Beer culture thrives in southwest suburbs

March 20, 2010 6:49:19 AM PDT
Beer geeks have so many places to grab a pint these days from Munster, Indiana, all the way to Warrenville, not to mention a handful of spots in the city. But up until recently, the southwest suburbs have been keeping quiet.Not anymore.

From Mokena to Orland Park, high-quality beer is on tap, either shipped in or made on-site. And they're all trying to match the quality of the food to the ales, stouts and lagers in the glass.

The brewpub vibe is alive and well in Mokena. Tribes Alehouse may not make their own brew, but they're proudly carrying more than 40 different taps, many of which - like the New Holland Dragon's Milk Ale or Surly Furious from Minnesota - are hard to find. To go along with the strong ales, stouts and Belgian lambics there's an extensive menu, featuring lamb chop "lollipops," a mountain of nachos that could literally feed a high school hockey team and even some plated dishes, such as a hearty grilled pork chop over sauteed spinach with a disc of roasted potato gratin.

A few miles to the West, Harrison's Restaurant and Brewery satisfies a niche in Orland Park, with their assortment of hand-crafted beers, brewed on-site. Pale ales mingle with raspberry wheats, so the kitchen tries to keep pace.

"We have a hint of cajun in our menu, so we do little cooling beer flavors for the jambalaya, like spicy dish goes well with a little darker beer and our steaks and chops as well," said said Robert Nakos, the owner of Harrison's

Fish tacos feature tilapia, while their chocolate cheesecake might be best suited to a dark imperial stout.

"As they come in here they're asking for stronger beers, darker beers, more favorful beers. So we were able to create more for that towards the customers," said Nakos.

Just a few miles up the road, Granite City is the only Chicago area location for the St. Cloud, Minnesota-based regional chain. A balsamic-accented chicken with rice pilaf stands up to a Northern light lager, while a shrimp pasta needs something more assertive, like their Scottish Ale - a hoppy, flavorful brew.

"We're mostly beer-driven. We limit the rest of our selection, our bottle selection, so we're mostly tap beer driven. We run a basic lager, a bock, stout. We have a wheat beer now and we run seasonal beers," said Adam Bieranowski, the General Manager of Granite City.

All of the beers are made elsewhere, but they're finished on-site, which gives them more control over the finished product.

"They're transferred here, or to each one of the stores, into our fermentation vessel. We ferment them here, that gives us, like I said a much more consistent product," said Bieranowski.

Both Harrison's and Granite City also sell growlers - half-gallon glass jars - which they'll fill up, seal, and let you take home to enjoy. They can obviously be returned and filled again and again. Granite City has a second location in Rockford, by the way.

Tribes Alehouse
11220 W. Lincoln Highway, Mokena

Harrison's Brewery
15845 S. LaGrange Rd.

Granite City Food and Brewery
14035 S. LaGrange Rd.

7140 Harrison Ave., Rockford