You are not alone if you’re wondering how 2023 is almost over. It was another eventful year in the Chicago craft beer scene. The year included endless beer releases, major events, unique membership offerings, newcomers and bidding farewell to a few local favorites. While naming the “Best of 2023” in Chicago Craft Beer is no easy feat, we’re giving it our best shot.
A few classics, some seasonals and everything in between (for example, pickle beer). Crowd-sourced and curated with the help of all of you, so thank you and cheers!
- Mezcal Barrel-Aged Beer for Tacos by Off Color Brewing
- Levain 2023 with Montmorency Cherries by Is/Was Brewing
- Donna’s Pickle Beer
- Green Torch by Half Acre Beer
- New School Sour by Go Brewing
- Heavy Metal Santa by Solemn Oath Brewery
- Life Jacket by Revolution Brewing
- Cuffin’ Season by Funkytown Brewery
- Barrel Aged Cuppa Stuffff by Maplewood Brewery & Distillery
- Rey Gordo by Cruz Blanca Brewery
Prague Uprising by Midwest Coast Brewing, Flannel Pajamas by Begyle Brewing, Heliostat by Metropolitan Brewing, Lager by Dovetail Brewery, Tavern Cut by Hop Butcher For The World, Jungle Boogie by Marz Community Brewing Co., Bubble Tub by Whiner Beer Co., Helles Lager by Moor’s Brewing Co., Diversey Station by Ravinia Brewing Company, Lil Buddy by Hopewell Brewing Co.
- Beer and Qing Xiang Yuan dumpling pairing at Off Color Brewing: Qing Xiang Yuan is well-known in Chicago for some of the best dumplings in the city. Off Color is known for some of the best beers (see above). The collaboration beer brewed between Off Color and QXY, Sí Fáng Pale Lager, was incredible. When paired with QXY soup dumplings, it was really something special. The event celebrated the collaboration beer, QXY dumplings, and Off Color beers. It was a perfectly executed event I will never stop talking about.
- Brewer’s Triangle block party: An all-day block party spread across three local breweries that happened to fall on a gorgeous day in Chicago. Say less. Maplewood Brewery & Distillery, Metropolitan Brewing, and Ravinia Brewing Co. came together to launch the newly formed brewery conglomerate, The Brewer’s Triangle, with an all-day block party spread across each location, along with the release of their first collaboration beer, Brewer’s Triangle Helles Lager.
- Freedom Fest at Revolution Brewing: A beer festival exclusively dedicated to sour beers, featuring live drag performances by local drag queens. 10/10, no notes.
Best Brewery Membership: The Old Order at Solemn Oath Brewery
As a craft beer fan in Chicago, it can be challenging to choose a brewery membership because there are many options. Many memberships offer monthly beer allotments and discounts when visiting the taproom. Those are lovely offerings. However, there’s a true standout when it comes to brewery memberships. The Old Order at Solemn Oath Brewery doesn’t exclusively offer beer allotments but also includes access to exclusive events, brew days, and educational programming for the nerdiest of beer nerds. (I can say that because I fall in this category.) Solemn Oath does an incredible job with The Old Order in curating events and programming to build community among its members and make them feel valued. If you’re interested, membership for the 2024 Old Order (and New Order) is now open at Solemn Oath’s Old Order membership page.
Best Brewery Tour: Dovetail Brewery
One of the best things to make a comeback in 2023 was brewery tours. The brewery tour at Dovetail has always been one of the best. It’s extremely in-depth, covering each step of the brewing process. The tour lasts for about ninety minutes and includes three 0.3-liter beers. It’s an award-winning tour, featured in USA Today, The Travel Magazine and Time Out Chicago. For $30, it’s a great value considering all of the beer and fun facts you’ll enjoy. Tours are (typically) offered on the third Saturday of each month at noon, but check Dovetail Brewery’s tours webpage for the latest.
Best Brewery Food
- Cultivate by Forbidden Root: All Forbidden Root locations offer incredible food. Cultivate takes it a step further. Its inventive, ever-changing menu offers a wide variety of dishes packed with flavor. Come for brunch, lunch, or dinner, and stay for Cultivate’s extensive beer and cocktail program.
- Bixi Beer: Bixi offers a wide array of dishes with Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean influences. Its menu is packed with flavor, and a good amount of spice. The Yibin-style noodles are my absolute favorite, but they pack a punch. It’s also the only place in town where you can get familiar favorites from the since-closed Owen and Engine. Bixi Beer offers an Owen and Engine residency on Mondays and Tuesdays.
- The Beer Temple: An incredible beer program calls for great food to match. The Beer Temple opened its kitchen this year and offers a rotating selection of sandwiches, soups, salads and bar snacks. All of which will blow your mind.
- Lo Rez Brewing
- Smylie Brothers Brewing Co.
- Empirical Brewery
- Rock Bottom Brewery
- Metropolitan Brewing
New Breweries (and New Locations)
- Turner Haus Brewery (78 E. 47th Street)
- Good Times Brewery (3827 N. Broadway)
- Pilot Project opens its second location in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
- Guinness Open Gate Brewery (901 W. Kinzie Street)
- Old Irving Brewing set to open its second location.
- Goose Island is moving from Clyborn to the Salt Shed.
- Lake Effect Brewing Co., coming soon
- Industry Ales, coming soon
- Demo Brewing, coming soon
Cheers to 2024!