As much as we love drinking at dive bars and looking through the cases at liquor stores, they're not always the best places to sample multiple beers in the span of a few hours. That's why Chicago boasts a growing number of beer festivals, which allow drinkers to meet the folks who make their favorite beverages and try out new releases. Think of it as a self-guided brewery tour—but with fewer mash tuns and far more imbibing. If you want to spend an afternoon tasting drafts from local and national breweries, we've gathered a list of the best Chicago beer festivals that you won't want to miss.
The best Chicago beer festivals
Neighboring Ravenswood Corridor breweries Dovetail and Begyle team up for an old-fashioned block party over Memorial Day weekend, inviting guests to celebrate spring with live music, food truck cuisine and lots of locally-brewed beer. Take a break from your cookout and sip a Dovetail's Maibock or one of Begyle's Sunny Afternoon American pale ales—proceeds benefit local nonprofits Foundations of Music, CHIRP Radio and One Tail at a Time.
You'll never go too long without a good beer fest in Chicago, thanks to Chicago Ale Fest. With both winter and summer renditions, sip the best craft beers in the greater Chicago area every six months. The summer edition is held at Grant Park's Butler Field and features 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 three-ounce samples, and a portion of proceeds benefit the Grant Park Conservatory.
Hot beats and cold beers unite at the Hyde Park Brew Fest, which brings a stacked lineup of DJs and breweries to the neighborhood. Attendees will enjoy samples of more than 50 beers and ciders, including selections from 5 Rabbit, Whiner and Middle Brow. DJ Jazzy Jeff (best known for his collaborations with Will Smith) will headling the music stage on Sunday, while a selection of local DJs will be spinning tracks throughout the weekend.
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 120 craft beers to taste. If you've ever wanted to drink a beer within eyeshot of a rhinoceros, this is the place to make your dreams come true.
Drink among the trees at Morton Arboretum's annual craft beer festival, which brings 45 breweries together under the sun. Attendees are invited to bring a chair or blanket and enjoy beers from Maplewood, Lagunitas, Two Brothers and more. This year's event features live music from Euphoria, a selection of cask beers and beer floats (beer with a scoop of ice cream on top).
The stretch of Ravenswood Avenue that calls itself "Malt Row" hosts this annual festival, which prominently features the neighborhood's diverse craft brewing scene. You'll find beer from Band of Bohemia, Begyle Brewing, Dovetail, Empirical, Half Acre and more, in addition to food from local restaurants and live music.
New Belgium Brewery brings its annual celebration of bikes and beer to Humboldt Park this year, setting up a stage by the park's iconic boathouse. L.A. alt-rock duo Best Coast headline the event, which features live entertainment, a bike pit filled with DIY creations and lots of New Belgium's signature beers available for purchase. The day will kick off with Tour de Fat's bike parade, which allows cyclists to take a slow ride through the surrounding neighborhood.
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 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 three-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.
Head to the South Loop for an afternoon of beer and cider samples served in Chicago Women's Park. The outdoor celebration also welcomes a lineup of Chicago food trucks and live performances from local musicians. All proceeds from the festival will benefit Chicago Women's Park and Gardens.
After holding its annual Beer Circus in its the parking lot of its Lawndale brewery for the past few years, Lagunitas is moving the party to nearby Douglas Park this year (the same place where Riot Fest is held). As usual, the event will bring together live music, burlesque, sideshow acts, aerialists and some limited-release beers. Admission includes your first pour of beer and a portion of proceeds will benefit local no-kill dog rescue One Tail at a Time.
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.