Brew Hand Luke’s Elite Eight: Breweries Edition

Editor’s Note: We asked our guy Luke to write up some beer reviews after he recited a soliloquy for his 2021 Wild Prediction on the #108Fest – The Hangover Show. We knew he had the chops to write for us. Thanks Luke!

Greetings friends and beer drinkers, Brew Hand Luke (@ltayor_22) here changing things up a bit. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing the beer reviews and I know you have enjoyed reading them.  However, I will also be bringing some other additional blogs about beer and #108ing.  Today I bring you my Chicagoland brewery power rankings.  In order for everyone to better understand the process of deciding these power rankings, here are some things of note about how I decide these rankings:

  • Step One:  I decided to limit this to an elite eight, why eight you ask? Why the hell not?? #108ing
  • Step Two: The “core four” from Chicago will not be a part of the Elite Eight as they are more established than the rest.  Look for featured write ups exclusively about the core four in future blogs: Goose Island, Revolution, Half Acre, and Pipeworks.
  • Step Three: What about the rest? Like the NCAA Football and basketball coaches poll, there will be an “on the bubble” list. 
  • Step Four: The elite eight rankings will be updated monthly-ish (whenever the hell I feel like it) with movers and shakers. 

Step Five:  In order to keep a level playing field I am keeping the rankings (for now) based off of each brewery’s beers/beer names/artwork.

1 – Maplewood Brewery (Logan Square, Chicago)

Established in 2014, Maplewood has blazed trails after opening their taproom and expanding their distribution.  They don’t have a bad beer in their lineup and offer a vast variety that appeals to beer drinkers everywhere.  If you haven’t checked out Maplewood’s beer menu, I highly encourage you to begin with your next trip to your local liquor store.  If you aren’t sure from this recap, turn to Maplewood enthusiast Josh Nelson (@soxmachine_josh) for a second source to confirm any doubts. 

My favorites from Maplewood: Juice Pants(IPA 7%), Fat Pug (Stout 5.9%), Krispie Cakes (Pastry Case Ale 6%)

2 – Phase Three Brewing (Lake Zurich)

I recently discovered Phase Three Brewing as they are just a pup in the game having been open for only two years.  Phase Three features a variety of IPA’s including several double dry hopped IPA’s as well as the new hot thing in the brewing industry: the milkshake IPA’s.  Their flagship beer “Pixel Density” is one of the best citra IPA’s that you can find.  I am super excited for what the future has in store for Phase Three.  Looking for Phase Three near you?  Check out their distribution map here.

My favorites from Phase Three: DDH Pixel Density (Double IPA 8%), F Stop (Hazy IPA 7.5%), Pixel Density (Hazy Citra IPA 6.5%).

3 – Hop Butcher For The World (Darien)

Talk about a brewery on steroids.  Hop Butcher could easily find their way to the top of the elite eight rankings.  Formerly known as South Loop Brewing Company, Hop Butcher moved to the suburbs and now shares a brewhouse with Miskatonic Brewing.  The uniqueness of Hop Butcher is that they brew and distribute different beers to stores weekly and they fly off the shelves by the end of the day.  Featuring hazy and double IPA’s, Hop Butcher includes rare and exclusive hops in many of their beers.  Keep an eye on the rising stock of this brewery in future rankings. 

My favorites from Hop Butcher: Swirling Phlourish (Hazy Double IPA 8%), Beef Dipped (Hazy Double IPA7.5%), Galaxy Bowl (Hazy Double IPA 7.5%)

4 – Mikerphone Brewing (Elk Grove Village)

Despite the owner of Mikerphone being a Packers fan from Wisconsin, this has become a spot that I have come to enjoy.  The creativity to make a music themed brewery with beers titled as a tribute to classic songs is as authentic as you can get.  Most importantly, they make outstanding beer and have several collabs with other local breweries.  The one drawback is the accessibility of the beer as it is difficult to find in your local liquor store.

My favorites from Mikerphone: Mikerphone Check 1,2 (Double IPA 8.5%), Sauce (Hazy IPA 7%), Smells Like Bean Spirit Double Maple (Breakfast Stout 8%)

5 – Old Irving Brewing (Old Irving Park, Chicago)

This is another brewery that has been gaining a lot of steam as of late.  Opening in 2016, Old Irving is starting to become a staple on the local beer scene with increased distribution making it easier to get a hold of their beers at your local liquor store.  The Beezer series is a fan favorite of this brewery and one that everyone should check out.  

My favorites from Old Irving: Beezer (New England IPA 6.9%), Cinnamon Prost (White Stout 7%)

6 – Noon Whistle Brewing Company (Lombard/Naperville)

Noon Whistle originally started out by specializing in sessionable beers 5% ABV and under.  Previously they had 360 can tops that would pull completely off but have recently shifted to standard pop tops.  Within the last year Noon Whistle has opened a second location in Naperville on the heels of the success of their Gummy Series IPA’s which have been a huge hit.  Between the Gummy Series and their flagships, Noon Whistle is on the rise. 

My favorites from Noon Whistle: Don’t Worry Be Gummy (Hazy IPA 6.8%), Hop Prism Gold (IPA 6.7%), Gummypocalypse (Double IPA 8.2%)

7 – Imperial Oak Brewing (Willow Springs/Brookfield)

To put it simply, “If You Know, You Know.”  Imperial Oak has an extensive beer lineup that appeals to beer drinkers of all types.  They even feature a brand known as “Savage Oak” where they barrel age wild and sour beers.  Your best bet to find their beer is to go to the brewery in Willow Springs or check out their brand spanking new location in Brookfield that just opened this month.

My favorites from Imperial Oak: Buzz Light Beer (Honey Golden Ale 5.5%), Prediction Pain (Double IPA 8.5%), Crank It Dank (IPA 7%)

8 – Buckledown Brewing (Lyons)

What started as a small local brewery has evolved into a much more well known spot.  Buckledown is always pushing the envelope with different beers.  One specific beer is their Clencher Double IPA series that they periodically release brewed with a different hop variety on each release.  You can find their beer at just about any local liquor store in the Chicagoland area.

My favorites from Buckledown: Clencher 5 (Double IPA 8.7%), Hooligan Soup (English Mild Ale 4.3%), Belt And Suspenders (IPA 7%)

Others Receiving Votes

Here is a list of other breweries on the bubble that are the closest to breaking into the elite eight.

Off Color Brewing (Chicago): Good beer lineup and themes, their newest beer “Beer For Baseball” has the potential to get them over the hump.

Hailstorm Brewing (Tinley Park): Phenomenal IPA lineup, high ceiling for this brewery. 

More Brewing (Villa Park/Huntley): Recently expanded and opened a second location and began distributing more.  

Illuminated Brew Works (Chicago): Plenty of variety, eye popping artwork.

Sketchbook Brewing (Skokie/Evanston): On my radar, has a Cubs themed beer and no White Sox themed beer so the odds aren’t in their favor for now. 

So there you have it for the first edition of the Elite Eight.  Keep an eye out for future power rankings and find out who the movers and shakers are.

-Brew Hand Luke

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