The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Thursday afternoon round-up

A lot has happened in the past day or so:

Finally, let's all congratulate Trumpet, the bloodhound who won the Westminster Kennel Club's dog show last night. Who's a good boy!

Santa Cruz votes to keep abandoned rail line

In what one Daily Parker reader describes as "a Twitter fight come to life," the city of Santa Cruz, Calif., voted to keep an abandoned, unusable railway through its downtown because of the possibility that, in some possible future, trains might once again take passengers to Watsonville:

On June 7, about 70% of Santa Cruz County voters chose to reject a measure called the Greenway Initiative, which would have supported ripping out a portion of the tracks and replacing them with a bike path and pedestrian trail along the old train corridor. Instead, voters affirmed a plan to cling  to the rails and to the possibility of introducing regular passenger train travel, along with building some form of adjacent walkway.

The decisive vote was less of a mandate and more of a symbolic gesture, according to the Santa Cruz County counsel, because what comes next will be decided by the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission, which owns the rail line and has already been developing plans to create a combined rail-and-trail route to connect the beach city of Santa Cruz with Watsonville, a working-class, predominately Latino city about 20 miles down the coast.

“A train in 25 to 30 years does nothing in the next 25 to 30 years,” said Bud Colligan, a venture capitalist and local philanthropist who donated $20,000 to the measure and was one of its leading backers. “The train is completely unfunded; there’s no plan, we don’t have the population or the tax base to support it, and the likelihood of that happening is next to zero.”

But the fight over the measure was not just a battle of the train-lovers versus the bike-lovers, both of whom profess to have environmental sustainability as their goal. Backers of the Greenway Initiative, which raised more than $450,000, included tech founders and philanthropists like Colligan and leaders of the area’s agriculture industry, fueling suspicions from some locals about their motivations. One of the clearest could have been rail NIMBYism — a desire to keep Watsonville residents from easily accessing more-affluent coastal Santa Cruz neighborhoods. Another was the potential of legal settlements for landowners whose property neighbored the train. 

The Daily Parker reader quoted above described the fracas as "fighting about style and culture:"

It was the techies/business money vs the hippies. Trail or no trail, if they want to restore that train line, the tracks need to be replaced. And now we just have an eyesore through town, no money and no cross town path for car alternatives at all. It is the most asinine fight I’ve ever witnessed.

Fortunately, Santa Cruz has no other problems that require practical government intervention, so the energy expended over this vote was well-spent.

Meanwhile, former Chicago mayor, neighbor of mine, and current US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel absolutely loves Japanese trains and takes them everywhere. Because when the population density is high enough, trains make a lot of sense.

Maplewood Brewing, Chicago

Welcome to stop #75 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Maplewood Brewery, 2717 N Maplewood Ave., Chicago
Train line: CTA Blue Line, Logan Square
Time from Chicago: 16 minutes
Distance from station: 1.7 km

I've actually visited Maplewood many times in the past, but not since starting the Brews & Choos project. The pandemic got in the way, especially after it killed Fat Willy's Rib Shack and nearly killed the movie theater around the corner.

I finally returned to the movie theater on Wednesday to see the director's cut of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Since we did not, in fact, take public transit to get to the movie, we did not take shrooms before watching it as several friends advised. Instead we got beers. I decided on this flight:

I didn't take notes, but I do remember liking all of them. The one second from the right (Son of Juice) and the stout (Fat Pug) were especially tasty. (Note the embankment just across the alley: that's the Union Pacific Northwest Line, so the window seats provide the true railfan with entertainment during rush hour.)

The taproom doesn't have a lot of room but it does have a lot of taps. Plus, Maplewood distills spirits, which (again because I drove) I didn't sample this time.

Beer garden? Sidewalk
Dogs OK? Outside only
Televisions? None
Serves food? Snacks; BYOF while the kitchen is closed
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Elizabeth Line opens

The Elizabeth Line through central London, formerly known as Crossrail, opened today:

First approved in 2008, the heavy rail line will dramatically improve public transport coverage of the city, says Transport for London (TfL), slashing journey times, providing substantial extra capacity and making the city more altogether more accessible. By extending the transport system to areas that were previously much slower to access and creating new central hubs for transfers to the Tube, the line could also reshape the way people navigate the city.

Travel times from Southeast London’s Abbey Wood to the major western rail terminus of Paddington, for example, will be cut by almost half to 29 minutes. Journeys from southeastern Woolwich—currently one of London’s worst-served areas for train connections—to London’s main eastern rail terminus at Liverpool Street will be halved to 15 minutes, while connections between Farringdon, in London’s financial district, and the newer dockland business hub of Canary Wharf will be slashed from 24 minutes to just ten. While all Londoners stand to benefit from these connections, business travelers will be particularly well-served, with connections from Heathrow Airport to Canary Wharf soon to be possible in 44 minutes.

An additional 1.5 million people will be within a 45-minute commuting distance from the capital’s major commercial and business centers of the West End, the City and Canary Wharf, up from 5 million currently according to Crossrail.

The Elizabeth Line will also redraw the map of London’s central transport hubs.

To take an example: Farringdon Station—the central London terminus of the world’s first underground railway, which opened in January 1863—was, before the Elizabeth Line’s opening a busy but not necessarily pivotal station in London’s transport network. Thanks to the Elizabeth Line, it will now be a key interchange station, connecting the line not just to the Tube but with high frequency trains to London’s northern and southern suburban hinterland that are routed through the station. Farringdon will also now have direct links to St. Pancras International for Eurostar connections and to three major airports: Gatwick, Heathrow and Luton. Combined with the station’s existing Tube links, Farringdon will eventually be served by over 140 trains per hour at the busiest times.

I will deliver a full report in July.

Meanwhile, 89% of UK railway workers have voted for a national railway strike, so who knows how long the Elizabeth Line will run?

The Elizabeth Line opens this month

The London Underground gets a new line on May 24th. Eventually, you can take the Elizabeth Line from Heathrow to Essex in one go; for now, you have to change twice. But it still adds about 10% more capacity to the Tube:

The Elizabeth line will initially operate as three separate railways, with services from Reading, Heathrow and Shenfield connecting with the central tunnels from autumn this year. When the final stage is complete, customers will be able to travel seamlessly from Abbey Wood to Heathrow and Reading, and from Shenfield to Heathrow.

  • Shenfield and the central section of the route will need to change trains at Liverpool Street, walking to/from the new Elizabeth line Liverpool Street station
  • Reading or Heathrow and the central section will need to change trains at Paddington, walking to/from the new Paddington Elizabeth line station
  • Paddington and Abbey Wood only - no changes needed

The line has all-new trains, all-new signals, and all-new controls, making it "one of the most complex digital railways in the world," according to TfL.

The Heathrow to Paddington route looks like it could give the Heathrow Express some competition, as £6 is less than £25, even if the route takes twice as long.

Mikkeller Bar, San Francisco

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

Brewery: Mikkeler Bar, 34 Mason St., San Francisco
Train line: BART, Powell
Time from Chicago: about 4½ hours by air
Distance from station: 200 m

While in San Francisco last weekend, I happened across a brewpub that would fit the Brews & Choos ethos perfectly, were it in Chicago. The Mikkeller Bar in San Francisco serves a variety of craft beer, mostly their own Danish brews, but also some American varieties.

I tried three beers, the Weldwerks Mosaic Extra Extra Juicy Bits (DIPA, 8.6%), Mikkeller's Hop Opera NEDIPA (9%), and Mikkeller's Windy Hill (NEIPA, 7%). Of the three, I liked the Windy Hill enough to have a second.

It's an interesting place with a vibe that I assume came from a collision between Denmark and Northern California. It also has some deeply weird elements, like this, which rumor says came from the building's previous owner, presumably after he no longer needed it:

I'm glad I stopped in. Pity, though, that not a lot of breweries in the Bay Area would fit the Brews & Choos Project. But hey, it was a fun surprise.

Beer garden? No
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? None
Serves food? Full menu
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Burning Bush Brewery, Chicago

Welcome to stop #74 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Burning Bush Brewery, 4014 N. Rockwell Ave., Chicago
Train line: CTA Brown Line, Rockwell
Time from Chicago: 35 minutes
Distance from station: 1.5 km

The brewery opened in March 2020, and like others on this list, quickly pivoted to to-go sales. That let them get pretty good at making beers. Yesterday, Cassie and I stopped by the brewery after a 5 km walk to the Horner Park Dog Park just across the river.

I got a flight, naturally, and Cassie found shade under my table, naturally.

(Cassie also pulled on her leash, which I had clipped to the table, just as I set the flight down.)

I started with the Lion's Den Hazy IPA (7%), which had good balance and a long Citra finish. The Walls of Jericho Hazy DDHIPA (7.7%) had less intensity than the Lion's Den, but a really good, smooth, almost malty flavor that I enjoyed. The Smooth Serpent American IPA (7.1%) had a very hoppy, bright flavor with and a refreshing crispness. Then I finished with the Indulgence Stout (8.2%) and its chocolate, vanilla, and caramel flavors that I would have for dessert any day.

The patio doesn't have any shade at all, so I expect it'll be really uncomfortable in the hot months but really great in spring and fall. The large interior space seems welcoming enough, too.

Beer garden? Yes
Dogs OK? Yes
Televisions? Yes, avoidable
Serves food? No, BYOF
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Smylie Bros. Brewing Co., Chicago

Welcome to stop #73 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Smylie Bros. Lakeview, 3855 N. Broadway, Chicago
Train line: CTA Red Line, Sheridan
Time from Chicago: 20 minutes
Distance from station: 500 m

I guess it was inevitable that I would visit the newest location of what may be my least-favorite brewery so far. Smylie Bros. (who really seem to be dude-bros of the highest order) opened their second brewpup a short walk from Wrigley Field because Wrigleyville just doesn't have enough big, loud bars with mediocre food and unimaginative beer.

A friend who lives just around the corner from the place wanted to try it, so I said fine. We discovered only when we got there that they had a private event going on so there would be a one-hour wait. Notwithstanding that, my friend, who took an oath to do no harm, threw an elbow at the bar to get us two seats. So I guess we committed to getting some food and beer.

Given that their website still uses the WordPress favicon (which I suppose improves upon it being maliciously defaced the last time I reviewed one of their locations), and that they have no social media presence, and that they didn't even have a sign on the door about the private event, I doubt they'll take my advice to post things like that somewhere to avoid having people elbowed out of the way at the bar by angry physicians.

We each had one pint of the Wolcott IPA (6%), imaginatively named after the street in Bowmanville where they actually make their beer, and one pint of the Reluctantly Rad IPA (6.5%, hazy), imaginatively brewed with flaked oats for some reason. They were fine. So was the BBQ chicken pizza (my friend's choice). Fine.

By the time the really bad cover band started playing recognizable songs too loudly, both of us independently decided we had to get out of there. We had our third beers of the evening and a conversation we could both hear around the corner at Wrigleyville North.

Then I walked home and saw that St Mary of the Lake had unfurled the Ukrainian flag, which almost made up for my visit to a brewery I have no intention of ever visiting again.

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

Moody Tongue Brewing, Chicago

Welcome to stop #72 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Moody Tongue Brewing, 2515 S. Wabash Ave., Chicago
Train line: CTA Green Line, Cermak–McCormick Place
Time from Loop: 6 minutes
Distance from station: 900 m

Moody Tongue surprised everyone when it won two Michelin stars in 2021, in part because of their novel 12-beer parings menu in the dining room. Fortunately for the Brews & Choos Project, they also have a separate bar area, which by itself would qualify for a Bib Gourmand.

I got a reservation for last Thursday, and trudged through Bronzeville during what I hope was Chicago's last significant snowfall of the season. The bar did not disappoint me.

They have 100-mL pours, and I brought a friend, so I got to taste four of their current beers without going broke (or getting intoxicated). That let me enjoy a few of their appetizers as well.

I started with the Caramelized Chocolate Churro Porter (7.0%), with its complex chocolate, red wine, and vanilla notes, about which I wrote "ooooooo!" in my notebook. Next, with my food, I had a 100-mL pour of the Roasted Mocha Scwarzbier (4.9%), which I found lighter than expected, with a clean finish, and a caramel-oaky flavor that only hinted at the espresso they brewed it with. My friend had full pours (that I got to taste) of the Irish Cream Stout (6.6%), a malty and deliciously-balanced dark beer, and the Bourbon Barrel 12 Layer Cake Stout (13.9%), which exploded into chocolate and oaky maltiness that has to be one of the most dangerous beers I've ever had. Despite none of those coming even close to my usual medium-hoppy, English IPA palate, I would drink any one of them again.

And they had food. Oh heavens they had food. I had two appetizers and shared one of my friends', and felt completely satisfied.

Above, on the left, is the smoked beet tartare, with "whipped ricotta, saba, arare, egg yolk jam, and toasted sourdough." My vegetarian friend ate most of that, while I had (on the right) the braised rabbit cavatelli ("Castelvetrano olives, pine nuts, preserved lemon, pecorino"). I wound up using one of the toast points to thoroughly mop up my rabbit. I also had the confit Berkshire pork belly ("smoked pumpkin risotto, bacon, butternut squash, pickled apple, soy caramel chestnuts") and left almost nothing on the plate. My friend also had the roasted lion's mane mushroom entrée, which she enjoyed.

I will, at some point, go back to try the actual Michelin-starred tasting menu. But for $100, the two of us had just the right amount of food and beer, well worth the trip.

Beer garden? No
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? Two, avoidable
Serves food? Yes, Michelin-quality
Would hang out with a book? No
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Twisted Hippo Brewing destroyed

A massive fire destroyed the brewery and two other businesses last night:

The fire broke out about 3:30 a.m. in a multi-unit residential building in the 4300 block of North Richmond, according to the Chicago Fire Department. Neighbors said the fire started in a three-story building on the corner and quickly spread to the Twisted Hippo brewpub, 2925 W. Montrose Ave. and the Ultimate Ninjas Gym.

About 150 firefighters were on the scene battling the blaze. As of 8:30 a.m., crews had the fire under control.

Marilee Rutherford, owner of Twisted Hippo, said she got a call from a neighbor about the fire around 4 a.m. Monday.

“You know, we’ve worked so hard to to be a part of the community and give
the space to the community,” she said. “[I] just literally don’t know what
the future is going to look like. But I will say this: I’m so grateful for everything we have been able to build here. … And it’s all gonna be okay. We don’t have problems. We have solutions waiting to happen. So we’ll see how it all goes.”

One man went to the hospital for smoke inhalation, but his injuries don't seem life-threatening.