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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Even with Chicago's 1,642 judges on the ballot ("Shall NERDLY McSNOOD be retained as a circuit court judge in Cook County?"), I still got in and out of my polling place in about 15 minutes. It helped that the various bar associations only gave "not recommended" marks to two of them, which still left 1,640 little "yes" ovals to fill in.
Meanwhile, in the rest of the world...
Finally, Chicago gets a new brewery taproom on Thursday when Hop Butcher to the World opens in Half Acre's former Lincoln Avenue space, just over 2 km from my house. Cassie and I might find out on Saturday whether they let dogs in, assuming the forecast holds. (And there it is: a post that literally checks all the boxes for Daily Parker categories!)
I reported Saturday that Empirical Brewery, one of my favorite hang-outs just 400 meters from my new house, closed unexpectedly on Sunday. Block Club Chicago's Alex Hernandez found out why:
Empirical Brewery was booted from its building and abruptly shut down over the weekend following a months-long legal battle in which the landlord said the company did not pay its rent for several months this year, according to court records.
Hayes Properties, which owns the Foster Avenue building, served Empirical owner Bill Hurley with a five-day notice in May for the brewery to pay just over $16,496 in unpaid rent, or else the lease would be terminated, court documents show.
The landlord then moved to evict Empirical in June, court records show. In that filing, attorneys said the brewery owners owed back rent from Jan. 1 through May 19.
Cook County Judge Theresa M. Smith Conyers granted the eviction request in August, giving Empirical until Sept. 6 to move out of the Foster Avenue building.
The landlord went back to court Sept. 8, saying the brewery was still operating in the space. The landlord asked the court to enforce the eviction, and order Empirical to pay back rent, rent for every month they continued to occupy the building and attorneys fees. In all, Empirical owed about $30,600, court records show.
I'm sorry it went down like that. I hope the employees find new work quickly. And this does increase the likelihood that another brewery will move in. One can hope, anyway.
As far as I know, I'm moving in 2½ weeks, though the exact timing of both real-estate closings remain unknown. Last time I moved it took me about 38 hours to pack and 15 to unpack. This time I expect it to go faster, in part because I'm not spending as much time going "oh, I love this book!"
I'm taking a quick break and catching up on some reading:
Finally, a new survey says Chicagoans swear a lot less than most Americans, with people from Columbus, Ohio, swearing the most. Fuck that shit.
One of my favorites (and Cassie's), Urban Brew Labs, closed on September 10th due to inadequate beer sales. They ran out of my favorite brew a couple of weeks earlier but I still managed to get there on the 9th to wish them luck.
In a bit of Karmic balancing, Smylie Brothers closed their awful Lakeview location (on my birthday of all things!), for no apparent reason. I mean, my hypothesis would have to include the food and beer, but owner Michael Smylie declined to comment when Block Club Chicago asked about it.
That still leaves almost 140 breweries and distilleries on the Brews & Choos Project list, including 63 I've yet to visit. And I plan to, with somewhat more vigor after I move next month.
Welcome to stop #77 on the Brews and Choos project.
Brewery: Banging Gavel Brews, 6811 Hickory St., Tinley Park
Train line: Rock Island District, Tinley Park
Time from Chicago: 35 minutes (Zone E)
Distance from station: 100 m
The owners of Banging Gavel Brews opened a beer garden at the historic Vogt House in Tinley Park to get people interested in their beers while they restore the house. Since they have an abbreviated beer list at the moment, and they expect to open the brewpub proper next spring, I have an abbreviated review, and will revisit the place since it doesn't require walking through suburban hell. (More on that later this week.)
I had only one of their beers, the Prop 65 West Coast IPA (6%). The joke, if you haven't seen it before, is that California's Proposition 65 requires a warning when the environment contains cancer-causing chemicals. Whether this beer causes cancer I can't know for sure, but I thought it was OK, if a bit thin.
Regardless of what I think of Tinley Park (at least the suburban hellscape west of Harlem Ave.), they have a decent train station just a few meters from the brewery.
Beer garden? Yes
Dogs OK? Yes
Serves food? Partners with the place next door
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes, when they open the full brewpub