I love trains. I love beer. I don't love driving when I'm having beer. So how to reconcile all of those things, I wonder?
My solution: identify breweries in and around Chicago close to rail lines and visit them. (By "close" I mean within 1.5 km of a train station, except for a handful of exceptions that were worth the extra few steps.)
Starting in February 2020, I set out to visit a whole bunch of breweries when time permits. I identified 98 locations ranging from one as close as 400 m from a downtown Chicago train station to four that require a 100-minute train ride to a neighboring state.
Even better, the densest stop on any train line turned out to be the one closest to my house: there are six breweries and one distillery within 1.7 km of the Metra UP-N Ravenswood station. I've been to all of them, but for the sake of completeness I'll go again this year and give them proper write-ups.
Metra, the regional heavy-rail carrier, offers a $10 unlimited-ride weekend pass good from midnight Saturday to midnight Monday, making lazy Saturday brewery hopping that much more accessible. The CTA charges $2.75 between any two destinations, with re-entry into the system just 50c within two hours of starting your journey.
Another note: I'm not going crazy at these places. Typically I get a 3- or 4-beer flight, which means 450 to 600 mL, about one European pint. That, plus travel between stations and waiting for trains, works out to about 35 mL of alcohol per hour. Enjoyable, but not overboard.
If you want to visit any of these breweries and distilleries—and I encourage you to do so—check their website to make sure they're open before hauling out on an hour-long train ride. And check the train timetables carefully! The Heritage Corridor, South West Service, and North-Central Service have terrible schedules, with only a few trains Monday through Friday during rush hour. You could easily find yourself stuck in New Lenox with no way back to the city if you don't pay attention to the time.
You can see the list of breweries I plan to visit on Google Drive.
Visited so far
The following lists are organized by distance from Chicago, and then alphabetically at each station. (I've delayed-published some of the posts linked below with a new post about every other day. If a link appears dead, try back later.)
You can get to these breweries and distilleries via multiple train lines:
Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF)
Heritage Corridor (HC)
Metra Electric (ME)
Milwaukee District North (MD-N)
Rock Island District (RI)
Union Pacific North (UP-N)
- Piece Brewery, Chicago–Clybourn (also UP-NW and CTA Blue–Damen)
- Begyle Brewing, Chicago–Ravenswood (also CTA Brown–Irving Park)
- Dovetail Brewing, Chicago–Ravenswood (also CTA Brown–Irving Park)
- Urban Brew Labs, Chicago–Ravenswood (also CTA Brown–Damen)
- Empirical Brewing, Chicago–Ravenswood (also CTA Brown–Damen)
- Spiteful Brewing, Chicago-Ravenswood (also CTA Brown-Damen)
- Half Acre Balmoral Brewery, Chicago-Ravenswood (also CTA Brown-Damen)
- Sketchbook Brewing, Evanston–Main (also CTA Purple–Main) – revisited
- FEW Spirits, Evanston–Main (also CTA Purple–Main)
- Smylie Bros. Brewing, Evanston–Davis (also CTA Purple–Davis)
- Ravinia Brewing, Highland Park–Ravinia
- 28 Mile Vodka, Highwood
- Kings & Convicts Brewing, Highwood
- Lake Bluff Brewing, Lake Bluff
- Nightshade & Dark's Pandemonium Brewing, Waukegan
- Oppidan Spirits, Waukegan
- Harbor Brewing, Winthrop Harbor
Union Pacific Northwest (UP-NW)
Union Pacific West (UP-W)
CTA Blue Line
CTA Brown Line
CTA Green Line
CTA Purple Line
CTA Red Line
CTA Yellow Line