Illinois Brewing Insider: Ryan Daniels on the Half Acre beer garden, the Clockwork English barleywine from Foreign Exchange Brewing, and what’s caught his eye of late
Half Acre’s Balmoral beer garden
We ask craft-beer enthusiasts and Illinois brewers for some of their favorite local breweries, beers and experiences
Ryan Daniels, 47
Highland Park, IL
Advisory board member of Killarney Brewing & Distilling
Favorite Illinois breweries: Locally, I love going to the beer garden at Ravinia Brewing in Highland Park. The pub is a short walk from my house, and there is nothing like a cold Diversey Station Session IPA on a hot summer day. In the city, I love Half Acre. I still have fond memories of waiting outside in line at their old Lincoln Avenue location for Galactic Daisy bombers, and I love the newer Balmoral beer garden and their IPAs, lagers and barrel-program beers.
Drinking tendencies: I used to focus mainly on IPAs — both West Coast and juicy IPAs — but now I tend to gravitate toward barrel-aged stouts and barleywines. I am a member of Private Press (CA) and Barreled Souls (Saco Maine) barrel programs and love what they are doing.
And, in Illinois, you cannot beat the offerings from Revolution, Half Acre, Phase Three, Mikerphone, Werk Force and Miskatonic. I truly think Chicagoland has become the barrel-aged beer capital of the world.
I’m a huge fan of what Foreign Exchange Brewing is doing. Ricky Cervantes’ Clockwork English barleywine is one of the best examples of the style I have ever had.
Recent Illinois craft beers that have caught my eye: I recently had a Three Juiced from Phase Three Brewing in Lake Zurich. This double New England-style IPA harkened back to owner/brewer Shaun Berns’ initial days at RAM Brewery (Phase One), following the exact same recipe that initially put him on the map as a heavyweight brewer in Chicago. Since then, he has served as head brewer at More Brewing (Phase Two) before opening up Phase Three in early 2020. And it was great to see him resurface a core double IPA recipe with a wonderful hop profile.
I’m also a huge fan of what Foreign Exchange Brewing is doing. Ricky Cervantes is a home brewer (and coffee roaster) who is opening up his own brewpub in Aurora while contract brewing hazy IPAs and some of the best stouts, porters and barleywines in the market in the meantime. His Clockwork English barleywine is one of the best examples of the style I have ever had.
Best stop for a beer you’ve made on vacation: My better half and I love visiting the original Bearded Iris location in Nashville. Certainly a country music town, but the owner there used to spin records and run an open-mic night hip-hop showdown every Tuesday night.
And out east we love Novare Res Bier Cafe in Portland, Maine. The bar and courtyard are amazing, and one of the best tap/bottle lists you’ll find in the country.