The Best Brewery Tours in Chicago
Take a Chicago brewery tour and learn about the city’s best beer from the people who make it
By Just Beer Community Collection on May. 02, 2017
Chicago loves beer, whether it’s spending a night at a great beer bar or picking up a six-pack of a local brew to take to a party. There are dozens of breweries in the area, and many offer tours, which range from a booze-fueled, hours-long lesson on beermaking to quick and dirty 20-minute overviews. We tagged along on local brewery tours, where we learned a few things about brewing and drank more than a few pints of great local beer.
Touring 3 Floyds is not an enterprise for the rushed; the first-come, first-served tours at Indiana’s biggest (and arguably the Midwest’s most beloved) craft brewery can fill up hours in advance. While away your wait with lunch and a pint in the attached pub. Once your turn comes, don’t expect a dissertation; tours here clock in at just 20–30 minutes, allowing visitors to get back to the business of drinking beer.
We learned: 3 Floyds prides itself on its unique relationship with the metal scene; over the years, it’s produced collaborative brews with bands like Pelican and Municipal Waste.
Booze included: Not a drop. Before you protest, though, keep in mind that the tour’s free—and according to the guide, you can generally score a few gratis samples in the pub post-tour as long as you ask your server nicely.
Tours: Saturdays at 12:30, 1:30, 2:30, 3:30, 4:30 and 5:30pm. Free.
5 Rabbit Cerveceria (the Spanish word for “beer hall”) focuses on Latin-style beers and uses Latin American ingredients like dulce de leche, ancho chilies and lime peel. No one else in Chicago is doing quite what they are, so the brewery and taproom is definitely worth a visit. Get there a little early and sample a beer flight in the very small, low-key taproom.
Since there were only five of us on the 45-minute tour, we got to climb up a ladder to look closely at brewing equipment, sample still-fermenting beers right out of the tanks and ask the tour guide as many questions as we wanted. The brewery is aging some beers in rum and brandy barrels, as well as aging Five Lizard in tequila barrels with agave, so there’s plenty of cool stuff from 5 Rabbit to look forward to.
We learned: The names for 5 Rabbit’s core beers—5 Rabbit, 5 Grass, 5 Lizard, 5 Vulture and 5 Flower (which is in the research phase)—are the names of Aztec deities of excess.
Booze included: You can pick a pint of 5 Rabbit beer to sip during the tour. On my visit, there were six beers on draft, including Naked Rabbit and Five Lizard, and you can take the glass home with you.
Tours: Saturdays at 3pm. $10.
Though they conclude with a quick turn through the production area, tours of Argus Brewery are refreshingly light on the technical stuff. (Because let’s be honest: You’ve seen one mash tun, you’ve seen them all.) Instead, the 90-minute tours are keyed to a couple of Argus’ strengths, namely, the rich backstory of the building (a Pullman District-adjacent historic landmark), and the conviviality of the staff. After taking a look at the brewery’s exterior with Argus’ jovial house historian, Nick, you’ll retire to the cozy taproom, where you’ll spend the better part of an hour chatting, trying your hand at table shuffleboard, and, of course, sampling the goods. All in all, it’s an easy-going affair that has the feeling of an afternoon drinking session with old buddies.
We learned: The 1907 building began life as a horse stable for the Schlitz beer company, which erected a seedy strip of tied houses here to wet the whistles of thirsty railcar builders living in the dry Pullman community.
Booze included: As much as you care to sample, served up in a souvenir pint glass. With 5 to 7 handles to taste your way through, you’re going to want to take the Metra home.
Tours: Saturdays at 12:30, 2 and 3:30pm. $15.
At Begyle, things are laid back, with no line and a small crowd. The founders lead the 90-minute tours themselves, and they’ll take you from the origins of the business (in front of the pedicab where the idea for the brewery was conceived) to their efforts to create the city’s first community-supported brewery. They also discuss the brewing process on their new 10bbl system.
We learned: Those shaking flasks you see in the corner? Those are beer science experiments. Begyle employs a microbiologist to conduct beer testing. The shaking speeds up fermentation, which allows Begyle to test its beers sooner.
Booze included: You’ll get three pours of a rotating variety and a Begyle goblet. Since Begyle constantly rotates through new beers, you’re likely to find one that you haven’t had yet.
Tours: Saturdays at noon. $10.
This isn’t where Goose Island got its start (that’d be the Clybourn brewery) but plenty of beer has been brewed here since the facility opened up in 1995. After meeting in the adjoining taproom, you’ll make your way through a 45-minute tour tour of the brewing tanks, “wild room,” innovation room and barrel house. Beer is being made 24/7, so—rest assured—you’ll see some brewers hard at work.
What we learned: The “wild room” where Goose Island’s Matilda Belgian-style pale ale is brewed is separated from the rest of the brewery. This precaution is taken to prevent the wild yeast (called brettanomyces) used to make Matilda from coming in contact with any other beers.
Booze included: Three six ounce pours—they’re served in glasses that can’t be carried throughout the tour, so grab a plastic cup from the bar if you’re a slow drinker. After the tour, you’ll take home a free pint glass.
Tours: Thursday and Friday at 3, 4, 5 and 6pm; Saturdays and Sundays at 1, 2, 3 and 4pm. $12. Reservations recommended.
Established in 1988, the Goose Island Clybourn Brewpub is an elder statesman of the city’s (heck, the country’s) craft beer scene. Such credentials translate to packed tours that can feel a little rote, but the tasting session that follows the 30-minute tour, not to mention the sweet take-home (a logo pint glass!), will send you away smiling.
We learned Lagers take around twice as long to produce as ales, making them something of a liability for a smallish-capacity brewpub like GI Clybourn. Consequently, most of the roughly 100 beers made here annually are ales.
Booze included Six one-ounce pours, presented in a blind-format guided tasting and discussion session.
Tours: Saturdays at 12:30, 2 and 3:30pm; Sundays at 1:30 and 3pm. Reservations recommended. $10.
By: Cate Huguelet, Karl Klockars and Time Out Chicago editors
Shared from Time Out Chicago
Interactive #drinkLocal Map: Alberta Breweries and where to find their beers
This is a work in progress (and will be forever) so bare with us while we fill in the gaps. If we missed your favourite Alberta brewery, or pub, tweet us @justbeerapp and tell us how to smarten up so we can fix this map! #drinkLocal map Want to see more of who’s coming
The Easiest and Smartest Beer Brewing Machine
The MiniBrew is a simple and versatile countertop appliance that eliminates the laborious work and close attention to detail that regular brewing setups require. This is the perfect machine for people who find their time is best spent drinking beer.
Village Brewery, Father Rauchbier Review
Check out this beer review of Village Brewery’s Father Rauchbier; a special release beer in honour of Father’s Day.
Local beer is easy to find: The definitive guide to D.C.’s best breweries
There are lots of negotiations and politics going on in DC and what helps these things along better than great beer.