Arguably Naperville’s best craft beer pub, JIMMY’S GRILL is situated down the hill from my alma mater, North Central College, and across the street from established downtown staple (and college hangout) The Lantern. An L-shaped black marble-topped bar welcomes brew hounds to this veritable sportsbar (with TV’s at all corners). Classical wood columns and pristine oak furnishings adorn the red brick interior while windowed doors lead to the umbrella-laden front deck. A rear dining area suits families and private parties.

On a hot Saturday afternoon in mid-July 2014, a few of my long-time college pals join me at a table near the side entrance to drain a few local suds emulating from the 16 available tap handles.  Happily, Jimmy’s revolving taps included a few previously untried libations (and the coolers were filled with well-selected bottled fare).

Hailing from Chicago, Half Acre Daisy Cutter, the brewers’ flagship offering, brought forth a sharper citric acidity than most pale ales, draping champagne yeast and bark-dried oak atop lemon-peeled grapefruit rind, pineapple, mandarin orange, tangerine and mango illusions.

Even sharper and woodier, Ale Asylum Hop-a-licious loaded resinous pine hop bittering inside floral-bound orange rind, grapefruit, tangerine and peach tones.

A bizarrely concocted collaboration between Colorado-based New Belgium and Indiana-based Three Floyds, Lips Of Faith Gratzer, revived an ancient Polish smoked dark ale style with its oak-smoked wheat, burnt wood char and dry mocha malting overriding wispy cola, walnut, Baker’s chocolate, cocoa powder, black coffee and crisp tobacco notions at the milk-soured lactic finish.




The undisputed crown jewel of conservative suburb, Naperville, SOLEMN OATH BREWERY began crafting interesting Belgo-American-styled ales in 2012, developing a distinct flare for remarkably adventurous and original fare along the way. Located in a light industrial park warehouse, this daring no-frills brewhouse has built quite a sturdy reputation among local beer geeks and fanatical brewpub travelers. Brewing an endless assortment of stylishly diverse ales from large stainless steel vessels and massive fermentation tanks, Solemn Oath has expanded exponentially since opening. As of my July 2014 jaunt, the dedicated staff now bottles, kegs and taps its highly respected product for Chicagoland consumption.

Upon entering the left side door of this off-white cement-floored edifice, an L-shaped serving station accommodates a packed late afternoon crowd. Nirvana’s raucous anthem, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” blares in the background as my friend, Scott, and I sample eight endlessly rewarding and stylishly hybridized libations. Many of these selections, plus a few others bought in bottle, are reviewed more fully in the Beer Index.

Light-bodied farmhouse ale, Hexafoos, began our session. Its fruity saison yeast ‘zang’ retained a white-peppered lemon pit sourness and mild herbal bittering, allowing mandarin orange, blood orange and tangerine illusions to flutter past whimsical chamomile snips.

Bettering most casual pale ales, the santiam-hopped version of Skinny Jeans Are Ridiculous possessed an herbal fruited pleasantry layered above dry pale malts. Its sweet citric zest and lemon-dropped grapefruit tartness contrasted hop-oiled hemp notions, picking up a broadened juniper bittering by the bold finish.

Boasting large amounts of grapefruit, pineapple and mango, tropical-fruited pale ale, Snaggletooth Bandana, brought buttery malt creaming to floral-hopped phenolic astringency.

A neat collaboration with Stone, ‘red’ farmhouse ale, Pyrros,  seemed reminiscent of a Flanders Red with its tannic red cherry tartness, vinous green grape esters  and light Sherry illusions downplaying unanticipated pepper-spiced herbage.

Effervescent Belgian IPA, Butterfly Flashmob, offered dry tropical fruiting to floral-bound herbage and salty hop-oiled spicing. White-peppered yellow grapefruit rind, sweet orange peel, sweet banana and pineapple coast alongside crystal malts.

Approachable saison moderation, Whisper Kisses,  softened its white-wined Chardonnay buttering with light grapefruit-orange tartness, lilting lemongrass liming and floral-hopped pleasantries (layered above a biscuity malt base).

Black kolsch-styled Eigengrau stayed subtle as light-roasted black patent malts skewered its coffee-burnt hop char and smoked chocolate subtleties. Powdered cocoa and Baker’s chocolate whims skim the surface.

Perhaps the best offering, Foux Du Fafa, a floral-fruited Imperial farmhouse IPA (with well-hidden 10% ABV), balanced crystal malt sweetness with delicate citric-hopped bittering. Lemon zest, orange blossom, vinous grape and yellow grapefruit illusions abound over earthen minerality.