Chicago Craft Beer Week launched four years ago as a way to celebrate all of the great breweries and beer-focused spots that the area has to offer. Since then it's continued to grow every year, incorporating new breweries and beer-focused bars. This year more than 300 spots are using the event -- which starts Thursday, May 16 -- as an opportunity to offer something special to their existing customers, lure in more patrons and test the appeal of new beers.
Standard Market in Westmont, a hybrid grocery store and restaurant, carries between 180 and 200 beers, with a focus on Chicago-area breweries. Its sister restaurant, Bakersfield, has a beer list focused on food pairings and is launching a new monthly series of beer and cheese events as part of Chicago Craft Beer Week.
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"Craft beer is a movement that's taken off," said Eric Korbus, beer buyer for Bakersfield and Standard Market. "We've got a great customer base who are thirsty for all different beers."
Tokio Pub in Schaumburg has been hosting beer dinners for a year and a half that sell out every month. Now sister restaurant Shaw's Crab House is using Craft Beer Week to host its first beer dinner, with plans to continue running them on a monthly or bimonthly basis.
"We want to do a monthly beverage event to showcase the beverage side of Shaw's," said general manager Jill Koval. "We have a lot of guests who look for different beer, and our list has changed a lot during the past year and a half and has become more local, more craft. A big part of Shaw's is supporting local food and sustainable fisheries, so it feels good to support the smaller breweries, too."
Pete Crowley, president of the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild and owner of Haymarket Pub & Brewery in Chicago, said that many spots and consumers are making the same connection as Shaw's.
"People have been focusing much more on quality, local, sustainable products in general, whether it's your vegetables, your meat or where your cheese is made," he said. "The same follows for where your beer is made. The slow food, fresh farm-to-table movement has helped the craft beer movement. Why have an amazing plate of food with a beer that you don't know who makes it?"
Crowley has ambitious goals for the event's future.
"I think you're going to see people planning vacations around the country and the globe to take part in Chicago Craft Beer Week," he said. "It's going to be the culinary delight of the city. It's going to be the best week to be in Chicago of the year."
Thirsty? Here's a sampling of suburban events running from May 16-26. For a full list, visit chibeerweek.com, where you can also download a mobile app that will let you find events on the go.
Bakersfield, 330 E. Ogden Ave., Westmont, (630) 568-3615, bakersfieldrestaurant.com: Come at 6 or 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 21, to meet brewers from Chicago's 5 Rabbit Cerveceria and try four of their beers with cheese pairings for $20.
Chinn's 34th Street Fishery, 3011 Ogden Ave., Lisle, (630) 637-1777, chinnsfishery.com: The restaurant serves a four-course dinner including lobster mac and cheese paired with Arcadia India pale ale, beer-battered grouper with Saison Farmhouse Ale and chocolate fudge cake with Edmund Fitzgerald Porter at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 21. Tickets cost $45, and reservations are highly recommended.
Elgin Public House, 219 E. Chicago St., Elgin, (847) 468-8810, elginpublichouse.com: Play trivia from 7:45 to 10 p.m. Wednesday, May 22, and sample Goose Island brews. A limited-edition beer from the Chicago brewery will be available on tap. The bar will also be offering plenty of Belgian beers from May 20-26 including Goose Island's Pepe Nero, Matilda and Sophie Paradisi.
Firkin, 515 N. Milwaukee Ave., Libertyville, (847) 367-6168, firkinoflibertyville.com: The bar has quite a bit lined up for the week. At 6 p.m. Thursday, May 16, Left Hand Brewing Company's "beer ninja" will be on hand to tap Twin Sisters, Week Sauce, Milk Stout, Chainsaw and a vertical of Ambidextrous 1-3. Then, at 3 p.m. Saturday, May 18, the focus is on Deschutes Brewing Company. And at 6 p.m. Monday, May 20, Firkin welcomes the crew from Tighthead Brewing Co. To be tapped are Woodford Reserve Bourbon Barrel Aged Double Oatmeal Stout, Irie I.P.A. and more.
Gordon Biersch Restaurant & Brewery, 639 E. Boughton Road, Bolingbrook, (630) 739-6036, gordonbiersch.com: Answer questions about beer from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday, May 20, for the chance to win prizes.
Heaven on Seven, 224 S. Main St., Naperville, (630) 717-0777, heavenonseven.com: The restaurant hosts a bacon and beer dinner at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 21, pairing a seven-course meal with eight beers from New York's Brewery Ommegang. Tickets cost $50.
Shaw's Crab House, 1900 E. Higgins Road, Schaumburg, (847) 517-2722, shawscrabhouse.com: A $45 four-course dinner at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 22, features crab toast and braised onion-crusted pork with pairings from Chicago's Finch's Beer Company. Reservations are required. Finch's beers cost $4 throughout Craft Beer Week.
Standard Market, 333 E. Ogden Ave., Westmont, (630) 366-7030, standardmarket.com: Standard Market kicks off Chicago Craft Beer Week from 4 to 9 p.m. Thursday, May 16, by pouring six hop-heavy beers including Green Flash Black IPA and Deschutes Armory XPA. Try them for $6 a glass or $9 for a three-beer flight. Festivities continue from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, May 19, when $20 gets you 20 drink tickets to sample locally made beer from Lombard's Flesk Brewing Co., Westmont's Urban Legend Brewing and six other breweries. At 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 22, you can feast on four courses of oysters and sushi paired with beers from Naperville's Solemn Oath Brewery for $30. If you prefer meat, come in at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 23, for a $35 four-course dinner highlighting grass-fed beef paired with Lagunitas beers.
The Bavarian Lodge, 1800 Ogden Ave., Lisle, (630) 241-4701, bavarian-lodge.com: Celebrate Solemn Oath Brewery's first anniversary from 4 to 11:30 p.m. Friday, May 17, with the tapping of two firkins plus plenty more of the Naperville brewery's beers on tap. On Wednesday, May 22, Founders takes over the taps. You'll want to be there early for a shot at some of their rare brews.
Tokio Pub, 1900 E. Higgins Road, Schaumburg, (847) 278-5181, tokiopub.com: Chef Phu Lu prepares a four-course Latin dinner including mole chicken pot stickers and beer-braised duck empanadas paired with beers from Chicago's 5 Rabbit Cerveceria at 7 p.m. Monday, May 20. Tickets cost $30. Can't make it? Try a 5 Rabbit beer for $4 throughout Craft Beer Week.
Wild Monk, 88 S. La Grange Road, La Grange, (708) 255-2337, wildmonkbar.com: Have a six-course dinner with pairings from Lagunitas Brewing Co. for $50 at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 21.
World of Beer, 1727 Freedom Drive, Naperville, (630) 955-0399, wobusa.com: Catch a huge selection of Dogfish Head beers on Thursday, May 16. You can meet brewers from Warrenville's Two Brothers and try their Ebel's Weiss, Sidekick and Off the Cuff Wednesday, May 22. The bar shows off rare brews from Founders Brewing Co. on Thursday, May 23, serving the Michigan brewery's oatmeal stout, Doom and Curmudgeon.