Illinois Brewing Insiders Romeo & Brewliet on the excitement surrounding Phase Three’s second location, partying with (and learning from) Chaos Brew Club, and the impressive tap selection at Church Street
Favorite breweries: (Romeo) Starting with the hardest question of all I see. Well, that’s tough. My handful would have to start with Mikerphone and Phase Three. I haven’t had many from either of those breweries that I didn’t love. I love the vibe at Metal Monkey, along with the beer (especially the heavy stuff they create in the fall and winter). Goose Island is also solid, and I love their taproom. When it comes to our local watering hole, MORE Brewing is a place we visit probably more times than our budget allows, but hey, the beer is delicious.
(Brewliet) Jeff and I each have our top-10 list for the year, which I love because my top breweries are always in flux. Right now I’m really digging Whiskey Hill, MORE and Urban South. The vibe at the brewery is also important to me. I need to feel pretty comfy to be able to sit back and enjoy a beer. So my favorite breweries need to be a spot I can connect with.
I will be straight up stalking Saint Errant this summer. Our local bottle shop got us hooked, and I cannot put these down… specifically their IPAs.
Drinking tendencies: (Romeo) We drink basically as a part-time job at this point, so what I’m always looking is not only good beer, but a story of how the brewery came to be. Brewers are artists, and I love the passion they put into their craft. I’m also a bit of a chatterbox, so I like to strike up a conversation and hear about the origin of the beers I love and the breweries I love. I also love beer events and festivals; it’s another chance to mingle and learn about places I’ve never been. I will never get tired of how many friends we’ve made (many outside of Illinois) through beer. For me, that’s the best part.
(Brewliet) I’ll seek out a sour any day of the week. There’s just something so satisfying when you have to pucker after sipping or when you experience that sharp bite at the end!
Recent beers that have caught my eye: Drekker Brewing Company’s There Will Be PRRRT (a sour-smoothie/pastry), or just Drekker in general. I’m not a huge “let’s jam it with real fruit guy,” but if there is anybody I think who really does it right, it’s them. It still tastes a bit like beer, and I also like that they throw caution to the wind when it comes to creativity. Their beer names are ridiculous, their flavors are ridiculous, and their whole product is just over-the-top fun. There Will Be PRRT is made in that same vein. It’s essentially a green river float in a glass, which conjures up all kinds of fun childhood memories. Can’t drink a lot of them at once, but so much fun regardless. If we’re talking local beers on the other hand, it’s definitely Saint Errant.
(Brewliet) Wheat ales are top of mind for me in 2023. I had three fabulous wheat ales last summer that were thoroughly enjoyable. I’m really hoping coconut and lemon will be huge themes. Those two flavors are so refreshing during the hotter months.
Favorite beer bar: (Romeo) I have two immediate favorites that come to mind. The go-to spot for me is Bottle Theory in Elmhurst. There is no place I know of that has the high-end selection those guys do, and they’ve also supported us when we basically had no following at all. They are also the place that any time I see a brewery has released something new and I think to myself, “Hey, I wanna try that” — boom it’s in their shop. My second choice would be somewhere I was only introduced to recently by a friend: Sovereign in Plainfield. They have a super cool goth/metal vibe, and at my core, I will always be a metal head. The beer is on point, and they always have a ton of staples and limited releases.
The go-to spot for me is Bottle Theory in Elmhurst. There is no place I know of that has the high-end selection those guys do. … Any time I see a brewery has released something new and I think to myself, “Hey, I wanna try that” — boom it’s in their shop.
(Brewliet) If you want to take a baby step into the beer world, start with Beerhead Bar & Eatery in Schaumburg and Elmhurst. It has food as well as a ton of beer, so you can taste a huge variety. After Beerhead, you can level up with local craft beer festivals and hit up a bottle shop like Bottle Theory in Elmhurst. I like bottle shops when I’m trying to get something from out of state that is making headway in the craft-beer world. Bottle shop owners have a cultivated selection that I can respect.
What you will be looking forward to on draft this spring/summer: (Romeo) I will be straight up stalking Saint Errant this summer. Our local bottle shop got us hooked, and I cannot put these down… specifically their IPAs. As a designer, I absolutely love their packaging, which just makes their product that much more enjoyable, especially the art on their Dodging Lions IPA cans. Werkforce is also a brewery that I wish was closer because they have so many beers I still want to try after a brewer friend tipped us off to them. We’ll be on a few search-and-destroy missions looking for new stuff there as well.
(Brewliet) I’m excited about Phase Three finally adding a second location in Elmhurst, which will be right in our backyard. I’m a sucker for beers on tap and cannot wait to try their new releases right away. Phase Three always seems to have some concoction in the works, so they are definitely on my radar!
The best brewery that is low-key phenomenal is Church Street in Itasca. I think their beer is damn near unbeatable on tap. They have such a huge selection too.
Best brewery you’ve hit on vacation: (Romeo) If I Brewed the World in St. Petersburg, Florida. This place will try anything once (like a BBQ sauce beer), and the vibe is everything underground. A huge gathering spot for local bands of every genre — hip hop, punk, metal… you name it, they’ve had a show for it. They also have a buzzing comedy comedy scene there as well, which you really don’t see at breweries. They’re everything I love about the indie and underground music scene smashed into a brewery that feels more like a house party. An absolute must if you’re in the area. And if you’re going to spend a few days in the area, there are like six breweries within walking distance, and each of them is good-better-best quality.
(Brewliet) The Maine craft-beer scene is so solid, specifically near Portland. If you go out that way, there is an industrial park with roughly five breweries. My favorite of the bunch was Austin Street Brewery. They have amazing sours on tap, and the merch stole my heart and my money.
Secret beer spot: (Romeo) Chaos Brew Club — Chicago’s first home brew club with a dedicated brewhouse. It’s not a brewery, but there’s plenty of beer and plenty of amazingly talented brewers under their roof. We stumbled upon it by accident because we’re nosey and always trying to find the next greatest beer thing to do. Their monthly bottle share gives us a chance to try some truly amazing stuff, and their beer parties are really something to check out even if you’re just a casual beer drinker. They’re also super accepting of noobs like us. We’ve learned so much just from being around these folks. It’s a place I wish we discovered way earlier in our beer lives, and a place every beer junkie in Chicago (home brewer or not) should set foot at least once.
(Brewliet) The best brewery that is low-key phenomenal is Church Street Brewing in Itasca. I think their beer is damn near unbeatable on tap. They have such a huge selection too. We went to Church Street thinking we’d grab a beer or two and head off, but each beer was better than the last, so we eventually lost count!