Only a few hundred meters from the site of the 1998 Real Ale Festival, its unpublicized location by festival organizers prevented many real ale aficionados from discovering the great beers of Weinkeller Brewery that were pushed by artificial CO2. Its easy to miss this unobtrusive building on the border of a residential neighborhood and the light commercial district that hosts the Inland Meeting and Exposition Center in the Chicago suburb of Westmont, Illinois. Once inside, the small varnished wooden bar beckons. A dozen bar stools with backs offer a view of the 200 commercial bottled beers on hand and, more importantly, of the 10 tap hanging from above on a brass goalpost-shaped appendage. Nearby, the lounge area features two dozen tables and chairs across a light beige stone tiled floor. An electric darts game stands in one corner while a silent TV sits unattended over the bar. The cigarette vending machine lurks along one wall, silently calling to those who cannot resist their craving for nicotine even among all these flavorful attractions. The outdoor patio lies abandoned, awaiting the return of nice weather. Above the sunken bar stands the brewhouse, proudly on display behind glass walls along the way to the dining area. Four stainless steel unitank fermenters from Pub Brewing Systems are kept very busy keeping the variety of beer styles constantly on hand.
The left half of the building houses the three distinct dining areas. Walking past the glass walled brewhouse, the four stainless steel seven-barrel unitanks stand shiny and well-lit from glowing red lamps. The adjacent dining area features a few booths and a dozen square wooden tables with padded burgundy chairs. To the right, another room offers cozy seating around a large centered fireplace. The back dining room hosts four upholstered booths and dark wooden tables standing on a white stone tiled floor. The padded cherry wood chairs complement well the slate green walls that hold large house beer label placards and a coaster collection. A small fireplace is nestled along one wall.
The Aberdeen Amber Ale is amber in color with a dry, malty sweet flavor and subtle hops present. The Bagpipe Scotch Ale is a clear brown with a smoky aroma and intense smoky flavor that is matched to a rich malty sweet character. At 10% abv and with 15% peated malt this brew is formidable but well done. The Dublin Stout has a creamy thick head with an equally creamy mouthfeel, big body and dry but smooth dark malt flavor. The Kristall Weiss is a clear gold, crisp and clean throughout with its dry, hoppy character. The Berliner Weisse is actually amber, with a raspberry aroma, light body and clean even finish where the sweet/tart flavor character is balanced with the hop bitterness. The Pilsner is gold in color with a medium body, smooth mouthfeel, even flavor balance and lean hop finish. The Chicago Lite is a light straw color with a slight malty/grainy flavor and very slight hops in the finish. The Oktoberfest is a clear amber with a rich malty sweet flavor, medium body and dry, hoppy finish. The Roggen Rye besides being redundant, is a clear dark amber with a sweet malty flavor and slightly diacytl (butterscotch) character. The ESB Extra Special Bitter, equally redundant, is a clear ruby color with a rich malty flavor, dry, possibly "victory malt" character matched to an underlying hop presence. Very nice! The Dusseldorfer Doppelbock is a clear brown with a medium body, big malty flavor but, unfortunately, also a sour off-flavor. The Bavarian Weiss is a gold color with a crisp and tart flavor whose emphasis is on the citrus/sour side rather than the clove. More of a Berliner Weisse ? The I.P.A. India Pale Ale, the final redundant brew, comes in at 5% and offers a complex hoppy flavor with a medium body, reasonable malt and Cascade hops jumping right out of the glass.
Springtime seasonals include the Marzen, medium-bodied, it features a clean malty sweetness. The Maibock provides a full mouthfeel and malty sweetness. The Bulls Eye Stout has a smooth mouthfeel with an even flavor balance and dry finish.
With all this beer there is certainly food to match. The appetizer menu features a sausage sampler along with German potato pancakes and even smoked salmon. Appetizers run $4 to $8; Salads $2 to $6; Soups $3; Burgers $6; Sandwiches $6; Pastas, Entrées and German Specialties $11 to $18. Most traditional dishes have great traditional flavors, especially the saurcraut, red cabbage, speatzl, and veal schnitzels. The Sunday German Fiesta costs $9.95. An accompanying sampler tray of 13 four ounce taster glasses is $16.25. A basic 12 ounce glass runs $3, while pints are $3.50. No pipes or cigars are allows in the bar/lounge area. Growlers are available to go and regulars find the Mug Club a deal; for $25 a Sunday discount buys a 22 ounce mug for $3 and yields a 20% discount on food. You even get a free birthday lunch. The lounge is down some steps but the restaurant and restrooms are fully wheelchair accessible. A perfect place to ride out the inclement weather in front of a fire place with tasty food and flavorful beers, Weinkeller is worth the walk before of after the Real Ale Fest. Besides the full liquor selection and good German bottled offerings, you can even buy three bottles of house-brewed beer packaged to go for $8. Hours are Monday through Thursday 11-1, Friday and Saturday 11-2, and Sunday 3 to close.
651 Westmont Dr.
Westmont, IL 60559-1239
Reviewed by Tom Ciccateri - October 1998, updated June 2001