Chicago city guide

Our essential guide to Chicago


This month, we’ve turned over the city guide exclusively to Chicago’s amazing, plentiful and varied bars. Sure, there are parks, I’m sure there are some very fine museums, but sometimes we just need to celebrate the fact that Ferment is a beer magazine. This is one of those times.


Heaving on game day thanks to its proximity to the Cubs’ Wrigley Field stadium, Sheffield’s is best known for its incredible and spacious outdoor patio area. Under a canopy of trees, you can enjoy an ever-changing selection of taps and more than 100 different bottles, including some enticing rare and vintage offerings. And if you’re feeling peckish, its in-house hickory smoker has all the authentic barbecue goodness you could ever hope for.

PHOTO: Sheffield's Beer & Wine Garden (Facebook)

HOPLEAF BAR (Andersonville)

A true Chicago craft beer institution, Hopleaf in Andersonville has been plying its purist beer experience since 1992, promising no distractions such as TVs or live entertainment. Instead, all the pleasure here comes from 68 draft lines of meticulously curated beer, with a focus on Belgian brewing. Line ‘em up with a generous plate of mussels and fries (a Chicago favourite – who knew?) and settle in.

PHOTO: Hopleaf Bar (Facebook)


Sue me, but I like my bars to sound like they’re named after a frontier town grocery store. Part dive bar and part boho beer boutique, Maria’s could quite frankly call itself whatever it wanted, with around 700 beers to choose from. Throw in some wild Korean-Polish fusion street food and you have yourself a real good time.

PHOTO: Maria's Packaged Goods & Community Bar (Facebook)

THE MAP ROOM (Bucktown)

Part of Chicago’s craft beer furniture since 1992, every brewer and beer lover here has their Map Room story. As a result, these guys can get their hands on special local beers you won’t find anywhere else. It’s a must-stop, even if only to say you’ve been.

PHOTO: The Map Room (Facebook)

LOCAL OPTION (Lincoln Park)

It’s certainly an acquired taste, but if you a pounding metal soundtrack and a dark beer-heavy draft line-up, Local Option is a great… erm… option. Food choices are surprisingly great and it’s definitely worth giving their house brews a shot.

PHOTO: Local Option (Facebook)


It’s not a numbers game, but it would nonetheless take a stony heart to be unimpressed by this Old Town bar’s frankly ludicrous line-up of 90 draft taps with an emphasis on US craft styles. Fortunately, the staff navigate the beer selection with sure-footed alacrity, and are always ready with a recommendation, or to assemble a tasting flight. Rich mahogany, flat screens and well-done sports bar food (wings, burgers) are the vibe here, so it’s obviously great fun on game day.

PHOTO: Old Town Pour House (Facebook)


We really, really like this bar. Its draft list may not be the most comically huge in the city, but it’s still sizeable and, much more importantly, is brilliantly curated with brews from far and wide; the kind of list where even that first cursory scan confirms you’re going to be here for a while. The décor is also warm and welcoming and, if you’re looking for some culture in non-liquid form, Sleeping Village also incorporates a decent-sized live indie music venue. We guarantee you’ll feel at least 20% cooler and more knowledgeable just from walking through the door. 

PHOTO: Sleeping Village (Facebook)


Another Wrigley field pre-game favourite, this wee local-focused bar is named for beloved Cubs groundskeeper Bobby Dorr. There’s only (only!) 17 beers on draft, but a good chunk of those are frequently occupied by the bar’s fascinating collaboration brews with its many local pals. Because of its size, it can get pretty crowded on game day, so if you’re not into that particular brand of fun, drop in another time and chat to the friendly and expert staff.

PHOTO: Lucky Dorr Pation & Tap (Facebook)


Most of the time, this bougie River North gastro craft enterprise would be a little too slick for our tastes; with its historical facade, exposed brickwork and reclaimed hardwood floors, it feels ripe for occupation by the ‘after-work’ crowd. But damn if it doesn’t have a wonderful selection of beers on its 56 draft lines. Better still is the focus on beer and food pairing, with liquid recommendations for every item on Centennial’s decidedly cheffy menu. The house burger here will make you cry, but in a good way. 

PHOTO: Centennial Crafted Beer & Eatery (Facebook)

Cover photo: Aveedibya Dey (Unsplash)

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