The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Dry City Brew Works, Wheaton

Welcome to stop #52 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Dry City Brew Works, 120 N. Main St., Wheaton
Train line: UP West, Wheaton
Time from Chicago: 51 minutes (Zone E)
Distance from station: 500 m

Just as Methodist-founded Northwestern University in Evanston kept that city dry from the 1850s until 1972, Wheaton College had the same effect on the DuPage County Seat until 1984. Dry City Brew Works celebrates (?) this history with their quirky taproom (and live music!) right on Main Street.

I planned to meet a local friend for dinner in Wheaton, and Dry City doesn't have sample sizes, so I only had one beer: the Cosmic Cryo DIPA (7.5%). It had bang-on Citra hops right away, with all their grapefruit and mango notes, good malt balance, and a crisp finish I really enjoyed. I also had a couple sips of my friend's Pollinator Saison/Farmhouse Ale (5.8%), a well-made specimen of the type, which I liked even though I typically don't like Saisons.

Next time Cassie and I visit my friend and her dog, we might stop for a pint at Dry City.

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

Two Hound Red, Glen Ellyn

Welcome to stop #51 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Two Hound Red, 486 Pennsylvania Ave., Glen Ellyn
Train line: UP West, Glen Ellyn
Time from Chicago: 45 minutes (Zone E)
Distance from station: 500 m

You know? Downtown Glen Ellyn is a lot cuter than I expected. And Two Hound Red, which opened in June 2019, is worth the trip. If only they had fewer TVs...

They don't have flights, but they will give you pairs of 5-ounce samples, so I had two. Meaning four. And they were pretty good—though it turned out one of them was a guest tap.

Their Lost Grimoire Pils (5.3%, 24 IBU) started very malty, almost too sweet, with a long finish. I really liked their NEWest Coast IPA (6.3%, 46 IBU) had Citra on the nose and lots of flavor with a good hop balance. And their hop-forward Red War Era IPA (5.8%) had some unexpected malt and a really nice bitterness to round out the complex flavors at the end.

I also had their current guest tap, Miskatonik's Nazgul Porter (5.7%), which had excellent chocolate and coffee notes. (I would love to visit their taproom in Darien, but as it would require a 7.4 km walk from Westmont, it won't appear on the Brews and Choos list.)

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

Elmhurst Brewing Co., Elmhurst

Welcome to stop #50 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Elmhurst Brewing Co., 171 N Addison Ave., Elmhurst
Train line: UP West, Elmhurst
Time from Chicago: 32 minutes (Zone D)
Distance from station: 300 m

Elmhurst Brewing opened in February 2018 and got through the pandemic with take-out and delivery. I can understand how: they have good beer. They brew in the back, then send the beer up to giant steel containers behind the bar, which creates a cool aesthetic in the bar area:

Marissa set out a flight of four 5-ounce pours. I started with the Go To Helles (4.7%, 23 IBU), a clean, malty lager with good length and complexity. Next, the Sabro Paradise APA (5.4%, 40 IBU) also had a clean feel with more malt than hops in an unexpectedly hazy pour. The Julius Squeezer Hazy IPA (6.7%, 21 IBU) had a great hop-malt balance with prominent Citra hops and a long, pleasant finish. Finally, the PrHopaganda West Coast IPA (7.1%, 71 IBU) had a big hop flavor without being "hop porn." All four really showed off the craft.

We have a concert in Elmhurst next March. I'll bring the crew to EBC for post-concert drinks.

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

MyGrain Brewing Co., Joliet

Welcome to stop #49 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: MyGrain Brewing., 50 E. Jefferson St., Joliet
Train line: Heritage Corridor or Rock Island, Joliet
Time from Chicago: 70 minutes (Zone H)
Distance from station: At the station

One of the subtle (to American audiences, anyway) bits of satire in Simon Pegg's 2013 movie The World's End is the sameness of the pubs that the characters visit. They have the same faux-handwriting, faux-chalk menu boards; the same layouts; the same food; the same prefabricated vibe. I have experienced this sorrow as well, when the lovely Blackbird in Earls Court got hollowed out in 2019 and became just like every other corporatized pub in London.

As I did at Emmett's in Palatine, and at Ten Ninety in Glenview, upon walking into MyGrain last Friday I felt...nothing. The servers, all of them just old enough to serve alcohol but not old enough to remember a world before Facebook, seemed friendly enough, even as they missed things like my request for a glass of water with my beer. Or silverware with my hamburger. (The food was fiiiiine.) They did let me charge my phone, though. That was nice.

While watching the US Women's Soccer team beat the Netherlands in penalty kicks to win the quarterfinal, I tried a 9-ounce Service Dog New England IPA (7.3%, 50 IBU) and a 16-ounce Pincher's Pale APA (5.7%, 60 IBU), both of which were fiiiine. They were well-designed, focus-group-tested, inoffensive, and utterly boring examples of the styles.

I get that opening a restaurant inside a large space under railroad tracks has a lot of risk in and of itself. I just wish that restauranteurs would sometimes stray, just a little, from the most-average-customer's tastes and try something interesting. But they didn't, so I finished my beers and my hamburger and checked to see if the 7:30 return train was on time.

Except there is no 7:30 return train. There's a 7:15 and an 8:30. So I wound up having another pint of Pincher's (still just fiiiiine) and watching the USA-Japan women's basketball game with half an eye, reading my book, and forgetting that I would arrive at LaSalle Street Station just as a million teenagers wearing inappropriate clothes would leave Lollapalooza and board the El I needed to take home.

Beer garden? Yes
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? Everywhere, unavoidable
Serves food? Full menu (it's fiiiiine)
Would hang out with a book? No
Would hang out with friends? No
Would go back? No

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.