The 9 Best Beer Bars In Chicago

By Anthony Todd in Food on Feb 22, 2016 6:42PM

Chicago is a beer-lovers town. There are new craft breweries opening up every day, and brewpubs a-plenty to please the discerning drinker. But sometimes, you don't want to be limited to just one brewery—or to local beers.

These beer bars aren't tied to a brewery, a brand or a particular style. They take the best beer they can find from all over the country (and the world) and curate lists that are guaranteed to have something for every type of beer lover.

Here are our picks for Chicago's 9 best beer bars.

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Mussels at Hopleaf. Photo via Facebook.

Hopleaf

This Andersonville beer bar was one of the first really great craft beer spots in Chicago when it opened in 1992. Since then, they've grown (thank goodness, because it was difficult to get in), but fundamentally, nothing has changed. It's still the place to go for Belgian-style beers—there is an entire menu of them—and their deservedly famous moules frites. Skip whatever fusion style is on the menu and go with traditional Belgian, steamed in beer and served with crisp fries to soak up the juice.

Fountainhead

Even with the departure of Chef Cleetus Friedman, Fountainhead is guaranteed to retain its place on the list of Chicago's best beer bars. They've got an incredible binder-sized list of beers, with a focus on hard-to-find small batch runs from craft breweries. We hope that new chef Sean Sanders will keep up Friedman's tradition of one-off collaboration beers, since they've helped make Fountainhead even more of a destination. In the summer, the rooftop has it's own beer list, with a can-heavy list filled with some lighter, sour selections. Plus, Fountainhead Market next door has a great (if small) selection of beers to go.

Map Room

Map Room is a beer lovers beer bar. It's not fancy, there aren't any Edison bulbs or faux-antique prints on the wall, the decor is mostly tap handles and the bar stools are basic leather. But once you get into that tin-ceilinged space and open the menu, you'll know you're in the right place. With more than 200 kinds of beer, this Bucktown staple is the place to be. Plus, they've got a morning menu with pastries, coffee and breakfast sandwiches. It's a thoughtful bar that both causes your hangover and helps you recover.

Local Option

Local Option is one of those happy surprises—a neighborhood joint that just happens to be one of the best beer bars in the city. They've got an incredible list (with a focus on local beers, especially Pipeworks and Three Floyds, which can sometimes be hard to find) and a robust program of commissioned brews. At any given moment, you'll find at least three beers at Local Option that aren't available anywhere else in the entire world. How's that for unique?

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The interior of Bangers & Lace. Photo via Facebook.

Bangers & Lace

Bangers & Lace is the best (in our humble opinion) of the English-style pubs with ampersands that popped up all over town a few years ago. They've got the most authentic atmosphere, complete with gorgeous decor and a ton of dark wood, a wonderful menu (the sausages are delicious) and more than 30 beers on draft. Like Hopleaf, they do a particularly good job of mixing European favorites with local craft brews to curate a comprehensive menu.

Maria's

You can't call yourself a beer lover and live in Chicago if you haven't been down to Maria's. This classic old dive bar-turned-destination has delighted visitors for years, and has possibly the longest beer list in the entire city. Combine that with the proximity to Pleasant House Bakery and the excuse to stop at The Duck Inn first, and even if you're not a south sider, Maria's is worth the drive. When their long-awaited polish-Korean fusion restaurant opens later this spring, it'll get even better.

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Just a few of the coolers at Beermiscuous. Photo via Facebook.

Beermiscuous

Beermiscuous almost didn't make the list, because it's sort of half store, half cafe. But we're charmed by their minimalist space, and the grab-and-go-and-drink aspect of the place. Any beer geek who walks into their huge cooler section and doesn't swoon just a little bit isn't doing it right. Plus, they've got a good rotating tap list, so it's not fair to dismiss them as just a store. Grab a bottle of one of their more than 300 beers, bring whatever food you want and sip a while.

Smallbar

We may have lost SmallBar on Division Street (which was one of our favorite beer bars) but the original in Logan Square is still going strong. For more than a decade, they've been serving a huge list of craft beers in a friendly atmosphere - though we wish they'd up their food game just a tiny bit. Griping aside, there's no doubt that it makes anyone's list of the best.

Howells & Hood

We're not huge fans of the atmosphere at Howells & Hood (it's a bit too River North) but the selection just can't be beat. With over 110 draft lines, Howells & Hood claims to have the biggest selection in Chicago, and we believe it. Plus, during the summer their patio next to Tribune Tower is an absolutely prime spot for after work quaffing.