15 Most Important Chicago Beers Ever

Discussion in 'US - Midwest' started by FBarber, Mar 30, 2017.

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  1. FBarber

    FBarber Mar 5, 2016 Illinois
    Moderator Society Trader

    I somehow missed this article from the Chicago Tribune titled "15 Most Important Chicago Beers Ever" and it doesn't seem like it popped up here. The premise is interesting in that its not looking at the 15 best beers but rather the 15 most important beers to the Chicago beer scene past and present. Thought the list was worth discussing here - whether you agree with it, or would replace the beers on the list with other beers.

    1. Bourbon County Stout (Goose Island Beer Co.)

    Could there be any other option? The first imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels debuted at Goose Island's Clybourn Avenue brewpub in 1995. Some people were disturbed by its depth of boozy flavor. Others couldn't believe that their little local brewpub had concocted such liquid gold. Bourbon County Stout is now an annual release that generates lines around the nation while the practice of bourbon barrel aging has been copied the world over.

    2. Alpha King (Three Floyds Brewing)

    Talk to the people who were paying attention to craft beer during the 1990s, and they'll tell you: This beer blew minds. Released when most American breweries were still attempting to mimic classic European styles, this hop-forward pale ale established an iconoclastic approach that made Three Floyds an industry legend. By the way: This beer continues to be much more satisfying than Zombie Dust.

    3. Dark Lord (Three Floyds)

    Bourbon County Stout revolutionized stouts, but Dark Lord, first brewed in 2003, pushed matters one step further, adding coffee, Mexican vanilla and Indian sugar to the sludgy black brew. The beer's power became even more pronounced when Floyds had the good sense to create a holiday around the beer's annual release: Dark Lord Day, which this year is May 13. (Tickets go on sale at noon Saturday.)

    4. Daisy Cutter (Half Acre Beer Co.)

    The Chicago beer scene had largely been Goose Island, Two Brothers and Three Floyds for years. Then came Daisy Cutter. As much as any one beer, Daisy Cutter proved that things were changing in Chicago and that a new beer culture was taking root. First released in 2009, Half Acre's Daisy Cutter was the right beer at the right time for Chicagoans learning both to love craft and to drink local. The bitter pale ale, tempered by notes of citrus and grainy malt, wasn't a cult beer, but that was the point. For exploratory beer drinkers, it became a new go-to.

    5. Zombie Dust (Three Floyds)

    Three of the top five? Yes, Floyds has been that revolutionary. Munster, Ind.'s finest not only gets credit for first planting the flag on pale ales with Alpha King, it also gets credit for revolutionizing pale ales nearly 15 years later with Zombie Dust. First released in late 2010, Zombie Dust showcased the uber-fruity Citra hop and helped send an entire industry careening into the "juicy" place it now stands. Contemporary Zombie Dust doesn't taste much like it did during those early days, but that doesn't stop it from being one of the brewery's most popular beers. By the way, this beer is nowhere near as satisfying as Alpha King.

    6. Ninja vs. Unicorn (Pipeworks Brewing)

    Much like Daisy Cutter, Ninja vs. Unicorn wasn't just about the beer — it was about what the beer meant. In this case, Pipeworks' flagship brew said that Chicago's craft scene could churn out a big, bright imperial IPA on par with the West Coast. Like Daisy Cutter, Ninja vs. Unicorn signaled a new and exciting era in local beer.

    7. 312 Urban Wheat Ale (Goose Island)

    Goose Island was shaking off the rust of several down years when it released 312 Urban Wheat Ale in 2004, an approachable wheat beer that sold itself to a generation of bargoers — many of whom had previously been quite satisfied with Miller Lite — with its novel name, bright yellow motif and telephone tap handle. 312 gave Goose Island the sales volume it needed to solidify and grow its business. It's quite possible that without this beer, Goose Island's sale to Anheuser-Busch InBev in 2011 would never have happened.

    8. Anti-Hero (Revolution Brewing)

    If Daisy Cutter made Chicago learn to love pale ales, and Ninja vs. Unicorn did the same for double IPAs, Revolution gets credit for changing the way Chicago forever will think about IPA. Anti-Hero was Chicago's first locally made, high-volume, citrus-forward contemporary IPA to be ubiquitous on taps and shelves. It's amazing no one had done it sooner.

    9. Honker's Ale (Goose Island)

    One of the brewery's original beers upon opening in 1988, Honker's Ale was Chicago's most renowned craft beer for years. Its malt-forward style — extra special bitter — has fallen out of favor with modern drinkers, but that doesn't change the fact that Honker's was the fresh and local alternative to big beer for close to 20 years.

    10. Domaine DuPage and Cane & Ebel (tie; Two Brothers Brewing)

    I couldn't pick between these two, so I went with these polar opposites from the Warrenville brewery that opened in 1996. First released in 1999, Domaine DuPage is a flawless take on the French biere de garde style and helped teach a city how beautiful and elegant beer could be. Cane & Ebel is something else entirely — a hoppy red ale made with rye and Thai palm sugar. Ho-hum, right? Not in 2002. That combination of flavors and ingredients, wrapped in a floral hop bomb, was miles, years and galaxies ahead of its time. (Always a year-round beer, Cane & Abel is moving to a fall seasonal.)

    11. Gumballhead (Three Floyds)

    The "hoppy wheat beer" has faded a bit in the public consciousness but played a significant role in its time. Just as powerful as the beer itself was the character of Gumballhead on the label: a scowling, yellow, cigarette-smoking cat who holds an AK-47 while riding a lawn mower pushed by a robot. (There are a shocking number of Gumballhead tattoos out there.) As a Binny's beer buyer told me in 2012 when discussing Three Floyds' popularity: "I'm not trying to denigrate those guys. I love them. But I've got 2,000 fresh beers on the shelves, and if someone can't get Gumballhead, they'll walk out without buying anything else."

    12. Matilda (Goose Island)

    Former Goose Island brewmaster Greg Hall thought Pere Jacques, the brewery's take on a Belgian dubbel, would be the breakout star of the brewery's reserve line. But the people chose Matilda, a beer inspired by Belgian classic Orval, and one of the first large-scale beers to prominently feature the wonderful, persnickety Brettanomyces yeast. As a result, Matilda gets much of the credit for elevating our collective beer tastes.

    13. Baderbrau Pilsener (Pavichevich Brewing)

    In 1988, Pavichevich Brewing founder Ken Pavichevich aspired to bring European beer culture to America — all the way down to the elevated glassware and doilies on which bartenders were ordered to place a freshly poured Baderbrau Pilsener. The high point might have been then-President George H.W. Bush requesting a case for his suite at the Hyatt Regency during a visit to Chicago in 1990. But Pavichevich Brewing went bankrupt in 1996, which led Goose Island to snag the brand and win a silver medal with it at the Great American Beer Festival in 1998. Most recently, Rob Sama, a fan of Baderbrau from the '90s, resurrected the brand as Baderbrau Brewing with a flagship, the crisp and rewarding Chicago Pilsener, which he says is a faithful re-creation of the original beer.

    14. Troublesome (Off Color Brewing)

    Admit it: before Off Color had the audacious idea to make its flagship brew a gose — that tart, lightly briny and refreshing German ale — you had no idea what gose was. I didn't. That was 2012. Now goses are everywhere. But Off Color founders John Laffler and Dave Bleitner get credit not only for bringing a more esoteric version of craft beer to our taps and shelves, but for expanding our thinking about what the craft could be.

    15. Big Shoulders Porter (Chicago Brewing Co.)

    Another gone-but-not-forgotten favorite from the 1990s, this was the beer that most excited many of Chicago's most discerning beer drinkers at the time. That included Hopleaf founder Michael Roper, who has said he preferred this beer to anything coming out of Goose Island at the time. Questionable business decisions doomed Chicago Brewing, but its flagship porter lingered in the memories of those who followed.
     
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  2. Lazhal

    Lazhal Mar 13, 2011 Michigan
    Trader

    I think at least one of the bcbs variants deserves to be on that list.
     
  3. croush

    croush Mar 20, 2015 Illinois
    Trader

    Seems like a good list to me. I'm not nearly experienced enough to go back that far in regards to the most important over the past 20 years or so, but these seem like the big ones.

    As far as BCBS variants, maybe they just considered BCBS as a whole. Or think the variants are too newer and/or smaller production. The important thing seems to be that BCBS broke some pretty big ground.
     
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  4. FBarber

    FBarber Mar 5, 2016 Illinois
    Moderator Society Trader

    I guess the only really consistent ones would be coffee and prop? Maybe barleywine ... I could see Prop/coffee - but then again, I think @croush is probably right in that BCBS was just on there as the whole phenomenon.
     
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  5. Lazhal

    Lazhal Mar 13, 2011 Michigan
    Trader

    I went back through the release dates of some of the beers on the list. Daisy cutter, anti hero, and ninja were all first released earlier than I expected. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, it usually takes a while before you first learn about most beers.

    With the exception of a few, most of the bcbs variants were released after the aforementioned beers.
     
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  6. Benjolovesbeer

    Benjolovesbeer Nov 9, 2016 Michigan
    Deactivated

    Isn't all 3 Floyd beers brewed in Indiana? So shouldn't they be off the list? And where is Lolita? Isn't that in top 10 best American Sours? And what about Sofie? The fact Sofie is 2 different beers depending if you drink it fresh or in 2 years, shouldn't that have made the list? If Matilda made the list than so should Sofie.
     
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  7. TheodorHerzl

    TheodorHerzl Mar 30, 2007 Indiana

    FFF is a Chicago brewery. There really shouldn't be an argument there.
     
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  8. FBarber

    FBarber Mar 5, 2016 Illinois
    Moderator Society Trader

    its hard to pick just one from GI's Belgian lineup - But I can see the argument for Sofie.
     
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  9. croush

    croush Mar 20, 2015 Illinois
    Trader

    I could see either Matilda or Sofie, but not the others. Sours aren't mainstream enough IMO, and I would guess they sell a good deal more of Matilda & Sofie. Those two were actually really big for nudging me more into craft beer, though, so I could be biased. Does anyone know when each of those two were first brewed?
     
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  10. ChiCubs78

    ChiCubs78 Jan 2, 2015 Illinois

    I believe Matilda was first brewed in 2003 and Sophie was first brewed in 2009.
     
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  11. Benjolovesbeer

    Benjolovesbeer Nov 9, 2016 Michigan
    Deactivated

    Alright then I guess that would make sense then
     
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  12. Benjolovesbeer

    Benjolovesbeer Nov 9, 2016 Michigan
    Deactivated

    Yeah but @ $24 a bottle and hard to find in some places makes Lolita far more superior than Matilda
     
  13. Benjolovesbeer

    Benjolovesbeer Nov 9, 2016 Michigan
    Deactivated

    Then why on their website it says Munster, IN?
     
  14. ChiCubs78

    ChiCubs78 Jan 2, 2015 Illinois

    They are in Munster Indiana but are often referred to as a Chicago brewery, for some reason.
     
  15. croush

    croush Mar 20, 2015 Illinois
    Trader

    I don't think you're in the majority there, though. I'd take Matilda over Lolita for sure, and I think that the price has little to do with the breakthrough of Matilda/Sofie into the mainstream as opposed to Lolita and the other sour sisters.
     
  16. croush

    croush Mar 20, 2015 Illinois
    Trader

    It probably takes less time to get to FFF from Chicago than it does to get to some places in IL that are considered suburbs of Chicago, so that probably has something to do with it. Just because it's in a different state doesn't mean it's not part of the metro area.
     
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  17. Benjolovesbeer

    Benjolovesbeer Nov 9, 2016 Michigan
    Deactivated

    Just for that reason they should be off the list and put on Indiana's list
     
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  18. Benjolovesbeer

    Benjolovesbeer Nov 9, 2016 Michigan
    Deactivated

    Kalamazoo isn't far from Chicago so why don't they consider Bells while they're at it
     
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  19. croush

    croush Mar 20, 2015 Illinois
    Trader

    Come on...why don't you just worry about Michigan's list and leave ours alone?!?!!! :wink::stuck_out_tongue:
     
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  20. ChiCubs78

    ChiCubs78 Jan 2, 2015 Illinois

    Who are "they?" The Government?! :grimacing:
     
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  21. croush

    croush Mar 20, 2015 Illinois
    Trader

    Everyone pretty much counts FFF as a Chicagoland brewery. Maybe you just have to be around here to understand it, but if you don't like that, you may want to just move on.

    And there aren't Chicagoland places 2.5 hours away from Chicago...so your Kalamazoo argument does not hold water.
     
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  22. HouseofWortship

    HouseofWortship May 3, 2016 Illinois
    Society Trader

    Great thread! I like how if you click the link you are stuck behind the paywall, but if you just google the title it lets you in....

    These make my list:
    BCBS
    DL
    Matilda
    Gumballhead
    Zombie
    Honkers
    312
    Daisy Cutter

    The others do not.

    Anti-Hero is late to the party Daisy Cutter, not even their most iconic beer.


    Off Color shouldn't be mentioned for a single beer. They don't have anything iconic to Chicago. No game changers, but taken together as a body of work they proved they can sustain a brewery that doesn't cater to the tastes of the masses and introduce new styles to the public in an elegant, refined, playful way. If they had to have a beer on the list it would be Dino'Smores as it is the most famous graham cracker stout in chicago.


    Pipeworks is similar to Off Color. They make big, over the top beers and aren't afraid to experiment with flavors on popular styles, but nothing iconic about a single beer. Abduction, Ninja series, Unicorn Vs series, those aren't defined by one beer....If any beer they had would make the list it would be Close Encounters which I believe would be the first black ipa/hoppy stout of its sort a few years before these started popping up here and becoming popular...



    Big Shoulder Porter? If you haven't heard of it, it can't be that important. Just because the guy at the Hop Leaf liked it? DL and BCBS have perpetuated a whole industry of waiting in line and having beer release days, this company has done no such thing.

    GI bought Baderbrau? What was the name of the beer they made with that recipe? How do they not still own the naming rights and how is someone else allowed to use the name now?

    Edit: And GI's IPA should be on that list. How many people were exposed to IPAs through the brewpub drinking that?
     
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  23. ChiCubs78

    ChiCubs78 Jan 2, 2015 Illinois

    Now now, don't be a poopy head again :wink:
     
  24. Benjolovesbeer

    Benjolovesbeer Nov 9, 2016 Michigan
    Deactivated

    I'm order to consider something to be in something it has to be there, Chicago has GI and that's it for I'm concerned. Indiana has FFF til the day they decide to close shop and relocate to Chicago
     
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  25. FBarber

    FBarber Mar 5, 2016 Illinois
    Moderator Society Trader

    Yea, I'm pretty sure three floyds has always been tied to Chicago(land) beer epicenter. Bells/Founders/etc have always been part of a separate beer epicenter in Michigan.

    I mean, if you use the loop as the arbitrary center of Chicago(land) Three Floyds is actually closer to the loop than Two Brothers. Its not like its a huge stretch ...
     
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  26. FBarber

    FBarber Mar 5, 2016 Illinois
    Moderator Society Trader

    You could even include the fish series in there ... but I think N vs. U is the one that most people outside of Chicago know when they hear Pipeworks. I know I've sent some Pdubs stuff out for friends in other states and they either ask for N v. U or a fish beer because that's all they really know.
     
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  27. HouseofWortship

    HouseofWortship May 3, 2016 Illinois
    Society Trader

    Actually, Bells should be a Chicago brewery. Larry Bell lives here- he is the company, where the CEO goes is where the company is. Same with Tony Magee from Lagunitas. Same with Nick Floyd from FFF.

    FFF is less than 10 miles from Chicago, Two Brothers is 32 miles....
     
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  28. croush

    croush Mar 20, 2015 Illinois
    Trader

    Everyone's entitled to their opinion...even if it's wrong. :wink: See others' comments about FFF distance to Chicago as compared to other breweries that are actually in IL. Just because it's across the state line doesn't mean it's still not part of the metro area.

    Guilty as charged. :slight_frown:
     
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  29. HouseofWortship

    HouseofWortship May 3, 2016 Illinois
    Society Trader

    And at the time FFF was founded, it was in Hammond, IN which literally touches the SE border of Chicago.
     
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  30. ChangSing

    ChangSing May 5, 2013 Illinois
    Trader

    If you read the article the author states clearly that this list is about beers from "Chicago (and its suburbs)". Lake County Indiana, where Munster, IN is located, is a suburb of Chicago Metroland Area as defined by the US Census Bureau.
     
  31. ChiCubs78

    ChiCubs78 Jan 2, 2015 Illinois

    *Drops mic
     
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  32. HouseofWortship

    HouseofWortship May 3, 2016 Illinois
    Society Trader

    Lol, you know when someone pulls out a US Census "it's" getting real.
     
  33. Scalawags

    Scalawags Jun 18, 2013 Michigan

    I know this won't be popular on this website, but if you're talking about the most IMPORTANT beer in Chicago's history, isn't is clearly Miller Lite?
     
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  34. ChiCubs78

    ChiCubs78 Jan 2, 2015 Illinois

    I'd have to say it's Old Style.
     
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  35. FBarber

    FBarber Mar 5, 2016 Illinois
    Moderator Society Trader

    I think the author was looking at the craft beer scene, otherwise, yea, Old Style should be on there and maybe Schoenhofen.
     
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  36. lloydboss

    lloydboss May 9, 2014 Illinois

    Chicago metro area

    [​IMG]
     
  37. ChangSing

    ChangSing May 5, 2013 Illinois
    Trader

    Haha. Sorry, normally I'm a pretty congenial guy, but I guess I found this a little irritating after 5 posts. Good beers to be had by all this weekend, I wish for everyone.
     
  38. Benjolovesbeer

    Benjolovesbeer Nov 9, 2016 Michigan
    Deactivated

    Look 3 Floyd's brewed in Indiana not Chicago even if in the area or on border glit's Indiana so get over it. Sure Chicago wants to claim 3 Floyd's as there's but it's not it's Indiana get over it. It's fine if we were discussing Sierra Nevada as it's in NC and California but it's 3 Floyd's and it's in Indiana end of story. Chicago you have GI and about half of GI's selection is good and high end the rest is just neh such as their IPA's. If Chicago wants more breweries create them but I'm sorry to inform you 3 Floyd's is not yours, it's Indiana's because the owner probably didn't want to pay high tax in Chicago oh well. I didn't create the geographical lay out of where Chicago lies and Indiana ends but 3 Floyd's is an Indiana brewery end of story.
     
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  39. FBarber

    FBarber Mar 5, 2016 Illinois
    Moderator Society Trader

    LOL, ok.

    I think we can just all agree to disagree with you.
     
  40. Benjolovesbeer

    Benjolovesbeer Nov 9, 2016 Michigan
    Deactivated

    Fine but my argument has fact in it i'm right and the rest of you aren't because 3 Floyd's is Muncie, IN and not Chicago, Chicago has no right to take Indiana's credit. My argument is all based on geography and nothing more. Yours is based on wishful thinking of undesired pride of trying to claim something Chicago that isn't which in reality is offensive to Indiana. Sure you live in Chicago and you like drinking 3 Floyd's but just remember it's Indiana beer not Illinois.
     
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