Skip to contents
Jefferson Park, Portage Park, Norwood Park

Illuminated Brew Works Brings Funky, Experimental Beers To Its First Taproom In Norwood Park

The taproom, called IBW Lodge, opened Friday. The owners said they're excited to see people and experiment with flavors again.

Zac Rodgers pours a glass of Trust, a premium lager, at Illuminated Brew Works’s tap room, 6186 N. Northwest Hwy., in Norwood Park on July 22, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
  • Credibility:

NORWOOD PARK — A local brewery is ready to invite guests into its first taproom in Norwood Park after six years of producing beer inside a West Town warehouse.

Illuminated Brew Works opened its IBW Lodge at 6186 N. Northwest Highway on Friday. It’s allowing the team to get back to producing funky beers and interacting with customers, said co-founder and brewmaster Brian Buckman.

“With the taproom, we can put new and weird beers in front of people’s faces and see what they think about them,” Buckman said.

The taproom is open 7-10 p.m. Mondays, 4-10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 4-11 p.m. Fridays, noon-11 p.m. Saturdays and noon-8 p.m. Sundays.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
A glass of The Ballad of the Peanut Butter Pony, a stout with cocoa, at Illuminated Brew Works’s taproom, 6186 N. Northwest Hwy., in Norwood Park on July 22, 2021.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Zac Rodgers, Brian Buckman and Dave Gibbons pose for a photo at Illuminated Brew Works’s tap room, 6186 N. Northwest Hwy., in Norwood Park on July 22, 2021.

Illuminated is known for experimental beers like tarts, sours and concoctions with fruits, cookies and cake flavors, as well as traditional selections like double IPAs, ciders, lagers and stouts.

Buckman and friends Matt Shirley and Jason Monk started the brewery in 2015 and went full-time managing the business in 2017. By the end of that year, Illuminated was contracting with Great Central Brewing Company in West Town, making 100-200 barrels of beer a month in their space and another 65 barrels of fermentation in a friend’s warehouse.

Illuminated sells its beer at restaurants, bars and stores around the city and has collaborated on with bars and restaurants including Parachute, The Publican, Lucky Dorr and Hayward Tavern.

Buckman called the brewery a “strange animal in the world of beer” and wants to get back to releasing special beers weekly, like Illuminated did before the pandemic.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
A mural that says, “Enjoy with people you trust,” by Jason Pritchard is eclipsed by a glass of a premium lager, Trust, at Illuminated Brew Works’s taproom, 6186 N. Northwest Hwy., in Norwood Park on July 22, 2021.

Buckman also hopes his team can bring fresh beer energy to the community, which does not have very many breweries.

“As far as neighborhoods in the city, [Norwood Park is] pretty underserved relative to other neighborhoods for breweries,” he said. “The space was kind of perfect for what we needed.”

RELATED: Alarmist Brewing And Taproom, Sauganash’s Only Bar, Debuts Long-Awaited Patio

Buckman said the taproom and production area, which is a big upgrade in size from the previous production facility, will help Illuminated expand its barrel program and grow the brand.

The brewery distributes all over the city and in various states. Buckman said the taproom’s proximity to the highway makes self-distribution access easy. It was another reason the team chose to open on the Far Northwest Side.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Brian Buckman pours wheat as Zac Rodgers mashes it in water for the brewing process at Illuminated Brew Works, 6186 N. Northwest Hwy., in Norwood Park on July 22, 2021.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Dave Gibbons (center) works on brewing beer at Illuminated Brew Works, 6186 N. Northwest Hwy., in Norwood Park on July 22, 2021.

The building, which used to house a fish-mongering business, has sat empty for at least 10 years, Buckman said. The brewery sits next to a car wash and wine shop WineStyles Norwood Park.

Buckman plans to host outdoor events with the neighboring businesses, like music shows in the parking lot.

For now, the team can’t wait to release their experiments with flavors and yeasts and bring new folks to Norwood Park.

“Last year, being what it was, we haven’t had many opportunities to do [be together],” Buckman said. “Having the taproom here is going to open that back up and let us start to play with beers again.”

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
A glass of Fruit Creep, a double dry hopped double IPA, is posed next to a sad clown mascot at Illuminated Brew Works’s tap room, 6186 N. Northwest Hwy., in Norwood Park on July 22, 2021.

Subscribe to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.

Already subscribe? Click here to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation. 

Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast” here: