How To Navigate Chicago Craft Beer Week, May 17th - 25th

May 16 2012 - 10:21 AM

The craft beer market in Chicago has simply exploded.  Local breweries are popping up like dandelions on your lawn in the springtime.  Out of town craft brews have staged a full-fledged invasion.  It seems everyone is or knows someone who is homebrewing.  Lagunitas and, probably, Three Floyds are opening breweries in the city. Beer pairings have become common at posh restaurants.  It has become nearly impossible to keep up with all of the new developments and try all of the new offerings available.  It’s almost overwhelming.

To celebrate this maddening, apocalyptic uprising, Craft Beer Week is once again returning to Chicago.  I don’t have an exact number but I would say there are 3-4 times as many more events this year than last year. Everyone is getting into the act, from neighborhood taps, to Wrigleyville sports bars, to exclusive restaurants.  So, with well  more than 100 events on the schedule, how does one navigate such a week?  I’d have to write a full media guide of information to break it all down for you.  You’d be crazy to read such an epic and my eyes would dehydrate staring at the screen that long typing.  They already are after perusing the schedule.

Instead, I offer you two things: first here’s the schedule.  Second, I offer you the following plan for mapping out your Beer Week adventures: choose one of the following approaches to the week, then pick events that fit that model.  These are five different mindsets for deciding how to spend the week, and some of the corresponding events that will help you achieve that objective.

1.  “I’m a craft beer beginner, and want to try a lot of different styles to learn more about it.”

Newbies are always welcome on the craft beer train and there are plenty of places to dip your toes in the suds.  On Saturday, May 19th, Fizz Bar and Grill is offering a beer tasting featuring 40-plus craft brews on draft so you can sample to your heart’s delight.  Maybe you’ll find a new favorite.

2.  “I’m into craft beer but would like to hobnob with some of the brewers.”

There are quite a few meet-and-greets scheduled including: Against the Grain Brewing at Northdown Cafe on Thursday, May 17 at 6:00 p.m., and on Monday, May 21st, at 5:00 p.m., Northdown features Dryhop Brewing (their IPA is delish!).

3.  “I know my beers but just want to try a new brewery.”

Not a problem!  The new Old Town Pour House will be pouring Sixpoint Brewery’s amazing Resin IPA, starting at noon on Friday May 18th; at 6 p.m. that day, Small Bar on Division St. will be pouring the incredible Jolly Pumpkin’s sours; and Tyranena Brewing is hosting a “beer school” featuring their own brews at Paramount Room on Saturday, May 19, at 3:00 p.m.  Believe me, there are plenty of others.

4.  “I want to stick with my tried-and-true favorite brewery and try a range of their creations.”

For you monogamous beer lovers who stay loyal to one brewery, these events are for you:  Avery Week at Norse Bar beginning Thursday the 17th at 5 p.m., Three Floyds Brewing Tap Takeover at The Village Tap on the 17th, Firestone Walker at Burger Bar on Sunday the 20th at 6 p.m., Left Hand Brewery night at the Green Lady on Sunday the 20th at 7 p.m., and Big Sky brewing at Sheffield’s on Tuesday the 22nd at 7 p.m.

5.  “I know what I like and I just want to try some special brews.”

Believe me, they have you singularly-minded folks covered too.   The Pour House is tapping Mikkeller’s 1000 IBU’s Light at 12:00 p.m. on Thursday the 17th,  Owen & Engine is tapping Boulevard’s big beers on the 17th at 5 p.m., Paddy Long’s is tapping Goose Island’s Bourbon County lineup on the 18th at 7 p.m., Norse is tapping Boulevard’s Saison Brett at 8:30 on the 18th, Map Room is featuring Smuttynose specialties at 6:00 on the 22nd., and, last but – believe me – not least, The Grafton is pouring Founders’ legendary Kentucky Breakfast Stout on the 24th at 8 p.m (not sure whether on tap or in bottles, but it’s KBS).

There are plenty of other events including many not open to the public.  Check the event website and contact local venues for further details and confirmation.  And away we go!

–M. Sheppard