If you’re a lover of craft beers, this is a great time for you! The Brewers Association says there are now over 6,000 breweries operating across the U.S. More than 200 of them reside in the Chicago area. In fact, the Chicago Tribune noted in July of 2017 that this area (including portions of Wisconsin and Indiana), has the most breweries in the country.

More than 1.6 million square feet of commercial real estate in Chicagoland is now devoted to craft breweries. This embarrassment of riches is in part due to our proximity to Lake Michigan, a large amount of industrial real estate that can be easily modified to hold beer-brewing equipment and taprooms, an already robust and growing restaurant scene, and a great established market for beer.

It isn’t just inside the city of Chicago. You’ll find more than 100 of Chicagoland breweries in the suburbs! Space for the special requirements of breweries is now at a premium in town, which means we’re seeing a great deal of growth to the west, north, and south. No matter where you are in the Chicago area, there’s a brewery near you. You just have to find them.

One way to do this is visit our Breweries, Distilleries, and Wineries category at www.windycityguide.com or visit the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild website at www.illinoisbeer.org, which lists over 150 members. The Illinois Craft Brewers Guild is the organization that hosts Chicago Craft Beer Week (chibeerweek.com), which takes place in May in hundreds of locations across the city. This festival celebrates the abundance of local brews, and gets bigger and better every year with tastings, tap takeovers, panel discussions, meet-the-brewer events, beer pairing dinners, and more.

But you don’t have to wait for May. Beer events take place all over the area throughout the year, and can be wonderful places to discover different ales of the region. Start with the 2018 Chicago Ale Fest on 1/20 at Navy Pier www.chicagoalefest.com,  followed by Winter Brew 2018 at local breweries in the Lincoln Square/Ravenswood area on 1/27 www.lincolnsquare.org/winter-brew.  In February, the Frost Fest takes place in Boystown on 2/24-2/25 with an outdoor (heated tent) party featuring 50 local beers www.northalsted.com/events/frost-fest/. In March, enjoy the 2018 Chicago Beer Festival at the Field Museum on 3/3 www.thechicagobeerfestival.com and Brewhaha 2018 at the Geraghty on 3/10 www.windycitybrewhaha.com. And then, once spring and summer arrive, you’ll be running into beer events all over the place. Want some guidance, then take a Chicago beer tasting tour with Chicago Beer Experience www.chicagobeerexperience.com

If you’re looking for something that’s available year round, you have many options for searching out great breweries. In the northern suburbs Lake County, ride the Lake County Libation Trail www.visitlakecounty.org/libation-trail to enjoy northern suburban highlights of beer plus spirits and wine. Brewery favorites of WCG include Buffalo Creek Brewing www.buffalocreekbrewing.com, Half Day Brewing Co. www.halfdaybrewing.com, Mickey Finn’s Brewery www.mickeyfinnsbrewery.com and Tighthead Brewing Company www.tightheadbrewing.comTighthead.

Or just find a list of breweries, and visit as many as you can! No matter where you are, you’re bound to find a brewery you like right near you.

Given the industry’s continuing growth here, if beer is your thing, you won’t want to leave the Chicago area without trying a local brew. You’ll have so many opportunities – just check the local menu at the restaurant you’re dining at tonight, and ask about what’s good. You may find a new favorite beer, and more reasons to return to Chicago (not that you need more!). Have questions or need advice? Shoot us an email at rhoefer@windycityguide.com and we’ll respond promptly (even if we’re sampling beer at a brewery ourselves).

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