The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Mickey Finn's Brewery, Libertyville

Welcome to stop #32 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Mickey Finn's Brewery, 345 N. Milwaukee Ave., Libertyville
Train line: Milwaukee District North, Libertyville
Time from Chicago: 67 minutes (Zone H)
Distance from station: 600 m

If you look at the Brews and Choos Map, you will notice that the Milwaukee District North line has only two breweries near its stations in Lake County. Grayslake's Light the Lamp Brewery was delightful, and I may go back this summer. Mickey Finn's, well, they're in Libertyville.

Mickey Finn's has been around since 1994. Their beer didn't wow me and their patio didn't help. Like a lot of places, they have too many TVs and they keep the music up, making conversation difficult and reading impossible. The beer garden also has an unbalanced shape and strange aesthetic, with the quietest two-top available on Friday being right on Milwaukee Avenue.

The friend I had dinner with pointed out that this place qualifies as nightlife in Libertyville; thus, the noise and confusion.

I tried three of their beers: the Cerveza Lager (4.8%), a sweet, malty brew with a lime wedge that provided desperately-needed flavor; the Tradesman Pils (5.8%), a sweet, light-finishing, fairly balanced beer with loads of caramel and maple notes; and the Pineapple Express Double IPA (8.0%), also sweeter than a regular IPA but the only one of the three that approached my palate.

At least the wings were good, and I enjoyed catching up with my friend.

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

Light the Lamp Brewery, Grayslake

Welcome to stop #31 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Light the Lamp Brewery, 2 S. Lake St., Grayslake
Train line: Milwaukee District North, Grayslake
Time from Chicago: 76 minutes (Zone I)
Distance from station: 1.0 km

A friend and I planned to have dinner up in Lake County yesterday, so I managed to squeeze in two breweries. We've had sunny and warm weather, perfect for sitting in a quiet beer garden with a book. Light the Lamp Brewery totally fits the bill.

Unfortunately, do to the reduced train schedules because of Covid-19, I only had 40 minutes in Grayslake unless I wanted to take a $15 Lyft to dinner. No worries; I got to try two very tasty beers, and I will definitely come back.

The 1980 Miracle Pale Ale (5.4% ABV) started clean and ended clean, with a nice maltiness for a pale ale, but enough bitterness to balance it out: a classic pale ale indeed. The Bitter End Midwest IPA (6.0%) had notes of orange, caramel, and a hint of citrus, with a long not-too-bitter finish. I'd have either one of them again.

Plus, next time I visit, I'll take a walk around the Village of Grayslake. It's adorable. And there's a lake, though a smaller lake than the one by my own house.

Beer garden? Yes
Dogs OK? Yes, outside only
Televisions? None
Serves food? Full (and interesting) pub menu
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Spiteful Brewing, Chicago

Welcome to stop #30 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Spiteful Brewing, 2024 W Balmoral Ave., Chicago
Train line: Union Pacific North, Ravenswood (Also CTA Brown Line, Damen)
Time from Chicago: 16 minutes (Zone B)
Distance from station: 1.6 km (1.5 km from CTA)

Spiteful and Half Acre Balmoral occupy the same block, so cheating on distance (over 1,500 m from Metra) for one means cheating for both. I've gone to both for years, though, and they deserve the extra two blocks of walking.

During Covid-19, entry is first-come, first-served, with an hour from seating to last call and a strict, 90-minute time limit overall. They also don't allow dogs right now, but once the pandemic recedes you can expect about a 1:2 ratio of people to dogs on any given day.

Last Saturday afternoon I walked up there with David Litt's Democracy in One Book or Less to have a couple of pints and catch up on reading. At 2:30 pm I snagged a table by the window and ordered a Spite Lite IPA (4%) to start. It had a really crisp, light body, full of hops and citra flavor, and a clean finish. I followed that up with their flagship Spiteful IPA (6.2%), one of my go-tos for years. It's hop-forward with a full body, crisp flavor, long finish, and great hop balance.

Beer garden? No
Dogs OK? Suspended during the pandemic
Televisions? None
Serves food? Vitners chips and Chef Martin brats, plus BYOF
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Half Acre Beer Co., Balmoral Brewery

Welcome to stop #28 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Half Acre Beer Co., Balmoral Brewery, 2048 W Balmoral Ave., Chicago
Train line: Union Pacific North, Ravenswood (Also CTA Brown Line, Damen)
Time from Chicago: 16 minutes (Zone B)
Distance from station: 1.7 km (1.6 km from CTA)

Half Acre actually operates two locations: its original brewpub on Lincoln Ave., and its newer and much larger brewery/restaurant/beer garden just south of Rosehill Cemetery. Both are on the Brews and Choos list, but the beer garden is open this summer while the Lincoln Brewery only has curb-side pickup.

I'm actually cheating a little. You'll have to walk more than 1,500 meters from the Ravenswood Metra station to get to the Balmoral Brewery, but Half Acre makes excellent beer and you'll have to pass two other taprooms (Empirical and Spiteful) to get here. It's worth the trip—especially if you make a summer afternoon of all three.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, you'll need a reservation that costs $15.45, which they apply to your bill. Also they've temporarily curtailed food service and dogs on the patio.

As for the beer, their Daisy Cutter Pale Ale (5.2%) has remained one of my go-tos for years. Try their other pales and IPAs when you visit; they're all excellent. And see what else they've made that month.

When they don't have a raging pandemic to deal with, they serve good pub food including weekend brunch.

Beer garden? Yes
Dogs OK? Suspended during the pandemic
Televisions? None
Serves food? Suspended during the pandemic
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Sketchbook Brewing Co., Skokie Taproom

Welcome to stop #29 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Sketchbook Brewing Co. Skokie Taproom, 4901 Main St., Skokie
Train line: CTA Yellow Line, Dempster-Skokie
Time from Chicago: 48 minutes
Distance from station: 900 m

I have gone to Sketchbook Brewing in Evanston for years, so naturally I made a special trip to their Skokie Taproom for its grand opening last Friday. We had perfect weather, social distancing, hand sanitizer, and good beer. The brewery occupies the front part of a 1950s-era light-industrial building next to the CTA, under high-tension power lines, on a medium-busy street—but don't let that stop you.

As they had just opened that afternoon, they had a couple of operational hiccups, but nothing that detracted from our enjoyment. I stuck with the Orange Door IPA as they had just finished a run of the No Parking Citra IPA and didn't have any in Skokie that night.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, they require reservations. And a tip: If you're coming from downtown Chicago on a weeknight, change to the Linden-bound Purple Line Express at Belmont and shave 10 minutes off your trip.

Beer garden? Yes, in front
Dogs OK? Yes
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

Spiraling out of control

First, this chart:

And yet, there are so many other things going on today:

The one bit of good news? Evanston-based Sketchbook Brewing, who make delicious beers and whose taproom inspired the Brews and Choos project, will open a huge new taproom in Skokie tomorrow evening. And guess what? It's only 4 blocks from an El stop.

Lunchtime reading

It has cooled off slightly from yesterday's scorching 36°C, but the dewpoint hasn't dropped much. So the sauna yesterday has become the sticky summer day today. Fortunately, we invented air conditioning a century or so ago, so I'm not actually melting in my cube.

As I munch on some chicken teriyaki from the take-out place around the corner, I'm also digesting these articles:

Can you believe we're only 99 days from the election? How time flies.

Making reservations for beer gardens

A friend and I plan to go to a local beer garden this weekend—one on the Brews and Choos list, in fact—so we had to make a reservation that included a $7.50-per-person deposit. Things are weird, man. And if you read the news today, oh boy, the weirdness is all over:

Finally, closer to home, 4,400 restaurants in Chicago have closed because of the pandemic, 2,400 permanently. The Chicago Tribune has a list of the more notable closures. 

Busy morning

Just a few things have cropped up in the news since yesterday:

Finally, the Covid-19 mitigation rollback announced yesterday has led to Guthrie's Tavern closing permanently. Guthrie's, which opened in 1986 and featured board games and good beer, will pour its last pint on Thursday.

Mid-morning news round-up

I'll get to the final head-to-head comparison between my Garmin Venu and Fitbit Ionic later today. Meanwhile:

And finally, because our Covid-19 numbers have started creeping up, indoor bar service will halt on Friday.