The good ol’ lager and cheeseburger combo is about to meet its match. Say hello to a bold new wave of craft brews with ingredients like plum, yuzu, and black truffles. Pair them with dishes like fried chicken with foie gras butter, pizza with fresh clams and bacon, and pastry chef Mindy Segal’s cookies. It’s all happening in Chicago at these spots.
Jared Rouben practiced “culinary brewing” (approaching beer like a chef would food) even before launching Moody Tongue in 2014, and the upcoming move from Pilsen to the South Loop (set for mid-October) allows him to further explore this concept with double the production and two new dining spaces led by Michelin-starred chef Jared Wentworth (Longman & Eagle, Dusek’s). The Dining Room offers a 10-course tasting menu with beer pairings ($135-$150), playing with flavors and aromatics.
“Some dishes and beer pairings will be an entirely new experience for guests,” says Rouben, pointing to Cheung Fun noodles with king crab, soybeans, and homemade XO sauce, paired with Sour Watermelon Saison.
The adjoining bar has 75 seats and an à la carte menu with 16 brews on tap, including favorites like the Sliced Nectarine IPA and Caramelized Chocolate Churro Baltic Porter ($5-$9), plus the farmers’ market series brews and sours. Indulge in dishes like fried chicken with foie gras butter, oysters and chocolate cake. 2515 S. Wabash, 312-600-5111; moodytongue.com
You might feel like you walked into a coffee shop — and that’s by design. The tasting room has tons of lounge seating and a centerpiece walnut chevron bar, a place meant for lingering for coffee during the morning and beer later in the day.
Owners Jordan Radke and Dan Abel are longtime homebrewers and are joined by head brewer Logan Helton. “We thought: What if we did for the beer industry what independent record labels have done for artists?” says Abel. With that, this “brewery incubator” was born to showcase lesser-known, up-and-coming brewers. Pilot Project serves as a great way for brewers to test product and the team helps with marketing and branding.
The must-try list includes beers from Tethered Vines that are 10 percent wine ($7-$10) and Manana de Mallorca ($8) made with a Spanish sangria tea, plus ciders including a barrel-aged coffee cider made with Dark Matter cold brew, and hard kombucha. You could pair your tastings with charcuterie or cheese but don’t bypass Mindy Segal’s cookie flight ($12) designed specifically for their beers with flavors like whiskey butterscotch graham and Oreo coffee buttercream. 2140 N. Milwaukee, 773-270-5995; pilotprojectbrewing.com
This spot is just as much about the pizza as the suds. When Greg Shuff opened his newest beer food venture next to his already popular brewpub DryHop in Lakeview, he knew it had to be perfect. So he spent six weeks in Naples, Italy, to become a certified Pizzaiolo. Returning to the states put his own twist on pizza, dreaming up the “quasi-Neapolitan” with interesting toppings.
The Standard Bearer ($15) features sopressata, pickled jalapeño, and honey; and the Clams ($17) features fresh clams, a white wine lemon cream sauce, and bacon. You’ll find a curated selection of light and easy drinking beers here like the Always Phoneless, a Bavarian-inspired wheat beer with notes of banana, cloves, and vanilla ($5/$7) and a full cocktail program. 3159 N. Broadway, 773-857-2229; roebuckpizza.com
Moody Tongue photo by Bethany Roberts; Roebuck Pizza photo by Huge Galdones