Chicago loves beer, whether it's spending a night at a great beer bar or picking up a six-pack of a local brew to take to a party. There are dozens of breweries in the area, and many offer tours, which range from a booze-fueled, hours-long lesson on beermaking to quick and dirty 20-minute overviews. We tagged along on local brewery tours, where we learned a few things about brewing and drank more than a few pints of great local beer.
RECOMMENDED: Find more to explore on the best Chicago tours
Chicago brewery tours
Touring 3 Floyds is not an enterprise for the rushed; the first-come, first-served tours at Indiana’s biggest (and arguably the Midwest’s most beloved) craft brewery can fill up hours in advance. While away your wait with lunch and a pint in the attached pub. Once your turn comes, don’t expect a dissertation; tours here clock in at just 20–30 minutes, allowing visitors to get back to the business of drinking beer.
We learned 3 Floyds prides itself on its unique relationship with the metal scene; over the years, it’s produced collaborative brews with bands like Pelican and Municipal Waste.
Booze included Not a drop. Before you protest, though, keep in mind that the tour’s free—and according to the guide, you can generally score a few gratis samples in the pub post-tour as long as you ask your server nicely.
Tours: Saturdays at 12:30, 1:30, 2:30, 3:30, 4:30 and 5:30pm. Free.—Cate Huguelet
5 Rabbit Cerveceria (the Spanish word for “beer hall”) focuses on Latin-style beers and uses Latin American ingredients like dulce de leche, ancho chilies and lime peel. No one else in Chicago is doing quite what they are, so the brewery and taproom is definitely worth a visit. Get there a little early and sample a beer flight in the very small, low-key taproom.
Since there were only five of us on the 45-minute tour, we got to climb up a ladder to look closely at brewing equipment, sample still-fermenting beers right out of the tanks and ask the tour guide as many questions as we wanted. The brewery is aging some beers in rum and brandy barrels, as well as aging Five Lizard in tequila barrels with agave, so there’s plenty of cool stuff from 5 Rabbit to look forward to.
We learned The names for 5 Rabbit’s core beers—5 Rabbit, 5 Grass, 5 Lizard, 5 Vulture and 5 Flower (which is in the research phase)—are the names of Aztec deities of excess.
Booze included You can pick a pint of 5 Rabbit beer to sip during the tour. On my visit, there were six beers on draft, including Naked Rabbit and Five Lizard, and you can take the glass home with you.
Tours: Saturdays at 3pm. $10.—Amy Cavanaugh
Though they conclude with a quick turn through the production area, tours of Argus Brewery are refreshingly light on the technical stuff. (Because let’s be honest: You’ve seen one mash tun, you’ve seen them all.) Instead, the 90-minute tours are keyed to a couple of Argus’ strengths, namely, the rich backstory of the building (a Pullman District-adjacent historic landmark), and the conviviality of the staff. After taking a look at the brewery’s exterior with Argus’ jovial house historian, Nick, you’ll retire to the cozy taproom, where you’ll spend the better part of an hour chatting, trying your hand at table shuffleboard, and, of course, sampling the goods. All in all, it’s an easy-going affair that has the feeling of an afternoon drinking session with old buddies.
We learned The 1907 building began life as a horse stable for the Schlitz beer company, which erected a seedy strip of tied houses here to wet the whistles of thirsty railcar builders living in the dry Pullman community.
Booze included As much as you care to sample, served up in a souvenir pint glass. With 5 to 7 handles to taste your way through, you’re going to want to take the Metra home.
Tours: Saturdays at 12:30, 2 and 3:30pm. $15.—CH
At Begyle, things are laid back, with no line and a small crowd. The founders lead the 90-minute tours themselves, and they'll take you from the origins of the business (in front of the pedicab where the idea for the brewery was conceived) to their efforts to create the city’s first community-supported brewery. They also discuss the brewing process on their new 10bbl system.
We learned Those shaking flasks you see in the corner? Those are beer science experiments. Begyle employs a microbiologist to conduct beer testing. The shaking speeds up fermentation, which allows Begyle to test its beers sooner.
Booze included You'll get three pours of a rotating variety and a Begyle goblet. Since Begyle constantly rotates through new beers, you’re likely to find one that you haven’t had yet.
Tours: Saturdays at noon. $10.—Karl Klockars
This isn't where Goose Island got its start (that'd be the Clybourn brewery) but plenty of beer has been brewed here since the facility opened up in 1995. After meeting in the adjoining taproom, you'll make your way through a 45-minute tour tour of the brewing tanks, "wild room," innovation room and barrel house. Beer is being made 24/7, so—rest assured—you'll see some brewers hard at work.
What we learned The "wild room" where Goose Island's Matilda Belgian-style pale ale is brewed is separated from the rest of the brewery. This precaution is taken to prevent the wild yeast (called brettanomyces) used to make Matilda from coming in contact with any other beers.
Booze included Three six ounce pours—they're served in glasses that can't be carried throughout the tour, so grab a plastic cup from the bar if you're a slow drinker. After the tour, you'll take home a free pint glass.
Tours: Thursday and Friday at 3, 4, 5 and 6pm; Saturdays and Sundays at 1, 2, 3 and 4pm. $12. Reservations recommended.—Zach Long
Established in 1988, the Goose Island Clybourn Brewpub is an elder statesman of the city’s (heck, the country’s) craft beer scene. Such credentials translate to packed tours that can feel a little rote, but the tasting session that follows the 30-minute tour, not to mention the sweet take-home (a logo pint glass!), will send you away smiling.We learned Lagers take around twice as long to produce as ales, making them something of a liability for a smallish-capacity brewpub like GI Clybourn. Consequently, most of the roughly 100 beers made here annually are ales.
Booze included Six one-ounce pours, presented in a blind-format guided tasting and discussion session.
Tours: Saturdays at 12:30, 2 and 3:30pm; Sundays at 1:30 and 3pm. Reservations recommended. $10.—CH
First things first: Get in line early. Tours are capped at 60 people and it took us three tries to get in. The cap "weeds out the weenies," our tour guide explained. The brewery is filled with brewing equipment, kegging and canning gear, and fermenters. The more than two-hour tour is the longest we went on, and you’ll be rewarded with plenty of beer.
We learned The full story of Half Acre, from the creation and humble beginnings on a Sand Creek, Wisconsin, contract line to the current canning line hidden in the back corner of the brewery.
Booze included Three pours of your choice; usually Gossamer, Pony Pilsner, Daisy Cutter and a seasonal are on draft. Plus: a Half Acre pint glass.
Tours: Saturdays at 11am. $10.—KK
Congenial one-hour tours of this West Loop brewpub include a briefing on the property’s storied history (as Barney’s Market Club, it was a choice nightspot for movers, shakers and local rogues for decades), followed by a heavy-on-the-beer-geekery jaunt through the production area and a guided tasting of four pours.
We learned Those who would deem bigger automatically means better, take heed: Though Haymarket’s 15-barrel brew tank may restrict its output, a modest batch size means a relatively limited loss should something go awry, enabling brewers to embrace experimentation in a way that many larger outfits can’t.
Booze included A 12-ounce beer to take along on the tour followed by four four-ounce pours (tour guide’s choice). Though sample lineup varies based on availability, the inclusion of high-gravity pours like 10% ABV Matthias Imperial IPA lays down the foundation for a serious Sunday funday.
Tours: Sundays at 12, 2 & 4pm. $15. Reservations highly recommended. —CH
When Lagunitas opened, it became the largest brewery in Chicago. And this place is massive—housed in an old steel distribution plant in Douglas Park, the brewery is only occupying part of the space right now, so there’s plenty of room for growth.
The tasting tour we went on lasted an hour and 15 minutes, and 45 of those minutes were spent drinking beer. The rest of the tour was held on a catwalk, so you’re able to overlook the whole operation. But by the time the tour started, everyone was buzzed and we had a hard time hearing our guide over other tour groups and general brewery buzz. No matter—you aren’t there to learn, you’re there to see the giant space, drink some beer and visit the taproom, where we had a very good soft pretzel with tangy horseradish mustard and beer cheese made with Lagunitas’s Pils.We learned Lagunitas’s founder, Tony Magee, is from Rogers Park.
Booze included We went on one of the Tasting Tours (held Monday and Tuesday at 1 and 3pm, Wednesday and Thursday at 1, 3 and 5pm, and Fridays at 1 and 3pm), and we received four beer samples prior to the tour, including Lagunitas Red and Little Sumpin' Extra.
Tours: Mondays and Tuesdays at 1 and 3pm; Wed and Thursdays at 1, 3 and 5pm; Fridays at 1, 3, 5 and 6pm, Saturdays and Sundays hourly from 1–6pm. Free.—AC
Don’t have a ton of time? Fundamentally against paying money for a walk through an industrial factory? Don’t need any more glassware or a ton of beers thrown at you during a tour? Want to tell your friends that you saw the second-biggest brewing production facility in Illinois? The Revolution tour at the Kedzie facility is for you.
It goes backward, beginning in the 40-degree cold room where packaged beer stays chilled before going to a distributor. From there, you see a wall lined with pallets of empty cans, touch on the grain milling process, then walk through the brewhouse where you’ll see the brewing system. It may sound cursory and quick—and it is—but not every tour needs to be an encyclopedia of beer knowledge.We learned The canning line is originally from RC Cola and has been in use since the late '70s.
Booze included A sample pint of Rev beer, based on what the tour guide wants you to try. When we toured we got a pre-release taste of the new Oktoberfest.
Tours: Wednesdays–Fridays at 6 and 7pm; Saturdays and Sundays at 3, 4, 5 and 6pm. Free.—KK
Monthly tours happen in the Mokena location of Tribes Beer Company, and to sign up, you'll have to call ahead. But beer nerds who want to learn the nitty gritty about brewing should keep this one in their pocket, you'll learn about the importance of hops, why temperature is key to brewing and more.
We learned The Crafted IPA always has the same grain recipe, but the hops switch out with every batch so you always get a fresh and hoppy IPA, but it will always be a bit different.
Booze included You'll get a pour of something off the lines at the end of the tour, but you're welcome to stop by the bar and grab something beforehand to drink during as well.
Tours: The last Sunday of the month at 2pm. $5.—Elizabeth Atkinson
Located in Warrenville, Two Brothers offers a straightforward tour, taking you through the brewing process and highlighting the tanks, canning lines and barrels. It’s a good tour for anyone who wants a primer on beer-making, and at 45 minutes, it’s just a quick break from drinking in the attached Tap House. The tour ends there, where you’ll find your free beer samples waiting for you. The food, like soft pretzels made with Domaine DuPage, Cane & Ebel stone-ground mustard and Bitter End beer cheese sauce, and Cane & Ebel-battered fish and chips, is pretty decent as well.
Bonus: It’s only a 10-minute drive from Two Brothers to Solemn Oath Brewery in Naperville. While there aren’t tours there, it’s worth making it a beer-drinking afternoon and visiting the cozy taproom, where you can drink some great beers and take advantage of the food truck parked outside.We learned Two Brothers doesn’t just make beer—it has also started roasting coffee.
Booze included You have a choice of three 4-ounce pours. We tried seasonals like Night Cat and Dog Days.
Tours: Saturdays at 1, 2 and 3pm; Sundays at 1:30pm. Free.—AC