The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Ravinia Brewing, Highland Park

Welcome to stop #16 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Ravinia Brewing, 582 Roger Williams Ave., Highland Park
Train line: Union Pacific North, Ravinia
Time from Chicago: 46 minutes (Zone E)
Distance from station: 400 m

Actually, something does go almost as well with good beer as pizza: tacos. Ravinia Brewing in Highland Park has both.

I had one pint, one taste, and three tacos while up there:

The beer was their Steep Ravine IPA (7.2%, 22 IBUs), which had nice grapefruit (i.e., citra) notes, and it's not terribly hoppy for and IPA. I also sampled the Baldwin barrel-aged porter (6.5%, 35 IBUs), with delightful chocolate, rum, and rye notes, while not being too sweet. Really good.

And the tacos were great.

Beer garden? Yes
Dogs OK? Yes, on the sidewalk
Televisions? Ubiquitous, unavoidable
Serves food? Yes
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Begyle Brewing, Chicago

Welcome to stop #15 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Begyle Brewing, 1801 W Cuyler Ave., Chicago
Train line: Union Pacific North, Ravenswood. (Also CTA Brown Line, Irving Park)
Time from Chicago: 16 minutes (Zone B)
Distance from station: 1.6 km (200 m from CTA)

Note: Begyle informed The Daily Parker in July 2021 that they ended their dog-friendly policy. (They still make great beer.)

Begyle is one of my favorite taprooms in Chicago, and not just because it's (a) close and (b) dog-friendly. They also make really great beers.

For the Brews and Choos project, I dragged my bête noir all the way to the taproom and back, which, at his age, took quite a while. And then he was a bit overwhelmed, so didn't get any rest while there:

It was so busy they had a dog quota going (only 12 allowed at a time). Parker got the last spot available for a few minutes.

Because I know their beers pretty well, and because this was not the last stop for the day (though it was for Parker), I had three small tastes, including my favorite of their beers:

Megapixel is their latest IPA, crisp, light, and a bit maltier than you'd guess. Freebird, my favorite of their beers, is also an IPA with it's great balance, a hint of lemon and grapefruit from the citra hops, and its relatively low alcohol content (4.5%). Finally I tried Flannel Pajamas, an oatmeal stout with a great balance between hops and maltiness, though it does read slightly hoppier than most stouts.

Begyle's taproom is one of my favorite places to dog-watch and read. I heartily recommend it.

Beer garden? No
Dogs OK? No, as of summer 2021
Televisions? No
Serves food? No, but BYO is fine, and sometimes there's a food truck outside
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

 

A note on dogs. Begyle's Brett Knickerbocker reached out to The Daily Parker on 6 July 2021 with this sad news:

Over the course of the pandemic we have lost our upstairs space, which was crucial for extended seating. We are faced with a much smaller footprint going forward and want to focus on saving space for humans wherever we can. We had days during The Before Times in which 50% of our taproom was occupied by dogs and it was simply overwhelming for our staff (and many of our guests). As much as we love our furry friends, we feel that being a dog-free zone is the right move for us.

Parker loved going to Begyle, and I'm sure Cassie would have as well. But, hey, they have to make the right choices for their business.

Piece Brewery, Chicago

Welcome to stop #14 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Piece Brewery, 1927 W. North Ave., Chicago
Train lines: Union Pacific North and Northwest, Clybourn. (Also CTA Blue line, Damen)
Time from Chicago: 8 minutes (Zone A)
Distance from station: 1.3 km (400 m from CTA)

Pizza. Beer. What's a better combination? Piece Brewery in Wicker Park makes both pretty well.

Piece opened in July 2001, so I've had lots of their pizza and lots of their beer. When I visited for the Brews and Choos project, I just had a pint of their new Astronaut Haus English Pale Ale, a 5.5% hoppy decent malty ale. (Note to self: would drink again.)

For some reason, I also ate an entire pizza:

And hey, they deliver (just not all the way to my house).

Beer garden? No
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? Bar area only
Serves food? Pizza!
Would hang out with a book? Maybe
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Midwest Coast Brewing, Chicago

Welcome to stop #12 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Midwest Coast Brewing, 2137 W. Walnut St., Chicago
Train lines: Milwaukee District North and West, Western Ave. (Also CTA Green line, Ashland)
Time from Chicago: 9 minutes (Zone A)
Distance from station: 1.1 km (1.3 km from CTA)

Now, this is a brewery. Dog-friendly, great vibe, excellent beers, friendly staff and owners—what's not to love?

They brew everything on-premises, rotating beers as their tastes change. They just opened in September, so they haven't yet got an outdoor space. They're opening their rooftop "soon" and converting an unused parking lot south of the building into a beer garden "by 2021." (The alderman still needs to approve it.) Of course, it's only the first day of spring, so this wasn't a critical lapse when I visited.

They love dogs so much they serve flights in dog bowls:

I liked all 5. First, the Golden Bro APA (5.1%, 36 IBU): malty, tasty, not too hoppy, clear golden color. #2: The Colonies ESB/EPA (5.3%, 35 IBU): excellent, clear Extra Special Bitter style, a little hoppier than you'd get in the UK but nice and malty for the EPA it also claims to be. #3: Throne of Bones Stout (6.3%, 60 IBU): hoppier than expected but didn't taste like 60 IBUs; nice finish, nice chocolate notes. #4: Elevator to Nowhere New England IPA (6%, 30 IBU): really good, grapefruit notes from the citra hops, hazy but not too much. #5: The Old Course Scotch Wee Heavy (7.4%, 27 IBU): Crisp for a wee heavy, definitely malty, apricot notes, clean finish.

The owner also gave me a sip of Escalating Dares Imperial Stout (10.4%, 60 IBU). Wow. He said they "got lucky" putting this one together, but fortunately kept the recipe. They've got two barrels aging in the back that they might tap this summer... 

I will definitely spend a lazy summer afternoon there this year. Or even a lazy spring afternoon.

Beer garden? Coming soon
Dogs OK? Yes, encouraged
Televisions? One, avoidable
Serves food? No; they have an order-in kiosk and menus
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Haymarket Pub, Chicago

Welcome to stop #11 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Haymarket Pub & Brewery, 737 W. Randolph St., Chicago
Train lines: All Ogilvie and Union Station lines. (Also CTA Green/Pink lines, Clinton)
Time from Chicago: 0 minutes (Zone A)
Distance from station: 800 m from Ogilvie or Union (600 m from CTA)

Haymarket has occupied their current plot in the West Loop for almost 10 years. They haven't changed a bit. I wish they had.

The pub has pub grub, televisions, noise, confusion, and bits of interesting historical paraphernalia scattered around. And they make beer.

I stopped in for the sake of completeness, and even had one of their uninspiring IPAs (the Extra Pale). I've had a lot of their food and beer over the years because most people haven't discovered Ballast Point a few blocks away. And right now, the West Loop has miles of Dining Concepts and such making Haymarket the down-market-but-not-really option for people who want to meet up with friends at a place to which no one will really object. It's never anyone's first choice, but it'll usually be the third choice of everyone in the group, so that's where you'll wind up.

So, yeah, if you find yourself in the West Loop and you want local beer, and Ballast Point is closed, I guess you could go to Haymarket.

Beer garden? No
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? Ubiquitous, unavoidable
Serves food? Full menu, pub food
Would hang out with a book? No
Would hang out with friends? I suppose, if I have to
Would go back? Sure, if we can't agree on anywhere else

Ballast Point Brewing, Chicago (Closed)

Welcome to stop #10 on the Brews and Choos project.

Note: Ballast Point's Chicago taproom closed permanently in March 2021.

Distillery: Ballast Point Brewing, 212 N. Green St., Chicago
Train lines: All Ogilvie and Union Station lines. (Also CTA Green/Pink lines, Morgan)
Time from Chicago: 0 minutes (Zone A)
Distance from station: 1.2 km from Ogilvie or Union (400 m from CTA)

After expanding a bit too quickly, Ballast Point found itself without enough cash and way too many beers to continue profitably. Highwood-based Kings & Convicts (stop #6 on Brews & Choos) bought it out and has just begun merging operations.

Ballast Point's Chicago taproom makes a couple of beers that you can only get on premises. All their other beers come from California. And wow, do they have a lot of beers. This set of taps covers about half of them:

I tried four, left to right described below:

Their Fathom IPA (6%) was a good, solid IPA, with a light flavor that I found malty for the style. The Sculpin IPA (7%) was more hop-forward with grapefruit notes and a good finish. The High Ryes porter (6.3%), a Chicago specialty you can only get in the taproom, had a chocolate and caramel nose, a smooth finish, and a delicious taste. Finally, the Sextant nitro Imperial stout (5%) had a subtle nose, and even more subtle flavor, that was a bit disappointing after the porter.

I'll go back because I know one of the bartenders. But I didn't really like the vibe at all. I lost count of the number of TVs and couldn't find a place in the entire large space where I could avoid them.

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

Sketchbook Brewing, Evanston

Welcome to stop #8 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Sketchbook Brewing, 821 Chicago Ave., Evanston, Ill.
Train line: Metra Union Pacific North, Evanston–Main St. (Also CTA Purple Line, Main)
Time from Chicago (Ogilvie): 20 minutes, zone C
Distance from station: 100 m (200 m from CTA)

I love Sketchbook, and have loved it since it opened a few years ago. I've visited many times, often after getting some excellent Italian food at Campagnola next door. And long after the Brews and Choos project finishes up, I'll keep going back to Sketchbook whenever I find myself near Main and Chicago.

On my most recent visit, I just had a pint of No Parking Citra Pale Ale, a delicious, low-alcohol (4.4%) pale. But I've never had a bad beer there. And at my most recent house party, we emptied a growler of No Parking in no time at all.

Until recently, the taproom included a bar, a few tables, and barely enough room to pass the bar when it got crowded. And then this winter this happened:

Nice work, guys! And I also love that it had a good crowd for a Saturday evening.

Beer garden? Yes, in back
Dogs OK? No
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

Smylie Bros. Brewing Co., Evanston

Welcome to stop #7 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Smylie Bros. Brewing Co., 1615 Oak Ave., Evanston, Ill.
Train line: Metra Union Pacific North, Evanston–Davis St. (Also CTA Purple Line, Davis)
Time from Chicago (Ogilvie): 23 minutes, zone C
Distance from station: 200 m (400 m from CTA)

First, as much as I'd like to link to their website, it appears they've lost control of their domain name to a fraudulent, virus-infected host. Good luck with that, guys.

Smylie Bros. opened a couple of years ago in the ever-expanding zone of downtown Evanston. It's a former garage, I believe, and they've kept the high ceilings and acoustically alive space. (That means it's loud.)

My first note on entering: "This is what some corporate dude thinks a taproom should be like." That was my impression on leaving, too.

I had a flight of small pours comprising their Pale Ale (6%), EEE-PA (6%), Wolcott IPA (6%), and Appleseed Porter (8%). The Pale was competent, the EEE-PA was fruity, the Wolcott was juicy, and the Appleseed was the best of the lot.

Judging by the mix of families, sports fans, and Northwestern students, I don't think I'm the right demographic for this one.

Beer garden? Yes
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? Many, but avoidable
Serves food? Yes, full kitchen
Would hang out with a book? No
Would hang out with friends? No
Would go back? No

Kings & Convicts Brewing Co., Highwood

Welcome to stop #6 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Kings & Convicts Brewing Co., 523 Banks Ln., Highwood, Ill.
Train line: Metra Union Pacific North, Highwood station.
Time from Chicago (Ogilvie): 52 minutes, zone E
Distance from station: 300 m

A Brit and an Aussie walked into a bar and decided to open a brewery. Then a couple of years later they acquired a distressed but well-respected brand, which they will soon add to their lineup.

And what a cool place they opened, with really tasty beers.

I got three tastes: Queenie, an American IPA (5.5%, 56 IBUs); King's Bitch, another American IPA (6.8%, 70 IBUs); and Vanilla Rum Old Nosey Russian Imperial Stout (8%, 57 IBUs). What good beers! The Queenie had a fruity nose with grapefruit notes throughout but finished clean. A sixpack of King's Bitch will go into my fridge as soon as I find some. And the Old Nosey? Wow. Complex, deep malt flavors, vanilla, chocolate, coffee...best drunk sparingly.

And I liked the vibe. A couple of foursomes played Golf Simulator (real balls and clubs, projected courses) in the next room, but in the main taproom, you couldn't hear them, nor did the TV bother me. I would up staying longer than planned, so I didn't walk to the next pub on my itinerary. That was probably for the best.

Beer garden? Yes
Dogs OK? Yes
Televisions? 1, avoidable
Serves food? No
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Working from home is still working

While I do get to sign off a bit earlier today, I might not read all of these articles until tomorrow:

Finally, despite today's near-record low temperatures in Chicago, we expect a 12°C increase from earlier this morning until tomorrow afternoon. Hey, if this is the only day all winter that even flirts with -18°C, I'm happy.