Spotlight on Tighthead Brewing Company: Offering plenty of friendly “English pub culture” and award-winning beers in north suburban Mundelein
Tighthead Brewing Company
161 N. Archer Avenue
Mundelein, IL 60060
Monday-Thursday: 2-10 p.m.
Friday-Saturday: Noon-11 p.m.
Sunday: 12-6 p.m.
History in short: Owner Bruce Dir, a self-described “beer geek since about 1992,” has always been a fan of beer history and beer culture, even serving as a beer competition judge for several years. After being “reorganized” out of two different jobs in the mid 2000s and with his wife on board with a career change, Dir enrolled at the Siebel Institute and earned his Master Brewer’s certificate.
Dir always knew he wanted to open his brewery in Mundelein, where he had set down roots and was raising a family. After a lengthy search for inexpensive warehouse space, and plenty of renovations, Tighthead poured its first beer in September of 2011 and opened the taproom just before Christmas that year.
I’ve also always been a big fan of English pub culture — which means pubs are where you go to get the news of the day, talk to friends, catch up on things, feel comfortable and have a few pints. … That’s what I’ve always strived for here.”
— Tighthead owner Bruce Dir
The space: As the staff at Tighthead will be the first to tell you, the brewery isn’t the easiest to find the first time you visit. Tucked away in a corner of the Mundelein Metra station parking lot, the taproom has a welcoming vibe and — with a large second room to the side and more expansion on the way — deceptively more space than you would expect. During warm weather, patrons can settle in on the side patio or at one of the picnic tables on the grassy yard as well.
The proximity to the train station might lead one to assume a lot of Tighthead’s business comes from commuters, but it’s more a blend of loyal Mundelein regulars and Lake County beer enthusiasts.
“Although, we did used to have a guy who would call ahead from the train, sprint over when it stopped, grab two growlers and sprint back… and the conductor would wait for him,” Dir describes with a laugh.
Interesting notes: Tighthead’s Scarlet Fire won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Fest in 2018 in the Irish red category. … Tighthead’s name comes from Dir’s history with rugby, a sport he played for 13 years. Turns out it’s the name of a player’s position on the right-hand side of a scrum. … Pub trivia on Wednesdays is big here. So popular, in fact, they often take reservations days in advance for a room that seats 82!
What we’re drinking: Tighthead is known for their Boxcar Porter, Comfortably Blonde and Irie IPA, but on a recent visit, we particularly enjoyed the Mechanic’s Grove Maibock, tapped every spring to signify the start of beer garden season like it is in Germany, and Bear’s Choice, a wonderfully malty American IPA with copious amounts of mosaic hops to give it more than a hint of mango and tangerine. Don’t sleep on the Hat Trick Tripel, a Belgian Trappist-style tripel, or their barrel-aged barleywine.
Dir and Tighthead were influential in the creation of the Mundelein Craft Beer Fest, which will be celebrating its 10th anniversary on June 10 with 40-plus breweries represented.
On the horizon: Dir and Tighthead were influential in the creation of the Mundelein Craft Beer Fest, which will be celebrating its 10th anniversary on June 10 with 40-plus breweries represented. … Pitcher of Nectar, a well-regarded New England-style IPA, will be out this spring.
From the brewery: “A lot of our staff has been here since the beginning, and it’s nice not having really any turnover. I’ve also always been a big fan of English pub culture — which means pubs are where you go to get the news of the day, talk to friends, catch up on things, feel comfortable and have a few pints before you head home for dinner. That’s what I’ve always strived for here, creating a real beer culture where you can sit at the bar and see total strangers striking up conversations.” — Tighthead owner Bruce Dir