Over the past decade, Chicago has emerged as the craft beer capital of the country. Don't believe us? According to the Brewers Association, our fair city is home to more than 150 breweries, more than any other metro area in the U.S. There's no better way to sort through the bunch than at the best Chicago beer festivals, where Chicago breweries and national purveyors sample their latest creations, hand out swag and field your tipsy questions. After an afternoon at a Chicago beer festival spent sampling lagers, sours and ales, you'll know exactly what to ask for when you sit down at a neighborhood dive bar or a Chicago beer garden, and you may even find a new favorite brew. Sip a barrel-aged stout or a funky cider (and meet the folks that made 'em) at some of the best Chicago beer festivals.
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The best Chicago beer festivals
At this feel-good shindig, you’ll sample suds from more than 25 local breweries, nosh on belly-padding bites and shake your groove thing to a live band. Meals On Wheels uses the ticket proceeds to help provide food to 30,000 Chicago seniors and people with disabilities. We call that a win-win.
Ever wanted to stomp around on Soldier Field’s grass? Now you can—and with a beer in your hand! The summer kick-off event always features a respectable roster of local and imported breweries as well as a handful of food-truck vendors and party games spread across two tasting sessions. Attendees receive 48 two-ounce samples, as well as access to exclusive beers, activities and interactive learning opportunities to get better educated about the beer-making process.
Illinois Craft Beer Week kicks off with this annual event at Garfield Park Conservatory, where you can sample some of the finest ales and lagers from local and national breweries amid a sea of foliage. If you're trying to narrow down your list of Craft Beer Week events, this is a good place to separate the worthwhile breweries from the ones you'll save for your next trip to Binny's. Tickets include samples from each of the brewers in attendance and access to grub from local food trucks.
Ravenswood Corridor neighbors Dovetail and Begyle team up for an old-fashioned block party over Memorial Day weekend, complete with live music, food-truck eats and lots of locally brewed beer. Sip a lager from Dovetail or something hoppy brewed by Begyle—all proceeds benefit the Friendship Center, a local food pantry.
Head to Lincoln Park Zoo for this after-hours tasting event, featuring beers, food pairings, live DJs and prime views of the venue's animal residents. This year, attendees can choose from two evening sessions, each offering more than 150 craft beers to taste. If you've ever wanted to drink a beer within eyeshot of a lemur or rhinoceros, this is the place to make your dreams come true.
The stretch of Ravenswood Avenue that's dubbed "Malt Row" hosts this annual festival, which features drinks provided by the neighborhood's diverse craft brewing scene. The two-day event spotlights beers from Half Acre, Band of Bohemia, Spiteful, Empirical, Begyle and more, plus cocktails from KOVAL Distillery, cider from the Northman and special guest breweries each day. Proceeds from On Tap support the Greater Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce, Ravenswood Community Council and other local nonprofit organizations.
Drink among the trees at Morton Arboretum's sixth-annual craft beer festival, which brings dozens of local breweries together under the sun (or rain: the festival runs regardless of weather). Attendees are invited to bring a chair or blanket and enjoy beer and the lush natural surroundings of the arboretum.
For the first time, the summer edition of this biannual boozy event is headed to the Sheffield Street Festival—that means in addition to Chicago Ale Fest's selection of more than 100 brews to sample, food trucks and live music, you'll also have access to the sprawling Lincoln Park street fest.
The best brewery tours in Chicago
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.