Metropolitan Brewing offers a rustic, picturesque setting for quenching your thirst on a hot summer day — that is, if you’re able to successfully navigate the construction site that separates the street entrance from the taproom itself.
While the hidden, sunlit Avondale space has only been around since late 2016, Metropolitan has been producing consistent, authentic German style lagers since 2009. When you visit, don’t be deterred by a lack of signage or the dusty trek through a work-in-progress building — just think of it as part of the experience.
Discovering this beautiful riverfront taproom last fall was bittersweet for me; the beer was tasty, the location was ideal, but I had just spent an entire summer unaware of its existence. I decided to rectify that this summer, beginning on a sunny, mild Thursday evening in mid-May.
Situated on the western bank of the Chicago River, Metropolitan is the main attraction on an industrial strip of Rockwell Street just north of Elston and south of Belmont. Brewery aside, you do see some signs of new growth — a nearly completed event space is visible from the taproom, and the construction warzone you cross to access the tasting room will eventually transform into something…exactly what that’s going to be, however, is clear as mud.
Atmosphere and Staff
I know city ordinances and regulations and zoning all play a factor in it, but the lack of development on the north stretch of the Chicago River still baffles me. The building Metropolitan occupies served as a tannery in the 1800s, and the brewery has done an impressive job maintaining its vintage ethos while still giving it the feel of a modern manufacturing facility.
Communal-style benches are lined up next to expansive floor-to-ceiling windows around the edges of the interior, all of which surrounds a central rectangular bar where the beer is dished out by one or two bartenders. As congenial as the environment indoors typically is, I tend to grab a flight or a pint and immediately head for the open air just outside the east windows.
Styles Available: For a brewery that specializes in German lagers (an exceptionally niche category), the variation between individual brews Metropolitan achieves under the umbrella of one category is pretty impressive. Then again, the Germans have been brewing for a littttttle while longer than American craft brewers have been at it…
For the Hop Heads: Those who have an exclusive relationship with hop-forward beers will come away from Metro disappointed, but the Flywheel Pilsner’s bold hops are noticeable, if only fleetingly.
For the Dark Beer Folks: One of the few I haven’t tried — Magnetron — is “darker than Satan’s soul” (or so the description says). I plan tasting Satan as soon as this weekend.
For the Serious Snobs: None of the offerings feel particularly experimental, but most also seem complex enough to satisfy legitimate beer nerds. Can’t single one out.
For the People Who Are Going to Ask “What Tastes the Most like Bud Light?”: For the first time since I’ve been writing these posts, I can actually say “lots of them!” I’m going to go with the Heliostat Zwickelbier, simply because I felt like I could’ve tipped four in a row without a problem out in the sun by the river that night.
My Favorite: Haus Helles — a solid, old-fashioned lager brewed for The Radler up in Logan Square. Straight from the old country.
If you’re a city-dwelling beer enthusiast — especially one who appreciates a solid German style lager — you’re doing yourself a great disservice if you put off a visit to Metropolitan’s taproom for too long.
For a city that boasts a unique, thriving craft brewing community, few taprooms offer a quality outdoor space. This one does; I highly recommend taking advantage of it.
- An intriguing interview between The Hop Review and Tracy Hurst, who co-founded Metropolitan with her then-husband way back in 2009. They dive into the traditional lager niche, the Avondale neighborhood, and some other beer-related tangents.
- The now-defunct DNA Info Chicago ran an interesting piece on Metro’s recently opened taproom in October 2017, complete with photos.
Photos via facebook.com/pg/MetropolitanBrewing