In the past couple years, hundreds of craft breweries have been opening up around the country. According to The Hop Preview, there are 66 breweries in the Chicago land area alone. One of the largest breweries in Chicago and now, one of my personal favorites is Lagunitas.
Tony Magee started Lagunitas in 1993 in Northern California. After out-growing his small home brew set up, he relocated to Petaluma, CA in 1994. In an interview with Food GPS, Tony explains how he first got into home brew and became addicted. He explains, “My little brother bought me a homebrew kit for Christmas in ’92. I first brewed using that February, ’93, and it was like a seizure. I was smitten and by December I had the brewery open.”
Years later, Magee opened up in Chicago. This facility was even bigger than Petaluma, housing 1.6 million barrels. This is Chicago’s largest craft brewery and lives on the Southwest side. Fun fact: it is a couple blocks from where the hit TV series Chicago Fire is filmed. Our tour guide let us know that Chicago Fire has also used the 300,000 square foot facility for filming from time to time.
The tours at Lagunitas are short and sweet. Lasting about 20 minutes, our tour guide shared the story of Lagunitas and Tony Magee. Most brewery tours I have been on walk the guests through the science of making beer. It was a nice change to hear about why the brewery was built, the owner’s story, and an assortment of fun facts like how Magee did not turn a profit for years after the brewery was built. Our tour guide walked us around the catwalk, beer in hand, cracking jokes and telling stories.
After the tour, we sat in the tap room equipped with community-style picnic tables and a view of the facility.
We ordered a beer flight, my brother got the Flat-Top Burger and myself The Hogunitas, a sandwich with slow roasted carnitas, Applewood smoked bacon, sliced ham, house made pickles, dijonaise, caramelized onion and Swiss cheese. Needless to say, the goodness does not stop with their beer.
After trying all the beers, my favorites are the Daytime Ale and the traditional Lagunitas IPA. The brewery was overall worth the trip. The atmosphere is one you want to kick back and hang out in. When you are done enjoying the beer and food, say hello to the magician on the way out, and make your way down the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory feeling hallway.
If you love trying new craft beer, I am going to assume you love trying new cocktails also. Come try The Chopping Block's new mixology hands-on classes at the Merchandise Mart where you will learn to make a few different signature cocktails from Mixologist Tim Williams. We have a new class coming up on Friday, March 23 called "Drink This, Not That" which explores the ins and outs of what you need for the perfect at-home bar and the real dos and donts of how to perfectly replicate some quintessential classic cocktails.
While you are in the mood for a drink, try out a 6-pack of our locally sourced cider by Right Bee Cider, the first cidery in Chicago, on our retail floor!