Chicago has 4 notable large-scale breweries that are open for tours regularly, Revolution, Half Acre, Goose Island, and Lagunitas. And like most people who live in Chicago, they’ve been on my “I should check that out sometime” list ever since I turned 21. I suppose it wasn’t really a priority of mine, since my legal birthday was 5 years ago and I managed to keep mighty busy with the thousands of other places around the city to grab a beer.
But after a half decade delay I finally made it to Lagunitas new brewery and tap room that opened last May. This is my rant, rave, and review of what you can expect from this West Side Chicago venture.
Nestled in a repurposed steel plant, in the ruins of the semi-active manufacturing plants near California and 18th Street, Lagunitas is pretty far out there, and a world away from the Wrigleyville bars that I’m sure account for a massive chunk of the brewery’s local output.
You are carded at the entrance and are then directed down a super-blue hallway and up 3 flights of no-frills industrial stairs. The actual Tap Room is a large birds nest that overlooks the operation from 3 floors up where the rotating taps run about $5 a beer. It’s a cool setup.
The stage in the corner is an awesome touch. And live music starts at 4:20 every day.
Tours run every hour on the weekends and do not include tastings. The Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday tours do. You can check the schedule here. The tour itself runs 15-20 minutes and is rather relaxed and you learn about the history of the company and the building. I unfortunately went on a Sunday (so no free beer), and the tour was led by the super-passionate dude below.
You never get to actually go on the floor, but are led across these catwalks that overlook just about the entire place.
The tanks are gigantic, so there is no shortage of cool views and photo ops. The whole place reminded me of Breaking Bad, mostly because that is my only frame of reference to shiny silos, filters, and pipes in a warehouse setting.
Great Halloween idea for Lagunitas: 2 guys in hazmat suits messing around with a chemistry kit on the factory floor to mess with the tours.
All in all, Chicago Rants gives this 5/5 stars, but here’s the Rant.
I was aware of the buzz when Lagunitas had their grand opening last May, and I was in hopes that my year-long procrastination would yield a more complete operation, and while it all is impressive, the fact is this place is incomplete and the warehouse is still growing. There is still plenty of space and plans to fill it in. Tarps cover some areas and equipment is laid out everywhere. A partially-constructed stage is tucked away in the corner with plans for yet another area for live concerts. The tour guide also kept mentioning that the rooftop will be converted into a yet-to-be defined beer garden where you can bring your dog. This is all happening in the next few years. There is a TON of room to fill in, so while the Tap Room is complete, and the tour is impressive. The place feels like it will be in a constant state of remodeling for the foreseeable future. It’s probably for the best. And fits the Chicago well. 2 seasons: summer and construction.