The Run Down
As Chicago begins to slowly re-open, we're partaking in a beloved Chicago winter time activity -- day drinking and binge eating. Our guide takes us to one of the city's designated industrial corridors in West Town. It covers over 1,000-acres and it's mainly filled with warehouses and light manufacturing facilities, but it's also home to a growing and packed beer scene with five breweries and a distillery all clustered within a mile of each other. We're easing into the reopening and visiting two of the newest breweries, each with a different vibe, that have opened up their taproom for indoor seating. Between the visits, we're also going to grab ourselves some artisan donuts from a pair of bakers who've setup a space in coffee roasting facility nearby.
1. Midwest Coast Brewing
We’re hanging out in the Kinzie Industrial Corridor, a quiet stretch of warehouses and factories in a part of West Town you may have passed by before without really noticing it. It’s gained traction as a hub for beer brewers, and we’re starting things out at Midwest Coast Brewing, the newest addition to the area.
Started by a brother-sister duo, the brewery is located inside a 100-year old building that had been vacant for a decade before Midwest Coast Brewing came along in late 2019. A few things to note as you plan your trip.
– They’re dog and children friendly
– No reservations necessary at this point, but strict capacity and other social distancing rules are enforced
– They’ve got their own parking lot and patio, but plenty of street parking available in the area too
When you walk into the tap room it opens up to a bright and roomy space with much of the original exposed brick and wood-bow truss ceilings still intact. Wrapped inside this old building are more modern coastal design elements that offer perpetual breezy summer time vibes, despite whatever the reality may be outside.
The laid back atmosphere makes this a good place kick things off and ease into things with good conversation and good beer.
Our dog friends were plentiful on our visit. If you end up doing this on a nice day, bring your pup along as the second brewery we’re going to has a dog-friendly patio.
2. Brite / Metric Coffee
Two blocks from Midwest Coast Brewing is Metric Coffee, a roasting facility, training center, and cafe all in one spot. They roast and package their coffee beans at this facility and have a small cafe open during the day.
While a coffee pick-me-up might be useful now, the other reason we’re here is because it’s time for a donut break before we continue on the next half of this day drinking extravaganza.
Step into the coffee shop and at the counter you’ll find a variety of pastries from Brite Donuts and Baked Goods. This bakery is a product of the pandemic. It was started in late 2020 by two ex-Publican chefs, Erika Chan and Sieger Bayer who decided to start off on their own as the hospitality industry took a hit. They have a kitchen space inside the same building as Metric and have partnered with the them to sell all of their baked goods in the cafe.
At the moment it’s a constant experiment of flavors, techniques, and different products. Their line up of donuts and pastries can change week to week depending on what they’re in the mood to make and what they’re able to source.
3. District Brew Yards
We’re on the last leg of this guide, and we’re ending things at District Brew Yards for some beer and bbq.
District Brew Yards is more like a beer brewery collective. Four different upstart brewers share this space and it acts as a way for them to share knowledge and resources as they build their business. What that means for us is that we get to access over 40 different drafts all in one space.
Here’s how this works. When you enter, you’ll need to check in at the front register where they’ll give you something that looks like a credit card. That card allows you to access self pour machines in the tap room. There are over 40 different taps that you can access and fill up your cup with however much beer you want. The card tracks how many ounces you pour and you pay up at the end.
Here’s a shot of the taps from Bold Dog Brewery. You’ll place your card in a slot in front of the beer you want to pour, and you’ll see on the screen how many ounces you’re pouring and the cost per ounce. As part of their covid precautions, there are disposable tissue papers that you can use to cover the handle of the taps as you pour.
On one side of the tap room you’ll find Lillie’s Q BBQ, a staple of the Chicago bbq scene for over 10 years. They moved on from their popular Bucktown location and set up inside District Brew Yards in 2020.
I don’t know if you can find a better spot to cater to people who have been drinking, but they’ve got a prime location and have monopoly market power on the whole thing — it’s basically a cheat code for money.
Now let’s talk food. Their menu has plenty of stuff if you’re looking to just snack while you drink or you can go all-in and have a bbq feast of Carolina style baby back ribs and brisket.
If you’re just looking for a snack, these bbq queso fries, in all its cheese-y, fried glory, signaled a way too familiar end to a day drinking extravaganza.