New kids on the block: A handful of exciting new breweries have opened in Illinois, and we couldn’t be happier to hoist a pint with them
By Trent Modglin
The Vogt House by Banging Gavel Brews
17400 Oak Park Ave in Tinley Park
The anticipation: Banging Gavel can see the finish line of a project that started in 2017, and it looks glorious. The restoration of the stunning Karl Vogt House in Tinley Park is complete, and the opening of their long-awaited brewery, taproom and restaurant happened in early October. All that’s left is some final fine tuning of the brewing system to prepare for production on site in the historic landmark. Until then, they’ll be serving draft beer from local brewery friends like Hailstorm, Horse Thief Hollow, Art History, Penrose and others.
If you’re hungry: The menu looked downright delectable during their “taproom sneak peeks” earlier this fall, especially with shareables like pork wings, pimento cheese dip with seasoned crackers, shrimp tostadas and a sausage sampler served with pickled red onions and beer mustard. Don’t overlook their craft cocktail list, which is well curated from a seasonal and pairing perspective.
By renovating the Vogt House into a vibrant destination, we can share its history, character and charm with the masses. — Banging Gavel’s Jim Richert
An appreciation: “When looking for a venue for our brewery, we wanted to choose a location that was as unique as our business,” Jim Richert, co-founder and president of the Vogt House by Banging Gavel Brews, tells us. “The Vogt building immediately commanded our attention and captured our imagination. Also, the location in the heart of the downtown business district was a significant factor. It’s a building that deserved a better fate than to just sit idle and unappreciated. By renovating it into a vibrant destination, we can share its history, character and charm with the masses. That’s something we’re extremely proud of and humbled by.”
Trolley time: Hurry over to Tinley Park on a Wednesday before the end of October (or wait until next spring) to hop on a trolley that takes you around the local Ale Trail from 5-10 p.m., making stops at seven different breweries, bottle shops and wine stores along the way with pickup times every 15 minutes or so.
Guinness Open Gate Brewery
901 W. Kinzie Street in Chicago
The anticipation: Diageo, owners of the internationally renowned Guinness family of beers, took on a two-year project of renovating a 120-plus-year-old former railroad building in the Fulton Market District just north of the West Loop’s Restaurant Row. “Combining over 260 years of Irish brewing experience with American beer creativity” is the master plan for the company’s second U.S. brewery.
The goods: Not only are we talking a cavernous brewery and taproom, but Chicago also is getting the first ever Guinness bakery, where you can grab an Intelligentsia coffee and a pastry, as well as a full restaurant and merchandise store — all right in the heart of one of the hottest neighborhoods in the country. You may not even need to leave: Work from here in the morning, lunch meeting over a pint during the day, and then happy hour and dinner with friends or colleagues. It also figures to be quite the tourist attraction. The venue features a private event space for 94 and a 136-seat patio that surely will be one of the city’s more sought-after spots next summer.
The Guinness venue features a private event space for 94 and a 136-seat patio that surely will be one of the city’s more sought-after spots next summer.
Food and drink:
Off the menu, the beer-battered halibut, curry chicken salad sandwich and Guinness beef stew sound right up our alley, and you can grab a traditional Irish breakfast or fresh crab Benedict at weekend brunch. Besides the iconic nitrogenated dry Irish stout, you can also find options like a piney-citrus West Coast IPA, pineapple coconut porter or mango Chile ale with a nice kick on the back end.
The 7,700-pound wooden harp above the bar is sure to be an Instagram-worthy photo op.
101 N. Johnson Street in Woodstock
The anticipation: It was a long 27-month buildout of the historic former sheriff’s house in the town square of Woodstock (think Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day), but MobCraft, which made its name in Milwaukee (where they have a 15,000 square-foot, 30-barrel space) as the world’s first ever crowdsourcing brewery, was finally slated to open in mid-to-late October.
What is crowdsourcing?
Simply put, craft beer fans submit beer ideas a few times a year with a name and a story behind it, and then a large-scale competition happens. If your idea wins, they bring you in for a party, make you part of the brewing process, create the recipe and brew the beer. Even put your name on the can.
In the basement taproom, which carries a kind of cool speakeasy vibe, you can sit in a booth within the original jail cells that held prisoners during the building’s previous life.
On tap: They’ll have 15 beers on draft, a lot of which will be community minded like the chocolate stout they’ll be making with the chocolate store across the street or the Italian pilsner they’re brewing for the Woodstock Public House next door (who will be providing a unique upscale pub food menu for MobCraft). Most of the beer will be making its way down from Wisconsin, but the staff will use its smaller system in the basement for some fun small-batch opportunities. Expect a wide variety, and MobCraft won’t be afraid of participating in collaborations, tasting dinners or large-scale events and festivals.
Beer behind bars: In the basement taproom, which carries a kind of cool speakeasy vibe, you can sit in a booth within the original jail cells that held prisoners during the building’s previous life.
Phase Three Brewing Taproom + Kitchen
494 Spring Road in Elmhurst
The anticipation: In one of the most eagerly anticipated openings in the industry in recent memory, the Lake Zurich-based Phase Three opened its new brewing taproom and kitchen in Elmhurst late this summer to rave reviews.
More of an upscale restaurant/brewpub experience, it’s clear on first glance that every detail was considered in the impeccable design of the new Phase Three space.
The goods: If you’re expecting a generic taproom with a few random dishes to keep guests from getting too hungry while they sample flights of beer, you’re going to be pleasantly surprised with Phase Three’s new addition. And then some. More of an upscale restaurant/brewpub experience, it’s clear on first glance that every detail was considered in the impeccable design of the space with its decor and multiple indoor and outdoor dining options.
Off the impressive scratch menu that has American and Filipino influences, share the duck fat fried chips and pimento dip with your table. The spicy burger, chipotle BBQ wings, pork belly handheld and fish & chips all come recommended.
The beer: The ever-popular Phase Three needs no introduction here, especially in the hazy and barrel-aged department, and their draft list is as strong as ever. Jolted Dunks, a barrel-aged imperial stout with coffee and chocolate cream sandwich cookies, is delightful, and Pixel Density Mini is a session version of one of their mainstay IPAs. The P3 Pils was popular this summer as a crispy, clean lager, and the Cherry Apple Ale was such a hit at their fall festival, it was brought back on a full distribution batch.
Good Times Brewery
3827 N. Broadway in Chicago
The anticipation: Good Times Brewery opened in June in the former Smylie Brothers location in the East Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago, just walking distance from Wrigley Field and the lake. Head brewer and manager Ray Gonzalez, formerly of Rock Bottom Brewery, came aboard in April to help expedite things for the ownership group that also operates Pancake Cafe and a sushi spot called Aji in the neighborhood.
Known for their pizza, Good Times also smokes their own wings, ribs, brisket and pulled pork, and a weekend chef’s special menu that rotates seasonal dishes has become a hit.
The goods: There is no denying this is a beautiful venue with three distinctly different rooms, all with their own the bars and the opportunity to utilize as many 60 taps. Known for their pizza, Good Times also smokes their own wings, ribs, brisket and pulled pork, and a weekend chef’s special menu that rotates seasonal dishes has become a hit.
The beer: Gonzalez, who prefers making clean, simple and more traditional beers, is excited about the Pivo pilsner coming up at the end of October that was brewed with mandarina hops. Check out their Belgian blonde called The Bachelor or the Chicago Gold pale ale with its well-balanced hop presence and a twinge of Fruit Loops flavor. Gonzalez also is looking forward to building a solid barrel and sour program.
From the brewery: “This brewery is like a Tesla with all the bells and whistles,” says Gonzalez. “I can monitor all the fermentation from home and even heat up water by pushing a button. It really makes the day go smooth. It’s been fun because a lot of our beers are flagships because they’re new for me and new for the neighborhood.”