The Chicago suburbs have an abundance of microbreweries and brewpubs, giving beer fans the chance to get their drinks straight from the source. One of the latest additions is Mundelein's Tighthead Brewing Company, which opened in November and is already working on expanding its reach.
Motif: The space features a long wood and marble bar with a view of the brewery's steel machinery behind glass. Two TVs tuned to sports hang in the corners. Customers also gather at the tall mosaic-topped tables, and you're welcome to bring your dog along if you're sitting on the enclosed, brick patio.
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Tighthead Brewing Company161 N. Archer Ave., Mundelein, (847) 970-9174, tightheadbrewing.com
Hours: 4 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Friday; noon to 10 p.m. Saturday; noon to 6 p.m. Sunday
If you're interested in more than tasting the beer, Tighthead offers brewery tours at 2 and 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, which have proved so popular that reservations are required in advance. The bar also plans to host an Oktoberfest party and organize a benefit run that starts and ends at the taproom.
Crowd: Weeknights bring in sporadic crowds, but the spot gets busy Saturday. The space brings in a mix of 20-somethings to 50-somethings. When we were there we saw plenty of big groups and a young family was playing a game of Brew-Opoly, a beer themed version of Monopoly. Dress is casual, with customers sporting a mix of sundresses and shorts and baseball caps.
Service: Owner and master brewer Bruce Dir takes a hands-on approach, spending time both chatting with customers about beer and making sure orders are taken. We visited the night of the Mundelein Craft Beer Festival, and the rest of the staff seemed worn out. While we were quickly greeted and given a menu, it took a long time to get our orders placed.
Food: Tighthead doesn't serve any food, but you're welcome to bring your own or order in.
Liquid consumption: As a 15-barrel brewery, Tighthead aims to expose guests to craft beer. The taproom currently offers plenty of seasonal selections, though that may change as demand for favorites grows. Currently available are the excellent and flavorful Scarlet Fire red ale and hoppy Irie IPA. The light and refreshing Go-Go Wit Belgian Witbier is great for a hot summer day. It's easy to find your own favorite, since you can get sample-sized pours of any beer for $1.50 to $2. If you find something you really enjoy, you can buy a growler to take home.
If you can't make it in, Tighthead's brews are available on draft at bars throughout Lake County and part of Cook County including Gurnee's Timothy O'Toole's, Cubby Bear North in Lincolnshire and The Vine in Grayslake. Tighthead plans to start packaging their beer by the end of the year.
Parking: It's easy to find a spot in the huge free lot.
Overall: Tighthead Brewing Company offers a laid-back space to sip your way through a full line of tasty brews.