Malt Row's breweries, distiller bring 'liquid tourism' to North Side

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Neighborhoods like Ravenswood and North Center have a lot going for them: proximity to transportation, interesting restaurants and plentiful bars.

That last point is significant, because, with the help of the city, a "Malt Row" has been created along the Metra Line near Ravenswood, with a half-dozen breweries and a spirit distiller. It's creating some liquid tourism for the area as well.

The taps at Spiteful Brewing have recently expanded - along with the business - even though the founders started brewing six years ago. They produce IPAs, porters and lagers, and insisted on staying in the neighborhood even though they had to expand and move.

"It's a nice collaborative feeling that we have with them and it allows us to build our relationships and push craft beer together, as opposed to individually; I feel like we can fight the fight a little bit easier collectively than we can individually," said co-owner Jason Klein.

Refreshing Belgian Wits, dark, malty stouts and bitter IPAs are among the options along a wall with 16 taps.

"When we opened I think we were the 10th production brewery in Chicago - that was in 2012 - now there's over 60 I think," Klein said.

Just down the road, Empirical Brewery has been in business since 2014; they added a taproom a year later. They take a scientific empirical approach to making beer.

"So we'll do multiple iterations of each beer and figure out what's best about them, what needs work, and we'll make seven to eight iterations sometimes of our main production beers before we actually choose the best style," said Amy Czarkowski.

Red sours are a bit out of the ordinary, but best bet is to just try a flight, and see which style you prefer.

"During the winter we do more stouts and porters, during the summer we'll do more sours and IPAs and pale ales, but we always have something on the menu for any kind of style you're looking for," Czarkowski said.

Further south along Ravenswood is the two year-old Dovetail, which offers a specialized slate of beers.

"So we do continental European-style beers. German, Czech, Belgian, others, using very traditional methods," said Hagen Dost, the owner.

Dost also gets involved in passion projects, like a spontaneously fermented lambic-style beer that took two years to make. There are quite a few options from the in-house taps, some of which are barrel-aged. Seeing workers skim off an open vat makes you feel as if you're in Belgium. But Dost says the reason they're here, is the supporting role of the other breweries nearby, as well as the neighborhood.

"We're really close to transportation, we've got a great residential neighborhood around us with people who love drinking craft beer," Dost said. "And a cooperative Alderman is one of the most important things."

Now we only talked about three different breweries but there are a half dozen in this neighborhood, including Half Acre and Begyle and if you're interested in spirits, there's Koval up the street. Cheers to that.

EXTRA COURSE: Koval Distillery, the pioneer on Malt Row
EMBED More News Videos

Extra Course: Koval Distillery, the pioneer on Malt Row

Spiteful Brewing
2024 W Balmoral Ave
(773) 293-6600

Empirical Brewery
1801 W Foster Ave
(773) 654-3104

Dovetail Brewery
1800 W Belle Plaine Ave
(773) 683-1414

Five Other Spots for Drinking Beer Made on the Premises:

Begyle Brewing

1800 W. Cuyler Ave.

Revolution Brewing
2323 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Half Acre Beer
4257 N. Lincoln Ave.

Hopewell Brewing
2760 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Moody Tongue Brewery
2136 S. Peoria St.
Copyright © 2022 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.