ChicagoLAND, IL

It’s that time of year again, so eloquently referred to as “March Madness”: three weekends of alma mater disappointments, busted office pool brackets, and Cinderella stories. For 2018, we are back with 64 breweries from the city and surrounding ‘burbs. We have divided them into four regions: North, South, West and Suburbs, and seeded them 1–16. Seeds are not-so-scientifically-based on production, reputation, years of operation, and recent growth. The last two years have seen champions come from some of the least expected breweries; will this year produce another Cinderella story or will one of the top seeds finally raise a banner in our friendly, yet very competitive Readers’ Choice competition?

There is no more competitive region in each year’s brewery bracket than the Suburbs. The reality of narrowing down the incredible list of over 120 breweries to just 16 only gets more difficult each year. After solidifying the last few ‘play-in’ matchups via Twitter polls, this year’s batch features breweries of all sizes with potential upsets from top to bottom. Can the likes of Two Brothers, Solemn Oath, and Temperance fend off challenges from the cult followings at Alter, Sketchbook or Hop Butcher? Who comes out of this region is anyone’s guess.

So, there ya have it, vote for your favorite breweries across Chicago, below, and we will tally the votes in order to select 32 winners for the next round. Voting for Round 1 concludes, Thursday, 3/15 at 9:00pm CST.

Vote for the other regions here:  NORTH  |  SOUTH  |  WEST

Two Brothers Artisan Brewing (1) vs. Alter Brewing Co. (16)

Two Brothers  marks its 21st anniversary this week (having been brewing in Warrenville since 1996, and now boasting five total locations). Alter, meanwhile, sees its first placement in our bracket, coming in at a 16 seed–which, of 120+ options, is certainly nothing to scoff at. They’re coming off of a recent fourth place finish in THR’s blind tasting of 50 Chicagoland stouts, and have been growing their impressive barrel-aged program the past couple years since opening their doors in Downers Grove. The veteran vs. the rookie, here.


Voting is closed, check back soon for results.


Hailstorm Brewing Co. (2) vs. Crystal Lake Brewing (15)

Hailstorm sees likely the biggest jump in seeding, going from a 10 seed in 2017, to the Suburb region’s 2 seed this year. That is due to an impressive run the past year, garnering hardware for their IPAs (GABF’s top award, in its most competitive category: Top IPA in the Nation). Couple that with a third place finish in our Stout Tasting, and Hailstorm has picked up steam heavily the past few months, making them a sure force to be reckoned with on the Southwest Side. Head to the far Northwest Side to find their competitor: Crystal Lake Brewing, and winner of our play-in matchup versus Imperial Oak. Their barrel-aged stouts, Boathouse Reserve Series, have quietly garnered a staunch local following as well. A battle of dark horses.


Voting is closed, check back soon for results.


Solemn Oath Brewery (3) vs. Sketchbook Brewing Co. (14)

Naperville’s hip suburban industrial park darlings, Solemn Oath, made a big push with it’s canned offerings over the last year. Now, their Belgian-pales, pales & lagers have a more readily available place on Chicago’s shelves. Sketchbook, with a brand new look for 2018, has expanded production significantly and has been gaining national attention for its NEIPA, Insufficient Clearance

Voting is closed, check back soon for results.


Temperance Beer Co. (4) vs. Wild Onion Brewery (13)

Temperance took its name as an effort to poke fun at Evanston’s notable Prohibition-era Temperance Movement. Since opening its doors on the North Shore, they’ve gone on to win several medals for their English-inspired offerings, as well as create one of the area’s best barrel-aged beers, Might Meets Right. Their matchup is against Lake Barrington stalwart, Wild Onion, who has done an impressive job of adapting to the industry during it’s 21 years in brewing, all the while holding on to its roots. Their classic pale ales, spiced ales and stouts have recently welcomed fantastic examples of NEIPAs and barrel-aged options.


Voting is closed, check back soon for results.


Noon Whistle Brewing (5) vs. BuckleDown Brewing (12)

Last year’s brewery bracket champion returns to defend its crown. After jumping firmly on the haze hype train, Noon Whistle has proven that hype equals success over the last year. They match up with another western brewery with quite the following in Buckledown. The Lyons brewery has quickly established themselves as brewers of solid, balanced beer that can be appreciated by anyone.


Voting is closed, check back soon for results.


Hop Butcher For The World (6) vs. 5 Rabbit Cervecería (11)

In 2017, Hop Butcher fell in the second round of the North bracket. Now, after moving to a shared space in the western ‘burbs and significantly upping production of their signature hazy hop-forward brews, can greater exposure push them further in their new region? Their first opponent is 5 Rabbit, the long running Latin-inspired cervecería that produces some of the most unique, and readily available beers out there.


Voting is closed, check back soon for results.


Mikerphone Brewing (7) vs. Pollyanna Brewing Co. (10)

There’s perhaps no local brewery with a bigger cult following among beer nerds than Mikerphone. Capitalizing on the trendiest of styles, Mike has created a destination that’s sure to see lines down the street on bottle release days. They face off against Pollyanna, a brewery that’s quietly growing faster than nearly anyone in the area. After opening a second taproom and brewery late last year, they now reach a whole different market with their incredible breadth of incredibly well-executed styles.


Voting is closed, check back soon for results.


Une Année (8) vs. Penrose Brewing (9)

While these breweries are best known for their incredible sours, both have proven they’re much more than a single style. Une Année’s beautiful strip mall taproom is also home to their Hubbard’s Cave brand, pumping out some of the freshest IPA’s and stouts in the market (and recently named THR’s 2017 Best Suburban Brewery). Penrose has really hit their stride in the last year with much more regularly available cans, putting the previously beer geek secret on the map for rest of Chicagoland.


Voting is closed, check back soon for results.


Best of luck to all 64 breweries. It’s hard to pick a favorite Chicago beer maker as we all know, but hey, here’s your chance. Stay tuned as we tally the votes in order to select a “Round of 32.”  

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