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I’ve touched on the topic of “big” American cities, including Chicago, and the dearth of the brewing scene in the past. I was struck today, however, as a friend of mine quoted on Facebook, in part, about the city of Chicago:

Thank you Chicago for welcoming Dryhop Brewers in style. Special thanks to the Northdown and Green Lady for treating us so well…. Never felt the love like I did tonight. Chicago is the next Portland!

This friend has now been in Chicago – after more than a decade brewing professionally in Pittsburgh – for the past half year to start a brewery on the near north side called Dryhop Brewers, which will soon open. It would be wonderful if Chicago were the “next Portland,” as it is a strange city of brewing tradition.

It was never home to a large brewer, despite being home to one of the two traditional brewing schools in the U.S. Chicago’s volume needs met historically by Milwaukee after Mrs. O’Leary’s ill fated bovine kicked over the latern. Even though there were over 60 breweries in the city by 1900, centered primarily around the Schoenhofen District and Pilsen neighborhood, none ever rose to much beyond “regional” status.

As the craft renaissance bloomed over the past two decades in the U.S., the Windy City was still somewhat lagging. Chicago Brewing Company (not the one in Las Vegas) didn’t last through the 90’s and Goose Island – first the brewpub (mid 80’s), then the brewery (1995 and with roots in Beer Across America, a “beer of the month” club, largely ruined by lawsuit) – grew to become the predominant player in the Windy City. Unfortunately, it has now been sold from local control by the Hall family to InBev/AB (Belgian owned makers of Budweiser and the world’s largest brewing company), as most of you are probably aware.

Recently, however, as our brewing friend points out above, there has been real growth in the City of Broad Shoulders. The region has welcomed fantastic new and growing gems such as Three Floyds (located just outside Chicagoland, but also involved in distribution and slowly battling the…>ahem<…”greasy” distribution practices in a very competitive city), Haymarket, Metropolitan, Piece, Half Acre, Revolution and several others, along with great beer bars like the Map Room and Kumas Corner. It also hosted the World Beer Cup in 2010

Still, it’s a long way to go before anyone mentions Chicago and Portland as competing beer destinations, but things are moving in the right direction. I think I might start at Dryhop later this month. If you happen to stop by, tell Brant I said “hello.”

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