Oktoberfest season is upon us, and fortunately for Windy City residents, there are plenty of local booze options to keep us distracted as winter comes around the bend. Check out our roundup of some great local breweries, distilleries and vineyards that will quench your thirst for fall alcohol.
Revolution Brewing Company: Even on weeknights, this beer haven quite literally hops. It's easy to see why at Revolution Brewing Company, which in the year and a half it's been open in Logan Square has attracted self-proclaimed beer snobs, as well as those looking for a casual night out with a unique brew. "They pay attention to what they're doing," said Caroline Moody, 27, of Logan Square, who dropped by after her job as a tattoo artist. Moody ordered an Oktoberfest Revolution and Barrel-Aged Institutionalized, a part-Jack Daniels, part-Heaven Hill Rye whiskey, part Revolution Barleywine concoction that gives off aromas of chocolate and coconut. "The beers don't hit you in the face. They're more subtle. They know how to refine the taste." Assistant brewer Matty Kemp explained each step of Revolution's brewing process as he walked through the restaurant's eight fermenting tanks and its brewhouse, which he was sanitizing for the night. "The classic styles people love, we do really well, with room for experimentation," Kemp said, pointing out that one of their brews, called Pablo Picasso, consists of a Belgian-style ale aged for 13 months with Michigan sour cherries. "We're proud that we make clean beers."
2323 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-227-2739; Brewery tours are free and given at noon on Saturdays. They last about 45 minutes and include a sample. To participate, sign up at the host stand.
Koval Distillery: Perched on a corner of Ravenswood and Winona, with the quiet of the neighborhood occasionally punctured by a passing train, the silver tanks and potsill of Koval are in full display to passersby peeking into the windows of the brick building that houses the distillery. Koval Distillery procures the grains that go into its spirits from organic Midwestern farms and sources its water, which it purifies, from Lake Michigan. The liquor produced by Koval includes rye vodka, American oat whiskey, chrysanthemum honey liqueur, jasmine liqueur and rye Chicago whiskey. It can be found at restaurants like Henri and Terzo Piano, as well as at such stores as Printers Row Wine Shop and Warehouse Liquors.
5121 N. Ravenswood, 312-878-7988; Koval offers distillery tours on Wednesdays and Saturdays, usually at 3 p.m., 5 p.m. or 7p.m. Tours cost $10 per person and reservations can be made on Koval's website.
The Lucky Monk: Plenty of Chicagoans make the 35-minute drive west on the Kennedy to join suburbanites in South Barrington for The Lucky Monk's brews. The Lucky Monk specializes in creating German-style and Belgian beers in the large silver fermenting tanks that sit within viewing distance of the bar. "Most of our beers have a very good mouth feel," said Ken Foutch, a manager at The Lucky Monk, adding that "hops are really, really an attraction" and that "generally, we like hoppy, bitter beer." The eatery, which is known for its thick burgers made with Tillamook cheddar cheese, has six house brews and two seasonal brews. One of its most well known is its Solitude Oatmeal Stout, which gives off a bit of a coffee flavor and whose oatmeal smoothes out the texture.
105 Hollywood Blvd. in South Barrington
Lynfred and Illinois Cellar Wines: Our state doesn't have the breadth of Napa Valley, but Illinois does make wine. Those carried in Chicago-area stores tend not to to compete with Napa cabs or Sonoma zins and instead trend toward the fruity. Binny's Beverage Depot in the Loop (213 W. Grand), for instance, carries a selection of fruit wines from Lynfred Winery made with such fruit as plum and rhubarb. It also carries several fruit wines from Illinois Cellars that include a sweet apple wine and a red and white demi-sec. The Illinois wines at Binny's range from $7.99 to $22.99 per bottle.
Binny's Beverage Depot, 213 W. Grand Ave.; 312-332-0012
Half Acre Beer Company: The 5-year-old beer company, based in Northcenter, has built quite the following, perhaps by its fun, laid-back approach -- its latest pale ale was named the Galactic Double Daisy Cutter -- but mostly because of the quality of its beer. Its popularity and profile is rising, as evidenced by the aforementioned Daisy Cutter selling out at the brewery in a day. Over the summer, Half Acre also collaborated with Grant Achatz's Next Restaurant to create "Horizon," a beer made with mangosteens and hibiscus especially for the eatery's beef cheek dish on its Tour of Thailand menu. The brewery's usual beers include StickyFat, a dark ale made with wet hops, and Daisy Cutter, a hoppy pale ale with a citrus aroma. Half Acre gives brewery tours on a first-come, first-serve basis at 1 p.m. Saturdays. They're enormously popular, so get there early.
4257 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-248-4038; Brewery tours start at 1 p.m. Saturdays and cost $10 per person, which includes a Half Acre glass and beer samples.
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