2323 N. Milwaukee Ave. (2300N, 2850W)
Chicago, IL 60647
Revolution Brewing, which opened in February 2010, continues the Chicago brewing renaissance that arguably began in 1988 with Goose Island Beer Co. More recently, we've had places like Piece and brewers like Half Acre and Metropolitan enter the scene—no offense Rock Bottom, I love your rooftop deck and pool room, but you're a Colorado-based chain—and Revolution Brewing almost seems like a natural progression. It's no great surprise that managing partner Josh Deth, who is also part-owner of the funky Handlebar, spent time as a brewer for Goose Island, after cutting his chops at the now defunct Golden Prairie Brewery. Golden Prairie was located in Logan Square, so Revolution's locale on Milwaukee just south of Fullerton brings the story full-circle.
The California Blue Line stop provides convenient access to Revolution's warehouse-like space, the former home of a sign factory, where a row of canned lights cast a soft glow on the brand's logo: a red star background with a raised fist clutching a barley stalk. Enter a deep rectangular room, with an ornate raised ceiling and exposed brick walls where the decoration starts and stops with the emergency lights. Table seating occupies the perimeter of the room in the form of booths, tables and a long wooden-backed banquette. A roomy custom-made rectangular bar anchors the room, with four intricately carved fists supporting the center island. One thing you won't find at Revolution is a single TV, so if you're looking for entertainment a glass wall at the back of the room provides a look-through to the brewing operation and the wood-burning oven in the kitchen. If you can't find a stool or table, seating is first-come, first-served, an area to the left of the entrance provides some standing room as well as a cozy gas-burning fireplace.
Revolution features a rotating selection of 25 house brews, six of which are available at any one time. Master brewer Jim Cibak who worked at both Three Floyds and Goose Island, is the man behind the kettles and has offered up a nice range of initial selections, some of which have already sold out pending a fresh batch. I sampled the rich, toasty Black Power Stout, the crisp Iron Fist Pale Ale and the powerful Willie Heavy Scottish Ale, which is a real treat for anyone who's ever enjoyed a McEwan's. Revolution also offers a generous selection of "Guest Taps." which consist of a dozen or so high quality imports and domestics, including some from local competitors. I think this is not only a nice touch, but shows that they have confidence in their beer. All house beers are available to go by the growler and for the truly committed, there's the house Mug Club, which offers discounts, a special members-only mug and invitations to tastings and events for $25/yr.
Friends who've eaten at Revolution are raving. The menu is a fairly ambitious collection of wood-fired pizzas, house-cured hams and sausages, sandwiches and hearty entrées. There are numerous vegetarian selections throughout, but for the rest of us the dish that caught my eye was the Bacon Fat Popcorn, which sounds both dangerous and delicious. Considering the gourmet aspirations, the prices seem moderate, comparable to similar fare in some of the city's trendier neighborhoods.
Then again, Logan Square, with its burgeoning number of restaurants and hip watering holes, just may be the new "in 'hood." Of course, only time will tell, but a month after opening Revolution is still packing them in. If you want a seat, pick an off-night, arrive early or plan to go during a major sporting event—remember, no TVs. While a good number of locals are surely in the audience, Revolution is drawing crowds from Lincoln Park to Oak Park and everywhere in between. Right now, it's the place to see and be seen, which makes for a lively scene.
Revolution brewing is open daily for those who refuse to conform to anything in their pursuit of excellent beer and atmosphere, except the bar's 11am-2am operating hours. If you like Revolution Brewing, you may want to visit the aforementioned Piece and Goose Island or maybe hop on the Metra's University Park line then walk on over to Flossmoor Station Brewing Company. For more information and the latest brews on tap, check the Revolution Brewing website. Cheers, comrades.