The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Sure happy it's Thursday

I've spent the last few weeks in my off-hours beavering away at a major software project, which I hope to launch this spring. Meanwhile, I continue to beaver at my paying job, with only one exciting deployment in the last six sprints, so things are good there. I also hope to talk more about that cool software before too long.

Meanwhile, things I need to read keep stacking up:

Finally, check out the World Photography Organisation's 2021 photo contest results.

Uptown Theater rehab in trouble?

One of the two organizations backing the $75 million Uptown Theater rehabilitation project in my neighborhood has backed out:

Farpoint Development is no longer involved in the efforts to revitalize the Uptown Theatre, the legendary movie palace and concert hall that has been shuttered since 1981. Jerry Mickelson, owner of the theater and founder of JAM Productions, and Ald. James Cappleman (46th) confirmed the news Monday.

Mickelson and Farpoint Development’s plans envisioned restoring the venue to its Jazz Age grandeur. On top of restoring the building’s facade and historic features, the project would have increased capacity from 4,300 to 5,800, installed removable seats on the first floor and added a new marquee.

Mickelson said he did not want to place a new timeline on the Uptown Theatre’s renovation due to the unpredictable nature of the coronavirus pandemic. He did say that there will be “strong” demand for live entertainment once the pandemic has subsided, and he is optimistic that the Uptown will eventually be open to help meet that demand.

“The Uptown Theatre is one of the most iconic venues in the country,” Mickelson said. “It’s got a bright future.”

I hope it's not dead and gone. It hasn't hosted an event since 1981, and it hasn't had the best maintenance since then. But losing it would really suck.

The world keeps turning

Even though my life for the past week has revolved around a happy, energetic ball of fur, the rest of the world has continued as if Cassie doesn't matter:

And if you still haven't seen our spring concert, you still can. Don't miss it!

All quiet on the canine front

Between two hours of walks, a visit to the Empirical taproom, and playing with every dog in four neighborhoods, Cassie is tuckered out. I am also. I'll have video tomorrow morning. Right now she and I are on the couch watching Zak Snyder's Justice League, which so far has been worth every minute. As has the snoring puppy next to me.

Emmett's Brewing Co., Palatine

Welcome to stop #44 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Emmett's Brewing Co., 110 N. Broadway St.
Train line: Union Pacific Northwest, Palatine
Time from Chicago: 56 minutes (Zone F)
Distance from station: 100 m

Another note about Metra, this one more positive than my rant about freight-train interference in Barrington. Metra formed out of the decaying husks of the region's passenger railroads over the course of two decades. In the past few months, as they've taken possession of new locomotives, they've painted one each in the historic livery of the old railroads. When I went from Tinley Park to Blue Island last weekend, the locomotive pushing my train had the old Rock Island Line colors. The next day, the train that took me from my stop to Clybourn, and the one from Barrington to Palatine, had this guy powering them:

I find that immensely cool.

Which, in a literal sense, brings me to Emmett's in Palatine.

Remember More Brewing in Villa Park, almost exactly a year ago, which I called a "bustling, family-friendly brewpub 'concept'?" Or Smylie Bros. in Evanston, about which I said "This is what some corporate dude thinks a taproom should be like"? Yeah. Welcome to Emmett's, which has four locations that I will review with just my experience in Palatine.

I met a friend, and we had adequate pub food, with service that lagged so much (despite the restaurant having only two occupied tables) that my friend's hamburger and my Caesar salad arrived at around the same temperature.

But I'm not a food reviewer, or a restaurant reviewer. I review beer. I had three:

On the left we have the Auto Pilot session IPA (5.2%, 65 IBU), a very hoppy but otherwise meh example of the style. Continuing to the right, we see the Shadow Boxer English brown ale (5.0%, 20 IBU), an undistinguished and very sweet ale that I would probably not find anywhere in England. Finally we come to the World's End "new world" IPA (6.8%, 80 IBU), an inoffensive beer that I would drink if the alternatives were from Inbev or MolsonCoors.

At least I can cross two other Emmett's restaurants off my list now.

Beer garden? Yes
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? Unavoidable in bar area, none in restaurant area
Serves food? Full menu
Would hang out with a book? No
Would hang out with friends? No
Would go back? No

Flesk Brewing, Barrington

Welcome to stop #43 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Flesk Brewing Co., 200 Applebee St., Barrington
Train line: Union Pacific Northwest, Barrington
Time from Chicago: 65 minutes (Zone G)
Distance from station: 700 m

Before talking about the brewery, let me talk for a moment about freight-train interference. This satellite photo shows Flesk Brewing adjacent to the Union Pacific Northwest line:

The yellow line shows the direction from which my train from Crystal Lake approached the Barrington train station, which is just southeast of this photo. The white arrow shows the location and potential direction of travel of the freight train that parked right there Sunday afternoon. Instead of taking 18 minutes to travel between those two stations, it took 40, including a 22-minute stop in the lovely town of Fox River Grove. When I finally got to the brewery the first person I met complained about the same freight train tying up traffic throughout downtown Barrington for half an hour.

So, just keep in mind that traveling by rail on the weekend has no guarantees of getting you anywhere on time.

Now let's talk about the beer, which I enjoyed a great deal more than Metra.

They had only just re-opened the taproom, so I only saw three beers on their menu I wanted to try. From left to right: the Midnight Express vanilla coffee stout (8%) was delicious, with a velvety texture and just the right coffee and vanilla notes. The Thousand-Yard Stare pale ale (6%) had tons of Citra flavors, with a lingering finish. The XYZ double IPA (7%) had so much hop flavors I had to taste it twice to get any other notes. It wasn't bad, but it was maybe a bit too hoppy for me. Your mileage may vary.

Inside, I met two big old dogs, which I always like in a taproom.

Beer garden? Yes
Dogs OK? Yes
Televisions? 2, unavoidable
Serves food? No; BYOF
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Crystal Lake Brewing Co., Crystal Lake

Welcome to stop #42 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Crystal Lake Brewing Co., 150 N. Main St., Crystal Lake
Train line: Union Pacific Northwest, Crystal Lake
Time from Chicago: 81 minutes (Zone I)
Distance from station: 200 m

A bit more than half of the scheduled Metra UP-NW trains end their runs at Crystal Lake on weekends, so you probably won't miss the stop. The brewery is just one block north of the station. And as you can see, on a gorgeous early-spring day like last Sunday, they have a decent outside seating area for you.

I had a decent flight of four samples, all of which were quite good. First, the Overlord oatmeal stout (5.2%, 45 IBU) had a hoppier flavor than I anticipated, with a long finish, a definite oaty-hoppy flavor. It wasn't my favorite example of the style, nor was it my favorite beer at this stop, but I would recommend it to people who like hoppy oat stouts.

The Reel Hazy New England IPA (5.7%, 20 IBU) had way less hoppiness than expected, but the juicy, grapefruit Citra flavor came through; an excellent example of the style. The Fox Rocker Red Ale (5.5%, 22 IBU) had a very malty, caramel flavor, a bit too sweet for my palate. And the Wake Maker session IPA (4.8%, 53 IBU) tasted great, with the right hop-malt balance for the style, with a long finish. I actually preferred their NEIPA, but I would drink either.

Is it worth the hour-and-20-minute trip out to the edge of the known universe? Eh. I would go back, and I'd meet a friend there, but only if the friend lived in McHenry County.

Beer garden? Yes
Dogs OK? Outside only
Televisions? None
Serves food? No; BYOF, and food trucks Fridays
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Blue Island Beer Co., Blue Island

Welcome to stop #41 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Blue Island Beer Company, 13357 Old Western Ave., Blue Island
Train line: Rock Island, Blue Island-Vermont (also Metra Electric, Blue Island)
Time from Chicago: 20 minutes (Zone D)
Distance from station: 800 m

This entry might run a bit long, as Blue Island Beer Co.'s owner Alan Cromwell sat down with me for about an hour when I mentioned the Brews and Choos Project to him. And while we were talking, Jim Richert, president of the soon-to-open Banging Gavel Brews in Tinley Park, also sat down with me. I have two pages of notes, most of them actually legible despite this being my third stop of last Saturday and Cromwell's insistence that I try seven beers.

So before I get started, let me give a shout out to Metra for painting some of its modern locomotives in historical livery, like the one pushing the train that got me to Blue Island:

Back to the brewery.

Cromwell, whose family lived in Blue Island from the turn of the 20th century, opened Blue Island Brewing Co. in April 2015. With Enterprise Zone incentives and a good chunk of their own money, the partners got the brewery off the ground quickly. They're a founding member of the Dixie Highway Brewery Trail, sharing brews and marketing with seven other breweries.

And they make really good beer. I started with a simple flight of five:

From left to right, we've got the Lost Weekend rye barleywine (10.1%), the Dank Punk hazy IPA (7%), the Massive Political Corruption pre-prohibition amber (4.6%), the Hard Luck American IPA (6.8%), and finally the English Manor brown ale (5.3%). Unfortunately, over the course of an hour talking with Cromwell and Richert, plus the two additional samples Cromwell gave me (including his delicious imperial milk stout), my notes require some deciphering. Suffice to say I would drink any of them again, though I tend not to go for barley wines or sweet stouts. (That milk stout, though, would make a great dessert.)

I should also note that the Hard Luck IPA comes out of a low-carbon-dioxide pump at near room temperature, making it a superb and flavorful American interpretation of an English real ale.

When the weather warms up, I'll head back, bring a book, and chill outside. And have fewer beers.

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