The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Chicago Distilling Co., Chicago

Welcome to stop #61 on the Brews and Choos project.

Distillery: Chicago Distilling Co., 2359 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago
Train line: CTA Blue Line, California
Time from Chicago: 14 minutes
Distance from station: 300 m

It's dangerous to have such a great distillery two doors down from a great brewpub. It's also convenient, when you're out with friends and want to have a cocktail after having a pile of pub food.

Chicago Distilling makes really good spirits, full stop. And they've recently launched a line of ready-to-drink cocktails, making all the spirits and mixers in-house.

After visiting Revolution on Friday evening, my friends and I ended the evening with three varieties of Old Fashioneds for them and a 60 mL sample of their single-malt Rauch whiskey for me. It tasted as smooth and malty as a solid Speyside Scotch, with just enough smokiness to suggest a blend with a good Islay. I'll try to find some in stores; it's worth another taste.

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

Revolution Brewpub, Chicago

Welcome to stop #60 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Revolution Brewpub., 2323 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago
Train line: CTA Blue Line, California
Time from Chicago: 14 minutes
Distance from station: 200 m

I've enjoyed Revolution beers for such a long time I can't really review them like I do the ones I've just met. When I met some friends for dinner at their brewpub (cf. the Revolution Taproom on Kedzie), I did try a new (to me) beer, the Hazy Pitch New England IPA (5.0%).

Like the rest of their lineup, it has excellent flavor and balance, and I'm glad I got to try the limited-edition brew.

I also had a very tasty hamburger, and cheese curds with homemade Buffalo sauce.

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

Ale's well that ends well?

The Tribune yesterday reported that local breweries have started producing more lagers as people get tired of IPAs:

Lager accounts for most of the beer sold in the world — including the 16 biggest-selling brands in the United States — but it has rarely been a recipe for success for craft breweries, which often default to ratcheting up experimentation, flavor and intensity. Lager, by contrast, tends to be approachable and predictable. Think Miller Lite. Michelob Ultra. Modelo Especial.

While tropically fruity India pale ales and boozy stouts remain engines for the nation’s small breweries, the industry has increasingly embraced lager in recent years. And consumers are rewarding them with surprising demand.

Around Chicago, the shift can be seen in the growing number of lager-centric breweries, including Goldfinger, Kinslahger in Oak Park, and Metropolitan and Dovetail on the city’s North Side.

Established breweries, including Hopewell, Revolution and Maplewood, are increasingly incorporating lagers into their portfolios while newer breweries, such as Art History in Geneva, have opened with an embrace of lager that would have required a leap of faith a few short years ago.

For Art History, it is already paying off; open just 18 months, the brewery is planning a new, larger production facility, due in large part to its lagers, which account for three of its four top sellers.

I typically evaluate a brewery by its mainline IPA, but in some cases (notably Dovetail), I'll go with their flagship lager. And I have yet to visit most of the breweries the article mentions, so I'll take their advice.

Evening reading

I was pretty busy today, with most of my brain trying to figure out how to re-architect something that I didn't realize needed it until recently. So a few things piled up in my inbox:

And finally, Whisky Advocate has four recipes that balance whisky and Luxardo Maraschino cherries. I plan to try them all, but not in one sitting.

Busy day, time to read the news

Oh boy:

Cassie has bugged me for the last hour, even though we went out two hours ago. I assume she wants dinner. I will take care of that presently.

District Brew Yards, Chicago

Welcome to stop #59 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: District Brew Yards., 417 N. Ashland Ave., Chicago
Train line: CTA Pink and Green Lines, Ashland
Time from Chicago: 6 minutes
Distance from station: 400 m

District Brew Yards is just up the road from All Rise Brewing, but that road is Ashland Avenue, you have to go under a dark and scary railroad bridge to get from one to the other, and the Fulton Industrial District doesn't inspire feelings of warmth and happiness at night. I recommend you go, though. And try at least one beer from each of the four breweries on site. Oh, and Lillie's Q has a kitchen there, so grab some brisket to go with your beers.

When you arrive, they swipe your credit card and hand you one of theirs. You slip the beer card into a slot, pour your own beer, and watch the charges add up. And add up they do: most beers cost 50-70¢ per ounce (about $15-20 per liter), and the cups they provide hold almost half a liter.

Those higher-than-expected prices pay the bills. Each brewery has a five-year lease on wall space, and the Yard collects 50% of every beer sale. So of my $10 pint of Juice Pillow, $1 goes to tax, $4.50 goes to the Yard, and Burnt City collects the remaining $4.50. But, Burnt City doesn't have to lay out half a million dollars for brewing equipment. They just have to give the recipe to the Yard's brewers and buy the ingredients. It socializes most of the risk of microbrewing. 

I tried one small pour of each brewery's New England-style IPA, then went back and had a pint of my favorite. I started with Around the Bend's Juicy Trials Hazy IPA (7%, 35 IBU), a maltier-than-expected, well-balanced example of the style, with a clean taste and good finish. Then on to Bold Dog's Hazy Boi double dry-hopped IPA (7.4%), which had a big nose (SWIDT?), excellent balance, vanilla notes, and a crisp finish. Third: Burnt City Juice Pillow Hazy IPA (7.4%), which my notes tell me had a very drinkable "big flavor - Citra explosion" and a clean finish. I finished up with Casa Humilde Cerveceria's Nebula IPA (5.7%), a straightforward, very hoppy (yet very tasty) ale that (again, notes) "dice ¡soy IPA!" And because I only had about 50 mL of each beer, I went back and tried Humilde's signature Firme  IPA (SWIDT?), which had more IBUs than their Nebula but still a solid, well-balanced flavor.

Of the five, I liked Juice Pillow the best, but I also had a full Hazy Boi pour while sitting next to a fire on the patio.

Two more notes. First, four Metra lines and Amtrak's Milwaukee and Empire Builder services run past the patio just to the south, so if you like trains, you'll have plenty to watch. Second, they love dogs outside, and they plan to keep the patio open all winter, so Cassie will get to visit at some point. 

Beer garden? Yes (all year!)
Dogs OK? Outside
Televisions? No
Serves food? Lillie's Q on site
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

All Rise Brewing, Chicago

Welcome to stop #58 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: All Rise Brewing Co., 235 N. Ashland Ave., Chicago
Train line: CTA Pink and Green Lines, Ashland
Time from Chicago: 6 minutes
Distance from station: 200 m

In terms of breweries and distilleries accessible from one Metra station, mine (Ravenswood) tops the list. But the single densest train station of any kind is actually Ashland on the CTA Pink and Green lines. Two stops from Clinton, which is close to both Ogilvie and Union Station, and three stops from the Loop, you have an easy walk to 11 distilleries and breweries.

The Fulton Industrial District also has a lot of factories, as its name implies. You won't get a warm and fuzzy feeling from the neighborhood after dark like you would from the more-residential Ravenswood area. And as you might expect, the first brewery you come to in the zone feels like a real dive.

OK, it's a real dive. But they make good beer.

From right to left, and for $11 including tip, I tried the Hooligan Bitter, the Cease & Desist Lager, the Sell Out New England IPA, and the Wonder Beer No-Coast IPA. I liked them all. The Hooligan (4%) had a lot of malt flavor but also a good hop content, coming in on the American side of the English bitter taste spectrum. The Cease & Desist (4.4%) tasted like any decent lager, like what the mass-market beers try to be. I found it a bit sweet, but I find most lagers sweet. The Sell Out (6.5%) had a lot of grapefruity Citra flavors rounded out with a nice bitterness on the finish that I enjoyed. And the Wonder Beer (6.2%) was not too bitter or not too malty, with a bit more complexity than I expected.

I'd go back, and I'd bring Cassie. I still have to try the food.

Beer garden? Yes (summer only)
Dogs OK? Outside
Televisions? 2, avoidable outside but not inside
Serves food? Full menu
Would hang out with a book? Maybe (it's loud)
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

A hot time in the old town tonight

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire, which burned for two days and left 100,000 people homeless. But only for a short time; by 1874, when the city had a second big fire, our population had already grown by about that number.

Flash forward to now:

Finally, last night I attended an actual live theater performance for the first time in 19 months, and it was amazeballs. If you live in Chicago, right now you need to go to the Chicago Shakespeare Theater website and buy tickets to As You Like It, which plays through November 21st.

Busy day in the news

So many things this morning, including a report not yet up on WBEZ's website about the last Sears store in Chicago. (I'll find it tomorrow.)

  • Jennifer Rubin advises XPOTUS "critics and democracy lovers" to leave the Republican Party.
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) completely caved against a unified Democratic Party and will vote to extend the (probably-unconstitutional) debt limit another three months.
  • An abolitionist's house from 1869 may get landmark approval today from the Commission on Chicago Landmarks. (It's already in the National Register of Historic Places).
  • Could interurban trains come back?
  • Arts critic Jo Livingstone has a mixed review of No Time to Die, but I still plan to see it this weekend.
  • 18 retired NBA players face wire-fraud and insurance-fraud charges for allegedly scamming the NBA's Health and Welfare Benefit Plan out of $4 million.
  • Even though we've had early-September temperatures the past week, we've also had only 19% of possible sunlight, and only 8% in the past six days. We have not seen the sun since Monday, in fact, making the steady 19°C temperature feel really depressing.
  • Two new Black-owned breweries will go on the Brews and Choos list soon.
  • Condé Nast has named Chicago the best big city in the US for the fifth year running.

Finally, President Biden is in Chicago today, promoting vaccine mandates. But because of the aforementioned clouds, I have no practical way of watching Air Force One flying around the city.

Update, 12:38 CDT: The sun is out!

Update, 12:39 CDT: Well, we had a minute of it, anyway.

Union Pacific gets court permission to stop operating Metra trains

The Union Pacific Railroad, which currently operates about 35% of all Chicago commuter trains, has won a major ruling from a Federal judge that clears the way for it to stop operating those trains:

UP wants out of the commuter business, saying it wants to focus on its its freight service. It has noted that almost all other Metra service now is operated by the commuter rail agency itself, sometimes on tracks it owns itself and at other times on track leased from freight railroads. 

Metra’s position is that in the absence of a discontinuance agreement, UP had to continue to run the trains and ancillary services, such as ticket collection, under “common carrier” provisions that governed railroads nationally for more than a century.

Both sides asked Judge Jorge Alonso for summary judgement. Last week he ruled against Metra.

Effectively, Alonso held, common-carrier rules were substantially eased after the creation of Amtrak, the national passenger carrier, and other deregulation actions by Congress in recent decades. Any remaining common-carrier question that requires federal approval would under the law cover only freight, not passenger, service, he added, but UP is moving to stop only commuter service, not freight.

In a statement, Metra said only that “We are reviewing the ruling and our options.”

UP in its own statement promised not to do anything abrupt that would interfere with service.

Well, that's fun. In 2019, the three Metra lines UP operates had about 27 million of the entire network's 74 million passenger trips, including (I estimate) about 300 of mine, so there is no way the lines will simply shut down. Metra will almost certainly take over operations and pay UP for track and signal use, just like they do on other lines. We'll see how this plays out.