Event—Public Programming

Royko's Beer Test 50th


Celebrate the life and career of Chicago journalist Mike Royko with readings from his work and restaging of his 1973 beer taste test.

Half a century ago, journalist Mike Royko had 11 of his friends drink 22 beers, foreign and domestic, to prove how bad American beer was. To honor the 50th anniversary of that achievement (and the 60th anniversary of the start of Royko’s journalism career), the Chicago Brewseum, Newberry Library, and Pocket Guide to Hell are coming together to re-stage the beer taste test—but with a twist. 

Royko’s Beer Test 50th brings together 22 of Chicago’s craft brewing stars to taste and rate 11 lagers, local and national, to determine which is best and how far the industry has come in 50 years. 

And this time, you, the public, get to join in the experience, with the chance to select a “people’s choice” beer and win some prizes.

But Royko’s Beer Test 50th is more than a beer tasting. There is going to be food, music, treasures from the Mike Royko Papers at the Newberry library, and readings from work by the man himself—all to honor the life and career of the greatest of Chicago newspaper columnists. Participants include musician Hope Arthur, actor Gary Houston, journalist Rick Kogan, scholar Bill Savage, and Kristin Emery from the Newberry. Judges include John Carruthers, Pat Doerr, Keith Lemcke, Javi Lopez, Shana Solarte, Chalonda White, and more. 

Royko’s Beer Test 50th is Sunday, July 30 at 1pm. Suggested donation is $7.50 and includes an original button produced by the Busy Beaver Button Co. A limited edition poster by Ethan D’Ercole is going to be available for sale. A portion of the proceeds goes to support the Chicago Brewseum.

This program is produced by the Chicago Brewseum, Newberry Library, and Pocket Guide to Hell.

About Mike Royko

Mike Royko (1932-1997) was a Pulitzer-Prize winning columnist with the Chicago Daily News, Chicago Sun-Times, and Chicago Tribune. Having grown up in an apartment above a bar, Royko understood the important role the neighborhood tavern played in creating community. His first newspaper column, which concerned a tavern, appeared in the Daily News in September 1963. He conducted the beer taste test in July 1973. His Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago (1971) is considered a classic work on the city’s politics.


Hope Arthur is a Chicago based classical pianist, accordion player, songwriter and composer. She is the accordion player for the punk/absurdist marching band Mucca Pazza, founder of the Alpine folk band Dirndolls, pianist for Bloody Tambourine and the Musical Mafia, and she composes music under her own project, Serepta. 

Gary Houston is an actor, director, a former Chicago Sun-Times books and arts writer, and the current managing editor of Chicago Quarterly Review.

Rick Kogan writes for the Chicago Tribune, is creator/host of WGN Radio’s After Hours, and author of a dozen books, including Everybody Pays: Two Men, One Murder and the Price of Truth (with Maurice Possley) and A Chicago Tavern, the history of the Billy Goat.

Bill Savage is Professor of Instruction in the English Department at Northwestern University, where he teaches a course on the Chicago literary tradition. He has taught Mike Royko’s columns and Boss there, and in adult education seminars at the Newberry Library for over thirty years.


Beer is more than just a beverage. It is a dynamic cultural force with the power to bring people together and the ability to influence change. The Chicago Brewseum highlights the dynamic culture and innovative history of one of the world’s most vibrant industries.  By using stories of the past and tales of the present, the Chicago Brewseum takes a deeper look into one of the oldest beverages and its power to build community and its importance as an ongoing cultural force. The Chicago Brewseum is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit cultural organization. Learn more at chicagobrewseum.org.

Pocket Guide to Hell is a series of walks, talks, reenactments, and radio shows dealing with Chicago history. Often participatory and free to all, Pocket Guide to Hell explores the past to make sense of the present and has been written about in the Chicago Tribune, New York Times, Journal of American Studies, and more. Learn about past and upcoming events at pocketguidetohell.com.

Cost and Registration

This program is open to all with a $7.50 suggested donation. Advance registration required.


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Past Public Programs

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