As much as we love grabbing a drink at a local dive bar or perusing the selection at a liquor store, beer festivals offer the opportunity to try new things with a group of likeminded drinkers. Whether you're a beer nerd or a casual craft brew fan, these events take the experience of a brewery tour to the next level, allowing attendees to taste beers made by both regional and national brewers. Take a look at our list of the best Chicago beer festivals and start planning your next weekend of tastings. If you want to thank us, you can buy us a beer.
The best Chicago beer festivals
Every summer, the Two Brothers Brewing Company puts together a weekend full of beer and music while rasing money for charity. This year, the festival once again takes place at RiverEdge Park in downtown Aurora, where X Ambassadors, Saint Motel, Blind Pilot, Knox Hamilton and Savoir Adore headline the two-day event. The festival also marks the annual release of Two Brothers' sought-after Hop Centric Double IPA.
It's Oktoberfest (even though it's June), as the traditionally German neighborhood of Lincoln Square throws down with all the beers, cheers, oompah, Lederhosen and pretzels you'd expect. While you'll probably spot a few craft brews, the focus here is on giant steins filled with German lagers and ales.
Lombard's annual craft beer festival showcases more than 80 seasonal beers from breweries across the country, including Central Waters, Lakefront Brewing and Stone Brewing Co. Thirsty attendees will gather in the downtown Lombard Metra station to sample brews and wash down savory dishes from Chicagoland food trucks.
Head to Lincoln Park Zoo for this after-hours spirit tasting event, featuring beers, food pairings, music and prime views of the venue's animal residents. The annual event has more than 75 beers to sample from local brewers while you wander through the park taking pictures and playing lawn games. Each ticket is good for 20 different three-ounce samples.
You'll never go too long without a good beer fest in Chicago, thanks to Chicago Ale Fest. With both winter and summer renditions, drink up the best craft beers in the greater Chicago area every six months. The summer edition is held at Grant Park's Butler Field featuring more than 200 craft beers from more than 100 breweries. Knock back drafts from 4 Hands Brewing, Southern Tier, Marz Brewing, Rogue and more while enjoying views of the skyline. Each ticket includes 20 3-ounce samples and a portion of proceeds benefit the Grant Park Conservatory.
Most summer beer festivals happen outdoors, but few boast the verdant scenery that will be on display during the Morton Arboretum annual event. Set amid trees, fields and open sky (not to mention live cajun music from Zydeco Voodoo), the fest brings together more than 40 breweries, including Lake Effect, Revolution and Two Brothers.
Breweries are popping up everywhere in Ravenswood and you'll get a chance to try them all at the Ravenswood on Tap beer festival. Guests will get to sample spirits and beer from Dovetail Brewery, Half Acre Beer Company, Aquanaut Brewing Company, Band of Bohemia and more (as well as booze from KOVAL Distillery).
The annual Barrington Brew Fest brings beer lovers to this northern suburb for some celebratory sampling. Each attendee will receive 20 three ounce samples from brewers like Dogfish Head, Exit Strategy and Wild Onion. The fest itself takes place in the parking lot of the Barrington Metra station, which is extremely convenient if you plan on making the trip via train.
Ever wondered what it might be like to quaff ale in a historical village? Pack up your tankard and head to Naperville Ale Fest, where the beer is fresh and the buildings are old. The historic Naper Settlement will play host to brewers like Upland, Deschutes and Greenbush.
Foamy, flat macrobrewed suds in a plastic cup not exactly your idea of a good time? Unleash your inner sophisticate at this Lincoln Park fest, which serves up more than 70 local, regional and national craft beers from 35 brewers. Purchase tickets before making your way to the tasting session each day from 11:30am to 4pm—each ticket is good for one 3 ounce sample of beer. Once you've got a buzz going, admire some lawns or catch a band at the nearby Sheffield Music Festival and Garden Walk.
For the very first time, New Belgium Brewery moves its signature celebration of bikes and beer to Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island. With the expanded venue comes an even bigger headliner: hip-hop outfit and Tonight Show house band the Roots. You can also expect to see an eclectic mix of circus performers, vaudeville acts, magicians and comedians roaming through the beer-soaked festivities. We'll miss the traditional bike parade through Logan Square (it's not happening this year) but at least a portion of proceeds from the event will benefit local non-profit West Town Bikes.
There are a lot of beer festivals that serve craft brews but most of them create a considerable amount of waste. That's not the case at the Oak Park Micro Brew Review, which prides itself as being the largest zero-waste craft beer event in the Midwest. Head over to Oak Park to sample more than 200 beers at an event that goes easy on the environment. Proceeds benefit Seven Generations Ahead.
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.