A couple weeks ago, almost 300 awards were presented to breweries from around the globe at the World Beer Cup held in Denver, CO. Of those, 20 were given to breweries from the Chicagoland area (within three hours driving distance from Chicago), further solidifying this region as not only one of the fastest growing, but also as a hotbed for some of the world’s best beers. Here are just a few of this year’s award winners you should seek out the next time you’re visiting Chicagoland…

Horse Thief Hollow in Chicago.Horse Thief Hollow, Chicago, IL

Cheval Deux, Silver Medal, Field Beer or Pumpkin Beer

Brewed in collaboration with fellow South Siders, One Trick Pony, Cheval Deux is a sweet potato-infused English brown ale that belongs right beside the turkey and dressing on your Thanksgiving dinner table. Horse Thief Hollow, located in the Beverly neighborhood of Chicago, has been filling its brewpub ever since it opened a little more than a year ago, thanks to its steady rotation of classic beers and Carolina-inspired BBQ dishes.

Founders-Mango-MagnificoFounders Brewing Co., Grand Rapids, MI

Mango Magnifico con Calor, Gold Medal, Herb and Spice Beer

I’m usually not a fan of beers using hot peppers, but Mango Magnifico changed my outlook on the whole category last summer when it hit shelves. Part of Founders’ Backstage Series, this fruit beer not only perfectly blends tropical mango flavors with Michigan-grown habaneros, but it also packs a punch at 10% ABV. Instead of burning your tongue, throat, and chest like some pepper-infused beers can, Mango Magnifico splashes your palate with cool sweetness, then merely hints at the heat and flavor of the habaneros in a warm, soothing finish.

PiecePiece Brewery, Chicago, IL

The Weight, Gold Medal, American-Style Pale Ale    

Marketing Ploy, Bronze Medal, Australasian-Style Pale Ale or International-Style Pale Ale

No strangers to medal ceremonies, Piece Brewery and Brewmaster Jonathan Cutler have been adding shiny awards to their collection since 2002. The Weight, a classic American pale ale with citrus and piney hop notes, took home silver at the World Beer Cup in 2012 before claiming the top prize this year. Meanwhile, Marketing Ploy, a refreshing pale ale brewed in collaboration with Three Floyds, garnered a bronze. A stop at this popular pizzeria brewpub is a must for anyone passing through Chicago.

HaymarketHaymarket Pub & Brewery, Chicago IL

The Defender, Gold Medal, American-Style Stout

A key player for many years in the Chicago craft beer scene, Haymarket continues to create astonishingly great beers, especially when it comes to dark varieties. The Defender is a 9% ABV double American stout brewed with loads of roasted barley, chocolate malt, and oats, then hopped and dry-hopped with Chinook. If this pitch black beer was any more complex, you might need a manual to drink it.

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