Open House Chicago: The drinkers guide

Open House Chicago: The drinkers guide

Not only has Chicago been named #1 Restaurant City in America and home of America’s best burger (Au Cheval) but we now have the most breweries of any American city. We’re talking about the beer breweries along Malt Row in the Ravenswood corridor and throughout city neighborhoods and the suburbs.

In addition to the breweries, a lot of distilleries have been popping up.

Then, there’s the coffee roasters and brewers.

If you’re planning to go to this weekend’s Open House Chicago (October 14, October 15, 9 am-5 pm)–    the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s annual crawl of some of Chicago’s greatest places–and you like to drink–here are some thoughts.

In Evanston

FEW Distillery –named for Frances E. Willard–the “mother ” of the great Temperance Movement (her initials F.E.W.)–is a hideaway in an inconspicuous Evanston alley. In other words, “a safe place.” The distillery was founded in 2011 and focuses on whiskeys and gins. The colorful labels on their bottles depict scenes from the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. You can fine FEW at 918 Chicago Ave. Open 9-5, both days.

Sketchbook Brewing Company's orange neon sign.

Sketchbook Brewing Comany’s orange neon sign.

Sketchbook Brewing Co. (821 Chicago Ave.) is one of only two Community-Supported Breweries (CSBs) in the Chicago area. What once was a grab-and-go growler operation expanded in 2016 to a 4-00 + member club with a welcoming taproom. The new space by architecture firm Valerio DeWalt Train Associates, utilizes reclaimed building materials and decorative elements from decommissioned bowling alleys, a local home, and the Evanston Re-Building Warehouse. A neon orange “Tap Room” sign by Greg Mowery is a showstopper. Open noon-5 pm, both days.

In Lakeview

Schubas Tavern (3159 N. Southport) is one of very few Schlitz tied houses (bars that were built only to serve a single make of beer) that still serves drinks. More than 80 years after opening, it was purchased by the Schuba brothers. They restored the 30-foot Brunswick mahogany bar, tin ceilings, walnut wainscoting and the exterior, including the famous Schlitz globe logo. Open both days, 9-5.

In Ravenswood

Half Acre Beer Co. (2050 W. Balmoral) in Lincoln Square brewing is newly opened to the public after years of development. The 60,000-square foot bow-truss building has seating for 150 plus a 100-person outdoor beer garden. This new facility offers some new styles including several “wyld” and barrel-aged creations. Tours open only to ages 21+, and will include small samples.  Open Saturday 1-5, closed Sunday.

Koval Distillery (5121 N. Ravenswood) was the first distillery within Chicago’s city limits since the mid-1800s. Founded in 2008, this family-owned, small-batch spirit manufacturer has become one of the fastest growing craft distilleries in the world. They specialize in organic whiskey, liqueurs and specialty spirits, focusing on clean “heart cut” distillates. Visitors will tour the original distillery and barrel-aging warehouse and learn about the beginnings of Chicago’s first distillery since the mid-1880s. Tours open to all ages, must be 21+ to sample and purchase bottled spirits.

In Logan Square

Revolution Brewing (3340 N.Kedzie)–operating from its Milwaukee Avenue brewpub since 2010, Revolution expanded into its new space in 2012 and is now the largest independently-owned brewery in Illinois. This facility occupies a bow-truss factory building with 30+ foot ceiling heights and the dimensions of a great Munich beer hall. The taproom pours a rotating selection of 16 Revolution beers. Open both days, 1-5.

The DiPrizio family founded Chicago Distilling Company (2359 N. Milwaukee) in 2010 and opened their distillery and tasting room in 2014. They specialize in small batch whiskeys (such as”Chocolate, “Stouted” or “Belgian Dark Strong Ale”), vodkas and gins made from organic grains sourced in Illinois.

The popular Metropolis Coffee Co. (3057 N. Rockwell) opened in this location in a former tannery building in September 2015, moving from an Andersonville garage.  Open both days, 9-5.

Near West Side

Another distillery, the Chicago’s brandy-focused micro-distillery, Rhine Hall, (2010 W. Fulton) has been producing small batch fruit spirits in the Kinzie Industrial Corridor since 2013. Father-daughter team Charlie and Jenny Solberg transitioned their family’s skill and passion for making traditional “eau de vie”, honed in Austria and Germany, into a business. Their distillery and taproom displays the DIY bike-powered apple chopper. Check out the essence of fruit in this brandy-focused micro-distillery. Must be 21+ to purchase drinks or bottled spirits. Open Sunday noon-5 pm

Portage Park

Lake Effect Brewery (4727 W. Montrose) is located in an alley behind Chicago Costume Shop. Owner Clint Bautz opened Lake Effect in 2011. From the beginning the focus has been on inventive small batches, typified by the “Inland Seas” bomber series where each lake and major geographical feature of the Great Lakes system is given a signature beer that reflects its unique character. Open sat. 9-5 sun 10-4.

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