Chicago is filled with craft breweries and beer bars where the cold, frothy libation flows liberally. The area also boasts a great selection of great bottle shops and beer stores where you can find a wide variety of drinks, both from the city and beyond. Cocktails are great, but move over liquor stores, we're having a cold one tonight.
The best beer stores in Chicago
Ed Marszewski—editor-publisher of Lumpen, festival host, gallerist and general Chicago indie-art-world guy-around-town—and his brother, Mike, remodeled and renamed Kaplan’s Liquors, the Bridgeport bar that was owned and operated since 1986 by their mother, Maria. The front of the building is where the packaged good can be found, a small but wonderfully curated selection of national and local suds (including plenty from Bridgeport's own Marz Community Brewing).
This cheery, community-centric beer, wine and spirits store brings small-batch brews to the masses. Husband and wife duo Joe and Carly Katz look to highlight the local scene by supporting small upstarts (two of which are right in their neighborhood: Spiteful and Begyle). They hold free tastings each week from 5 to 8pm on Thursday and Friday, and from 1 to 4pm and 5 to 8pm on Saturday, with the brewmasters pouring their own stuff while shooting the breeze about their concoctions.
True to its name, The Beer Temple is a sanctuary for craft-brew lovers. Chris Quinn runs a completely unpretentious establishment that enables patrons to bow down to the power of good beer. A certified cicerone, Chris is quick with a quality recommendation, interesting tidbits on particular brewing processes, encyclopedic knowledge of the history of various brews and samples of new beers on his doorstep—all without a speck of salesmanship.
West Lakeview Liquors might technically be called a "liquor" store, but its fans really come here for the beer. Not just a fine selection of unique, craft beer, but a full selection of cider, perry and mead, too (for those who actually know what perry and mead are) sure to please even the most gluten-free patrons. The shop is certainly not lacking in the spirits and wine departments, either. You'll find the usual standbys, and quite a few curveballs as well.
This Lakeview beer spot serves up a hefty selection of craft beer (and domestics, if that's what floats your boat) mostly chilled—so you can drink it as soon as you get it home. There's also a downstairs cellar for cases of beer to stock up on and a tasting room on the main level to grab ridiculously affordable tastes of rotating drafts. There are tastings practically every night, so stop in and learn a little bit about the brew you're drinking.
At this borderline big box, you won’t always get five-star service, but you will get a ridonkulous selection of beer, wine and spirits—not to mention classes, tastings and samples. It’s the Costco model and we can’t complain. Neither can our Midwest relatives who are known to drive six hours just to stock their liquor cabinets. Bonus for the Orthodox set: Binny’s boasts a sizable selection of kosher booze.
Flavio Gentile has two spots in the city for his “fine wine, cold beer and liquors”—this Taylor Street location and his Printer’s Row Wine Shop. At both you’ll find a wide selection of craft beer, small-batch spirits and, of course, lots of wine. We prefer this Little Italy shop because we can push up to the cherry-wood bar and start our weekend early with a generous pour at one of its Thursday wine tastings.
The teams behind the Rocking Horse and Dante's Pizzeria recently took over this Avondale bar and liquor store, with plans to eventually add a restaurant to the building. For now, the classic slashie sells a wide selection of craft beer and liquor on one side, while bartenders serve up affordable drinks on the other.