The Best Craft Breweries in Illinois

| © Volodymyr Melnyk / Alamy
Helen Armitage

Though it is currently experiencing a boom, Illinois’ craft brewing scene has steadily evolved since the mid-1990s. According to the Beer Institute, in 2012 Illinois had 83 breweries with more popping up all the time. Let’s take a look at the state’s best craft breweries.

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Two Brothers Artisan Brewing

Following a stint living in Europe, brothers Jim and Jason Ebel began home-brewing to recreate the beers they had tasted there, eventually setting up a homebrew and wine making retail store, before taking the plunge and founding their own brewery Two Brothers Artisan Brewing in 1996. In its near 20 years of existence, Two Brothers has grown from a 15 barrel system to a state-of-the-art brewery and three brewpubs (two in Illinois, one in Arizona) but is proud to remain 100% family-owned. Seven beers are produced year-round – including the Great American Beer Festival medal winner, Domaine DuPage French Country Ale – alongside seasonal and unique releases.

Half Acre Beer Company

Half Acre Beer Company offers a substantial food menu along with a rotating selection of seasonal brews

Located in Chicago’s vibrant North Center neighborhood, Half Acre Beer Company is the brainchild of founder Gabriel Magliaro who set up the company in 2006. Initially contract brewed out of a brewery in neighboring Wisconsin, Half Acre established its current 15 barrel brew house in 2009 and has since added a taproom and store. Half Acre offers four year-round beers complemented by a number of seasonal and one-off brews and in 2010, became the first craft brewery in Chicago to can its beer.

Bent River Brewing Company

Homebrew store owner Tim Koster dreamt of setting up his own brewery for years when in 1996, with the help of investors, he transformed his store in downtown Moline into a brewpub and by 1999 was crafting Bent River Brewing Company’s first keg of American pale ale. Now producing over 10,000 barrels of beer a year, Bent River Brewing Company also boasts a second brewery and tasting room in neighboring Rock Island. Try its Mississippi Blonde – a popular, light-bodied golden ale that took a bronze medal at the Great American Beer Festival in 2007.

5 Rabbit Cerveceria

Bringing a fresh take on Illinois’ craft brewing craze, 5 Rabbit Cerveceria boasts the unique status of being the USA’s first Latin American brewery and incorporates the flavors of Central and South America in many of its beers. Founded by Andrés Araya in 2011 and headed by brew master John J. Hall, 5 Rabbit’s brews include the ancho chile-flavored 5 Vulture Oaxacan-style Dark Ale and the coffee-flavored Yodo Con Leche – winner of the Classic Porter/Stout category at the 2014 Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beer. 5 Rabbit Cerveceria is open for brewery tours and its beers can be sampled in an onsite tap room.

Flossmoor Station Brewing Company

Founded in 1996 by owners Dean and Carolyn Armstrong, Flossmoor Station Brewing Company is a restaurant and brewery uniquely located in a restored turn-of-the-century train station. Within its first ten years in operation, it had racked up an impressive number of accolades including Chicago Magazine’s Best Brewery of 2002 and Best Small Brewpub and Brewer at the 2006 Great American Beer Festival. Brewery tours are available upon request and Flossmoor Station’s brewpub offers seven year-round beers on tap and a rotating fruit beer alongside hearty pub fare including a number of specialty dishes with specific beer pairings.


DESTIHL’s CEO and brew master Matt Potts first fell in love with craft beer in the early 1990s and after an 11-year career practicing law, he took the plunge and set up the brewery in 2007. Now boasting a 25 barrel brew house capable of producing 20,000 barrels a year and two gastro brewpubs, DESTIHL is establishing itself as one of Illinois’ premier breweries. DESTIHL’s year-round offerings include the World Beer Championship award-winning Black Angel American Stout and specialty releases include its Saint Dekkera Reserve Sour Ales series which is aged in oak barrels with microflora unique to downstate Illinois.

Pig Minds Brewing Company

Its motto is ‘beer with no boundaries’ and with unique brews like Cherry Pippins (an amber ale made with coca powder and organic white Napa peaches and aged on sour cherries) and Joe Daddy (a coffee stout made with molasses, brown sugar and Guatemalan coffee), Pig Minds Brewing Company certainly delivers. Launched in 2012, Pig Minds’ microbrewery – headed by brew master Carson Souza, who brings over seven years brewing experience to the role – is complemented by a brewpub featuring daily growler specials, live music and, quite uniquely for a brewpub, a solely vegan take on traditional pub grub.

Revolution Brewing

Revolution Brewing is the largest independently owned brewery in the state

A popular brewpub located in Chicago’s hip, bustling Logan Square neighborhood, Revolution Brewing is a labor of love for founder Josh Deth. Deth’s first foray into the world of craft brewing came in the mid-1990s with stints working at local breweries, and after spying the perfect location on Chicago’s Milwaukee Avenue and spending a long three years raising funds and dealing with red tape, he set up Revolution Brewing in 2010. A production brewery – one of the largest in Illinois – and taproom was added in 2012, and today Revolution Brewing produces around 50 different beers annually including Great American Beer Festival Award winners Cross of Gold and A Little Crazy.

Carbondale Craft Brewing

Carbondale Craft Brewing – a small community brewery specializing in small batch, handcrafted artisanal beers located in rural southern Illinois – are the minds behind Little Egypt Beer. Founded in 2012 and headed by brew master Ken Rhude – a beer judge with over 20 years home-brewing experience under his belt – Carbondale Craft Brewing can brew up to 300 barrels of beer per year and the brewery offers beer fans tours, tastings, pints and growlers. All beers are crafted using spring-fed lake water and the finest American and European hops: try its Little Egypt Hefeweizen, a gold medal winner at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival.

Haymarket Pub & Brewery

When craft brewing legend Pete Crowley is involved, you’re pretty much guaranteed first-rate beers. Specializing in classic Belgian and contemporary American brews, Crowley – who has won over 50 local, national and international brewing awards – opened Haymarket Pub & Brewery in Chicago in late 2010 and the brewpub has since scooped two gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival. Haymarket offers ten of its own house-brewed beers (including Crowley’s American Irish Stout and the chocolate malt and coffee-flavored Cuppa Joe Hill Coffee Porter) alongside a selection of craft beers from other brewers and regularly takes part in local events like Chicago Craft Beer Week.

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