If not for the signage and the wafting aroma of fermentation in progress, you’d never guess that a full-fledged brewery was thriving within the walls of the modest, two-story, 150-year-old house on the corner of Lake and 3rd Street in Bloomingdale, Illinois.
On a recent Saturday, as family and friends celebrated Katie’s birthday around the fire pit in the fenced-in backyard behind Wolfden Brewing, a troubling thought struck me: this may be our last visit to this unique taproom — at least for a long time.
Founded way back in August of 2018, we have now celebrated more birthdays at Wolfden than the brewery has celebrated itself.
From the beginning, the owners have done a tremendous job in sticking to their theme; during my first trip (and every subsequent visit), I’ve always had to suppress the urge to pilfer some of the woodsy, animal-themed pieces of décor. Miniature wolf sculptures, bear paintings, pillars made from the unadulterated limbs of a birch tree — what’s not to love?
To be sure, they’ve made efficient use of the space available. A private nook near the entrance, complete with a fireplace and poufy armchairs, serves as an ideal mini party room — or, for the more introverted among us, a cozy alcove from which you can sip beer and ponder the subtleties of life in a simpler time.
Atmosphere and Staff
The bar — situated beyond the pondering nook, where you’d assume the kitchen would be — assumes the form of a right angle, creating a narrow, intimate alleyway with tables and chairs in its vicinity.
Typically, it’s apparent that the crowd is comprised primarily of locals, but unlike a standoffish dive bar, this group tends to create a congenial environment. During busy hours in the winter, space is usually at a premium, though there is an additional room offset from the bar area that can handle a decent amount of overflow if it gets too packed.
Just outside the backdoor you’ll find the patio, littered with Midwesterners soaking up what precious pleasant outdoor time this polarizing region has to offer. This expansive porch, coupled with the massive backyard and fire pit, will be a driving force (in my humble opinion) in what separates Wolfden from its competitors, making it a go-to establishment in the area.
Styles Available: The menu seems to change regularly, though in my experience, you can feel confident you’ll find at least one standard IPA, a hazy IPA, a stout, a porter, the Pale Moonlight pale ale, and a couple creative concoctions.
For the Hop Heads: Eschewing bitterness for a slightly citrusy hop flavor, the Foggy Thoughts NEIPA was highly satisfying, even as I’m struggling through hazy IPA fatigue.
For the Dark Beer Folks: The Nilla Nuzzle vanilla-infused porter really hit the spot on a sunny-yet-chilly early spring day.
For the Serious Snobs: Our birthday party coincidentally coincided with the launch party of the Banana Fiasco dessert milk stout. It’s a fun concoction, and I say that as a fan of neither desserts nor stouts.
For the People Who Are Going to Ask “What Tastes the Most like Bud Light?”: I didn’t partake on this particular day, but the Pale Moonight is a solid easy-drinker that’s usually on tap.
My Favorite: Tossup. Either the Foggy Thoughts or the Suburban Hazard IPA — just like certain 90s fashion concepts are coming back, I’ve fallen in love with straightforward, Midwestern IPAs like it’s 2014 all over again. And it feels so good.
Since Katie has taken the plunge and moved to Chicago, we no longer have a home base local to Wolfden or 25 West (the other brewery in town), demanding that any future trips will need to be orchestrated journeys versus spontaneous stop-ins.
If any inner-city breweries offer a massive backyard with a firepit, let me know. Otherwise, we’ll just have to continue to make excuses for an occasional getaway to Bloomingdale.
- A fascinating look into the history of the brewery and the house it currently inhabits, courtesy of the good folks at Porchdrinking.com.