If you want to learn more about craft beer, you should take a trip to Penrose Brewing Company, which opened in March in Geneva. Whether you take a tour, try a sampler of their novel brews or just spend some time chatting with their knowledgeable bartenders, you're sure to improve your understanding of suds.
Motif: The taproom features picnic-style tables and a bar with exposed bulbs hanging overhead. The walls are decorated with a mural depicting the brewing process, and a chalkboard shows the beers available that day. A small retail space sells T-shirts and hats.
Penrose Brewing Company509 Stevens St., Geneva, (630) 232-2115, penrosebrewing.com
Hours: 1 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday; 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday
If you want to see the rest of the space, take one of Penrose's weekly brewery tours. For $10 you'll get a beer in a souvenir glass and a chance to see the production space, learning about the entire brewing process. You'll get to smell fresh hops and see the machines they feed grain into, the fermentation tanks and a room used for aging beer in wine casks and bourbon barrels.
Food: Penrose doesn't serve food, though owners are planning to offer local restaurants the chance to sell food there on Friday and Saturday nights. You're also welcome to bring your own eats or snack on pretzels rods served in mason jars.
Liquid consumption: You can try Penrose beers at most Geneva bars, along with more than 40 spots in Chicago, but if you head to the brewery, what you are drinking is freshly tapped. The taproom has already served 25 different beers since opening, with the selection constantly changing as new brews become ready to pour.
Run by veterans of Chicago's Goose Island Brewery, Penrose specializes in unusual beers including wild ales and beers that ferment in barrels instead of the normal tanks. They aim to please beer novices and wine drinkers along with more serious beer fans, and you'll find everything from really refreshing grapefruit radler made from their own grapefruit soda to Belgian-inspired ales to IPAs. You can order a flight of four in an easy-to-carry taster that was designed for the brewery.
Penrose also offers four beers by the growler. You pay $4 for the bottle and then $12 to $14 to get it filled. They also plan to start selling bottles in July.
Crowd: The taproom is busy during the day on Fridays and Saturdays, bringing in a young crowd and a few older drinkers. The spot tends to empty between 5:30 and 7:30 as people leave to eat.
Service: When we stepped up to the bar, we were quickly greeted by a bartender who gave us the rundown of the beers. When we ordered a sampler, he added on a taste of the Proto Gradus Belgian ale just so we could experience the difference between the sample and the barrel-fermented version. You can also find the owners regularly wandering about, mingling with a beer in hand.
Parking: The taproom offers a small free lot.
Overall: Learning has never been this tasty.