"I drink exactly as much as I want, and one drink more," said the journalistic "Sage of Baltimore." But even the notorious hedonist H.L. Mencken would have difficulty keeping up with the Chicago School of Journalism: drinkers with writing problems. Since the glory days of newspapers, it's been understood that a good reporter hounds down the story, raises some hell and then raises a pint. But does this romantic stereotype really hold firewater in the city by the lake? You betcha.
Occupying the former site of the "Mirage Tavern," the Brehon Pub is steeped in some highly controversial journalism history. Although the building itself dates back to just after the Chicago Fire of 1871, it was during the disco decade that the pub really made its mark.
Conceived as the setting for a 1977 Sun-Times sting operation, the Mirage was opened for the sole purpose of catching crooked city inspectors in their misdeeds. Tax-skimming, health code violations and plenty of sullied money exchanges were unearthed during the course of the rather unorthodox investigation. Thirty-four convictions resulted from the Mirage's four-month lifespan—but lively debates about the whole ordeal still rage over the stately bar of the Brehon Pub.
Old Town Ale House
As the final angle in what was once known as the Chicago journalism Bermuda Triangle, the Old Town Ale House boasts some major quill cred. In a 2005 interview with Chicago Magazine, Roger Ebert explained that the nightly trek for he and his broadsheet brethren began with dinner at Riccardo's (now 437 Rush) before closing out the late O'Rourke's, and inevitably ending up at this quintessential dive. If Ebert's trusted thumbs aren't enough to convince you, take a page from Nelson Algren and Mike Royko, who also got their drink on here.
These days, the Old Town Ale House is a veritable microcosm of Chicago society, this having to do with the bar's proximity to Second City, its late hours and storied history, not to mention the no-frills lacquer that's slathered over every pint served.
Finley Dunne's Tavern
Born in Chicago in 1867, Finley Peter Dunne was a natural storyteller. From the Chicago Evening Post to the Chicago News, the Telegram to the Tribune, the Herald to the Journal—there was nary a grey page in town unfettered by Dunne's byline. During his tenure at the Evening Post, Dunne launched one of the first syndicated columns ever, one that contemplated the world through the mind of Mr. Dooley—a bartender of his own invention. That Dunne chose to examine a growing metropolis through this consumptive environment is no surprise: Some of the man's best quotes were inspired by the drink.
So while you're throwing back Jager bombs with the IU alums who frequent this pub, ponder such Dunne gems as, "Alcohol is necessary for a man so that now and then he can have a good opinion of himself, undisturbed by the facts."
Billy Goat Tavern
Was. Is. Always will be. Location alone is enough to keep the Billy Goat within the tavern rotation of downtown reporters, but its history has more to do with "who" than "where." From Irving Kupcinet to Dave Condon, Richard Roeper to Rick Kogan (who, incidentally, wrote the book on the place), great reporters throughout the history of Chicago have wolfed down cheezeborgers at Billy Goat Tavern.
The big man in this huge pond was without a doubt Mike Royko, who treated the subterranean tavern as his de facto home. If a reader took issue with anything in the daily paper, they could find Royko at the Goat that night, ready for a lively debate and another round.
We all agree that reporters love the sauce, but their contribution to the broadsheet is all intellectual; everyone knows that working men can drink those prissy academics under the table any old day. Indeed, the only thing harder than a newsman's bender is that of a printer's. You know—the guys who actually have the power to stop the presses?
These hardened union men used to occupy Andy's during all hours. Eventually, the bar changed owners and someone got the idea to entertain these loyal patrons. Thus began the club's first "Jazz at Five" series, a runaway success that blossomed into a thriving jazz scene, scaring all the printers back to the row.