As a Wheaton native, I still can’t believe that Dry City Brew Works even exists. But it does.Ispent the first 18-19 years of my life as a Wheaton resident, and even though I moved out too early to “enjoy” the pleasure of having to leave town to drink a draft beer, it’s certainly not hard to remember the widespread reputation of the town back then as a dry, staid, straight-laced and extremely conservative town that had a ton of churches and frowned on fun.
Now it’s a mostly dry, staid, straight-laced and extremely conservative town…that has a brewery, too.
A little more context. Back then, every high schooler knew that local drinking options were basically limited to just The Gables, a bar that somehow got magically grandfathered into an unincorporated address despite being blocks from downtown, and then it’s out to the bowling alley, the VFW hall and so on. When I tell people I’m from Wheaton, I still get questions like “so how religious are you?” and “so you’re totally religious, right?” and “are you allowed to chew gum?” and “I heard Footloose was based on that town?”, etc.
Hell, Winfield seemed like it was cooler. Winfield.
Flash forward to 2014 and now downtown Wheaton has spas, Vietnamese and sushi restaurants, a coffee roaster, a pub that serves drinks and (gasp) an honest-to-god brewery and tasting room. Seriously, if I didn’t see it with my own two eyes, I’d not believe it existed. Surely this had to be a very elaborate hoax, right?
Dry City Brew Works, by the name alone, is certainly aware of the preconceived of what Wheaton is. Dry City had the balls to open up right on Main Street, but their tiny tasting room, jammed behind an antique/thrift store, seems to be the city saying “Know your place. Hide back here and don’t cause any trouble.” All the same, there they are, just a half-block from where I went to the dentist as a kid and kitty corner from the Starbucks where my sister worked for a while.
As you can tell by the blithering above, the beer could be totally awful and it wouldn’t matter to me due to the fact that Dry City, a brewery in Wheaton, is a real thing in the universe. That said, thankfully, the beer is not awful.
It’s a perfectly reasonable $9 for a flight of four beers, featuring a regularly rotating selection along with a current handle for craft soda for the kiddies and the lingering spirit of Jonathan Blanchard. When we were there, they were featuring the MiracAle amber, the Ye Olde Ale (you may be able to guess that this is an old ale), the Stout-Man imperial stout (again, fairly straightforward naming conventions here) and the Providence coffee milk stout.
The amber was a little light in body and flavor for my taste, and the imperial stout was pretty run of the mill, but the Olde Ale had a very nice pronounced butterscotch and toffee sweetness to it, like one of those Dum-Dum suckers you get as a kid when your folks go to the bank, and the hearty 8.4% ABV was well hidden like so many old ales are unable to do.
The big winner was the Providence coffee milk stout, roasty and rich and creamy and sweet and very well-balanced between all of the above; a true keeper and a beer that bodes well for the future of Dry City. It’s worth going back for, and I might consider asking for a flight of nothing but Providence in four little tasting glasses.
Did we mention this place was tiny? The fermenters and the 5 bbl brewhouse are right next to the walk-in with the serving tanks, which is like 2 feet from the bar, which is like ten feet from the front door. We were there with approximately 20 other people on a Saturday afternoon and it seemed pretty packed. I like a nice intimate space as much as the next guy, but it does make you appreciate the relative airiness of, say, the Revolution Kedzie facility.
Dry City is (like many suburban breweries) a quick walk from the Metra station, so downtown denizens have no excuse not to go check it out in between shopping for Bibles and donating to Tea Party Republicans. However, due to tasting room rules, they can only sell you three drinks per visit (credit only!), so maybe plan a ride to some of the other west-suburban outposts.
Between Noon Whistle in Lombard and Penrose in Geneva, the Roosevelt-Road-adjacent brewery crawl could most certainly be a thing. Let’s get West Chicago in on the action and we’ll really have something. There’s that strip mall over by Route 59 that certainly could use a new anchor tenant. Anyways. Dry City exists, and I’m glad it does.
Postscript: The bathroom also has a really kick ass sink. Check it out.