About 1,500 breweries brew tens of thousands of beers throughout the world, and still many of Chicago's bars consider Budweiser Select on tap as luxe. Refreshingly, legendary beer bars like Hopleaf
and Map Room
have more taps than Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, and they're virtual universities of beer education, committed to serving suds at the proper temperature, in proper glassware and by knowledgeable bartenders. Yet two bars from a pool of hundreds seems kind of weak. We knew there must be more, so we set out to find some of the best overlooked suds stops in Chicago.
Tap into 40 drafts at Jaks Tap
With 40 beers on tap, including locally-brewed Three Floyd's Alpha King and Two Brothers Ebel-Weiss, Jaks has more kegs than a U of I frathouse. Located on a quiet corner of Jackson and Peoria in the West Loop, when UIC students and the neighborhood crowds swell on weekend nights, you can still score a table here. If your friends need some schooling, schedule a private beer tasting, or attend the twice-yearly Humulus Lupulus tasting celebration. Beer isn't the only house specialty: Jaks' spicy hickory smoked BBQ ribs are a tasty mid-city bridge between South Side legends like Lems and Leons and Northsider's Honey 1 and Fat Willie's.
Pair quality drafts with food at Beer Bistro
Sometimes, it's not the quantity, but the quality of the taps that define a good beer bar. With the Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, Trappist Maredsous Dubbel, Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter and Staropramen Pilsner taking up real estate on the bistro's relatively parsimonious 12 taps, this is a great beer bar, especially when you factor in the more than 70 bottles, including St. Bernardus Trippel, a hearty Belgian. Serious about its beer, the food menu comes studded with recommended beer pairings, even for dessert; try Lindeman's Framboise with the "Huge piece of Carrot Cake".
Sample a flight at Clark St. Ale House
Its neon "Stop and Drink Liquor" sign is like a thirsty beer traveler's "vacancy" sign. Heed its call, and you'll be swallowed up in the dark, woody lair confines of one of Chicago's great beer pubs. Clark St. serves everything from local brews like Goose Island to Midwestern favorites like a cask-conditioned Two Hearted Ale from Bell's brewery in Kalamazoo. If you're confused by the bevy of choices, sample a flight of small pours from the tap for $3. Beer is served in proper glassware, from tulips and goblets for Belgian-style ales to pint glasses for light, bubbly lagers.
Get your suds and your schnitzel at Resi's Bierstube
If you've been crying in your beer since the Berghoff shut its doors, head to Resi's. It may not be as stately or quite as old, but its confines conjure the same German spirit and jovial sense of community. With more than a dozen German beers on tap, including Spaten, BBK and Köstritzer Schwarzbier, and 150+ imports in the bottle, there may be no better European-focused selection in the city. After a night of sampling Resi's banana-flavored Hefeweizens and malty Marzen's, be sure to wolf down the signature potato pancakes, or you'll have an oompah oompah band-like headache pounding in the morning.
Visit an original beer bar...Quenchers Saloon
With beers from 17 states and 30+ countries that span from Kenya to Croatia, Quenchers is the United Nations of beers. It doesn't quite get the press coverage of Hopleaf or Maproom, but open since 1979, this is Chicago's original beer bar. With a band almost every night of the week, it's also one of the best places to listen to live music while sipping on serious suds like Tripel Karmeleit, St. Peter's Stout and Okocim Pils. There's a constant corn perfume in the air from the overworked popcorn machine. If you're still hungry after a few free bowls, you can't go wrong with the Tater Tot pizza.