The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Corridor Brewery and Provisions, Chicago

Welcome to stop #37 on the Brews and Choos project. As promised, now that Illinois has moved into Phase 4 (and, we hope, Phase 5 before too long), we're brewing and chooing again. But a confession: I walked to this one.

Brewery: Corridor Brewery and Provisions, 3446 N. Southport Ave., Chicago
Train line: CTA Brown Line, Southport
Time from Chicago: 27 minutes
Distance from station: 100 m

Corridor Brewery might be the least-pretentious restaurant on the Southport Corridor. They brew beer; they serve well-prepared but simple food; and they have a large, dog-friendly patio in the summer.

During Covid-19 Phase 4, they have reduced capacity and they're pretty strict about masks. (The servers follow the latest CDC guidance and wear decorative cloth masks over surgical masks, for instance.) In summer, they open up the front sliding doors and spill onto the sidewalk, drawing a lively, if very young, crowd from the neighborhood. I visited on a February evening when the temperature hovered just under -11°C, so I chose to sit indoors.

They have a prix fixe flight of whichever six beers they have on draft, but I only tried four, and enjoyed them all. The Portly Warrior (porter, 5.1%, 30 IBU) was lighter than I expected, with some fruit and bitter notes from the hops, but complex malt flavors that had a nice, lingering finish. The Squeezit DDH IPA (8%, 40 IBU) hit me with a fruity, juicy Citra flavor, yet had great balance and just enough sweetness. The Wizard Fight (APA, 6%, 60 IBU) had a strong but not overpowering hoppy flavor, and a very tasty, balanced middle with a clean finish. Finally, I tried the Cosmic Juicebox (DDH IPA, 6.8%, 40 IBU), which had so much grapefruit (and maybe pear?) but with a malty finish that overall worked really well.

I also had a hamburger. Whether because I had walked 3 kilometers in the cold or because it was really well-prepared, I snarfed it down a lot faster than I intended.

Beer garden? Sidewalk
Dogs OK? Outside only
Televisions? None
Serves food? Yes, full menu
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Brews and Choos: one year later

One year ago today, I started the Brews and Choos project at Macushla Brewing in Glenview, Ill. I chose that brewery because it was easy to get to from my downtown Chicago office; it was farther from the Glenview Metra station than the other brewery in town (Ten Ninety); and I could swing by a third brewery (Old Irving) on my way home.

I visited 25 places by March 7th, which gave me enough runway to keep posting reviews until March 26th. Then the project entirely derailed as the country slammed on the brakes when Covid-19 hit. I got to 11 more places over the summer when the rules relaxed a bit and the weather permitted outdoor beer gardens to open. I made stop #36 (Alter Brewing in Downers Grove) on September 19th.

Things have started to look up, though. Statewide positivity rates and hospitalizations dropped consistently below certain levels, enabling Chicago and the surrounding area to enter "Phase 4" remediation. Restaurants can open within strict guidelines; people can eat and drink inside again. With vaccination rates also going up, infection rates should continue to go down, and breweries will feel more confident about resuming normal operations.

So this evening I spent about 90 minutes reviewing my entire database of Brews and Choos candidates. Most are back but with reduced capacity; 22 have gone to takeout-only models; and a handful (including powerhouses Lagunitas and Revolution) have closed their taprooms for the duration. I've therefore completely updated the map with this new information, including links to each producer's website where I could find them:

The pattern of closures and reductions in service hours, combined with Metra's reduced schedules, mean I still won't be able to fully resume the project quite yet. But I will start adding reviews next Sunday, possibly either by visiting the four spots off the Ashland Green/Pink station in the Fulton Industrial Corridor, or the ones nearest to me that I haven't reviewed yet (Corridor, Green Star, and DryHop, for instance). I've also found out I can return to my downtown office two days a week starting March 1st, which opens up a lot more possibilities for after-work field trips.

We're getting close to the end of Covid-19 dominating our lives. With luck, vaccines, and sensible virus-avoidance discipline, I hope to finish visiting all 68 remaining producers by this time next year.

Sunny and (relatively) warm

It's exactly 0°C in Chicago this afternoon, which is a bog-standard temperature for February 3rd. And it's sunny, which isn't typical. So, with the forecast for a week of bitter cold starting Friday evening, I'm about to take a 30-minute walk to take advantage of today's weather. First, though:

Early February is also the time of year when we start imagining spring. Tomorrow's sunrise is at 7am for the first time since December 1st, and we had 10 hours of daylight last week for the first time since mid-November. Yes, Chicago typically has an Arctic blast sometime during February. But Spring begins in 25 days. We can make it.

It's Groundhog Day...again...

The City of Chicago has moved into Covid-19 response Tier 1, meaning bars and restaurants can sort-of open:

In a Saturday morning announcement, as expected, the Illinois Department of Public Health said its latest data indicates both the city and suburban Cook—Regions 10 and 11 in the state’s COVID-19 matrix—have reached the metrics needed to allow reopening at 25 percent of  normal capacity, to a maximum of 25 people per room.

Whether restaurants and bars actually open this time no one can predict. But this is just in time for our first (predicted) snowstorm of the year, so perhaps the open-to-the-elements dining will lose its appeal Monday night.

Evening roundup

With only 18 hours to go in the worst presidency in American history—no, really this time—I have a few articles to read, only two of which (directly) concern the STBXPOTUS.

Finally, after seven weeks of back-and-forth with Microsoft engineers, I've helped them clarify some code and documentation that will enable me to release a .NET 5.0 version of the Inner Drive Extensible Architecture™—the IDEA™—by this time tomorrow.

More Chicago businesses killed by Covid-19

City Lit Books in Logan Square will close December 1st, a sad addition to a lengthening list of Chicago shop and restaurant closures due to the pandemic. I also found out today that Fountainhead, a gastropub in my neighborhood with one of the best whisky lists in the city, will close on November 14th. And my favorite Chicago rib joint, Fat Willy's, closed two weeks ago.

Reading lists of closed restaurants is depressing.

So far, though, only two breweries on the Brews & Choos List has gone under. Knock wood.

Alter Brewing, Downers Grove

Welcome to stop #36 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Alter Brewing Co, 2300 Wisconsin Ave., Downers Grove
Train line: BNSF, Belmont
Time from Chicago: 48 minutes (Zone E)
Distance from station: 800 m

Ah, the suburbs. Sometimes you can find a brewery down a stroad and along another stroad in a light-industrial park on the outskirts of an outskirts town. Alter Brewing Company's Downers Grove taproom will never appear on the National Register of Historic Places. But it appears on the Brews and Choos list because it fits all the criteria for inclusion.

I tried four of their beers, none of which curled my toes or my stomach. The Alterior Motive IPA (7%) was a perfectly competent light, clean, IPA with grapefruit and orange notes from the Citra hops. The FU Covid double dry-hopped IPA (7.2%) was a perfectly competent hoppy IPA with some vanilla, honey, and toffee notes I found interesting in an IPA, and enough complexity that I'd drink it again. The Hopular Kid extra-pale ale (6.5%) had a ton of juicy flavors with more malt than I expected, and a long, sweet finish that many people would enjoy but didn't work with my more savory and bitter preferences.

But wow, the Alto Porter (6.8%) surprised me. It had chocolate on the nose with coffee and toffee in the body. It was delicious: not too malty, not too bitter, well-balanced. I would get a 6-pack to share with friends.

Beer garden? Yes
Dogs OK? Yes
Televisions? None
Serves food? No; BYOF
Would hang out with a book? Maybe
Would hang out with friends? Maybe
Would go back? Maybe

Two Brothers Roundhouse, Aurora

Welcome to stop #35 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Two Brothers Roundhouse, 205 N. Broadway, Aurora
Train line: BNSF, Aurora
Time from Chicago: 81 minutes (Zone H)
Distance from station: At the station

In 1856, the nascent Chicago & Aurora Railroad built the first roundhouse in Illinois in the small city of Aurora. It served as a locomotive shop and storage facility until 1974, then abandoned, even as it won a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. Flash forward to 2011 when local brewery Two Brothers Brewing opened a restaurant and small brewing facility on the site.

On Saturday, with crisp, clear skies above me, I trekked all the way out there to have lunch and try the beers. Lunch was perfectly fine, as were the beers.

My server brought the flight out with the beers in alphabetical order, which also turned out to be the right tasting order. I started with the Atom Smasher Oktoberfest (7%), a malty, well-balanced, good Oktoberfest-style lager, well-made but sweeter than my palate prefers. The Citra United IPA (7%) hit me with hops on the nose and tongue, finished cleanly, and have me less citrus and bitter notes than I expected. (I wound up ordering a full pint after lunch.) The Wizard Staff IPA (5%) had a bright, light, maltiness to it, with a clean finish and light orange notes. The Wobble IPA (6.3%) had a slight astringent note with high hops and less depth than the others.

I also got a sip of their bourbon whiskey, distilled on site. It had a sweet nose with nice oak notes, and I found it a solid whisky if a bit young. The 75/25 corn/rye mash bill gave it some pepper that would work in a Manhattan well.

Beer garden? Yes
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? One inside, none outside
Serves food? Yes, full pub menu
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

One Lake Brewing, Oak Park

Welcome to stop #34 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: One Lake Brewing, 1 Lake St., Oak Park
Train line: CTA Green Line, Austin
Time from Chicago: 21 minutes
Distance from station: 200 m

Carved out of a 1920s-era bank building right on the border with Chicago, One Lake Brewing has an unusual, multi-level space with a pleasant rooftop beer garden, good food, and great beers. On Sunday, a friend and I trekked out to Oak Park to try a few beers there.

From right to left in the photo above, I tried the Blonde@40 (4.0%), a malty lager with a clean finish that reminded me of MGD (my training beer) the way a Wagyu steak reminds me of McDonalds; the Lando IPA (8.2%), a big, hoppy, delicious and strong ale I'm glad I tried in a small pour first; the Oscar Milde (4.2%), an excellent English mild ale with chocolate and caramel notes and a whiff of toffee; and the Black is Beautiful (5%), their version of a German black beer with complexity, depth, and a long chocolate finish I loved.

(I actually drank them in a different order: Blonde, Mild, Black, IPA.)

We got lucky that they had a 2-top available for walk-in right as they opened, but the rooftop filled up fast. Given Sunday's beautiful weather and smoke-tinged sunset, plus the food (worth a trip on its own), I can see why they've gotten popular.

Beer garden? Rooftop
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? None
Serves food? Yes, full menu
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Urban Brew Labs, Chicago

Welcome to stop #33 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Urban Brew Labs, 5121 N. Ravenswood Ave., Chicago
Train line: Union Pacific North, Ravenswood (Also CTA Brown Line, Damen)
Time from Chicago: 16 minutes (Zone B)
Distance from station: 600 m (1.6 km from CTA)

Update: The taproom opened on 1 August 2021.

This relatively new (2018) brewery just across the tracks from Empirical has a tiny patio and large ambitions. James, the owner, plans to open a taproom in the former KOVAL Distillery shop that fronts on Ravenswood Ave. as soon as possible. Covid-19 may have delayed that a bit, but he put out a couple of tables on the Winona Ave. side for people and dogs.

Sunday afternoon around 2 I had the patio to myself, at least for a few minutes, so I got a chance to talk to James and try a few of his beers. First, the Hazy River New England IPA (6.5%), a malty, not-too-hoppy, well-balanced ale with a clean, slightly bitter finish. Second, the Straight from Zee Wickel (5.6%), a Zwickelbier with a malty, fruit-forward flavor and not too much alcohol. Finally, the Packy New England Ale (6.4%), which had a fruity nose followed by a hop-forward clean ale with some grapefruit and lemon notes.

Now that autumn has arrived, and given the likelihood that the taproom won't open until next spring at the earliest, I strongly recommend getting over there whenever you have the opportunity. And then pop over to Empirical, because it's a 2-minute walk.

Beer garden? No
Dogs OK? Yes
Televisions? None
Serves food? No; BYOF encouraged
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes