Since prohibition ended more than 80 years ago, small-batch, hand-crafted ales and lagers have slowly made a return to the mainstream. That enthusiasm culminates Monday in the beginning of American Craft Beer Week.
Starting Monday, you're going to be seeing ads and specials for beer dinners and tastings all over town. The stars of the show are the little guys in the industry. They don't have huge marketing campaigns, and you've probably never even heard of most of them.. But take a sip and you'll quickly realize that these artisans have earned the right to declare a week all their own.
You'd think nothing of seeing microbrews in stores these days. Great Lakes and Three Floyds are two regionals with great reputations. But the craft movement really got its start four decades ago, when Fritz Maytag took over Anchor Steam Brewing in San Francisco.
"Gradually, just got a sense of the traditions of brewing that have been largely lost, so when we finally had a brewery that was physically capable of doing good things, I already had good ideas -- or let's say interesting concepts -- about traditional brewing," said Maytag.
Maytag's legacy can be felt throughout the industry, which has focused as much on creating flavorful beer as it has using irreverent marketing.
"These are the glory days of brewing in America and in the world, but especially in the United States. There's more creativity, more variety, more integrity, more tradition in the American brewing than anywhere in the world by far," Maytag said.
At the Louis Glunz warehouse in Lincolnwood, more than 800 different kinds of beer await distribution. The company's general manager says customers' tastes continue to evolve.
"They don't have as much money to spend, so they're going to go out and have a couple beers. They're drinking less, but they're drinking better," said Jerry Glunz, the GM of Louis Glunz, Inc.
A big part of Glunz's job is to educate retailers.
"When it comes to the bars, we really have to show them these menus, list the beer, talk about them, tell them about the different styles, tell them about the different flavors they should be tasting and the beers. It's a lot of fun right now," he said.
It's especially fun for places like the Small Bar, which has three locations in the city and an enviable list of craft beers on its list.
"It was just something that we were kind of passionate about was craft beer and beers that actually had full flavor; more than just your typical American lager beer," said Ty Fujimura, owner of the Small Bar.
From the deeply intense Surly -- a Minnesota cult favorite -- to a Lagunitas or a Stone Brewing "Old Guardian" from California, Fujimura says other bars are now jumping on the craft beer wave, whether they like it or not.
"It's led, not only to bars like ours that do all the craft beer and micro and that type of thing, but other bars that have been around for a long time see that these people are coming in and asking them for these beers and we need to start carrying them," Fujimura said.
1415 W. Fullerton
2049 W. Division
2956 W. Albany
Events going on next week:
Monday, May 17 and Tuesday, May 18
Three Floyds Beer Dinners
161 N. Jefferson St.
Chicago, IL 60661
Wednesday, May 19
Dogfish Head Beer Tasting
The House Pub
16 S. First Avenue
St. Charles, IL 60174
Thursday, May 20
Anchor Beer & Food Pairing with Anchor Brewmaster
Sheffield's Beer Garden and BBQ Restaurant
3258 N. Sheffield Ave.
Chicago, IL 60657
For a list of events and schedule-
Chicago Craft Beer Week's website:
More information about American Craft Brewers Week:
May 17-23 Nationwide
Events put on by Brewers Association:
205 N. Broadway Ave., Aurora
Flossmoor Station Brewing Company
1035 Sterling Rd., Flossmoor
Emmett's Brewing Company
110 N. Brockway St., Palatine
Limestone Brewing Company
12337 Rt. 59 Suite 155, Plainfield
Some other good places to find craft beer:
5148 N. Clark St.
The Bad Apple
4300 N. Lincoln Ave.
1375 W. Lake St.
2401 N. Western Ave.
1747 N. Damen Ave.