The craft beer market is in a perpetual state of fluctuation. In 2018, craft beer growth slowed for the fourth consecutive year, but still ended the year 4% higher than the previous year. Though craft beer numbers may be slowing, they still outpace the larger beer industry that dropped 1% in 2018.
While the craft beer industry is still gaining its footing in the broader alcoholic beverage market, nationwide alcohol sales grew by over 5% in the last year alone. Some cities like Chicago are taking a larger share of that growth than others. Read on to learn more about Chicago’s beer culture and to see the city’s top 10 favorite beers.
What’s the Beer Culture Like in Chicago?
Chicago is home to four of the nation’s 50 fastest growing breweries which account for 10% of annual craft brewer growth. That’s the highest concentration of successful craft breweries than any other area, according to statistics released by the Brewers Association.
The fact that Chicago houses the highest concentration of rapidly growing breweries should come as no surprise, considering that the city has the most breweries in the nation. As of December 2018, Chicago was home to 167 breweries, taking the lead over Denver with 158 and Seattle with 153. Even more significant is the fact that Chicago has more than doubled their number of breweries since 2013. This growth took them from fifth place among U.S. cities with just 62 breweries to having a massive lead over even some of the nation’s most populated cities like New York and Los Angeles.
Not only is Chicago home to some of the fastest-growing breweries in the country, but it is also where some of the nation’s favorite breweries can be found. Goose Island Beer Company was founded in Chicago in 1988 and paved the way for other local brewers like Two Brothers, Half Acre Beer Company, and Metropolitan Brewing.
Chicago’s 10 Favorite Beers
Fans of craft beer consider Chicago a drinker’s destination. Even if you’re not up on the latest trends in brewing, you can still find plenty to drink in the windy city. In fact, Chicago is home to one of the most unique bar cultures in the nation where you can find everything from craft beers and cocktails to traditional known beers, ciders, wine, and, a rising trend, hard seltzer.
What you’ll learn from the list below is that while craft is popular, mainstream brands still dominate general popularity.
Let’s delve a little deeper into the beer industry in Chicago, we’ve compiled data from BeerBoard bars to present you with the top 10 list of Chicago’s favorite beers.
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Brewed in Golden, Colorado, Coors Light is a light beer with 4.2% abv. This beer is known for carrying the “Cold Certified” label which turns the mountains depicted on the label from white to blue when the beer reaches a temperature of 39°F. Today, Coors Light is marketed as “the world’s most refreshing beer” – it is always lagered, filtered, and packaged cold to ensure a cool, refreshing experience. In fact, this tagline is being revived since the company realized that younger consumers didn’t know about the cold-activated cans.
An American light pale lager, Miller Light is sold by MillerCoors of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Miller Light was the first successful mainstream light beer in the country, originally developed as Gablinger’s Diet Beer. After the company changed hands several times, Miller Lite was introduced nationally in 1975. Thanks to a heavy advertising approach, the brand succeeded where two light beers had previously failed. Production doubled within two years, and Miller rose to 2nd place in the American brewing market. The brand continued to grow and expand, introducing new recipes like amber, blonde ale, and wheat as the Miller Lite Brewers Collection in 2008.
Originally released in 1982 as Budweiser Light, Bud Light was Budweiser’s flagship light beer. It has 4.2% abv and 110 calories per 12-ounce serving. Over the years, Bud Light has been released in many variations including Bud Light Platinum, a higher alcohol version, and Bud Light Lime, a version with lime flavor added. In 2012, Budweiser released Bud Light Lime-A-Ritas, a line of flavored malt beverages having 8% abv and available in numerous flavors like Straw-Ber-Rita, Mang-o-Rita, and Cran-Brrr-Rita.
Blue Moon Belgian White
Often referred to simply as “Blue Moon”, Blue Moon Belgian White is a Belgian-style witbier brewed by MillerCoors. Blue Moon Brewing Co. was launched in 1995 and originally brewed in Golden, Colorado under the name Bellyslide Belgian White. This beer is made with malted barley and white wheat with flavors from orange peel, coriander, and oats. It is typically served with a slice of orange which accentuates the beer’s natural flavor. In addition to the original Belgian White, Blue Moon also offers seasonal variations like Gingerbread Spiced Ale, Cappuccino Oatmeal Stout, and Mango Wheat.
First bottled in 1925, Modelo Especial is the second most-imported beer in the United States according to case sales. It is produced by Grupo Modelo, a large brewery in Mexico that exports to most countries around the world. Other brands made by Grupo Modelo include Corona and Pacifico, as well as several brands sold exclusively in the domestic Mexican market. Modelo Especial is described as a rich, full-flavored pilsner-style Lager with a crisp, refreshing taste. It features an orange blossom honey aroma, a well-balanced taste, and a light hop character.
An American-style pale lager, Budweiser is produced by Anheuser-Busch. Though it is an American beer, Budweiser is produced in various breweries around the world and has become one of the largest selling beers in the United States. Budweiser is a filtered beer available on draft and in bottles or cans. In addition to being one of the largest selling beers in the nation, it is also the most advertised drink brand in the country. Advertising campaigns have featured big names like Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and animal mascots like Spuds MacKenzie, the Budweiser Frogs, and the famous Clydesdale horses.
A Belgian pilsner, Stella Artois was first brewed by the Artois Brewery (Brouwerji Artois) in Leuven, Belgium in 1926. The company is now owned by Interbrew International B.V., a subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch InBev. Sold in more than 80 countries, Stella Artois is one of the world’s best-selling beers, known for its characteristic flavor and high quality. What many fans of the brand don’t know is that the beer was originally released as a special holiday brew for Leuven locals, hence the name Stella meaning star. The brand caught on and is now available year-round around the globe.
Dos Equis Lager
Originally brewed by a German-born Mexican brewer, Dos Equis is a lager style beer. The main brand is Dos Equis XX Special Lager, a pale lager sold in green bottles with 4.45% abv. The second most popular variation is Dos Equis XX amber, a Vienne-style amber lager sold in brown bottles with 4.7% abv. In 2018, the brand released a new draft in limited bars and restaurants, Dos Equis XX Mexican Pale Ale, a traditional pale ale with a Mexican twist and 5.5% abv.
Manufactured by the Anheuser-Busch company, Michelob was developed in 1896 as a “draught beer for connoisseurs.” After testing a number of variations such as Michelob Honey Lager and Michelob Pale Ale, the company came out with Michelob Ultra in 2002. In recent years, the brand has experimented with unique flavors like Michelob Ultra Amber, Michelob Ultra Lime Cactus, and Michelob Ultra Pomegranate Raspberry, all carrying just over 100 calories with 6 grams of carbohydrate per 12-ounce bottle with roughly 4% alcohol content.
Angry Orchard Cider
A hard cider company located new Walden, New York, Angry Orchard is owned by the Boston Beer Company. Using apples sourced from Europe and the United States, this company holds roughly 50% of the nation’s hard cider market and accounts for 20% of Boston Brewing’s annual output. Angry Orchard’s three flagship flavors are Crisp Apple, Traditional Dry, and Apple Ginger. In addition to their beverage sales, Angry Orchard has recently released an augmented reality app that brings hard cider and food pairings to life right before your eyes.
There is no shortage of bars and breweries in Chicago. While this means that the market for alcoholic beverages is booming, it also means that bars and restaurants need to do whatever they can to capture their piece of the pie. BeerBoard’s innovative solutions make it easy to capitalize on fluctuations in supply and demand to maximize your profits.