Best beer bars in Chicago
Thought this was just a bar to belly up to with a Belgian brew in hand? One bite and you’ll know there’s much more. Our perfect night involves sampling the drafts at the bar while slurping down the famous ale-steamed mussels, but you could also class it up, grab a proper table and dig into seasonal rotations such as wood-roasted spring chicken with morels and favas, available in the spring. Beer geeks know this is the place in town to school their palate on craft brews, and they do come in droves, but the addition of an adjacent space helps keep the place from feeling like a sardine tin.
The owners of Bangers & Lace have been busy at work with two locations of this beer bar with a long menu of sausages (bangers). The draft list rotates regularly and you'll find interesting events for keg-tappings throughout the week; whether they've got a German-heavy menu that night or are pulling strong with local brews, everyone's sure to find something they'll enjoy on the menu.
Ed Marszewski—editor-publisher of Lumpen, festival host, gallerist and general Chicago indie-art-world guy-around-town—and his brother, Mike, remodeled and renamed Kaplan’s Liquors, the Bridgeport bar that was owned and operated since 1986 by their mother, Maria. The chandeliers built out of bottles and the 300-plus microbrews are notable, but the real standout feature is the welcoming scene: People like each other here.
With its carefully attended-to beer list and homey, taverny look, this pub from the Bar on Buena folks has a serious Hopleaf vibe to it. In the summers, you'll find groups of people winding their way up the stairs to hang out on the rooftop, whereas winter nights will bring you an open space with small groups huddled over drafts of beer. Whichever season, you'll be happy you stopped into this beer haven.
You couldn’t fit another beer on the killer list or another Bucktown local in this cozy tavern on occasional Tuesdays when the bar unveils new or limited releases of specialty beers. If you’re a more low-key drinker but like the vibe, stop by in the morning when the Map Room functions as a coffeehouse.
If there's a patio you want to be on during the summer—Kaiser Tiger is it. The expansive bar inside is a perfectly fine spot, but if we have the choice, we'll be on the patio. Grab a bomb sandwich, which comes with a slice of the bomb (beef and pork sausage filled with pepper bacon, then wrapped with bacon) and a beer—the list is filled with a mix of harder-to-find craft beers and your run-of-the-mill standbys, making it one of the most approachable lists in town.
Part beer bar, part kick-ass British-Indian restaurant, Pub Royale is a worthy successor to the SmallBar Division space. The drink list offers four takes on a Pimm’s Cup, plus a daily-changing beer and cider menu from beverage director Michael McAvena. Don’t leave without a snack (or a full meal), since Jason Vaughan's menu is packed with hits, including spicy lamb dumplings and salt cod samosas.
Of all the neighborhood bars trying to make rambling Ashland Avenue feel more homey, this gem is among the homiest. Art Deco touches abound and the mood is consistently upbeat, chatty and sociable. The twenty/thirtysomething regulars live on the cusp—they’re not quite Lakeview and not quite Ravenswood, which suits us just fine. The beer list is always thoughtfully curated, with local drafts and collaborations we can't get enough of.
This classic slashie sells a wide selection of craft beer and liquor on one side, while bartenders serve up affordable drinks on the other. There's a cocktail menu, but with $3 drafts on Wednesday nights and a rotating $4 draft every night, what's not to love? If you're feeling lucky, ask for the $2 dice shot: Each roll of the dice corresponds to a different cheap liquor—pray that you don't get the schnapps.
Like quintessential neighborhood bars of yore, this wood-paneled pub is a bastion of congeniality. Trivia and open-mic nights bring in a more eclectic crowd than one might expect in Roscoe Village, and unlike your stereotypical Irish bar, the focus here is not on big TVs or pub grub (no food is served). Instead, much care has been put into the beer list, which includes 30 crafts on draft, four of which the bartender will arrange into a $10 flight.