With the addition of Nebraska to the Big Ten, someone asked me what beers were from Nebraska, so I put together a quick list of what I could find for Breweries/Brewpubs around Lincoln. But, I figured, I should put out a road trip plan for the places to get beer if you are on a road trip to go see some sort of Big Ten action. This is not an all inclusive list. If you know of any breweries/brewpubs that I've missed, leave a comment. If some brewpubs aren't listed, there's a chance they will be on other school road trips. There are only so many ways to get around Big Ten country. If you are coming from one of the schools to Illinois, just read the trip backwards and wind up at our only (current) brewpub, the Blind Pig Brewery (the piglet).
This will be an 11 part series (since the road trips are leaving from Champaign Urbana).
Our first road trip will take us up to Northwestern University, located in Evanston, Illinois. Northwestern plays their football at Ryan Field, at 1501 Central St, in Evanston. It's about 3 hours north of CU according to google maps.
On the way, there are several breweries. One of the first you'll pass on the journey north is in Bourbonnais, at the BrickStone Brewery. I haven't been there, but have heard decent things about it. It's right around 70 miles north of CU from the 57/74 interchange. It's a restaurant and brewery, so you can stop and eat or drink on the trip.
The next brewery you'll pass on the way is Flossmoor Station. Flossmoor is 104 miles north on 57 from the 74 exit. I really like going to this brewery. They produce some damn fine beers. They've won several awards for their beers and were named the Best Small Brewpub at the 2006 Great American Beer Festival. Their limited bottle release beers are great as well. The beer sampler platter is well worth it. Some of their food menu items are outstanding as well. I love their fish & chips.
As you continue traveling north on 57, if you want to take a little side trip, you can exit at interstate 80 and head west towards Iowa. If you turn north onto 45, there are 3 breweries/brewpubs in that area. The first one you come to is Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery. Rock Bottom is a chain, to me, it's the TGIF of breweries. They do produce some award winning beers. I've not been to this Rock Bottom.
A little bit further up the road is Harrisons Restaurant Brewery. Harrisons is ok. When I went there, I had the Reuben sandwich. Which went really well with their Cherry Wheat. Some of their beers are good, some are just serviceable. None are too horrible.
If you keep going on 45, there's another brewery. Granite City Food & Brewery. GCFB isn't the greatest of brewpubs. Their beer is just sort of ... meh. It all seems rather... uninspired. If you want to appreciate great beer, go have this beer.
If you took the 80 exit, but skipped out on turning north onto La Grange, you can continue to 355. Take 355 up towards Chicago, and you can go to Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant. GB is pretty much the original brewery restaurant chain. GB pretty much just makes lagers. They are a German brewing restaurant. So if you are looking for an IPA or a stout, you've gone to the wrong place. When I went there, they had a Macaroni and Cheese with lobster, that Kridz enjoyed. If Rock Bottom is TGIF, then Gordon Biersch is Olive Garden, it's slightly better, and has a less... um... tacky, what can we put up on the walls feel to it.
If you stayed on 57 and connected onto 90/94, then you are getting close to your destination.
If you went up for a Saturday afternoon football game, and spent the night, then you probably want to have breakfast somewhere before heading back south. The perfect spot for this is Goose Island Beer Company, Clybourne. GI Clybourne, is the original Goose Island brewpub. Get the sampler, get 2 or 3 of them. Each is 4 beers. They have many many many beers on tap. You won't be disappointed. Their sausage plate was awesome.
Another place that I've heard great reviews of is Piece Pizzeria and Brewery. I've not been to Piece, but have heard good things.
Another in the downtown Chicago area is Half Acre Beer Company. I've not been to Half Acre. I have had some of their beer (I think) and don't remember it being terrible.
One of the newer breweries (not pub) is Metropolitan Brewing. Their beer isn't available downstate (yet). Metropolitan Brewing is a brewery, they only offer tours on select days at select times. Check their website store for dates and times of the tours and to make reservations.
There is another Rock Bottom Restaurant closer to the lake.
Further out of the way, in Warrenville, is Two Brothers Brewing Company. If you are on a road trip to Northwestern, to watch Illinois play, you should stop at Two Brothers. The brothers went to U of I, so stop in there in your orange.