The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Use-it-or-lose-it PTO, plus the oncoming storm

My company distributes each employee's paid time off (PTO) by distributing a certain number of hours of per half-month pay period. The hours accumulate in a bank that the employee can tap into at any time. Salaried employees can spend it in half-day increments, making it a straightforward arithmetic problem to see how much time off one has available.

There is, of course, a catch: At some point, you hit your maximum number of PTO hours, and it stops accruing. I will be at that point on the 31st of this month.

So, today, I'm taking a day off, and will use it to perform necessary research for the Brews & Choos Project.

There is, of course, a catch:

Yeah. That crap is slowly moving northeast and looks likely to hit Chicago in a couple of hours.

Well, I'll be on trains for a while, and the places I'm visiting are pretty close to the stations. And I can always adjust the plan on the fly. But it does look like I'll get a bit of snow.

Anyway, look for a couple of Brews & Choos entries this weekend.

Broken Tee Brewing Co., Highwood

Welcome to stop #80 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Broken Tee Brewing Co., 406 Green Bay Rd., Highwood
Train line: Metra UP-North, Highwood
Time from Chicago (Ogilvie): 52 minutes
Distance from station: Across the street

Broken Tee, the newest brewery in Lake County, opened over Labor Day weekend—the weekend before Urban Brew Labs closed down. But while Broken Tee requires a longer train trip than UBL did, I found it worth the trip.

I met an old friend for a beer and a bite last Friday. I only tried two 10 oz. pours (they do flights too), because I apparently have a cold, and they were both quite good. The One Hop N Bite IPA (6.9%) "showcases the Idaho7 hop variety." It's got a good nose, clean finish, and a bit of fruit and bitterness almost like a more-subtle Citra-hopped beer. I also tried the Range Session IPA (5.5%), a nice, rounded, balanced IPA, not too hoppy, but definitely a bit too strong to call itself a "session" IPA for real.

The space is cute, with a separate dining room and a nook off the main bar area. I also recommend the fried elote cheese bites dipped in chipotle aioli. My friend had the hot chicken sandwich in about 40 seconds, pronouncing it "delicious."

When they open their beer garden later this spring, I can see meeting some suburban friends at Broken Tee for lunch followed by a walk to Kings and Convicts for another pint.

Beer garden? Opening Spring 2023
Dogs OK? Outside
Televisions? 1, avoidable
Serves food? Yes, pub food
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

When, in the corset of human events...

Let's start with combat-actor Jill Bearup explaining how the Netflix-ITV-BBC ban on corsets solves entirely the wrong problems:

Meanwhile, in the modern world:

Finally, I missed an anniversary yesterday. On 22 February 2003, Saturday Night Live aired this bit of Tina Fey's genius:

Bungalow by Middle Brow, Chicago

Welcome to stop #79 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Bungalow by Middle Brow., 2840 W. Armitage Ave., Chicago
Train line: CTA Blue Line, California
Time from Chicago: 14 minutes
Distance from station: 600 m

I had plans to meet a friend who lives in Logan Square last Thursday, so why not combine it with the Brews and Choos Project? The friend loves Bungalow by Middle Brow, and I understand why. It's really cool.

I tried a sip of my friend's Cottage Mexican Lager (4%), and put it in the category of "really well-made beer that didn't work for me." I just had a Little Crush IPA (4.5%), which fell into exactly that category for my friend, but which I liked a lot.

We also had an appetizer of fresh, warm bread with nduja butter, and we shared a pepperoni pizza. We cleaned our plates.

I will head back there when the weather gets warmer. It will be a good place to start when I visit the many other breweries within 1 kilometer of California and Armitage.

Beer garden? Yes
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? No
Serves food? Full menu
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Goose Island Beer Co., Chicago

Welcome to stop #78 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Goose Island Beer Co., 1800 N. Clybourn Ave., Chicago
Train line: CTA Brown Line, Armitage
Time from Chicago: 12 minutes
Distance from station: 600 m

I put this one off for a long time because, in the years since I last visited, Chicago has had an explosion of craft breweries. Also because InBev bought them 12 years ago. The combination has taken Chicago's first and, for a long time, only local brewery taproom and made it kind of mediocre.

So why now? First, because later this year they plan to move to the Salt Shed, so there wasn't much time left; and second, because I saw M3GAN at the Arc 14 theater three blocks away, so it was convenient.

Since I used to drink a lot of Honkers Ale and the basic IPA, on Saturday I tried three beers I hadn't actually had before: the Phantom Limb pale ale (5.3%), the Flyway West Coast IPA (7.3%), and the Hazy Beer Hug IPA (6.8%). They were all fine, and I would have them again, but (a) I didn't take notes because I was out with a friend and (b) I wouldn't have had a lot to say anyway.

Goose Island used to be the only game in town, but they were revelatory. But a lot more breweries have opened up since 1987, with a lot better beers. InBev goes for volume over quality. 

I'll still stop into their Fulton Avenue taproom at some point. And the new brewpub at the Salt Shed, when it opens. But really, stopping into their aging Clybourn brewpub was just to complete the B&C list.

Beer garden? Sidewalk patio
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? Yes, avoidable
Serves food? Yes, full menu
Would hang out with a book? Maybe
Would hang out with friends? Maybe
Would go back? Maybe

Catching up at home

New Zealand's prime minister, Jacinda Arden, just resigned unexpectedly, which is a much more surprising story than any of these I queued up:

Finally, I'm glad to discover that ibuprofen may be more effective than acetaminophen for treating tension headaches, so I will now take one.

Black Hammer Brewing, San Francisco

Welcome to an extra stop on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Black Hammer Brewing, 544 Bryant St., San Francisco
Train line: Caltrain, San Francisco terminal
Time from Chicago: about 4½ hours by air
Distance from station: 600 m

I spent most of Monday in Palo Alto, Calif., one of the few places in California that has an actual commuter rail station. Caltrain's northern terminus, at 4th and King, is only three blocks from an actual brewery, so naturally I stopped in.

My $20 flight started with the Jaded River ESB (5%), a West Coast interpretation of English bitter ale that tasted good to me but had a stronger hop concentration than any Real Ale I've had over there. Next I tried their flagship Western IPA, the Kaleido APA (6%), which had a big flavor for something billed as an APA, with lots of hops and just the right amount of malt. I'm sure you can pick out the Cuddle Puddle NEIPA (6.1%), with all that hazy, Citra goodness, that actually tasted a lot lighter than I expected. I finished with the Vesuvio DIPA (8.1%), a huge beer that sneaks up on you before you get a small explosion of grapefruit, orange, and what I can only describe as Humboldt County mother nature.

Special mention goes out to this guy:

Growler—and what a name for a brewery dog—kept flirting with me before deciding that I didn't have any treats on me, even though my coat pocket smelled just like the bacon nibbles I carry for Cassie. So after someone put him on the barstool across from me, he stared. And stared. And willed me to bring him a treat. Because he knew that the bartender had a whole box of them, and at some point, I would crack and bring him one.

He was absolutely right.

Beer garden? Sidewalk, covered
Dogs OK? Clearly
Televisions? Two, avoidable
Serves food? BYO
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Beautiful day in San Francisco

Unfortunately, though, I'm already at the airport, staring out at blue skies and sunny...airplanes. I'm looking forward to getting home, though, and to picking up Cassie tomorrow morning after her bath. (She was already overdue, but after 4 days with her pack, she'll need it even more.)

I've got a couple of Brews & Choos from yesterday as well as a few photos from the weekend coming later this week. Stay tuned.

Brace yourselves: winter is coming

We get one or two every year. The National Weather Service predicts that by Friday morning, Chicago will have heavy snowfall and gale-force winds, just what everyone wants two days before Christmas. By Saturday afternoon we'll have clear skies—and -15°C temperatures with 400 mm of snow on the ground. Whee!

We get to share our misery with a sizeable portion of the country as the bomb cyclone develops over the next three days. At least, once its gone and we have a clear evening Saturday or Sunday, we can see all five of the naked-eye planets just after sunset.

Meanwhile, I'm about to start my team's Sprint 75 Review, the last one of 2022, which contains a few goodies we put off because we spent most of our time on client requests. We have a strange habit of doing what paying customers know they want before we add the things they don't know they want.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world:

Finally, director James Cameron ended all debate about whether Jack and Rose could both have survived in Titanic: "Cameron maintains that Jack simply had to die, telling The Sun that 'if I had to make the raft smaller, it would have been smaller.'" Because the story, you see, required it.

Craft beer woes

The Tribune has a cheery article today about the decline in craft beer sales and concomitant decline in craft breweries, citing the two closest breweries to where I'm sitting as evidence:

In recent months, Urban Brew Labs went out of business in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood. Just around the corner, so did Empirical Brewery.

Smylie Brothers Brewing shuttered its Lakeview brew pub in September, barely a year after opening. And after years of trying to find its footing, Finch Beer Co. closed its production brewery this summer.

While the bubble isn’t quite bursting when it comes to craft beer — as some onlookers have long been speculating — the industry is facing headwinds long in the offing for small and local breweries that knew mostly growth for more than a decade.

During the last 15 years, the number of breweries nationally has grown from about 1,500 to nearly 10,000; in the Chicago area, that figure surged from about a dozen to more than 250.

Yet years of exuberance have skidded to a halt, and for a number of complex and interlocking reasons: ever-increasing competition, the rising cost of doing business, the broader economy and shifting consumer habits rooted in the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the holidays coming, and a bit of flexibility on working hours during the last two weeks of December, I need to kick the Brews & Choos Project into another gear. At least, before more breweries close.