with a group. They incorporate their beer into as much of the food as possible, and the menu lets you know which dishes are beer-infused. For instance, in addition to stuff like corned beef with beer mustard, there are things like shepherd’s pie wontons with beer gravy. The beers are boldly flavored, and you can definitely taste their influence in the food. So if you don’t like ale in your brussels sprout salad, this might not be the place for you.
Plan on consuming two things (in addition to beer) at Moody Tongue: oysters and a huge slice of German chocolate cake. In fact, if you want to consume anything else, you’ll be out of luck. The incredibly short menu here is not as random as it might seem: Moody believes these two foods pair best with their beers. The space feels very modern, with a granite bar and sleek lighting, so it’s great for date night. And the 12-layer cake and fresh oysters are good enough to make you come here even if you don’t give a sh*t about beer.
This brew pub is in an old warehouse (which you’ll be able to tell from the tall ceilings, cement floors, and giant garage door facing out towards the street). The menu is full of good beer-drinking food - burgers, pretzels, and fried things, mostly - and all the breads are made in-house. It’s a family-friendly spot, with board games and other activities like bags, so you can expect to see kids running around, especially if you’re there on the early side. If that’s not your deal, sit in the front bar area where the only game being played is rock-paper-scissors for who’s getting the next round.
Dryhop is one of those spots that’s good for a date with someone you’ve never met before. In other words, it’s always a good time, and it won’t get awkward if you run out of things to talk about - just have another beer and eat some of the delicious, not-very-healthy bar food. Expect things like poutine, fried chicken, and very hoppy IPA beers. And if that date doesn’t work out, this place is also great for a day-drinking session with friends.
Hanging out here feels a lot more like being in someone’s living room than drinking in a brew pub - the space is full of upholstered furniture, cabinets, and lamps that look like they belong on a table next to your couch. The food is upscale and expensive: you can opt for an $85 tasting menu (beer pairing optional), or order things like a foie gras baked Alaska a la carte. They only brew about five or six beers, all of which are very floral - which matches the decor of this place perfectly. This is the kind of brewery you visit with your mom, especially when she’s looking to redo the living room.
Rick Bayless is doing things again. This time, they involve brewing beer and serving tacos in a space right next to Lena Brava, which he also owns. Cruz Blanca is a counter-service spot with two levels. The ground floor is good for a quick meal, and the upstairs, with big tables and a nice view of Randolph, is where you want to be if you plan on hanging out for a while. The short menu has a few varieties of DIY tacos (all of which come with fresh tortillas and your choice of meat), and the beers - mainly European-style pilsners and lagers - go really well with the food. You can’t reserve a table, and this place gets slammed on the weekends, so prepare to wait. Maybe you’ll see even see Rick himself. Be warned, it’s like staring into the sun.
Pizza and beer is a classic combination that fuels much of the Midwest. And Piece in Wicker Park serves both excellent pizza and solid beer (mainly-bold flavored lagers and ales). The chewy-crusted New Haven-style pies, topped with parmesan instead of mozzarella, are large and perfect for sharing. You can’t make reservations here either, but there’s a lot of seating, so even if you’re with a group, you probably won’t have to wait too long for a table. There are a lot of TVs, too, so it’s an especially good choice on game days.
This West Town brew pub is a botanical brewery - meaning all the beers have plant-based flavors (for example, a wildflower pale ale). Even if that’s not appealing to you, the food is worth a trip. There are truly delicious things to eat, like fried giardiniera (more plants, but these ones are pickled and fried) and an excellent burger. It’s in a remodeled old theater and the space is open and airy, with cool steampunk-esque light fixtures and brewing vats visible in the back of the restaurant. It’s good for a casual weeknight date, or catching up with that botanist friend you haven’t talked to since college.
Eris is in a remodeled Masonic temple in Old Irving Park, and it’s kept some of the old details, like exposed brick and an ominous-looking safe in the entryway. It’s a huge space that can easily fit large groups, but also isn’t bad for a date. There’s a wide variety of ciders available, plus a few beers. And the food offerings include vegan, dairy-free, and gluten-free dishes - so while you can get a Polish sausage wrapped in bacon (the Hodag), you can also get a vegan roasted cauliflower steak. Not every place in Chicago could easily accommodate a mixer for vegans and bacon lovers, so consider this a crowd-pleasing utility spot.