The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Elder Brewing Company, Joliet

Welcome to stop #48 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Elder Brewing Co.., 218 E. Cass Ave., Joliet
Train line: Heritage Corridor or Rock Island, Joliet
Time from Chicago: 70 minutes (Zone H)
Distance from station: 500 m

Joliet: the end of two train lines. Home of the Big House, the Sting, and a weird little brewery that I will make a point of visiting again.

When Andrew Polykandriotis opened Elder Brewing in 2017, he saw the brewery as a part of the push to revitalize downtown Joliet. You can see from the photo above that Joliet still has a way to go, though. No matter: he's created an inviting space with friendly people.

I only planned to have one beer so that I could get food at the other Joliet brewery, so I chose the Poly's Revenge APA (5.5%), one of the first beers Polykandriotis brewed. (The "revenge" is on all the people who predicted the brewery would fail.) It was great: nicely balanced, not too hoppy, clean, and flavorful.

The dog-friendly taproom has free popcorn and a library of old VHS tapes that they will happily play on the TV over the bar. A couple of patrons had just started The Little Mermaid when I came in. They also have a rack of menus if you want to order in from the local restaurants (a rib joint nearby looked like a good bet), and board games for all ages.

With a minor-league ball park a block away and easy access on Metra, I might make a day of it in Joliet at some point. Elder Brewing will be on the agenda.

Beer garden? Yes
Dogs OK? Yes
Televisions? One, avoidable
Serves food? Only popcorn (free!)
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Imperial Oak Brewing, Willow Springs

Welcome to stop #47 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Imperial Oak Brewing., 501 Willow Rd., Willow Springs
Train line: Heritage Corridor, Willow Springs
Time from Chicago: 32 minutes (Zone D)
Distance from station: 100 m

It is very important to remember, if you plan to visit either of the breweries along Metra's Heritage Corridor line, that they run only three trains only from Chicago on weekday afternoons, and none to Chicago. So when I visited Imperial Oak Brewing yesterday, I took the first train towards Willow Springs, ensuring that I could get from Willow Springs to Joliet on either the second or third trains, and not have to figure out how to get home some other way. I didn't price a Lyft from Willow Springs to the next-nearest Metra station, but I imagine it would have cost quite a lot.

Once you get to Willow Springs, the first thing you see getting off the train will be the brewery, and its large and quiet patio. It felt a little like a country pub in England, surrounded by trees with almost no car traffic except for the few on the Willow Springs Road bridge overhead.

I tried four 5-ounce pours while sitting at one of those picnic tables with a book.

The 'Merica American Stout (center, 6.2%, 50 IBU) gave me some unexpected hoppiness, with good chocolate and caramel notes. I found it pretty bold for a stout, with a nice long finish. The Crank It Hop Citra-Mosaic IPA (right, 6%, 50 IBU) tasted excessively hoppy for my taste, but crisp and clean (and no caffeine!), and a good example of the style. The just-released Roundabout Hybrid Pale (left, 5.4%) was my favorite, with a good balance, some grapefruit notes from the Citra hops, and a crisp finish. I also tried the Udderly Black Milk Stout (not pictured; 5.3%, 20 IBU), which I found kind of bland after the hoppier guys I tried earlier. I did cleanse with potato chips and water, but the milk stout just didn't do it for me.

Beer garden? Yes
Dogs OK? Outside only
Televisions? Two at the bar, avoidable
Serves food? No, but food trucks stop by
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Getting closer to London

I last visited my second-favorite city in the world in November 2019. At my day job, I report just two levels up to the head of the London office, so had things gone to plan, I'd have visited at least three times since then. But time and chance happens to us all, as everyone now knows.

This week the UK's Departments for Transport and of Health & Social Care announced a loosening of travel rules that, I hope, signals the possibility of going back this fall. As of July 19th, UK residents returning from most countries (including the US) who have NHS jabs can skip testing and quarantine in most cases. The next step for the UK will be to allow people who've gotten vaccinated abroad to do the same.

When that happens, I will follow NPR's Frank Langfitt's latest report, and visit three historical pubs in various parts of the capital:

I started at The Mayflower, which sits along the south bank of the Thames about a mile and a half downstream from Tower Bridge. I first got to know The Mayflower several years ago when I attended a Thanksgiving celebration there with fellow Americans. It was an appropriate venue. In 1620, the Mayflower, the ship, was moored just off shore and began its long voyage to what would become America. In honor of that trans-Atlantic connection, the pub flies a U.S. and British flag from either end of its deck.

Along the walls of the dimly lit pub today, you can see replicas of the notes some of the passengers left, bequeathing wages and jewelry to their loved ones if they failed to survive the journey. Behind the bar, manager Leigh Gillson keeps a guest book, signed by some of the passengers' descendants who've visited.

He also stopped at The Eagle in Farringdon, not too far from my company's office in the City, and at The Carlton Tavern in Maida Vale, about a 10-minute walk from Abbey Road Studios. The latter got destroyed illegally by a property developer, who then had to rebuild it brick by brick under court order.

I really miss the Big Smoke. It looks more likely by the day that I'll get to visit her sometime in 2021.

More Covid-19 business casualties

Southport Lanes, the 99-year-old bar and bowling alley in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood, has closed permanently:

The bar, restaurant and bowling alley at 3325 N. Southport Ave. is permanently closed after efforts to revive the business were unsuccessful, said Lacey Irby, a spokeswoman for the group that owns the building at Southport and Henderson Street.

The business had reopened in mid-July after coronavirus restrictions lifted before closing again in the fall, and has not reopened since.

“After giving it a lot of thought, building ownership decided to go the route of auctioning off the assets for the business formerly known as Southport Lanes,” Irby said. “Ownership, unfortunately, does not see the business recovering any time soon, so the business is now permanently closed.”

Items for sale include the venue’s famous sign, bowling lanes and equipment, and pool tables and equipment, according to the Winternitz website.

Other items available in the auction include kitchen equipment, televisions, furniture and two large murals.

Also, The Daily Parker exchanged emails yesterday with Begyle Brewery's front-of-house manager Brett Knickerbocker, who informed us that—no! wait! They're not closing! Read the whole thing!they have to stop letting dogs in the taproom because they lost the larger upstairs area during the pandemic.

Flapjack Brewery, Berwyn

Welcome to stop #46 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Flapjack Brewery., 6833 Stanley Ave., Berwyn
Train line: BNSF, Berwyn
Time from Chicago: 15 minutes (Zone B)
Distance from station: 100 m

Some parts of the Chicago area deal with heavy infrastructure differently than other parts. Take the North Shore: the heavy-rail commuter line serving Clybourn Junction on up to Kenosha blends into the area elevated on a tree-covered embankment on up to Wilmette, then at or below grade level surrounded by more trees and flanked by a 50-kilometer bike trail. The former Chicago & North Western line, now the Union Pacific North, even features beautiful 1890s-era station houses that other lines have shamelessly copied.

Not so the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe. From Union Station through Naperville, the triple-track main line handles so much freight and passenger traffic that the towns and villages along the way haven't done much to shield themselves from it. (In the city, the BNSF runs through so many classification yards that no one lives near it anyway.) In Berwyn they don't even pretend to try.

Also, while the UP-N has a couple of stations a quick walk from each other (the three in Evanston, for example), the BNSF line's station placements baffle me. Harlem and Berwyn are so close their parking lots run together. And the 2-kilometer stretch between La Grange Road and Brookfield has three stations, again with unclear boundaries between parking lots and some head-scratching moments onboard trains that get up to a brisk walking speed before stopping again.

And yet, with Flapjack, this line has a delightful little brewery mere meters from the Berwyn station. So close, in fact, that the discerning railfan can get a continuous show with dinner:

In the 90 minutes I sat there, I watched 10 trains go by (6 commuters, 3 freight, and the Amtrak heading to St Louis). I also drank some beer and ate three quarters of an epic pizza. The beer, their Four Years Too Long double-dry-hopped IPA (5.25%), brewed especially for their fourth anniversary, had blazing Centennial hops on the nose with delightful Citra on the finish, and a fresh, clean balance that I enjoyed so much I had a second one.

But just look at this pizza:

So good. Just so good. And the remaining quarter reheated nicely the next day.

Beer garden? Sidewalk
Dogs OK? Outside only
Televisions? Three at the bar, avoidable
Serves food? Full menu
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Milk Money Brewing, La Grange

Welcome to stop #45 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Milk Money Brewing., 75 S. La Grange Rd., La Grange
Train line: BNSF, La Grange Rd
Time from Chicago: 26 minutes (Zone C)
Distance from station: 500 m

La Grange Road has a lot of competition, being essentially the restaurant district of La Grange. So for a suburban brewery, Milk Money does a good job. I stopped by on the Friday before July 4th, when the weather felt more like September and the vibe felt more like 2019.

They don't do flights per se, but they do have 5-ounce pours. I had five:

I started with the Queen Takes Pawn English-style ale (4.9%), which tasted like a solid real ale from the old country, albeit too cold to complete the illusion. It had a good bitter/malt balance and a sharp finish. The Pause Button APA (5.2%) had a bit more malt than I expected, but a good balance overall. The Vibrant hazy IPA (6.5%) had a citrus nose, a citrus-grapefruit flavor, and a lower-alcohol feel than the first two. The Milk Money milk stout (7.2%) started with a lovely nose and opened up into a smooth chocolate and caramel combination with a long finish. Finally, the Colorful Noise West Coast IPA (7%) had Citra on the nose and Cascade in the back. All five were solid representations of the styles.

And on the walk from the Metra station, I discovered that La Grange has gone to the dogs:

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

Relaxing weekend

Cassie and I headed up to Tyranena Brewing in Lake Mills, Wis., yesterday to hang out with family. Today, other than a trip to the grocery and adjacent pet store where Cassie picked out an "indestructible" toy that now lies in tatters on the couch, we've had a pretty relaxing Sunday. I thought I'd take a break from Hard Times to queue up some stuff to read tomorrow at lunch:

I will now return to Dickens, because it's funny and sad.

Third day of summer

The deployment I concluded yesterday that involved recreating production assets in an entirely new Azure subscription turned out much more boring (read: successful) than anticipated. That still didn't stop me from working until 6pm, but by that point everything except some older demo data worked just fine.

That left a bit of a backup of stuff to read, which I may try to get through at lunch today:

Finally, summer apparently arrives in full force tomorrow. We're looking forward to temperatures 5-10°C above normal through mid-June, which will continue northern Illinois' drought for at least a few more weeks.

Sure Happy It's Thursday! Earth Day edition

Happy 51st Earth Day! In honor of that, today's first story has nothing to do with Earth:

Finally, it looks like I'll have some really cool news to share about my own software in just a couple of weeks. Stay tuned!