2018 Chicago Area Beer in Review

2018 Chicago Area Beer in Review
Ravinia Brewing Co.

As another year has turned the corner, here's a quick and likely incomplete rundown of the brewers that have been coming and going in the Chicago area.

New Brewers or Locations:

February:

March:

April:

May:

June:

  • The former Chain O'Lakes Brewing has its grand opening under new ownership as McHenry Brewing Co.

July:

  • BiXi Beer opens as a brewing extension of Owen & Engine, at 2515 N. Milwaukee

August:

September:

  • Tribes Beer Co. opens its own brewery and taproom in Mokena, adding to its "empire" of beer bars in Mokena and Tinley Park.

October:

December:

  • Seery Athlone opens its taproom in Addison.
  • After knocking about for almost five years, doing small contract brews and briefly tying up with Rude Boys Brewing, Twisted Hippo has landed at 2925 W. Montrose, the former Breakroom Brewery, then the former Finch Beer taproom. They've had a soft opening on New Year's Eve, and will fully open for business Thursday, January 10.

Closings:

April: Like Minds Brewing Co., originally from Chicago, had moved to Milwaukee in 2016, but closed its doors, citing problems with Milwaukee's regulatory environment.

June: Baderbräu, the historic Chicago craft beer which was resurrected in 2012, and which opened its own brewery and taproom in 2014, suddenly closed its S. Wabash building in June, in preparation for a sale. No further announcements since then.

September: Empirical Brewery shuttered its brewpub on Morse Ave. in Chicago, consolidating operations at its brewery taproom on Foster Ave.
Also, Two Brothers Social Tap restaurant in Oak Park closed, owing to new state regulations that prevent breweries from operating more than three outlets.

October: The RAM Restaurant & Brewery chain closed its Schaumburg location.

Burnt City Brewing announced that it will be closing its brewpub/bowling alley on Lincoln Ave. in March 2019, as well as its South Side production brewery in the former Jay's potato chip plant. They will retrench in a brewing space at 417 N. Ashland, in what's now called "Chicago's Brewery District," with a barbecue restaurant and a 5,000 bbl/year operation. The new space will continue to be co-brewing Around the Bend beers.

In August, a fire destroyed the beloved Maple Tree Inn in Blue Island. The owners have promised to rebuild, and to the end have opened the temporary Maple Tree Bistro near their original location.

Bar closings include Old Town Social, Quenchers, the Beer Bistro

The Chicago Brewseum begins hosting fundraisers and exhibits to help establish the Windy's City's place in brewing history. Results of the efforts included a "Brewing Up Chicago" exhibit at the Field Museum.


In December, the Tribune's Josh Noel noted that the Brewers' Association had counted 167 commercial breweries in the Chicago area, now the most of any metropolitan area in the country.

However, I've gone over the maps they used and found that while the U.S. Census Bureau's definition of the Chicago urban area stretched from Valparaiso and Chesterton to Joliet, Aurora and the Wisconsin border, it showed a separate metro areas for McHenry/Grayslake, which counted in 3 more breweries. My coverage would include Rockford (5), DeKalb (1), Ottawa (2), Kankakee (2) and Michigan City/LaPorte (4). So a slightly more generous definition of the Chicago metro could take in anywhere from 170 to 184 brewers. I won't delve into what a more generous of the Denver (158) or Seattle (153) metros might yield, but I note that the "Denver metro" omits beer cities like Boulder and Longmont, with Ft. Collins and Colorado Springs less than a day's drive away.

 

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