You would never think to find one of Chicago’s premiere pubs 30 miles south of Chicago. And you certainly wouldn’t expect to find it in a little town known more for being named after a “mud turtle” than beer…But that’s exactly where you’ll find it. Nestled on the newer side of town, The Tribes Alehouse and Grill is quickly making it’s mark as not one of but Chicago’s single most top-notch beverage joint.
Update: I am currently sitting at Tribes RIGHT NOW, literally, my laptop is on the bar. THey have just completely redone their menu. I can’t even begin to tell you how rad it is. Apparently, the pot roast sandwich is to die for. I’ll let you know! Cheers!
Location, Location, Location!
Now, I have to be really upfront here, the first time I heard of this joint, I had no idea where it was, even though I grew up in the same town. As a matter of fact, even after I knew where it was, I drove past it three times. Keeping along with the honesty, however, my delayed arrival only added to the adventure.
When you first pull up, you might think to yourself, “Is this pub that I’ve heard so much about really in a strip mall?” And if you’re the type, you might just answer yourself, “Why yes, yes it is”. I will give you that, it’s kind of weird at first to think of a pub next to a tanning salon and a Dunkin Donuts, but give it a chance. Just as some of the best pubs I’ve ever experienced in London, Scotland and even Chicago are strategically nestled in the busy goings-on of bustling urbana, Tribes doesn’t let you down. And you know what, maybe the location really forces you to make up your mind. If you don’t have the determination to find it, maybe you don’t want it bad enough.
In all fairness, it’s not difficult to locate. It’s right off the corner of an intersection that is quickly building up, and it’s nearly at the center of three of the suburbs up-and-coming towns. Actually, Will County, where Tribes is located was recently voted one of the better places to plant your roots in America (someone, somewhere stated that, I know it).
As you pull up, you see what could be just another bar and grill, but you don’t know what’s in store…
As soon as you cross the threshold, you realize this isn’t your hometown bar (even though it is mine, haha). You are greeted with a frosted glass window giving you a sneak peak of the large dining area you didn’t even think existed from the outside. You are directed to turn right into the bar area and immediately notice that whoever designed this place has damn good taste! The bar is elegantly crafted from solid, rich-looking and feeling woods. Every corner, every divider, every everything is tastefully adorned with awesome crown molding and skillful woodwork. The tables all make you feel like a King when you sit at them, with beefy chairs and even beefier tabletops. The walls are treated with a nice paint job that gives a real lived-in feel, but in the best way.
The bar area is just absolutely gorgeous. Seriously. The tap handles are lined up for what seems like a mile, all different, on a super rad looking brass backing. Above the active handles are the inactive ones, the brews that are not currently on tap, and they are lined up in a way that really adds depth, and lets you know that these cats know what they’re talking about. The kegs built into the walls (for decoration, the real kegs are in back), boxes and crates of all your favorite brews strategically placed throughout, all melt together with the exposed rafters for a new-meets-old industrial/Irish pub look. I have never seen the two flow together so effortlessly, for real. It’s apparent at this point in your stay that you won’t be leaving for some time…
Ok, so now you’re impressed. You decide you had better grab what is most likely that last seat at the bar (yeah, that happens a lot here). As you do, you begin to look around a little more slowly…a little more carefully. You will notice that the decorations are not random, like at most bars, nor are they haphazard. They were intentional. All of them. There are flickers of modern bar here and there, but it doesn’t take away from the ambiance of the environment. Vintage beer and brewery signs are artfully integrated with the most up-to-date brewer posters available (think Stone, 3-Floyds, Dogfish Head). The really neat thing is, instead of slapping the posters up all willy-nilly, the posters are surrounded by hand-made frames that really lend themselves to the back-home-in-Ireland feel they represent.
As you continue to circle, you will notice that Tribes has forgone the standard neon-lit dry erase board and sloppily written Budweiser posters for their specials. Instead, they hire local artists to draw really awesome pieces of art on elegantly-lit chalkboards. They often feature either the logos of the brands they represent or images following a similar theme as the brewery. Of course as the specials change, the boards change. Kind of like the works of art in the mansion at the end of “Antitrust”, this offers a little variance from time to time. Hell, I guess it also let’s you know what the specials are.
Finally completing your full circle, you see that there is actually an entire second room. This is not only for the folks that don’t want to sit at the bar (more likely those who got there too late to get a seat at the bar!), but those that want to sit with a larger group and have some circular conversation around a common table. In addition, this is where the games and events take place. They have Open Mic Night (complete with prizes), Oysterfest, Kinky Quiz Night, Live Music, and most importantly…THE ULTIMATE BEER BOUTS!!! One of the coolest things that happens in this room is the Monday night Bluegrass get-together. A bunch of local musicians get together and just jam out with everything from upright bass’ to fiddles to banjos.
My final impression of the atmosphere is totally awesome. It has the classic (and I mean classic) feel of the most friendly, homie bars, but then it has the ability to host some of America’s greatest beer events (literally, the Beer Bouts and taking America by storm). Also, they have the capacity to handle all sorts of group sizes and parties.
This is an area that is pretty close to my heart. First and foremost, of course, because I love beer, obviously. But I also mean the food menu. The pairings offered at a pub of this caliber are extremely important.
The beer offerings are so vast and so consistently changing that my standard line whenever I sit down at the bar is, “So, what’s new?”. At the time that this review is being written, these are the breweries represented (in no particular order…other than alphabetical):
- Allagash Brewing Company
- Bear Republic Brewing Company
- Bridgeport Brewing
- Dark Horse Brewing Company
- Brouwerij Huyghe
- Dogfish Head Brewery
- Stone Brewing Company
- Founders Brewing Company
- Lagunitas Brewing Company
- Left Hand Brewing Company
- Lost Coast Brewery
- Mendocino Brewing Company
- Metropolitan Brewing
- North Coast Brewing Company
- Ommegang Brewery
- Original Sin Cidery
- Rogue Ales
- Southern Tier Brewing Company
- Three Floyds Brewing Company
- Two Brothers Brewing Company
- Tyranena Brewing
Now, the neat part is, you probably said, “I haven’t heard of half of those breweries…”, guess what, that’s your fault. Go to a place like Tribes more often and you’ll learn a lot more than you ever thought. For instance, what’s the last pub you’ve been to that serves Three Floyds’ Dark Lord 2010? How about Three Floyds’ Alpha King on cask? You probably didn’t know that only one bar other than Three Floyds’ own brewpub has served Dark Lord on tap…EVER. That bar was Tribes. One more example. I went to my favorite homebrew shop (Barley and Hops), and asked if they had any bottles of Southern Tier’s “Pumking”. I was told that the entire country is now out, according to the Southern Tier rep, but they had 12 bottles left. I bought 10. Then I went to Tribes, and guess who had not one, not two, but FOUR kegs of Pumking left. I’m pretty confident I sold you on the beer, but what about the food?
I actually LOVE to eat here. They have such an awesome selection of food that I have yet to get bored, and I have tried something different almost every time I’ve gone (30+ times this year so far). How rad is this, they have a burger menu. But unlike normal burger menus, all of their burgers are available in chicken, beef, or bison. So, take the six burgers they offer (The Tribes Burger, Mushroom & Swiss, Black n Bleu, The Smoked BBQ, Southwestern, and The Pig & Goat) now give it the option of being prepared three different ways. Yeah, it blew my mind too. They absolute best part? The burgers come on a pretzel bun!
I’ve tried everything from the starters (I recommend the Ahi Tuna Sashimi or Hummus) to the salads (Beef & Bleu), to the burgers (any of ‘em!) to the sandwiches (I love the rueben), and nothing has yet to let me down.
The only request I would make, and even though it’s a small one I think it’s important, is the addition of pretzels. As far as I know, Tribes does not have pretzels available. I admit, I’m a total Rold Gold fanboy, but I really need my pretzels to help clear my palette, especially when so many great brews are on tap. Other than that, I absolutely love this place’s beer and food menu, I mean LOVE it.
Listen, by now you clearly think I was paid to write this, well I wasn’t (but Tribes, if you’re reading this, I am definitely open to the idea!). I really just absolutely freaking love this place. Seriously, why else would I spend every chance I get and every dime my wife gives me for allowance here? I actually wish I could go more often. The atmosphere is stellar, one of the absolute best I’ve seen. The beer is out of this world, and so is the food. The events they put on are epic, and they often sell out within weeks. The help is extremely knowledgeable and hang out here even when they’re off. They offer a half off nacho deal when you check in with foursquare four times. They remember your name, and even what you drank last time!
All of this adds up to one thing: a pub that makes you feel like you belong. I have seriously struck up conversations with a carpenter, an accountant, a self-made millionaire, a biker, a teacher, a male nurse, and a doctor just by sitting at the bar.
If you are in the Chicago area, do yourself a HUGE favor, make the trip to Tribes. You will be soooo glad you did. And when you get there, tell ‘em the Brew Bros sent ya!