The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Haymarket Pub, Chicago

Welcome to stop #11 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Haymarket Pub & Brewery, 737 W. Randolph St., Chicago
Train lines: All Ogilvie and Union Station lines. (Also CTA Green/Pink lines, Clinton)
Time from Chicago: 0 minutes (Zone A)
Distance from station: 800 m from Ogilvie or Union (600 m from CTA)

Haymarket has occupied their current plot in the West Loop for almost 10 years. They haven't changed a bit. I wish they had.

The pub has pub grub, televisions, noise, confusion, and bits of interesting historical paraphernalia scattered around. And they make beer.

I stopped in for the sake of completeness, and even had one of their uninspiring IPAs (the Extra Pale). I've had a lot of their food and beer over the years because most people haven't discovered Ballast Point a few blocks away. And right now, the West Loop has miles of Dining Concepts and such making Haymarket the down-market-but-not-really option for people who want to meet up with friends at a place to which no one will really object. It's never anyone's first choice, but it'll usually be the third choice of everyone in the group, so that's where you'll wind up.

So, yeah, if you find yourself in the West Loop and you want local beer, and Ballast Point is closed, I guess you could go to Haymarket.

Beer garden? No
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? Ubiquitous, unavoidable
Serves food? Full menu, pub food
Would hang out with a book? No
Would hang out with friends? I suppose, if I have to
Would go back? Sure, if we can't agree on anywhere else

Ballast Point Brewing, Chicago

Welcome to stop #10 on the Brews and Choos project.

Distillery: Ballast Point Brewing, 212 N. Green St., Chicago
Train lines: All Ogilvie and Union Station lines. (Also CTA Green/Pink lines, Morgan)
Time from Chicago: 0 minutes (Zone A)
Distance from station: 1.2 km from Ogilvie or Union (400 m from CTA)

After expanding a bit too quickly, Ballast Point found itself without enough cash and way too many beers to continue profitably. Highwood-based Kings & Convicts (stop #3 on Brews & Choos) bought it out and has just begun merging operations.

Ballast Point's Chicago taproom makes a couple of beers that you can only get on premises. All their other beers come from California. And wow, do they have a lot of beers. This set of taps covers about half of them:

I tried four, left to right described below:

Their Fathom IPA (6%) was a good, solid IPA, with a light flavor that I found malty for the style. The Sculpin IPA (7%) was more hop-forward with grapefruit notes and a good finish. The High Ryes porter (6.3%), a Chicago specialty you can only get in the taproom, had a chocolate and caramel nose, a smooth finish, and a delicious taste. Finally, the Sextant nitro Imperial stout (5%) had a subtle nose, and even more subtle flavor, that was a bit disappointing after the porter.

I'll go back because I know one of the bartenders. But I didn't really like the vibe at all. I lost count of the number of TVs and couldn't find a place in the entire large space where I could avoid them.

Beer garden? Yes (rooftop)
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? Ubiquitous, unavoidable
Serves food? Full menu, pub food
Would hang out with a book? No
Would hang out with friends? Maybe
Would go back? See above

Sketchbook Brewing, Evanston

Welcome to stop #8 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Sketchbook Brewing, 821 Chicago Ave., Evanston, Ill.
Train line: Metra Union Pacific North, Evanston–Main St. (Also CTA Purple Line, Main)
Time from Chicago (Ogilvie): 20 minutes, zone C
Distance from station: 100 m (200 m from CTA)

I love Sketchbook, and have loved it since it opened a few years ago. I've visited many times, often after getting some excellent Italian food at Campagnola next door. And long after the Brews and Choos project finishes up, I'll keep going back to Sketchbook whenever I find myself near Main and Chicago.

On my most recent visit, I just had a pint of No Parking Citra Pale Ale, a delicious, low-alcohol (4.4%) pale. But I've never had a bad beer there. And at my most recent house party, we emptied a growler of No Parking in no time at all.

Until recently, the taproom included a bar, a few tables, and barely enough room to pass the bar when it got crowded. And then this winter this happened:

Nice work, guys! And I also love that it had a good crowd for a Saturday evening.

Beer garden? Yes, in back
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? None
Serves food? Snacks only; "BYOF" (bring your own food) policy
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Smylie Bros. Brewing Co., Evanston

Welcome to stop #7 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Smylie Bros. Brewing Co., 1615 Oak Ave., Evanston, Ill.
Train line: Metra Union Pacific North, Evanston–Davis St. (Also CTA Purple Line, Davis)
Time from Chicago (Ogilvie): 23 minutes, zone C
Distance from station: 200 m (400 m from CTA)

First, as much as I'd like to link to their website, it appears they've lost control of their domain name to a fraudulent, virus-infected host. Good luck with that, guys.

Smylie Bros. opened a couple of years ago in the ever-expanding zone of downtown Evanston. It's a former garage, I believe, and they've kept the high ceilings and acoustically alive space. (That means it's loud.)

My first note on entering: "This is what some corporate dude thinks a taproom should be like." That was my impression on leaving, too.

I had a flight of small pours comprising their Pale Ale (6%), EEE-PA (6%), Wolcott IPA (6%), and Appleseed Porter (8%). The Pale was competent, the EEE-PA was fruity, the Wolcott was juicy, and the Appleseed was the best of the lot.

Judging by the mix of families, sports fans, and Northwestern students, I don't think I'm the right demographic for this one.

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

Kings & Convicts Brewing Co., Highwood

Welcome to stop #6 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Kings & Convicts Brewing Co., 523 Banks Ln., Highwood, Ill.
Train line: Metra Union Pacific North, Highwood station.
Time from Chicago (Ogilvie): 52 minutes, zone E
Distance from station: 300 m

A Brit and an Aussie walked into a bar and decided to open a brewery. Then a couple of years later they acquired a distressed but well-respected brand, which they will soon add to their lineup.

And what a cool place they opened, with really tasty beers.

I got three tastes: Queenie, an American IPA (5.5%, 56 IBUs); King's Bitch, another American IPA (6.8%, 70 IBUs); and Vanilla Rum Old Nosey Russian Imperial Stout (8%, 57 IBUs). What good beers! The Queenie had a fruity nose with grapefruit notes throughout but finished clean. A sixpack of King's Bitch will go into my fridge as soon as I find some. And the Old Nosey? Wow. Complex, deep malt flavors, vanilla, chocolate, coffee...best drunk sparingly.

And I liked the vibe. A couple of foursomes played Golf Simulator (real balls and clubs, projected courses) in the next room, but in the main taproom, you couldn't hear them, nor did the TV bother me. I would up staying longer than planned, so I didn't walk to the next pub on my itinerary. That was probably for the best.

Beer garden? Yes
Dogs OK? Yes
Televisions? 1, avoidable
Serves food? No
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Working from home is still working

While I do get to sign off a bit earlier today, I might not read all of these articles until tomorrow:

Finally, despite today's near-record low temperatures in Chicago, we expect a 12°C increase from earlier this morning until tomorrow afternoon. Hey, if this is the only day all winter that even flirts with -18°C, I'm happy.

Lake Bluff Brewing Co., Lake Bluff

Welcome to stop #4 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Lake Bluff Brewing Co., 16 E. Scranton St., Lake Bluff, Ill.
Train line: Metra Union Pacific North, Lake Bluff station.
Time from Chicago (Ogilvie): 61 minutes, zone G
Distance from station: 100 m

I liked this taproom a lot. I only had 35 minutes between trains, but that was enough time to enjoy the chill atmosphere and to try a beer.

The pint of Inspiration IPA (6.2%, 66 IBU) went down cleanly and easily. It's a straightforward IPA that doesn't have as much bitterness as you'd expect from its IBU rating. The bartender also gave me a sip of the Velvet Hammer Imperial Vanilla Porter (9.4%, 26 IBU) that would have started the afternoon a little on the wobbly side had I gotten a full tulip glass. But wow, it was yummy.

The place felt comfortable and the patrons seemed laid back listening to vinyl and chatting quietly. But at 2pm on a Saturday, why wouldn't they be? The bar also had events that, if I lived all the way up there, I might attend, such as monthly trivia nights hosted by the Lake Bluff Public Library.

Beer garden? No
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? 2, avoidable
Serves food? Supplied from pub next door
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Old Irving Brewing Co., Chicago

Welcome to stop #3 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Old Irving Brewing Co., 4419 W. Montrose Ave., Chicago
Train line: Metra Milwaukee District North, Mayfair station. (Also CTA Blue Line, Montrose station)
Time from Chicago (Union Station): 20 minutes, zone B
Distance from station: 600 m (300 m from CTA)

I think I should have come during the day and not on a Friday night. Old Irving, which opened in 2016 to good press, wants to be a neighborhood bar that brews beer. I think it succeeds on that front. But when I visited, it seemed the entire neighborhood had come out for dinner.

I wound up having a 300 mL pour of their Double Beezer double dry hopped double IPA (8.5%, 52 IBUs). Not bad. I'd have it again. But they didn't have a regular IPA or APA on the menu, so I felt a bit hopped out when I left. 

Beer garden? No
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? Everywhere
Serves food? Full kitchen
Would hang out with a book? No
Would hang out with friends? Maybe
Would go back? Maybe

Ten Ninety Brewing Co., Glenview

Welcome to stop #2 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Ten Ninety Brewing Co., 1025 Waukegan Rd., Glenview, Ill.
Train line: Metra Milwaukee District North, Glenview station.
Time from Chicago (Union Station): 38 minutes, zone D
Distance from station: 700 m

A trio of bros formed Ten Ninety in 2012 and moved to Glenview in 2016. They specialize in Imperial-style beers, but they have a full line to go with their full kitchen.

From left to right, I tried the Jackman Bear, 4.7%, brown ale; Masshole, 6.7%, New England IPA; Angry Dragon, 6.1%, American pale; and Brut, 5.5%, IPA.

I liked the Angry Dragon best. It had grapefruit and caramel notes with a long finish. The Jackman Bear tasted like what Newcastle Brown Ale wishes it were. The Masshole was a solid New England IPA with orange and treacle notes and a long finish. I'm not sure I liked the Brut IPA at all; it had a bitterness that tasted more like lemon peel than citra hops.

As for the vibe, it's a suburban restaurant-brewpub. If I lived in Glenview, I might stop in once in a while...but Glenview House is just three blocks away.

Beer garden? Yes
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? Many, unavoidable
Serves food? Full kitchen
Would hang out with a book? No
Would hang out with friends? Maybe
Would go back? No