By Cold, Hard Football Facts sud stud Lew Bryson
If you're in Chicago for the game, you either live there or you're smart enough to want to go watch Da Bears on a hometown screen. Either way, you're in for some great beer drinking, and I don't care how you like your beers: Chicago's got it all. It's clearly the best in beer when matched up against Super Bowl cities Indianapolis and Miami.
Let's start with the fresh stuff. Chicago has some great brewpubs, and the biggest, oldest, busiest of all is Goose Island (two locations: the huge original place is at 1800 N. Clybourn Ave., in Lincoln Park, across from Sam's Wine & Spirits, which – word to the wise – has an awesome take-out selection of booze, 312-915-0071; the satellite joint by Wrigley Field is at 3535 N. Clark St., 773-832-9040).
Look, you essentially cannot go wrong at Goose Island. The beer is great, they usually have some limited-edition stuff in addition to the excellent standards (Honkers Ale and IPA; 'nuff said), and they have a sausage platter and a Stilton burger slathered up with hot Düsseldorf mustard that are just crying to be eaten by a big ol' hungry guy like you.
Rock Bottom is in town (when the hell are we getting one in Philly?), and that's always good (1 W. Grand Ave., 312-755-9339). Rock Bottom Chicago is pretty much like the Rock Bottoms in Indianapolis; beers will be different, food and look will be pretty similar, and it's all good.
Piece (1927 W. North Ave., 773-772-4422) is something I'd like to see a lot more of: a good brewpub that's also a good pizzeria. I ate here with the family last year, and it was delicious: freshly-made beer (the weizenbock about knocked me out) and hand-made pizza. Cool neighborhood, very busy, a solid vibe.
There are more brewpubs in greater Chicagoland, but you don't need to go out: The beauty is the bars in this town.
I'm usually in town for WhiskyFest, but when I am, I take full advantage of the "bar culture." One place I always go to is Delilah's (2771 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-472-2771), where they have over 100 American whiskeys and a fine, fine selection of draft and bottled beers, real special stuff. Delilah's flat-out bizarre, but it's 100% real. A rare place.
An old favorite is the Clark Street Ale House (742 N. Clark St., 312-642-9253), a really comfortable joint on a rainy night, with old dark wood, great taps (including some cask ale that's phenomenally well-kept), and barbecue, Italian beef and pizza all within a block. I never miss the Ale House when I visit Chicago.
The city is well-served by two very special bars with an upscale beer selection. The Map Room (1949 N. Hoyne, 773-252-7636) has what is probably the best beer selection overall in the city, and it's a hopping joint that knows its beer. This is a first-tier, national-level, big-league beer bar. But the Hopleaf Bar (5148 N. Clark St., 773-334-9851) has a very deep collection of Belgians in bottles and kegs, and first-rate Belgian bistro fare (including bunny...I do love me some bunny). Hard to say which is better; visit both. I do, often as I can.
You know that I'm going to find the German places in town, and Resi's Bierstube (2034 W. Irving Park Rd., 773-472-1749) is the place to be. Welcome to Bavaria; I swear the front door is a warp to Lagerland, except everyone speaks English. Resi's is a beautiful cross of American bar and German gasthaus, and you'll love the beer, the food and the authentic atmosphere.
One more: The Village Tap in Roscoe Village (2055 W. Roscoe, 312-883-0017) is a great corner bar, with a solid kitchen, a massive wooden bar and beautiful taps of excellent micros from near and far. I spent a really weird evening here with Michael Jackson (the beer writer, not the singer) a few years back, and the thing that got me through it was constant refills of Sprecher Black Bavarian Lager. Go, drink, enjoy.
Did I say one more? How about 100?
The real beauty of Chicago is the multitude of little neighborhood bars, all with their own history and neighborhood character: Irish bars, German bars, Polish bars, Italian bars, Greek bars. I partied late in one of them one time, with the racks of half-pint booze flasks for sale behind the bar, a bizarrely deep selection of Eastern European beers in the cooler and a smart-assed Polish chick behind the bar. It was a beautiful night, and I'd go back tomorrow...only you'd never know what you were missing around the corner.
So when you're next in Chicago, wander a bit. Stop in here, stop in there, have a drink, knock back a shot, talk to your neighbor. Other cities may have a better beer scene, but Chicago bars take second to none.
INDIANAPOLIS – Not bad, but it's no Chicago.
MIAMI – Hey, at least they have hot broads to make up for the lack of good brew.