Chicago’s south side isn’t exactly short on breweries, but they’re a lot sparser than they are up north. Just a year ago there wasn’t a single taproom in Pilsen, a problem that Moody Tongue remedied last fall by opening a tasting room. It’s not exactly a casual place to grab a pint, though: the stunning space, with its hand-blown Austrian glassware and limited food menu (oysters and giant slices of chocolate cake), can be a little much for a Monday. In the last few months, though, two new spots have opened within a mile of Moody Tongue: first Alulu, a brewpub near Ashland and Cermak, and then Lo Rez, a brewery that’s been making beer since last fall but just opened its taproom in June.
At a time when breweries are increasingly likely to specialize in a specific style of beer—sours, for example—Alulu is of the more traditional, something-for-everyone variety. There are a dozen options on tap, including a couple lagers, a few pale ales and IPAs, a porter, and a stout. They’re all solid beers, but my favorites were some less common varieties: Sys Crisp, a dry, mildly hoppy lager brewed with rye malt; Java Waves, a light yet rich blond ale made with both cold-brew coffee and whole beans; and Aurum Defender, a biere de garde that’s somehow both earthy and tropical, combining notes of pineapple and dirt in a strangely appealing way. I’ll give the watermelon kettle sour points for originality too; if you’re a fan of watermelon-flavored Sour Punch Straws, it might be right up your alley. House-made sodas and cocktails in a similar vein are also available.
The food menu is brief but equally wide-ranging (according to the website it’s “an eclectic mix of Eastern European cuisine and global dishes”), featuring food from chef Jeffrey Hedin (Bellwether, Leopold) that’s a step up from most pub fare. Ceviche, poutine, and a Monte Cristo sandwich all make appearances, along with roasted chicken served with naan, falafel, tzatziki, and cucumber-tomato salad. It might all seem a bit pretentious if everything didn’t taste so good. Tender pierogi are filled with sheep cheese, potato, and onion and topped with mushrooms, asparagus, and dill creme fraiche, while lumpia Shanghai with pork and shrimp have the most shatteringly crisp exterior I’ve ever encountered. As mandated by the brewpub bible, there is a burger, a thin patty ground in-house and served with raw-milk cheddar and smoked tomato beurre blanc on brioche. Make it a double for an extra $3 or the bread-meat ratio will be off.
At Lo Rez, the vintage doors hanging behind the bar that function as a tap list present fewer options: on my visit there were seven beers, mostly Belgian styles. Cofounders Kevin Lilly and Dave Dahl, both home brewers and tech-industry veterans, discovered a shared love for Belgian and malt-forward beers during many years of drinking together. At Lo Rez they make what they like to drink and, according to their website, avoid “the fetishization of hops.” So there’s no IPA, but you can try two different saisons: Quencher Keeper, a citrusy, floral creation brewed with spelt, and Primary Element, a more traditional saison with a piney, resinous finish. None of the brewery’s dark, malty beers were on tap, but the Common Lingo California lager has plenty of nutty, toasty maltiness. The most interesting of the varieties I tried was the Daemon, a Belgian-style golden ale, spicy and fruity but much less sweet than I expected, with a distinct rye bread flavor.
Lo Rez doesn’t do beer flights—full pours only—and it doesn’t have a kitchen, though there are a few snacks for sale, and you can order or bring food in. It’s an inviting, no-frills place to have a good beer (there wasn’t a dud in the bunch I tried). If you want a meal and maybe a cocktail or two, head up the street to Alulu. If it’s oysters and culinary-inspired brews you’re after, Moody Tongue is right around the corner. In Pilsen these days, you have options. v
Alulu Brewpub and Brewery2011 S. Laflin, 312-600-9865, alulubrew.com
Lo Rez Brewing and Taproom 2101 S. Carpenter, 888-404-2262, lorezbrewing.com