When in doubt, journey north to Begyle.
When brewery indecision strikes, this has become my default maxim. I first stumbled across North Center’s Begyle Brewing a couple of years ago, somewhere near the beginning of my transition from mild craft beer enthusiast to borderline-insufferable wannabe beeroisseur.
Begyle has claimed this lofty position for good reason: the taproom is inviting, the staff is approachable, and the beer is F’ing delicious. I should probably thank the powers that be that I don’t live within a mile of Begyle; if I did, I’d get too comfortable there, probably try to move in, then get banned for life after being discovered after hours in a sleeping bag cuddling a growler under one of the fermenters.
The taproom, which opened in May 2015, features 40 table seats and a bar. Simple and intimate, you won’t be distracted by flashing TVs or blaring music in this brewery — you’ll have to appease yourself with drinking beer and enjoying the company of like-minded individuals.
On this evening, the wall to the warehouse-ish area that hosts all of the brewing equipment was open, revealing a taco cart, which our group promptly took advantage of. On that topic, I'll just say this: you can have all of your fancy beer and food pairings — most of them probably can't beat a solid beer-taco combo.
Atmosphere and Staff
The highlight of the stop-in was probably the hearty bearded man behind the bar. When I mentioned that my friend really enjoyed a specific beer during her last visit (neither of us could remember the name), he immediately went into detective mode, pulling out all the stops to identify this mystery beer, even offering her a free $10 jumbo bottle if his deduction was inaccurate.
It turns out that bottle wasn’t the same beer, but it tasted good, so she was happy to pay for it. Besides, phenomenal service is priceless.
Styles Available: Begyle’s core offerings include various IPAs and pale ales, a blonde, a porter and a wheat ale. We were thrilled to discover some new styles on tap as well, including a Christmas ale, a saison, and a tart little Belgian pale ale.
For the Hop Heads: I know I’ve referenced it as one of my top-5 Chicago IPAs in a previous post, so the Hophazardly flagship IPA is no shocker here. Stupendous.
For the Dark Beer Folks: Take your pick: the Oh Hey! porter or the Johnny Quest Thinks We’re Sellouts black IPA. Our group enjoyed both, and the Johnny does a nice job of blending in a coffee flavor with a noticeable-but-not-overpowering bitterness.
For the Serious Snobs: With a subtle floral bite and a mild fruity flavor, the Bushel and a Peck is an interesting farmhouse ale. You can lightly taste the peach and honey, but only because you know to look for it.
For the People Who Are Going to Ask Me “What Tastes the Most like Bud Light?: The winner by default is the Blonde Ale — if coerced into selecting one brew for a game of quarters or beer pong, this one might be smooth and watery enough to do the trick.
My Favorite: When I dove into the Wish You Were Clear triple IPA at 11-percent ABV, I expected whiplash due to an explosion of hops and bitterness. Quite the opposite proved true; it was smooth and mildly airy, with no piney, lip-puckering aftertaste. Blindfolded, I would've told you it was about seven or eight percent.
Begyle Brewing has become a staple of North Center’s flourishing brewery scene. But its distinction as the city’s first community-supported brewery (CSB) — a neighborhood-centric model that uses memberships for funding — is what makes this outfit truly unique among a growing horde of competitors and imposters.
One thing you won’t notice at first glance: extra space exists on the second floor above the taproom, where Sunday yoga sessions are common. I can tell you from experience, it’s worth a try — even as a violently hungover yoga novice, I enjoyed myself. I’ve also been told they frequently host a Skeeball league, which is what I’ll likely opt for next time I’m feeling adventurous to the point that simple beer drinking won’t suffice.
- Interested giving brewery yoga a spin? Click here for details. The best part: a cold, refreshing beer when you're done.
- The Hop Review recently dove into Begyle's vibrant visual brand — and what it means to the brewery.
Lead photo via facebook.com/BegyleBrewing/