As part of our pre-game for the John Prine concert at the legendary Chicago Theatre last Friday, I decided to introduce my parents to one of my favorite local establishments: On Tour Brewing.
After we embarked upon our second flight of beers, it occurred to me that I’d yet to focus a blog post on this neighborhood treasure. As a West Town resident and frequent visitor to Chicago’s Brewing District, it’d be a crime if I put it off any longer.
Like its neighbors Goose Island Brewpub, Great Central Brewing and Finch Beer, the building that houses On Tour Brewing looks like an old-fashioned manufacturing facility, because, well…it is.
Until On Tour opened its doors in early 2017, Hudson Boiler and Tank Co. occupied the space. However, when you step through the inconspicuous entryway on Hubbard (which looks as though it could just as easily lead into a dreary office), you’re no longer greeted by industrial machinery.
Instead, you find an airy, sun-filled taproom that looks larger than its 1,500 square-foot dimensions would suggest. It’s modern and immaculate, furnished with minimalist, workmanlike furniture and décor that’s perfectly suited for knocking back a few cold ones after a long, hard day on the job…even if my mother lamented the chairs’ lack of footrests.
Atmosphere and Staff
During my first visit — shortly after the brewery’s launch, I believe — I recall the tasting room seeming a bit understaffed, though something tells me the fervent crowd on that particular Friday evening (which had the room near its bursting point) wasn’t exactly expected.
Since then, the bartenders and servers have been exceedingly polite, helpful and beer-savvy during each stop-in. One of the bartenders even recognized me this past visit, which, while exciting in itself, had the added benefit of making me look like a semi big shot in front of my family.
Of the 15-ish On Tour beers I’d sampled prior to Friday evening, Forgotten Space IPA was the standard-setter. Let’s see if any new ones met or exceeded those lofty expectations:
Styles Available: I get the sense that this brew crew doesn’t limit itself to certain styles or shy away from creativity, though I’m equally inclined to believe that they’re not particularly focused on highly experimental brews.
The selection tends to be interesting, expansive and ever-changing.
For the Hop Heads: Frothing with sweet hoppy bitterness, the Searching For the Sound Imperial IPA feels substantial in your mouth — in a good way. A pint instead of a sample and I would’ve had to rescind my offer to drive downtown for the show.
For the Dark Beer Folks: Relatively clean and light for a nitrogen-brewed stout, the Dropkick Nitro is kind of like a Guinness — just smoother and trendier.
For the Serious Snobs: Not that it’s flashy or exotic, but the Low Boy Maibock won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival as a malty, flavorful take on the classic German style.
For the People Who Are Going to Ask “What Tastes the Most like Bud Light?”: Introducing Lightning Will, the German Pilsner. Crush away, my thirsty friends.
My Favorite: The Getaway Day IPA got my engine revving, but the Cities Mexican Lager made me wish I could find it on tap in establishments like Big Star as a tasty alternative to Tecate or Corona.
On Tour continues to garner notoriety in Chicago’s craft beer circles, and for good reason: it’s just about everything a city brewery in 2018 should be.
In addition to a slick space, a pleasant atmosphere and an array of taps that churn out noteworthy new brews each time you pop in, On Tour lets you carry out any draft option you like via a growler, a crowler or a discounted three-pack of crowlers.
And the next time I have one too many in there, I’m pretty much resigned to the notion that I’ll be purchasing one of those bad-ass trucker hats on display behind the bar.
- Chicago Magazine recently stopped into the taproom to see what has everyone buzzing — check out the photos.
- Beerpinions — a podcast hosted by Pat Berger of Kaiser Tiger & Paddy Long's and Bruce White of Chicago Beer Experience — gets the story of On Tour Brewing straight from the source: owner Mark Legenza.
Photos via facebook.com/pg/ontourbrewing.