With sophisticated suds programs at more and more elevated dining spots, Chicago’s vaunted beer scene is finally getting the upscale treatment.
Ravenswood hit Band of Bohemia (Photo by Meghan Leigh Photography)
The entryway to Band of Bohemia (4710 N. Ravenswood Ave.) channels an age of days spent luxuriating in sitting rooms—think velvet-shrouded lamps illuminating damask chairs. Once inside, you have to look closely to find the heart of this Michelin-starred brewpub. It’s behind arched windows, where steel tanks are filled with jasmine rice beer and black ale steeped with bay rum leaves.
It’s a departure, especially for those who think beer is for happy hour, not date night. But Band of Bohemia is just one of several local restaurants elevating the beverage—like Logan Square’s brand-new BiXi Beer (2515 N. Milwaukee Ave.).
“We’re trying to overcome this idea that beer is what you slug down on the patio, and food is what you’re really going to think about,” says Bo Fowler, BiXi’s chef and owner. The brewpub offers dishes inspired by Fowler’s pan-Asian upbringing alongside beer infused with similar ingredients, such as Szechuan-spiced belt noodles paired with a delicately numbing dark ale brewed with Szechuan peppercorns—both of which are offered at a marble bar overlooking a greenhouse’s worth of lush plants under a retractable glass roof.
At Logan Square newcomer BiXi Beer, Asian flavors are a common thread across both food and beverages. (Photo by Sarah Freeman)
In many ways, beer has the advantage over wine when it comes to its place at the table. According to Adam Vavrick, beer director at Michelin Bib Gourmand-awarded The Publican (837 W. Fulton Market), beer’s carbonation cleanses the palate between bites, making it a fitting pairing with hearty fare such as the Publican’s country rib. On the lighter side, beer acts like Champagne in that it accentuates subtle foods like oysters.
Admits Vavrick, “There’s a certain consumer that will never [believe] beer is elegant and nuanced and that it can be absolutely phenomenal with dinner, and that’s OK.” But for those willing to try, Vavrick pours a funky farmhouse ale or fruited sour and welcomes them to this often-unexplored territory.