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Oct 20, 2014

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Chicago pub crawls

By Gregg Smith

On foot

Second City, Chi-Town, Windy City, Hog Slayer to the World, City of Big Shoulders, by whatever name you go, Chicago is tavern-town USA and with more than 2,700 licensed bars there's certainly enough for anybody to find at least one to fall in love with.

"Warming up and stretching": begin at Zum Deutschen Eck 2924 N.Southport (312) 525- 8121 If you drove this is a logical place to start because this restaurant/bar has it's own parking lots. Inside you're greeted by an oak bar and a selection of German taps and bottles. It might be wise to begin with a little something to eat and what better with beer than German food? The weekends have live music - traditional German bands of course.

When you've finished your warm up head north to Barry (4 short blocks) and turn left for two long blocks, just past Ashland to 1658 W. Barry, home of Cody's Public House (312) 528-4050. This is a neighborhood bar with an oaken back bar. Ten taps and a large selection of bottled beers awaits the visit and for entertainment there's a Bocci Court. Bocci? For the uninitiated this is a form of Italian lawn bowling, generally the object is to get your designated ball closest to the smaller "pill". Of course what makes it the most fun is that beer drinking and friendly arguments are a mandatory part of the game.

Back on the street head east three blocks and then down to 3159 N.Southport to Schuba's (312) 525-2508. Looks can be deceiving, and this bar falls in that category. It seems much too decorated with painted brickwork and a large terra cotta bass relief "Schlitz" globe from the days when bars were "tied" to breweries. What this is is another of the neighborhood places that seem so common in the midwest. At first entry it seems the small front room is all there is to the bar. Order your beer and take it the atmosphere before walking to the back where frequently there's live music on stage.

Three blocks north from Schuba's is your next stop, Southport Lanes: 3325 N. Southport (312) 472-1601. You may suspect this is a bowling alley, and in part you're right but it is foremost a bar. What a bar; a great, long specimen of dark wood with eight taps offering up a variety of brews. As with other bars this one has a variety of wall hangings which almost seems a mini-museum but it's in the separate room where the real surprise is...handset bowling lanes. Should you choose to indulge, do be careful, handset means there's a human back there instead of machines to reset the pins after you bowl.

If you can tear yourself away from your second bowling alley in six blocks (remember the bocci at Cody's) it's only another block north, and across the street, to 3358 N.Southport the home of Justin's (312) 929-4844. Inside is a U shaped bar with ten taps set among brick walls. Outback there's a beer garden, nice in the summer, but it can get a bit cold there in the winter. Again,like so many in Chicago, this is a neighborhood type of place.

On leaving Justin's walk another couple of blocks to the Saga Laundry: this is the location of the Launder Bar: 1344 W. Newport (312) 665-0555. Although the address says Newport you can enter from Southport by walking through, yes that's right, a laundry. In back there's a bar (its entrance is the one on Newport.) This setup might be enough to make you want to go out to do your laundry. A status board has lights which indicates when your machine is done. "Tap me another barkeep while I switch things over to the dryer." The choices are great with a half dozen taps to choose from.

Exit the Saga Laundry (Launder Bar) and retrace your steps back to Roscoe and turn right (west.) After a bit of a hike you'll see the Village Tap at 2055 W.Roscoe (312) 883-0817. This bar is Chicago's answer to Oakland's "Last Chance Saloon." Although there's a great back bar, nothing in the place is quite straight. No matter, the beer and selection is great. Village Tap boasts 31 taps although this number may not always be accurate, they're constantly adding more. This is another with a beer garden out back and the food menu is as satisfying and varied as the beer.

For the last stop you'll head to Sheffield's 3258 N.Sheffield (312) 281-4989 A corner bar located near Wrigley field, the best time to visit might be when the cubs are not playing. There's a light dozen taps and about 100 bottle selections. Like others in this town, there's a beer garden in back but this one also has an outdoor pool table. In the bar check out the chalkboard for the latest list of beers and for any specials, including their "Bad Beer of the Month".

By taxi

Chicago tour number two is designed for taxi rides, don't be put off, the route runs generally from the near north to city center and provides a great view of the cross section that is Chicago. Start your bar journey at 5148 N. Clark where you'll find Hopleaf (312) 334-9851. You've got a big choice at the Hopleaf so if you don't find a favorite among the eight taps take a look at the chalk board full of selections with up to twenty from Belgium alone. The bar is rather small but comfortable. Even when it's crowded it's the kind of place you don't want to leave; and during off peak times they have a variety of games and other diversions.

For your second stop take a cab to Chicago Brauhaus 4732 N. Lincoln (near Lawrence) (312) 784-4444 A classic neighborhood bar and a must stop for the BeerHall ambiance and solid German cooking - "it's the wurst." Live music, four taps and a good bottle selection provide just about everything you'd need in abeer bar.

From the Brauhaus it's a little less than a mile south on Lincoln to The Great Beer Palace 4128 N. Lincoln (312) 525-4906 You might be led to believe this is the home of "Hagar the Horrible" because they've developed one of the more unusual beer clubs this side of Bandersnatch's "Beer in the Face Club" from Phoenix. Joining the Viking Raider club gets you a choice of six beers, from among their twenty-four taps, and a picture of you mugging in a viking hat which goes up on the wall.

The next stop is a three block walk south on Lincoln and a right at Irving Park to Resi's Bierstube 2034 W. Irving Park (312) 472-1749 One of the more well known ethnic bars in the Windy City, the cuisine, 130 beers and decor is a ticket to Germany without leaving the midwest. A well thought out beer list awaits. As with other Chicago area bars a recommendation during warmer weather is to take a break in the beer garden outback.

From Resi's it's only another block to Laschet's at 2119 W.Irving Park (312) 539-5275 Like its neighbor this is a German bar. Again the beer selection is good and cared for well. Back in the cab and it's over to Quencher's at 2401 N.Western (312) 276- 9730 Even more than a neighborhood kind of place, if your grandpa would have taken you in a bar during his day it would have looked like this. There's a chalk board with a handwritten menu, and the old coolers have wood and glass doors. The selection emphasizes the beers of the world and offers more than 15 taps and 225 bottles. If the beers aren't enough to make you stay the atmosphere is. This is a classic bar, and shouldn't be missed.

Another cab brings you to 1801 Clybourn, home of the US Beer Company (312) 871- 7799 though different than the others along the route, it shares the trait of being another of the city's "local" hangouts. The shift to other than mainstream American beers is rather recent; despite this there are more than 15 taps to choose from and more on the way. There's also a good sized selection of 160 bottles.

The next ride draws you still closer to downtown. Clark Street Ale House at 742 N.Clark (312) 642-9253 Looks every bit the old landmark bar. Nevermind that it's less than a year old. The etched glass and rich-crafted-wood and exposed brick appointments creates a friendly warmth from the moment you enter. It's like going home, except at home it's not likely you'll get 24 taps and a choice of over 50 more bottles.

Still need to get downtown? Head south on Clark and then onto Division. This area is famous for it's concentration of clubs and bars. You'll find the House of Beer at 312 W. Division St. (312) 642-2344 This was one of those bars which in the late 70's and 80's catered to Chicago's pick up scene near Rush Street (was that Harry Carey?) but today it has taken the pledge to qualitybrew. Inside they have 21 taps and more than 150 bottles. Not the most classic of bars, but certainly worth a visit if you're in the area. Of most note may be the emphasis put on single malt scotch, take time to check out the list, it's worth sampling.

Want a Guiness to top off your evening? Head to Kitty O'Shea's in the Hilton on Michigan Avenue just south of the Chicago Art Institute. Do they tap one of the best drafts of Guinness in the states? It could be; they pour the freshest, this is one of the largest Guinness stout accounts in the US. The pub is a comfortable mix of wood and etched glass but suffers from the hotel habit of keeping things a little too clean. The staff can help you overcome any of those reservations, nearly all of the wait-staff is directly from Ireland.

Gregg Smith

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