Last Updated on January 13, 2020 by Janet Frost
They call DuPage County a “collar community”. That means it is one of the counties circling Metro Chicago. In other words it is suburbia. I believe we miss a lot of suburban gems in our travels. This summer I visited DuPage County suburbs for my Our Town Series (rediscovering hometowns). On this visit I found many suburban gems. Of course no visit is complete without beer. DuPage County breweries were definitely some of my favorite suburban gems.
Let’s go learn things about DuPage County breweries……
This county sprawls over 336 square miles. The Forest Preserve District of DuPage manages 60 forest preserves and 145 miles of trails. The topography covers prairies, woodlands and wetlands. Other great outdoor destinations include Cantigny in Wheaton, Naper Settlement and the DuPage Riverwalk in Naperville, Morton Arboretum in Lisle and the Illinois Prairie Path runs through parts of the county. The region also offers shopping, lodging, dining and drinking of every style. Communities of DuPage County include among many others; Wheaton, Naperville, Warrenville, Downers Grove, Lisle, Lombard, Villa Park, and Woodridge.
So in between my outdoor exploration of Cantigny, Morton Arboretum and Naper Settlement I needed some refreshments.
Where’s the BEER? DuPage County Breweries
I visited 5 breweries in 2 days. It was a tough job, but someone has to do it. As always there were a few I missed, leaving a reason to return! Let’s look at them by community:
It’s not surprising to find craft breweries in this eclectic community. Back in my day Downers Grove was a sleepy bedroom community. Today it exudes energy and innovation. The storefronts are full of local shops and eateries. City parks are bustling with farmers markets, outdoor concerts and festivals. New trendy housing beckons to Millenials and Baby Boomers alike.
Alter Brewing Company can be found two miles west of
downtown Downers Grove. Founded in 2015 this reclaimed
warehouse is the perfect setting for beer lovers.
Tanks, taps and tables all share the cavernous space.
Large garage doors add to the spaciousness
out to food trucks on certain days.
I met Adam from the staff and we chatted companionably about
Alter specifically and the craft beer industry generally.
Alter Brewing had a nice line-up for their flagships that should appeal to most tastes in a group. They include Golden Ale, Midwest IPA, Cherry Wheat, and a Porter. I am not typically a “flagship” taster. The edgy more innovative offerings are my thing. Alter had a
great selection of unique beers and interesting twists on their flagships.
Alterior Motive (flagship Midwest IPA): This was a spot on quality IPA. The hops were present but didn’t bite you on the nose. Any IPA lover would be content with beer.
Nacho Leche ( Horchata-inspired): This was a fun surprise. I had to do some research to catch up on “Horchata”. Horchata is a milky, Latin drink made from rice,nuts and cinnamon. Brewed with rice flakes, ceylon cinnamon, Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans, and lactose this beer makes for a unique summer beer.
Kings Blood (BA Cherry Wheat) This is a twist on their flagship King Balaton. I am a fan of most barrel-aged choices. This was a great cherry color with sweet rich flavor. Very nice.
Smash Tun (Imperial Stout) Yes I like the BIG beers. This one delivers a 11% wallop. They describe coffee, dark chocolate and toffee flavors. I tasted more dark chocolate than coffee. Yummy, rich and smooth!
Lombard is another suburb on the commuter train line out of Chicago. I did not make it into downtown Lombard on this trip. My plans were to visit Lilacia Park for the incredible Lilac festival but I was about 2 weeks late and they were finished.
This brewery’s location is an empty strip mall along
Roosevelt Rd, one of the main east-west arteries
through DuPage Co. It is common for fledgling
breweries to find a home in these kinds of properties.
Not much curb appeal but craft beer lovers don’t care.
Noon Whistle has been here since late 2014. It was a quiet
weekday afternoon and the place was fragrant with the
current brewing. All the staff was friendly
The brewery had an interesting line-up of flagships and specialties. They were heavy on the IPA’s, but also a strong offering of sours. The core beers were a Pale Ale, IPA, Saison, Red Ale and Stout. In addition they had a Sour Smack Series, Punk Series, Big Beer Series and BA Series. Something for everyone!
Lilacia (flagship Saison) I like the earthy aromas and flavors of a Saison. This particular one was somewhat unremarkable. Especially compared to some of the other hyper-flavorful samplings.
Bourbon Face Smack (BA Sour Berliner Weiss) Sours are hugely popular right now. I am gradually acquiring the taste for them. I have to admit I prefer an added flavor to the sour. This was truly a sour “face smack” with an added richness of lingering bourbon. For the diehard sour lovers this would be the experience they crave.
Fuzzy Smack ( Sour Berliner Weiss with Peach) Ahhh, this is what I am talking about. The peach works well with the sour and makes a perfect summer beer.
Gummypocolypse (NE Imperial IPA) Their Gummy Series is a selection of hazy, juicy NE IPA’s. This hazy style is making a commotion in the Midwest. This beast came it at 8.2% and I longed for a whole pint.
I grew up in Wheaton and at that time it was a “dry” town. Wheaton College and Billy Graham influences were strong. Today that has changed and Wheaton actually has two craft brewery options in the heart of town. For more highlights on Wheaton see my Our Town #2 post.
The brewery is located on the popular Front St. Emmetts has 4 locations throughout the region and has become somewhat of a chain. It serves very traditional beer styles, Helles Lager, American Pale Ale, IPA, English Ale and a Milk Stout. For me this experience is really more of a brewpub and all about the food.
Is a small village along the DuPage River. As the suburbs have grown westward, Warrenville has seen more development. Again, I did not visit Warrenville proper. From my childhood I vaguely remember a rural area on our way to the Blackwell Forest Preserve. My beer travels took me to the far west side of Warrenville to a small industrial park.
Two Brothers Artisan Brewing was started in the late
1990’s and is a relative old timer in the craft beer
scene. As their name suggests, they focus on artisan food
and drinks, including beer and coffee.
There are now 5 Two Brothers locations, 4 are in
DuPage County and the last is in Scottsdale, AZ.
This leads me to believe that retiring Baby Boomers
demanded their favorite beer relocate with them.
The flagship beer are a Pilsner, Weiss bier, Golden Ale, French Country Ale and several IPA’s. This list is pretty traditional. Emmetts and Two Brothers were the only venues that served full food menus. The food was good, but it seems that the edgy, funky beer scene is lost when food is added to the equation.
Domaine DuPage (French Country Ale) This was a pale and unremarkable ale. It wasn’t earthy like a Saison or biting like an IPA.
Wooden Wobble (Oak-aged IPA) I mentioned before that I love the barrel aged beers. In my travels I have learned that “oak-aged” is not the same as barrel aged. Oak-aged usually means that oak chips were added to the process, not oak barrels. I didn’t clarify the process here. The IPA itself was big and snappy but the vanilla from the oak melded nicely. Even though an IPA, I really liked this beer.
In the Dark ( Dark Sour Ale brewed with Blackberries) I don’t think I have tasted a dark sour before. The roasty coffee flavors, tart sour flavors and slightly sweet fruit flavors created a cacophony in my mouth.
In the Flesh (Fruit Sour) This is Two Brothers’ Fruit Sour Series. On this day it was Pomegranate. A beautiful rose color and sweet tart flavor made a refreshing beer.
Hopcentric IIPA (Imperial IPA) If I am going to drink an IPA I want it to be BIG. This one comes in at 9,9% and kicks you with pine and citrus.
In my travels through DuPage County, Naperville was my favorite town. It was quaint, trendy, edgy, bustling and beautiful all at the same time. I spent the afternoon at the Living History Naper Settlement. Before finding the beer I strolled along the Riverwalk and visited my favorite bookstore. See more about Naperville in the Living History post.
Solemn Oath Brewing was my favorite of all the
DuPage County breweries. As you can see
it is lacking curb appeal and was tricky to find.
But beer lovers are persistent
and like “off the beaten path”.
This taproom had a minimalist design with
a slug of Viking barbarians. They claim to be
“driven by a passion for West Coast, Belgian,
and barrel-aged beers”.
Now we’re talking! Just my thing!
The flagships are a Belgian Wit, American IPA, NE IPA, BA Double Stout, and a Pale Ale. There were so many beers that I wanted to taste and I loved their names. The staff loved talking about their beer. No food here, they are focused on BEER.
Butterfly Flashmob (Belgian IPA) At 7.25% this is almost a double. What I love about the Belgian style is found in this beer. The biting pine and citrus of the hops has to go toe to toe with the Belgian spices.
Gammelgaddan (Nordic Farmhouse) This gem was like a Saison from the Caribbean. Tropical fruit and earthy yeast. YUM! Who knew the Vikings could have such a sunny disposition?
Larry Powder (Saison) The actual Saison was peppery, wild and floral. All the things I like about a Saison.
Trekpaard (Belgian Black Ale) Close to a Schwarzbier, this was roasty without heavy coffee and drinkable like a session beer.
More DuPage County Breweries for my Next Visit
My reasons to return to DuPage County are:
Dry City Brewworks in Wheaton
MORE Brewing in Villa Park with a full food menu
Mikerphone in Elk Grove (technically just outside of DuPage Co) with a focus on live music and beer.
Skeleton Key in Woodridge calls itself a Craft Micro-brewery and Brewery Incubator. Sounds interesting.
What are your suburban gems?
Suburbia can get a bad rap sometimes. We don’t add them to our travel itineraries or we forget to explore our own backyards. All of these breweries could be a commuter train ride and a quick Uber if you are in Chicago. They could be a great weekend getaway without ever fighting the traffic of downtown Chicago. What suburban gems are around you? Share them in the comments so we can add them to our itineraries.
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Disclosure: I did receive complimentary flights at Noon Whistle and Alter Brewing. As always I do not compromise my beer opinions. For what they are worth, they are all mine.