Pub/Bar of the Month December 2009: The Map Room
The Map Room, Chicago, USA
Chicago is an under-rated beer city. While attention in the USA often focuses on the likes of San Francisco, Denver, Philadelphia or Portland, Chicago sneaks in under the radar as great beer venue.
The acknowledged heartbeat for local beer enthusiasts is The Map Room, a small corner establishment that opens in the morning for coffee and breakfast buns but comes into its own once the 26 taps start to flow. They don’t stop until the early hours, seven days a week.
The red-brick building is not particularly pretty, but it’s certainly friendly. Owner Laura Blasingame summed it up to me a few years ago when she called it ‘an old place with lots of love’.
As befits its name, and widely-used description as 'a traveller's tavern', the bar’s black walls are pasted with colourful atlas enlargements and national flags hang from the dark ceiling.
Ascend to Paradise
If you love beer, you’ll feel you’ve ascended to paradise here, for, as well as the fascinating array of local microbrews on tap, there is a very well-chosen cabinet of bottled beers from around the world (the selection continually enhanced) and the opportunity to drink a cask-conditioned ale brewed locally, or imported from the UK. I've seen the likes of Mauldons Black Adder and Cropton Monkman’s Slaughter on sale here.
The extensive beer range changes regularly and there is a beer of the month. As you'd expect, the appropriate glassware is chosen for each drink by well-informed, enthusiastic staff.
Regular beer schools, hosted by Greg Browne, brewmaster at the Mickey Finn’s brewpub at Libertyville, just north of Chicago, add to the culture of educated drinking with their Saturday evening studies of various beer styles, while scheduled international nights add flavours of a selected country by serving the local food.
There are numerous other outstanding beer bars in Chicago, but if you’re in the Windy City, The Map Room, in the Bucktown district, should definitely be your first port of call.
The Map Room, 1949 North Hoyne Street, Chicago, IL 60647
Tel. (773) 252-7636
Opening Hours: 6.30 am–2 am (Mon–Fri), 7.30 am–3 am (Sat), 11 am–2 am (Sun); alcohol is served from 11 am every day