When Katie and I began our whimsical courtship last January, Bloomingdale — her suburb of residence — was home to exactly zero breweries.
One year later, the town has two, one of which seemingly appeared out of nowhere in November at the Stratford Square Mall, a super convenient location for us given its location down the street from her apartment.
Although 25 West Brewing didn’t cross our collective radar until recently, we’ve already visited twice in as many weeks.
I’m going to be honest: heading into our first visit, my expectations were not high. Suburban shopping mall, full food menu, the “family friendly” label…I envisioned the type of gimmicky, tourist-laden restaurant you’d find at Navy Pier or the Wisconsin Dells.
Thankfully, my preconceived judgments were utterly misguided. You shouldn’t expect the rustic, warehouse-style atmosphere typical of so many modern taprooms, but 25 West is a bustling hangout that seems to be injecting fresh life into a mall that appears more sparsely populated every time I pass it. It’s not difficult to figure out why the section of the parking lot immediately outside the brewpub space is the most high-traffic area on the campus.
Atmosphere and Staff
Apparently, 25 West’s founders initially planned to open the establishment in Chicago, but due to complications of some sort, they opened up shop 25 miles due west of the city in Bloomingdale — hence the name.
The brewpub may still be trying to zero in on an identity, but its massive interior offers a little something for everyone. A merch counter displaying hats, shirts and stickers greets you in the entrance area, TVs playing sports line the walls of the main room, and around the corner from the bar you’ll find a shuffleboard table and a few arcade games.
Food-wise, we tried both the wings and the burger, and both were fantastic. However, word of warning: if you’re a fan of spicy wings, exercise extreme caution ordering the habanero volcano sauce — one bite and we were both sweating bullets, searching desperately for a glass of milk to chug. If the server assures you that they’re “not that hot,” make sure to accept that tip with a grain of salt and some healthy skepticism.
Styles Available: The brew menu errs on the side of hoppy, with several alternatives for those who prefer to shun IPAs, including a pilsner, lager, witbier and stout. I even experimented with a “brew-mary,” gratifying both my beer and Bloody Mary fix simultaneously.
For the Hop Heads: A powerful blend of fruit notes and smooth bitterness, the Driving Miss Hazy NEIPA will satisfy your thirst if juicy beers are your jam.
For the Dark Beer Folks: There’s only one option, and it’s a good one — the Time and Space oatmeal milk stout. Sweet, thanks to an infusion of chocolate and vanilla, to go with roasty and malty.
For the Serious Snobs: Nothing overly adventurous, but the Peach Cobbler Sour was pleasantly pungent and satisfyingly refreshing.
For the People Who Are Going to Ask “What Tastes the Most like Bud Light?”: I admittedly haven’t sampled either one yet (primarily because I couldn’t get enough of “My Favorite,” which I’ll describe in a moment), but I’m excited to taste the Copperpot lager and Bloomingdale Blonde during our next stop-in.
My Favorite: Atlas Ale, hands down. It’s an easy-drinking pale ale with a delicious balance of hops and mild citrus flavors. Once we tasted it that first night, we never ordered anything else.
Frankly, Chicago is completely saturated with breweries at this point, and it’s nice to see an area with a clear thirst for good beer get a quality new establishment. And selfishly, it’s nice to have a new go-to spot near my home away from home.