Thursday, February 28, 2013

So You're Traveling To Chicago, Eh? (Part 1: Craft Beer Stores)

A view of Chicago from Grant Park
One of the more common and repetitive threads in the Great Lakes regional forum on BeerAdvocate are the "Hey, I am coming to Chicago, what do you suggest..." themed threads. Nearly every week, sometimes twice a week, a thread pops up from a non-Chicago beer person that is traveling to the area and seeking food and beer recommendations. Rather than repeatedly post comments such as "if you love burgers, you should absolutely hit up Kuma's Corner" or "if you are looking for an excellent selection of foreign brews, check out the Local Option," I figured it might be easier to centralize a list of some of the better "must see" options that Chicago has to offer. Here is a rundown on the best craft beer stores in Chicago.

| 3185 N. Elston Ave., Chicago, IL 60618 | (773) 754-0907
The Beer Temple is a brand-spanking new shop, having opened at the very beginning of 2013, but owners Chris and Margaret Quinn are no strangers to the craft beer scene. Chris has been running a spectacular beer blog with insightful video reviews for some time now, and is a long-time craft beer enthusiast with excellent connections. The Beer Temple staff offer excellent (and honest) beer recommendations, and the store is stocked with the highest number of quality beer per square foot in Chicago. One of the more unique things about Chris' store, and something I greatly applaud him for, is that he "bottle dates" beers without actual bottle dates with the date that the beer came in to the store so as to communicate freshness to the consumer. For us scrutinous hop heads out there, this means no longer buying $10-15 lotto tickets of Three Floyd's year-round IPA and pale ales and hoping they are still fresh. Chris has also thrown some pretty excellent events at his store in the short time it has been around as well. The one drawback of Chris' store is that it is not the most accessible by public transit. The closest stops are Wellington (Brown/Purple Line, 0.8 mile walk) and Logan Square (Blue Line, 2.4 miles), though you can use the bus to get there as well. The store is right off the Kennedy Expressway (I-90/94), however, and there is free parking behind the building (and on the street). Another bonus is that Kuma's Corner is real close by.

| Various Locations Throughout The City
Binny's is Chicago's superstore for beer, wine and spirits. Binny's is an area-wide chain with a lot of purchasing power (good distribution connections), and they offer an excellent selection of craft beer at quality prices (Binny's prices vary store-to-store, but they overall have some of the cheapest pricing for craft beer in the city). There are many locations to choose from, but my favorite are "Castle Vav" (Binny's Lincoln Park) by the Clybourn Goose Island Clybourn Brewpub (1720 N Marcey St., 312-664-4394), Binny's Grand (213 W. Grand Ave., 312-332-0012) and Binny's South Loop (1132 S. Jefferson St., 312-768-4400). Binny's South Loop has a tap room and runs some really cool events from time to time.

| 2559 W. Augusta Blvd., Chicago, IL 60622 | (773) 342-2678
Junior is the man! He does not have several aisles of craft beer, like say a Binny's does, but he still maximizes his craft beer capacity with some of the best that Chicago distribution has to offer. Junior's prices are on par with Binny's in my experience, and his store is very customer-friendly with helpful advice/tips.

| 2156 W. Addison St., Chicago, IL 60618 | (773) 525-1916  
West Lakeview is a great place to find a large variety of beer, ranging from new releases from the local Chicago craft beer scene (Pipeworks, Spiteful Brewing, Revolution) to foreign beers from far away breweries such as Drie Fonteinen (they are the local situs for Zwanze Day). They are a very good store to make friends with, just like Discounts in Milwaukee. Oh, and in case you forget to pick up beer on your trip, West Lakeview runs an online beer store that will ship all the best Chicago locals (and then some) to your door! 

| 960 W. 31st St., Chicago, IL 60608 | (773) 890-0588
Good craft beer for sale, delicious beer on tap and a deep spirits bar to die for? Have I died and gone to heaven? Nope, only Bridgeport. They do not have the city's deepest selection, but they economize their space well. They usually have the hot new releases and a great selection of regional/local craft beer too.

Greektown Walgreens | 111 S. Halsted St., Chicago, IL 60661 | (312) 463-9142
Get your flu shots and Irish flu shots at this location! The guy who runs the liquor department knows what he is doing, and stocks the store with one of the best selections of craft beer that the city has to offer at quality pricing. Next time you have a prescription to fill, drop it off here and wander around!

| 719 S. Dearborn St., Chicago IL, 60605 | (312) 663-9314Printer's Row is a smaller shop with a good selection. It is kind of "out of the way" for most Chicagoans, however, which is what makes it such a good store. Top quality "non-rare" releases tend to stick around longer than you would otherwise expect. For example, I was able to get an original release Bitter Monk there 11 months after it's release.

Grand & Western Armanetti's | 515 N. Western Ave., Chicago, IL 60612 | (312) 226-4600
Great selection in stock, average pricing, plus a nice selection of non-beer wine/spirits as well. This is a good store that is "less traveled" to try and hit up first for newer rare releases if you want a better shot at landing the latest shelf whale.

Capone's Liquor & Food | 3678 N. Elston Ave., Chicago, IL 60618 | (773) 583-0240
Capone's is a good refuge for good beer. They have all the new and hot beer selections, plus some oddities and rarities that you'll have to ask about behind the counter. Their pricing is more "premium" than most Chicago craft beer stores, however.

Lush Wine & Spirits | Various Locations Throughout The City
Lush has three locations in Chicago. There is one is Lakeview (2232 W Roscoe St., 773-281-8888), Noble Square (1412 W Chicago Ave., 312-666-6900), and University Village (1257 S Halsted St.‪ 312-738-1900). I have only personally been to the Noble Square location, which had a small, but stacked selection‬ of craft beer and top shelf bourbons. I have heard the other locations have deeper selections. Lush has pricing that tends to range between $2 and $5 above the rest of the city (for example, while the average price for 2012 50/50 Eclipse Imperial Stout variants were $30 at most locations, they were $35 at Lush), but this means that a lot of quality offerings tend to stick around longer than most other craft beer stores. True story, my friend was able to get two 2006-2011 Bourbon County Stout verticals PLUS two Bourbon County Rares for $300 (before tax) during the Summer of 2012.

Vas Foremost Liquors | 2300 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL 60647 | (773) 278-9420
Their location is one of their greatest attributes. Not only is it right off the California stop of the Blue Line and close to the Kennedy (I-90/94), but it is also across the street from the Revolution Brewpub. Vas Foremost gets a lot of the top releases (for example, the Bourbon County variants) and has a solid selection of non-rare releases as well. Their craft beer prices are pretty average by Chicago standards. I have found some of the staff is pretty knowledgeable, but others are not so useful if you do not know exactly what you are looking for.

| 4780 N. Milwauke Ave., Chicago, IL 60630 | (773) 545-0123

Bottles & Cans | 4109 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, IL 60618 | (773) 857-2270

If you are in the suburbs, your best option is likely a Binny's location or one of the many Cardinal Wine & Spirits scattered around the state (their various locations can be found by clicking here). The northwest suburbs have Dobby's World-Wide Liquors & Wines in Palatine (15 S. Brockway St., 847-359-0400). The south suburbs have Kenwood Liquors in Oak Lawn (10750 S. Cicero Ave., 708-424-3580) and Homer Glen (12037 W. 159th St., 708-590-8210). If you are in Central Illinois, make sure to hit up Friar Tuck's.

If in a pinch, both Whole Foods and Trader Joe's (grocery stores owned by the same parent company) tend to have a solid, but not deep, craft beer selection.

Know of a store I missed? Post about it in the comments. I will try to check it out and update my list accordingly.

1 comment:

  1. Re: CTA to Beer Temple
    Closest train stops are Belmont (Blue Line, 0.7 mi) and Paulina (Brown Line, 1.7 mi). Both are steps from the #77 Belmont bus which will drop you right around the corner. #52 California/Kedzie bus runs north/south, and stops across the street. Cheers!