So, the last time you guys heard from me, I gave you the obligatory year-in-review column with the tales of my travels in 2019. I don’t know who those sorts of wrap ups are for more (you, the reader, or myself) as I look back and remember all of the things I got into in the past year.
For this column, I want to look forward to what is in store for my beer exploits in 2020. I changed jobs halfway through the year last year, and the new work I do sort of consumed more of my attention, and my craft brewery crawls slowed considerably, except for my big trip east. I look to rectify that this year.
During this break from classes, I’ve had some time to dig into my spreadsheet of Chicagoland breweries and noticed I had to significantly reorder my trips based on the sheer number of new breweries that have cropped up during the course of my designs. If you will remember, I did a brewery crawl for the fine establishments in Oak Park.
A brewery had opened between my writing that column and the end of the year, One Lake Brewing, which is very near where I started that crawl. Many breweries have opened in the Westmont-Darien area, such as Scallywag Brewing, Whiskey Hill and Ike and Oak Brewing. I will have to go back and turn a big trip into two trips because one solo human being cannot accomplish that task in one go.
Beyond all of this, St. Charles is about to become the second capital of craft beer in Illinois, as it looks to gain a new Pollyanna Brewing outpost, a second Alter Brewing location and a new brewery, Art History Brewing, which will add to its already stacked line up of Penrose Brewing (of Geneva), D and G Brewing, 93 Octane Brewing, Riverlands Brewing and Energy City Brewing (in nearby Batavia).
The other location that has had a big come up is the Woodstock-Huntley area, which went from no breweries to a handful seemingly overnight. This area saw the opening of Holzlager Brewing, Sew Hop’d and Shadowview Brewing this year, as well as More opening its secondary location in Huntley in the near future. I’m planning this trip around catching the second More Brewing’s open, which will be a huge anchor to this burgeoning craft beer haven.
Of course, the real story is what has been happening in Chicago this past year. There are so many things here you can’t even begin to summarize it, but there looks to be 14 significant craft beer developments in the coming year or so.
The biggest, Pipeworks Brewing, looks to open a full scale brewpub in Logan Square in the near future. The list here goes on and on with breweries such as Marz Brewing, Ravinia Brewing and Solemn Oath Brewing eyeing secondary locations on Chicago’s northside.
Here is a quick list of notable brewery developments coming to Chicago maybe in 2020: Burning Bush Brewing, The Conrad Seipp Brewing, Crushed by Giants, Englewood Brews, Howard Street Brewing (Rogers Park getting on the board), Odious Cellars, Omega Yeast is looking at doing something, Orkoney and Urban Renewal Brewing (looking to open a full-scale taproom; right now, it’s just a bottle shop).
All of this is according to an amalgamation of The Hop Review and Guys Drinking Beer reporting on the moving and shaking of the Chicago beer scene. Many of these could take longer than has been reported, as breweries are complicated and present many challenges to a start-up small business.
I’ve planned my way through taking weekend trips all around Chicagoland. The trips to the Woodstock-Huntley area seem like titanic undertakings. The trips to St. Charles-Geneva area will be a welcome trip, as I went to school in DeKalb and look forward to returning to see the old haunts. We have a wedding in May out that way, so I might try to tick them off the list while we are there. I have to get to Northwest Indiana to see what’s happening in Griffith, Dyer, Crown Point and Valparaiso.
Four breweries opened by the end of 2019 that the new car smell hasn’t worn off yet — Pilot Project Brewing, of Chicago; Midwest Coast Brewing, of Chicago; Roebuck Pizza, a DryHop-Corridor jam; and Casa Humilde Brewing, at the District Brew Yards. Each one of them has its own story to tell, so I won’t encapsulate them here, but 2019 was a big year for the craft beer scene in Chicagoland, and it seems I have a lot of work to do.
Lastly, if you want to jump into this year right, the best way to start everything is to check out this year’s Chicago Ale Fest at the Aeon Ballroom at Navy Pier from 3 to 7 p.m. today. Tickets are available at chicagoalefest.com. Tickets cost $70 for early entry at 2 p.m. and $60 for general admission. These are some of the best beer fests in Chicagoland.
Two things about the beers of the week this week. First, I’m recommending a beer from MyGrain Brewing, of Joliet, because Grapes & Hops, of Kankakee, has them on draft right now as its brewery of the season. I really enjoy MyGrain’s beer, and I thought they needed a shout out here so you know you can get them closer to home.
Secondly, I mentioned two brewing concerns in Chicago that specialize in subtle, delicate saisons. If you never have had one of these beers, there are two to choose from locally. The one I want to recommend is from Allagash in Portland, Maine — River Trip, a table beer that will be the most similar beer available to the Is/Was or Keeping Together styles of beer.
Double Chocolate Stateville Stout from MyGrain Brewing Company
ABV: 8.7 percent
Style: Stout — Imperial/Double Milk
Notes: Stateville Stout’s bigger, badder cousin. Double the chocolate flavor, with cacao nibs and more lactose and malt added to give it even more of that rich chocolate sweetness.
Where to Buy: Grapes & Hops in Kankakee in flights or in 13-ounce pours for $5.
River Trip from Allagash Brewing
ABV: 4.8 percent
Style: Table beer
Notes: A low-ABV, Belgian-style table beer with hop-forward grapefruit and stone fruit notes. Spiced with coriander for an extra hint of citrus. Dry-hopping with Comet and Azacca contributes to the mix of melon and grapefruit notes.
Where to Buy: The Open Bottle in Tinley Park in four packs of 16-ounce cans for $12.99.