Hop on the beloved Blue Line and be whisked through the Windy City’s burgeoning beer scene.
The Blue Line route on Chicago’s famous El System begins at O’Hare Airport, runs through downtown—and conveniently stops near a handful of beer bastions along the way. Rumble through Chi-town, jump off at strategic stops, and high-step it to the city’s best suds mere blocks from the tracks.
Just steps from the California stop in the city’s Logan Square, Revolution is the baby of Josh Deth, a former Goose Island tankster, and Jim Cibak, Deth’s Goose Island co-worker and a Firestone Walker alum. Barely a year old, the brewery has given Chicago a beer facelift with offerings like Eugene, a complex, chocolaty porter, and Workingman Mild, a toffee-laden session beer, all poured in the cool, modern tavern attached to the facility. Take advantage of the thoughtful menu of elevated burgers and vegetarian dishes, and don’t skip the sage-and-Parmesan-dusted Bacon Fat Popcorn. 2323 N. Milwaukee Ave., revbrew.com
2. The Map Room
This legendary, cash-only beer mecca sits an 8-minute walk east of the Western stop; the stroll will leave you thirsty for the international delights only the Map Room can provide, like Aecht Schlenkerla Eiche (an oak-smoked doppelbock), De Glazen Toren Saison d’Erpe-Mere (an earthy farmhouse ale) and Bockor Cuvee des Jacobins Rouge (a Flanders red). More than 200 worldly brews—including a slew of bottles and one casked option—complement the bar’s travel theme; papered in maps and strewn with bygone National Geographic issues, the bar’s a beer lover’s cure for wanderlust. 1949 N. Hoyne Ave., maproom.com
Get off at the Damen stop and head three blocks northeast to the laboratory of decorated brewer Jonathan Cutler, whose beer is matched only by the kitchen’s thin-crust, New Haven-style pizzas. Sip the big, bitter Camel Toe Egyptian Pale Ale with the cheeseless plain pie; match the adventurous clam, bacon and white sauce pizza with Top Heavy Hefeweizen, an estery wheat that’s claimed three GABF medals; or choose among toppings like mashed potatoes, spinach and artichoke hearts to build the ultimate ally for the caramel-banana-spice Dark-n-Curvy Dunkelweizen. 1927 W. North Ave., piecechicago.com
Walk south from Piece or disembark at the El’s Division stop and hoof it west to Moonshine. It’s a brewpub, but without a glance at the taps, you’d never know it; the gentrified Wicker Park crowd moves to beats by local DJs, noshes on burgers and short-rib sliders, and carries on for hours on one of the neighborhood’s biggest patios. The brewpub opened quietly in 2008, but has picked up steam as beer geeks continue to fall for brews like Able Danger, a 6.9%-ABV IPA bursting with orange and grapefruit hops, and Second City, a dry Irish stout available solo or over vanilla ice cream and bananas. 1824 W. Division St., moonshinechicago.com
5. Twisted Spoke
Marked by a skeleton straddling a motorcycle on the roof, this low-key biker bar a 7-minute stroll from the Chicago Avenue stop is a hub for the Harley crowd, but it’s also an under-the-radar haven for the beer-and-whiskey set. The Spoke pours 20 burly taps like Surly Darkness and Lost Abbey Deliverance alongside more than 300 whiskeys, while an all-organic menu of home-style plates (think Sloppy Joes and barbecue brisket) soaks up the brown stuff. Go on Tuesdays for $2.50 beers all day long; go Saturdays at midnight for Smut & Eggs, a wee-hours presentation of old-school pornography that’s more hilarious than skeevy. 501 N. Ogden Ave., twistedspoke.com
OFF THE MAP: Half Acre Beer Co.
Hail a cab and detour to this forward-thinking brewery that’s managed to knock the socks off Chicago’s beer scene in the two years it’s brewed on-site. Book a Saturday tour (the price? A sticker to slap on one of the tanks) or stop into the tasting room/store to sample gems like Baumé, a chocolate-rye stout, and collaborations with Indiana’s Three Floyds. Two-wheelers should sip the sessionable Gossamer Golden Ale and toast the Half Acre Cycling club’s win of USA Cycling’s Division II Overall Club of the Year 2010 title. 4257 N. Lincoln Ave., halfacrebeer.com