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Jul 5, 2011 01:44 PM

Help with Chicago beer scene?

I'm visiting Chicago for three nights and looking for a good outdoor beer scene. We're staying at the Hyatt on East Wacker, but willing to take the El as needed.

In a search for beer gardens, I found the Landshark Beer Garden on Navy Pier....definitely not what I had in mind. I'm primarily looking for something that has more of a neighborhood focus (that doesn't mind an out-of-towner). While a great beer selection is great, it's not necessarily a must - I'm looking for a great atmosphere/experience.

Already planning on a weekday Cubs game and will be exploring that neighborhood after the game.

Any help would be greatly appreciated...and I can always reciprocate for anyone visiting Boston.

Many thanks in advance.

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  1. Whenever I am in chicago I cannot pass up hopleaf.
    Take the redline to Berwyn and it’s a about 5 blocks from there I believe 5148 North Clark Street.

    They have like 50 beers on draft and over 250 bottles. They have a back outdoor area as well.
    There is also a liquor store that always seems to have a great beer selection directly catty corner to it. I cannot remember the name specifically but you cant miss it.

    1. This website lists beer gardens all over town, by neighborhood with a map:

      At least some of the ones listed for the following neighborhoods are within a half mile walk of the Hyatt Regency: Loop, River North, Magnificent Mile, Streeterville, Navy Pier. The ones listed for the following neighborhoods are within a half mile walk of Wrigley: West Lakeview, Wrigleyville, Boystown.

      Hopleaf, in Andersonville, may be the best known in town (and unfortunately, that can mean crowds and long waits, depending on the hour). It's easy to get between there and Wrigley on the #22 CTA bus which runs along Clark Street.

      Hopleaf Bar
      5148 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60640

      1. Unfortunately, many of the best spots for craft beer in the city don't have much in the way of outdoor space. Hopleaf does have a back patio, but I don't think you can order food while out there. As already mentioned, they are usually packed. Still worth a trip for really good food and the best selection of Belgian drafts in the city - they've been open for 20+ years and have excellent contacts with distributors and often land great rarities. They are also strict 21+ (in case others in your party are under-aged).

        Further south, and closer to Wrigley Field, I'd seek out Sheffield's and Goose Island. Sheffield's has also been pouring craft for 20+ years and usually has a great selection. I haven't had their food (bbq), but I've heard good things. The Goose Island brewpub is not the original (that one is further south, off Clybourn Ave.) but it does have a decent-sized beer garden.

        Downtown, about a mile from yout hotel, are Jake Melnick's and Clark St. Ale House. Jake Melnick's has the decor and food of a pretty generic sports bar but the beer is list is really, really good (and, actually, the wings are killer). They have some outdoor seating. Clark St. Ale house doesn't have any food (though they allow you call in for delivery/bring in take-out) but does have a patio in teh back. It's surrounded on all 4 sides by neighboring high-rises so it can feel a little claustrophobic. Good drink prices, though, and excellent selection.

        There is a Rock Bottom in River North, also near to your hotel. The beer is all right. The roof-top deck is great. The food... well, like I said, the roof-top deck is great.

        Depending on how long you'll be in town, you might check out the Wicker Park neighborhood. There are tons of bars there with decent-sized patios and great beer lists. Bangers & Lace is a hair more expensive than it should be and the food is all right - very lively, though, with outdoor seating. SmallBar (Division Street location) has a great tap list and just overhauled their food menu to stick closer to farm to table. Big Star is a great stop - huge front patio, delicious tacos, small but well-chosen beer list and one of the best selections of bourbon and American whiskey in the city. Big Star is also cash only. Piece Brewpub is nearby - very fun sportsbar that can get rowdy at night (with a very young crowd), especially when it's live-band karaoke. The only food they have is (thin crust) pizza, with their specialty being New Haven. Declious beers made in house.

        A few blocks north of Piece is the Maproom, another Chicago, craft beer institution. No food, no outdoor seating but great crowds and a delicious beer list. They are cash only.

        For what it's worth, local-ish beers worth looking for include Goose Island (though they're also distributed widely, including Boston, if I'm not mistaken), Three Floyds, Half Acre, Metropolitan and Two Brothers. Finch's and 5 Rabbit are all very new to the scene and aren't seen as widely - 5 Rabbit's Golden Ale or Finch's Threadless IPA are both great, though. Boulevard, Central Waters, Bells and Founders are all regional and usually always delicious.

        Hopleaf Bar
        5148 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60640

        Three Floyds
        Munster, Munster, IN

        1 Reply
        1. re: danimalarkey

          You can dine on the patio at Hopleaf. If craft beer isn't necessarily the focus, then Sheffield's would be a good choice.

          Hopleaf Bar
          5148 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60640

          Sheffield's Wine and Beer Garden
          3258 N Sheffield Ave, Chicago, IL 60657

        2. Awesome suggestions, all. Thanks so much for the guidance.

          1. As pointed out below, I would recommend the Clark St Ale House, Sheffields, and Hopleaf. There are some fun german beer gardens in Lincoln Square as well.

            Hopleaf Bar
            5148 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60640