Chicago's incredible expanding beer scene

May 10, 2012

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As the weather warms, certain beer-loving Chicagoans look forward to their first Bell's Oberon of the season, to mark the end of winter. Bell's beers weren't available in Chicago in the spring of 2007 due to distribution problems, prompting seasonal confusion for this slice of the populace. I'm sure at least a few tears were shed in a few beers over the temporary loss of that seasonal ritual.

Fortunately, recent brewery expansions and openings are likely to leave Chicago craft beer fans satiated. Some of the most respected craft breweries around have announced plans for major increases in production.

First, the widely revered California brewery Lagunitas recently announced plans to open a Chicago brewery and tap room just west of Pilsen. Then, Three Floyds, those nearby beer gods (who work in service of the Dark Lord) announced that they intend to open a Chicago brewpub soon. Another addition to the embarrassment of riches: Half Acre's 100-seat tap room, coming soon to their Lincoln Avenue brewery and Revolution Brewing's new Kedzie brewing facility and tap room, scheduled to open in two weeks.

All this activity from established names is matched by a new batch of breweries that have opened in the past two years. Recent additions include Finch’s Beer Company, 5 Rabbit Brewery, Chicago Beer Company and New Chicago Brewing, which recently scuttled plans to participate in the sustainable building The Plant in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. They are currently searching for a brewing facility.

The folks at Two Brothers, Flossmoor Station, Piece Brewery, Metropolitan and Rock Bottom continue to churn out quality stuff as well. All told, drinking beer in Chicago has come quite a long ways.

We examine the current state of things on Thursday's Afternoon Shift with the Hopleaf's Mike Roper and WBEZ's food blogger, Louisa Chu.

Did we forget any great beer producers from the area? Let us know in the comments.