As craft beer has exploded in Chicago over the past ten years, so has coverage of the local craft beer scene. But despite hundreds of articles on the subject over the years, nobody has published a print guide dedicated entirely to breweries in Chicago and the suburbs. Now, suddenly, there are two. The Beermiscuous Field Guide, published in July by the self-described “coffee shop for beer” that loaned the book its name, is a pocket-size guide to Chicagoland taprooms and brewpubs, excluding breweries where you can’t drink onsite. Karl Klockars’s Beer Lover’s Chicago, released in early December, is more comprehensive, including not only breweries but also bottle shops and beer-focused bars and restaurants.
As similar as the two guides may seem, their aims are somewhat different. The Beermiscuous guide is concise, devoting just two of its petite pages to each establishment—and much of that real estate is taken up by photos and blank space for the reader’s own notes. The information listed includes hours, the brewery’s owner and head brewer, the year it was founded, and the beers for which it’s best known; icons indicate whether it’s pet friendly, has off-street parking, offers snacks or a full food menu, and whether it’s easily accessible by public transit. Descriptions don’t generally exceed a few sentences, and additional information appears in lists of bullet points called “pro tips.” The sections are color-coded by area of the city or suburbs (“city south” or “suburbs northwest,” for example), and each section includes a map that displays the area’s breweries along with a few neighborhood highlights. It’s made for tucking into a bag before heading out to try some beer.
Beer Lover’s Chicago, by contrast, devotes several paragraphs at minimum to each establishment—breweries, bars, restaurants, and bottle shops alike (places that have been open for ages get extra space to cover their longer histories). Klockars, a founder of guysdrinkingbeer.com, has been covering craft beer in Chicago for nearly ten years, and it shows. Each entry is written with the authority of someone thoroughly steeped in the local scene. For example, he declares Spiteful the most “irreverent, smartassed, DGAF group of brewers . . . in Chicagoland—not even Pipeworks rises to the middle-fingers-extended attitude of Spiteful.” (He’s careful to point out that they’re also nice people who make good beer.) Three Floyds, he says, “can basically do whatever they want to, and they do.”
Klockars’s conversational writing style makes the book an easy read, but don’t mistake his tone for an attempt to cover up a lack of research. Not only does he packs each entry with facts, he also adds illuminating sidebars about the politics of beer and the local influence of the Siebel Institute of Technology as well as Q&As with Goose Island founder John Hall and Hopleaf owner Michael Roper. The introduction offers a brief overview of how beer in Chicago has evolved over time, and the rest of the book fleshes out the story.
Beer Lover’s Chicago is the kind of book you’d be tempted to read cover to cover, whereas the nuggets of information in Beermiscuous seem designed to be absorbed quickly and piecemeal. That’s not a criticism of the latter: it works perfectly as an at-a-glance guide to taprooms and brewpubs you might want to visit, sorted by location. It sticks to what’s happening right now in Chicagoland brewing, rather than digging into the history. Beer Lover’s Chicago tells you not only what’s going on, but also how we got to where we are today.
Want your own copy? Beermiscuous is available at the locations listed here as well as online. Beer Lover’s Chicago is available online and at brick-and-mortar shops including Barnes & Noble, the Book Stall, the Book Bin, the Book Cellar, Rizzoli Bookstore, Unabridged Bookstore, Seminary Co-op Bookstore, and Quimby’s Bookstore.