The Craft Beer Boom
A new crop of brewmasters is excited to share uniquely local beers with you.
McHenry County is known for great food, festive gatherings and a well-centered sense of community. What better than a good, local craft beer with which to pair that reputation? With a recent surge of exceptional craft breweries in McHenry County, this pairing is an exciting reality. Enjoy the following tour of our local craft breweries and be sure to carve out some time to pay them a visit and taste for yourself:
Wild Onion Brewing/The Onion Pub, Lake Barrington
- What to expect: This brewpub-turned-production brewery, owned by brothers Mike and John Kainz, focuses on making great seasonal beer, giving back to the community and reducing its carbon footprint by using sustainable materials.
- Known for: Hop Slayer, a double India Pale Ale (IPA), is the brewery’s biggest seller, and a hophead’s dream. Other favorites include the wet-hopped Otis IPA made with hops grown on site and the Drago Russian Imperial Stout, aged nine months in retired whiskey barrels.
While you’re there: Enjoy a meal at the restaurant, bring home a growler, book a brewery tour or plan your next special event at the banquet space.
Chain O’Lakes Brewing, Downtown McHenry
- What to expect: This brewpub and taproom owned by Curt and Linda Ames has no televisions so good conversations can flow freely, and although there is no food, patrons are welcome to bring in their own orders or have food delivered.
- Known for: The brewery boasts: “Good beer, made here at McHenry County’s first brewery.” The most popular beers include Fox River Scotch Ale and COL’s IPA. They are bigger batch beers and are permanently on tap. Every Friday, new small batch beers (30 gallons) are delivered from tank to tap and are available until gone.
- Meant to be: “When I was in the military, I told far too many people that I was going to open a brewery when I retired, so I pretty much had to,” Curt Ames explained.
Scorched Earth Brewing, Algonquin
- What to expect: This production brewery also offers a homey taproom for tasting and gatherings. Although the brewery does not serve food, it occasionally collaborates with food trucks, giving patrons easy access to a meal.
- Known for: Owner and former home brewer Mike Dallas says that he would rather be known for high-quality products than be known for one flagship beer. Head brewer, Dan Payson, describes the products as “soul beers’ – things we’re all familiar with, with a new twist.” He uses traditional methods paired with locally sourced ingredients to produce traditional-style beers.
- Connection to nature: The name “Scorched Earth” comes from the rebirth of the native prairies in Illinois after a fire.
Crystal Lake Brewing, Downtown Crystal Lake
- What to expect: A production brewery and taproom that invites patrons to bring their own food or order delivery.
- Known for: Owned by John O’Fallon and Chuck Ross, Crystal Lake Brewing boasts three flagship beers. First, Slalom King Rye IPA, features a big hop aroma and firm, but not harsh, bitterness, finishing with a terrific spicy note. Second, Wake Maker Pale Ale, is a traditional American-style pale with a bold citrus hop flavor and aroma. Third, Beach Blonde American Wheat Ale, is a balanced, light ale that people new to craft beer will find very approachable.
- Coming to a pub near you: With a dream to be served in every restaurant in McHenry County, O’Fallon says you’ll soon find Crystal Lake Brewing beers on tap at local restaurants and pubs.
Cary Ale House & Brewing Co., Downtown Cary
- What to expect: Alehouse and restaurant.
- Known for: Cary Ale House & Brewing Co. includes a full-service bar stocked with wine, liquor and, of course, beer – not only their own, but other local beers. They intend to have a few staple beers on tap at all times, as well as rotating seasonal craft beers on tap at different times throughout the year. The alehouse also features a full menu of classic pub favorites, plus regular live music. Dustin Davies, the head brewmaster and co-owner, said Cary Ale House plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign to help fund brewing equipment for a future brewery.
- In with the new: Cary Ale House & Brewing Co. is housed in the site of the old Cary Public House, creating a new, community-oriented downtown destination.