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Off Color Mousetrap
Photograph: Nick Murway

The 16 best brewery tours in Chicago

Find out how your favorite beers are made by taking advantage of Chicago's best brewery tours

By Cate Huguelet, Karl Klockars and Zach Long

With so many amazing Chicago breweries situated throughout the city, everything from extra-hoppy IPAs to dark, decadent stouts are being produced at a breakneck pace. As much as we love heading to the best bars in Chicago to sample the latest local creations, sometimes it’s nice to have sip a beer while learning about how it was made. Walk among the fermentation tanks, taste some raw grains and learn more about the beer-making process on a Chicago brewery tour, where experts will explain how your favorite beverages are crafted. Whether you prefer a Chicago brewery tour that's short and sweet or one that offers plenty of complimentary samples, you'll probably learn something along the way. Pro tip: Hit up one of the best restaurants in Chicago to pad your stomach before you embark on this journey. No need to research malts, hops and yeast—you'll get a crash course on some of the best Chicago brewery tours.

RECOMMENDED: Find more to explore on the best Chicago tours

Best Chicago brewery tours

Photograph: Sara Freund

1. Dovetail Brewery

Bars Breweries North Center

You'll get to taste three of Dovetail's beers during this lengthy (and super-informative) tour, but the most interesting moment comes when participants are asked to sample three different types of water. Dovetail uses reverse osmosis to try to replicate the water of Pilsen, the Bohemian city where the pilsner beer was born—the resulting liquid is noticeably different from what comes out of the average Chicago tap. The European-style touches don't end there; you'll also see a giant steel tub that is used to expose wild beers to natural bacteria in the air and a copper kettle that's more than 100 years old. When the tour is over, continue pretending that you're in Germany with a radler and a pretzel in Dovetail's taproom.

Booze included: Three .3L pours selected by the tour guide.

Tours: Saturdays at 11am. First come, first served. $15.

Lagunitas in Douglas Park is one of the many Chicago breweries to offer tours.
Photograph: Martha Williams

2. Lagunitas Brewing Company

Bars Breweries North Lawndale

When Lagunitas opened, it immediately became the largest brewery in Chicago. Housed in an old steel distribution plant in Douglas Park, the brewery is a massive operation, filled with giant tanks and whirring machines. The place is churning out so much beer that Lagunitas is able to offer free (!) tasting tours seven days a week, taking visitors on an hour-long journey that includes plenty of samples. Much of the tour takes place on a catwalk, so you’re able to overlook the whole operation. Try not to get too buzzed before the tour starts or you may have a hard time hearing the guide over other tour groups and the hum of the brewery equipment.

Booze included: Four generous pours of beer, served before you roam the catwalks.

Tours: Mondays and Tuesdays and 1 and 3pm, Wednesday through Sunday at 1, 3 and 5pm. First come, first served. Free.


3. Three Floyds Brewing Co.

Bars Breweries

Touring Three Floyds is not an enterprise for the rushed; the first-come, first-served tours at Indiana’s biggest (and one of 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.

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.

Saturdays at 12:30, 1:30, 2:30, 3:30, 4:30 and 5:30pm. First come, first served. Free.

Off Color Mousetrap
Photograph: Nick Murway

4. Off Color Brewing's Mousetrap

Bars Breweries River North

The brewery housed behind Off Color's Mousetrap taproom isn't large, but a weekly 45-minute tour (capped at 15 participants) is full of fun facts about the team's origins and process, some of which are listed on a handwritten Frequently Asked Questions poster taped to one of the brewery's tanks. The barrels in the space house many of the brewery's one-off creations, so the tour also functions as a sneak peek at what Off Color is doing next. Once your stroll through the brewery is over, you can order from nearby Pizzeria Bebu (or hit the salad bar at Whole Foods) and sample some of the new, intriguing beverages on tap.

Booze included: One free taster to enjoy while you walk through the brewery.

Tours: Sundays at 1 and 3pm. Reservations highly recommended. Free.

Photograph: Michael Kiser - Good Beer Hunting

5. 5 Rabbit Cerveceria & Taproom

Bars Breweries Suburbs

Focusing on Latin-style beers and using Latin American ingredients like dulce de leche, ancho chilies and lime peel, no one else in Chicago is making beer quite like 5 Rabbit Cerveceria. Arrive a little early and sample a beer flight in the very small, low-key taproom. During the 45-minute tour, you may get to taste some still-fermenting beers right out of the tanks and take a look at beer aging in rum and brandy barrels.

Booze included: You can pick a pint of 5 Rabbit beer to sip during the tour, and you can take the glass home with you.

Tours: Saturdays at 3pm. $10.

Photograph: Tristan Zeier

6. Half Acre Brewery

Bars Breweries North Center

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. Half Acre's original brewery is filled with brewing equipment, kegging gear and fermenters that produce experimental beers. The more than two-hour tour is the longest we went on, and your patience is rewarded with plenty of cold beverages. If you want to learn even more about Half Acre, take a trip to the gigantic Balmoral brewery, where flagship beers like Daisy Cutter and Pony Pilsner are produced and canned.

Booze included: Three pours of your choice and a Half Acre pint glass.

Tours: Saturdays at 11am. First come, first served. $10.

Goose Island has added a new taproom to their Fulton Market brewery.
Photograph: Martha Williams

7. Goose Island Brewery Fulton

Bars Breweries United Center

This isn't where Goose Island got its start (that'd be the Clybourn brewhouse) 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 of the brewing tanks, a "wild room" (where beers made with Brettanomyces are quarantined to avoid contamination) and barrel house. Beer is being made 24/7, so you're nearly guaranteed to spot some brewers hard at work.

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: Thursdays and Fridays hourly from 2–7pm; Saturdays hourly from noon–7pm; Sundays hourly from noon–4pm. Reservations recommended. $12.

8. Lake Effect Brewing Company

Bars Breweries Irving Park

Housed in a fairly small room, this Portage Park brewery looks a bit like a very sophisticated homebrewing operation, proving that anyone with some passion (and the budget for some equipment) can start making their own beer. Brewer Clint Bautz stands in the middle of the room and points out how his compact but capable system functions, showcasing the bottling area and barrel room. By the end of the 30-minute spiel, you might feel inspired to start formulating your own IPA.

Booze included: None, but the adjacent bottle shop stocks fresh Lake Effect creations that you can take home.

Tours: Saturdays at 2, 3:30 and 5pm. Reservations recommended. Free.

On Tour Brewing Co.
Photograph: Courtesy On Tour Brewing Co.

9. On Tour Brewing

Bars Breweries River West/West Town

Founded by a Deadhead homebrewer who used to follow Phish on tour (hence the name), this West Town brewery is the city's latest critical darling after taking home two medals at the Great American Beer Festival in 2017. Tour participants will learn about the old warehouse they're standing in (which once housed a boiler manufacturer), taste the raw grains that go into On Tour's beer and reminisce about Trey Anastasio guitar solos over a few post-tour samples.

Booze included: Three five-ounce pours and a glass to take home.

Tours: First and third Saturdays at 1pm. Reservations required. $15.

Half Acre Balmoral
Photograph: Nick Murway

10. Half Acre Brewery Balmoral

Bars Breweries Lincoln Square

Housed in a warehouse west of Andersonville, Half Acre's Balmoral facility separates itself from the brewery's Lincoln taproom in many ways. There’s more space, more beers on tap, a unique food menu and a different approach to tours. Each of Balmoral's tours focuses on a specific aspect of Half Acre's output and process, such as in-depth conversations about aging beer in spirit barrels or a peek inside of the wyld beer program. Expect to spend as much as three hours traversing the brewery, chatting with the staff and enjoying some samples—this is a tour fit for serious beer geeks.

Booze included: Three pours of beer (and probably a few extra samples).

Tours: Monthly (find dates and tickets on Half Acre's website). $20.

Photograph: JJ Jetel

11. Hopewell Brewing Co.

Bars Breweries Logan Square

It takes about 45 minutes to hear all about this relatively young Logan Square brewery and get a closer look at its brewing facility, most of which is visible through the windows in its taproom. Still, it's interesting to see how an operation as small as Hopewell manages to keep its tap lines full in addition to bottling and canning some of its beers. If you want to learn a lot about brewing without walking very far, this is the tour for you (just don't forget to wear closed-toe shoes—they're required).

Booze included: Two 10-ounce samples.

Tours: Saturdays at 5pm. First come, first served. $10.

Photograph courtesy Revolution Brewing

12. Revolution Brewing Taproom

Bars Breweries Avondale

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 beer thrown at you during a tour? 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.

Booze included
A sample pint of Revolution beer, picked by your tour guide.

Tours: Wednesdays and Thursdays at 6pm; Fridays at 6 and 7pm; Saturdays at 3, 4, 5 and 6pm; Sundays at 2, 3 and 4pm. $10.

Begyle Brewing
Photograph: Laura Rote

13. Begyle Brewing Company

Bars Breweries North Center

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. See those shaking flasks you see in the corner? Those are beer science experiments. Begyle employs a microbiologist to conduct beer testing and 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 13-ounce Begyle goblet to keep.

Tours: Saturdays at noon. $10.

Photograph: Courtesy Two Brothers

14. Two Brothers Brewing Company

Bars Breweries Suburbs

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 (and enjoying some housemade beer cheese) in the attached Tap House. The tour ends there, where you’ll find your free beer samples waiting for you.

Booze included: Three four-ounce pours of Two Brothers' latest brews.

Tours: Saturdays at 1, 2 and 3pm; Sundays at 1:30pm. Free.

Argus Brewery owners Robert, left, and Patrick Jensen in the tasting room of their brewery in Chicago.
Photo: Allison Williams

15. Argus Brewery

Bars Breweries Roseland

Though they conclude with a quick turn through the production area, tours of Argus Brewery are refreshingly light on the technical stuff. (When you’ve seen one mash tun, you’ve seen them all.) Instead, the 90-minute tours are keyed to a couple of Argus’s strengths: 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’s 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 sampling the goods. It’s an easy-going affair that has the feeling of an afternoon drinking session with old buddies.

Booze included: As much as you care to sample, served up in a souvenir pint glass. With five to seven handles to taste your way through, you’re going to want to take the Metra home.

Saturdays at 12:30, 2 and 3:30pm. $15.

Photograph: Jabari Zuberi

16. Goose Island Clybourn Brewhouse

Bars Beer bars Lincoln Park

Established in 1988, the Goose Island Clybourn Brewhouse 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 hour-long tour, not to mention the sweet take-home (a logo pint glass!), will send you away smiling. If you're looking for a more comprehensive look at Goose Island's brewing process, check out the tour of its Fulton Street Brewery.

Booze included: Four six-ounce pours and a commemorative glass.

Tours: Fridays hourly from 6 to 8pm, Saturdays hourly from noon to 7pm; Sundays hourly from 1 to 4pm. Reservations recommended. $12.

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