When Eataly first opened, it was filled with seafood, meat, vegetables, pastas and olive oil. One thing, however, was missing.
Or at least beer made in the on-site brewery, which took a while to get up to speed. Things are humming along nicely now and the brewery is putting out three different beers that you'll find in the beer-focused restaurant, Birreria.
The first brew is Sophia, a Begian witbier with an edge: It's brewed with three kinds of peppercorns. Next comes Fl!p, an herbal flavor bomb made with green cardamom and candied ginger. It's inspired by the flip cocktail from England in the 17th century--the brewers think it's the beer closest to what would have been used.
Our favorite, the queen of Eataly, if you will, is Gina. This incredibly drinkable ale is cask-conditioned, served warm (and alive) and brewed with fresh thyme flown in from Italy. The herb is obvious from the moment the beer gets within three feet of your nose--a pungent, spicy bouquet that goes down smooth.
Want to try all three? Eataly is running a special deal: Try all three beers, plus paired bites, for $16. The food pairings are impressive enough that you should order full portions. Sophia's peppercorns go perfectly with fried shishito peppers, while Gina's herbal smoothness cuts right through the slight funk of fried shitake mushrooms with sage.
If you're in the mood for something more challenging, choose from among the selection of imported Italian sours, something found just about nowhere else in Chicago.
The best beer bar in River North? It's hiding inside of Eataly.