Sipping success: Downers Grove bar named one of the world’s best

Orange & Brew Bottle Shop & Tap Room recently was named one of the best bars in the world by Craft Beer & Brewing magazine, an honor that took owner Eric Schmidt by surprise.

One of the best beer bars in the world is in Downers Grove.

Orange & Brew Bottle Shop & Tap Room, 1027 Burlington Ave., recently was named the 10th best beer bar in the world by Craft Beer & Brewing magazine.

Yes, the world.

“Isn’t that crazy? I’m waiting for them to rescind it,” owner Eric Schmidt said.

The impact of the honor hit home a few days later.

“The Tuesday after we found out about it, a guy was walking around, looking at the shelves. He had a beer, commented that we have really good pricing for craft beer.

“He said, ‘Where I live, they’re a lot more expensive.’ He lived in California. I asked how he wound up here. He said he read about us in Craft Beer & Brewing,” Schmidt said.

In town for business, the man was staying in nearby Oak Brook.

“A few others who knew about it have stopped in to check us out,” Schmidt, 50, said.

He and his wife, Carrie, who owns the business with him, were surprised by the recognition.

“We had no idea. It’s a reader voted award. I didn’t hear any groundswell about people voting for us,” he said.

Orange & Brew has been selling craft beers in Downers Grove since December 2018.

The name is a tribute to the orange and blue of the University of Illinois. Eric and Carrie met at the school and graduated from the university in 1995.

They have been married 19 years, have a daughter and son in high school and live in Lemont.

Why did they open the business?

“I worked in restaurants, bars in college, after college to pay off student loans. I have a lot of friends in the industry, especially on the craft beer side. I had a huge interest in something I was passionate about. That’s why I decided to do it,” he said.

Long gone are the days when only big-name brands were on shelves, when Coors was considered exotic because it couldn’t be bought east of the Mississippi River.

Now, hundreds of craft beers are available and quite a few of them can be found at Orange & Brew.

Beers are sold by the can or you can make your own four-packs.

Schmidt said about the explosion in popularity of craft beers that “everyone is looking for the new thing. What’s new? What’s seasonal? ... It just grew from that.”

“What we’re seeing now is less people are taking beers home, but they’re still coming in for the experience. Our draft is up huge the last two years and continues to go up,” he said.

“(During) COVID, a lot of people were drinking at home. ... What they bring home now is what they’re going to drink between now and the next visit. It’s up to us to figure that out,” he said.

His business “can be nimble because we’re not reliant on one brand.”

Schmidt credits Chris DiBraccio, former owner of Brixie’s in Brookfield, as “being a big help to us.”

DiBraccio is now a part-owner of Imperial Oak Brewing, which is where Brixie’s had been on Ogden Avenue in Brookfield.

“Every time I walked into Brixie’s, there’d be five beers on tap that I never heard of. That’s where I got into it,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt is proud to be an Illini, noting that Orange & Brew is an official game watch bar, according to the Chicago chapter of the university’s alumni association.

Need proof? A sign near the taps reads “Alumni Hall 146 miles.”

Orange & Brew is open from noon to 9 p.m. Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and from noon to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. It is closed Monday.

About 1:30 p.m. Nov. 30, Bolingbrook resident Mark Burger, 54, made his first visit.

“Do you have WiFi here?” Burger asked.

Told they do, Burger smiled.

“Better than a coffee shop. I’ll have a beer,” Burger said.

When he learned of the lofty honor, Burger was impressed.

“Wow. This place? Congratulations,” he said.

Hard ciders, seltzers, mead and gluten-free beer are sold along with wine by the glass. They’ll be adding more nonalcoholic beers.

For the list of the world’s Top 20 Beer Bars, go to

Three Chicago bars made the list. Hopleaf is ranked No. 1. The Beer Temple is ranked ninth and The Map Room is 20th.

“We’re in some amazing company,” Schmidt said. “Honored isn’t even the right word. It’s just absolutely crazy to think about. Incredible. ... It’s really cool.”