The Year in Beer – Chicago and Beyond, 2012

In Chicago Craft Beer Almanac by Karl

Now that 2012 is coming to a close, we thought we’d go back and poke through the archives and the year of news to break down exactly what happened in one of the most crazy, busy, insane, explosive, expansive, interesting years in Chicago brewing history.

January 1, 2012: Happy new year, y’all! Hopefully something interesting will happen in the world of Chicago beer this year…

January 3: Hot on the heels of the opening of Barrelhouse Flat, we waste zero time declaring Lincoln Avenue as Chicago’s best drinking street, and we stand by that claim.

January 24: Slumbrew officially debuts in Chicago. We liked their porter. 20120128-112009.jpg

January 30: Ryan presents a talk to the Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois, and tells them why craft beer is so awesome. (Okay, it’s more expansive than just that, but just go read the post.)

February 15: Via the A.V. Club, we get our first look at Goose Island’s 312 cans, which were released just weeks later in early March.

March 6: Pipeworks Brewing officially releases their first beers: Smoked Porter, Ninja Vs. Unicorn and End of Days. Josh Noel at the Tribune said they debuted “to the drinker’s equivalent of a standing ovation,” while when we tried the End of Days we called it “portrait art versus Jackson Pollack. It’s Rush’s 2112 versus the Misfits.”

March 26: Lakeview gets a little more interesting when Eater announces that Dryhop Bistro & Microbrewery is planning to open up on Broadway in a former “adult novelty” store. Collaborations between the Dryhop guys and other Chicago brewers follow throughout 2012.

March 22: Over in Indiana, the “Three Floyds” Amendment is signed into law.

April 1: Happy birthday to us! We turn two, and we wonder why we decided to pick April Fools Day as a birthday knowing full well that the internet goes all silly every year on this date.

April 2: This is no joke: Ravenswood’s Argyle Brewing announces that they’re now Begyle Brewing. More on them later.

April 10: In what has to be the biggest beer news of the year, Tony McGee announces via Twitter that he’s planning a massive 250-bbl brewhouse for his Lagunitas Brewing, to open in Chicago in late 2013.

April 12: Pretty much cementing that cider was going to be the big new thing, Greg Hall debuts his Red Streak at an event at the Hideout.

April 16: New Chicago Beer (who changed their name from New Chicago Brewing in October 2011) announces that they’re leaving The Plant, the vertical zero-waste farm that had been much of the focal point of their startup. They’ve been barely heard from since.

April 26: The Chicago Tribune posts a feature about Three Floyds, in which they mention that Nick Floyd is scouting spots for a Chicago-based brewpub. Unsurprisingly, Chicago beer fans freak the eff out immediately.

April 27: We announce our “South of 80” event at The Green Lady, followed by the southof80tap list announcement a couple of weeks later.

May 3: Alderman Amaya Pawar sends out what remains the most awesome beer-related tweet from a Chicago politician.

May 17: Chicago Craft Beer Week kicks off with Beer Under Glass at the Garfield Park Conservatory. Many hangovers ensue.

May 19: They started pouring at events for Chicago Craft Beer Week a couple of days earlier, but since their taproom officially opened on this date, we’ll call this the “official” start date for Solemn Oath in Naperville, one of our favorite new breweries to emerge onto the scene this year (based on names of beers alone).

June 7: The Illinois Liquor Control Commission cites Anheuser-Busch for violating the Illinois Liquor Control Act. Lawyers, suit up.

June 19: Fountainhead finally opens their rooftop patio, with one of the most extensive canned beer menus in the nation. We visited and reported back, saying  “[we] can’t think of a better place to sit outside and drink a craft beer;”  Stockyard Chicago dug it as well.’

June 22: Atlas Brewing Company opens their doors.

July 2: Four words: Big Hurt Beer, reviewed.

July 6: Had you ever heard of One Trick Pony brewing south of Chicago before this date? Well, we had, but you probably didn’t until we posted this tale of FOIA-ing, ILCC tracking, and generally tracking down all the info about this under-the-radar brewer.

August 2: Hopothesis Brewing Company officially debuts at the Beer Bistro, pouring their Hopothesis IPA.

August 8: Oskar Blues enters Chicago with a flurry of events not seen since Stone started pouring in Chicago.

August 10: Here’s something pretty much no one expected: Goose Island’s John J. Hall heads to the South Side to take over as Brewmaster of 5 Rabbit.

August 12: The Detroit Free Press announces that Michigan’s apple crop was virtually wiped out this year; terrible news for cider producers. We check in a day later with Paul at Vander Mill Cider to get his take.

August 18: The Oak Park Micro Brew & Food Review takes place, which is also the first official event for Begyle Brewing. We preview the event here.

August 24: Anheuser-Busch announces that they’re taking Goose Island national, making them one of the few craft brands available coast to coast. On the same day, Ryan sits down with Ike Orkutt of Hopothesis to talk about their new brew, as well as that “7% sessionable beer” comment that a number of people seemed to take issue with. hopothesisipa

August 28: Speaking of Begyle, they ride a wave of press about their opening, their Kickstarter campaign and their Community Brewery Subscription model that includes a nice profile on Center Square Journal, an interview on Aleheads, oh – and with us, too.

September 4: Fall Beer Freedom Day arrives. The city rejoices, opening harvest ales, pumpkin beers and Oktoberfests en masse.

September 27: A suburban state lawmaker introduces a bill in the IL House to bring homebrew back to beer festivals in the state.

October 1: Central Illinois gets to experience the greatness of Great Lakes Brewing Company, as they expand their distribution network out from greater Chicagoland. On the same day, news breaks that Dogfish Head and Louis Glunz distribution are going to fight it out in court.

October 15: Another major west-coast brewer announces plans to come to Chicago on this date, this time it’s Deschutes. Their beloved Black Butte Porter, among others, will be released in early January. On the same day, breweries in Illinois cart home nearly a dozen medals from the Great American Beer Festival.

October 19: On the heels of our South of 80 event, Six Row Brewing out of St. Louis announces it’s coming to Chicago.

October 29: Binnys quietly announces that Kona Brewing would be coming to Chicago and Chipotle not-so-quietly announces they’ll be carrying 5 Rabbit’s beers at their Chicago-area restaurants.

October 31: Happy Halloween! The ILCC says that Anheuser-Busch can keep their 30% stake in City Beverage. Other distributors? Not super happy with that decision.

November 2: Half Acre opens their tap room, making Lincoln Avenue and North Center even more of an awesome place to drink beer. (Remember when we said Lincoln Avenue was the best drinking street in Chicago? This cements it). We also go all Nostradamus on the City Beverage vote.

November 5: We get the skinny on downstate brewpub Destihl’s plans for a production brewery. November 7: Chicago based Revolution Brewing inks its first distribution deal outside of Illinois.

November 12: Brewery Vivant debuts in Chicago. Their “Triomphe” remains one of the best Belgian Pale Ales we’ve had.

November 16: Just 3 months after Greg Hall splits to brew at 5 Rabbit, John Hall steps down as CEO of Goose Island.

November 21: Following the Schadenfreude of the New York Times review, how could we not go to Guy Fieri’s Times Square restaurant and drink their beer?

November 23: Our friends at 4 Paws Brewing announce they’ve nailed down a space for their production brewery on N. Wolcott, just a hop-skip-jump from Metropolitan Brewing on Ravenswood. With that squared away, they announce their goal is to be pouring at Chicago’s Craft Beer Week 2013.

November 27: Completing the “people leaving Goose Island” trifecta, the Tribune breaks the story that John Laffler is departing Goose to partner with former Two Brothers brewer Dave Bleitner on their new project, Off Color Brewing. They promise “very bizarre beer no one has heard of or knows about” which immediately appeals directly to us. These guys shot to the top of the Breweries to Watch List 2013 (which doesn’t exist, but if it did, they’d be up there).

December 5: Spiteful Brewing’s first offering, GFY Stout, hits shelves around Chicago. (Our review can be found here.)

December 12: The “Best Beer In The World” hits shelves for a hot second or two; we call it the #Westypocalpse and grab a 6’er for ourselves as well. Good luck with the roof, you crazy brewin’ monks, you.

December 17: The end of the year doesn’t mean that news can’t be made. Today it was announced that the city’s biggest independent craft beer distributor, Windy City, with dozens of accounts with top name craft beer makers, has sold itself to Reyes Beverage, where it will be sibling to Chicago Beverage Systems.

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About the Author



Karl has written about food, travel and beer for Chicago Magazine, Thrillist, Time Out Chicago, AskMen and more. His book, Beer Lovers Chicago, is now available via Amazon and other booksellers.If you're buying, he's likely having a porter or a pale ale.

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