The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

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

Odd day in the news

Some highlights:

Finally, looking at dating like a marketplace doesn't make a lot of sense in practice.

Ballast Point Brewing, Chicago

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

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 #3 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

CH Distillery, Chicago

Welcome to stop #9 on the Brews and Choos project.

Distillery: CH Distillery, 564 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: 200 m (400 m from CTA)

CH Distillery (named after carbon and hydrogen, principal ingredients in alcohol) opened in 2013 with a mission to create "the only organic vodka made from Illinois grain and a variety of core and specialty spirits." They no longer distill much of their stuff at their downtown restaurant, having opened a much larger facility in Pilsen. But they still give tours on Randolph Street.

For $13, they will give you a flight of 4 spirits. I tried their vodka (smooth and sweet with a bit of harshness in the tail), key gin (made with lime and lavender, described as "like Hendrix" but not really), London dry gin (very dry and juniper forward, would go well with tonic), and their Bourbon (101 proof, 2 years old, MGP alcohol, not ready yet).

Because of its proximity to downtown and its upscale drinks and food, CH is a popular date spot. I quite like it every so often.

Beer garden? No
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? None
Serves food? Small plates, charcuterie
Would hang out with a book? Maybe
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

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

Friday afternoon reading backlog

I was going to lead off with a New Republic article about Michael Bloomberg, but they just put up a paywall yesterday and lost my subscription information. And their new "subscribe now" page doesn't work. But why would anyone need to test software before deploying it to production?

Anyway, that wasn't the only article that interested me today that I'll read later on:

Finally, it's going to be warmer than usual this weekend, so I'm going to add some Brews with my Choos.

So much corruption! We're going to do corruption like you've never seen it

President Trump's list of felons to whom he granted clemency yesterday seems to have a common element. First, Rod Blagojevich, possibly the most corrupt governor Illinois has ever had, which is saying something in a state that sent 4 of its last 8 to prison, and who seems less than contrite about his crimes:

“I had a unique opportunity to represent Congress and be (Illinois’) governor for six years and fight for things I truly believe is good for people,” he said, adding “the fight” now was against the “people that did this to me” and to regain the public’s trust.

“That if I were to give in to the pressure and give in to the shakedown that was done to me, that I would be violating my oath of office to fight for the Constitution and fight for the rule of law and keep my promises to (the public),” he said. “ ’Cause I didn’t do the things they said I did. And they lied on me.”

And the president also pardoned Michael Milken, who has his own glorious history of malfeasance:

Lest history be entirely rewritten, it’s worth considering what Judge Kimba M. Wood told Mr. Milken at his sentencing on Nov. 21, 1990, on charges including conspiracy and fraud:

“When a man of your power in the financial world, at the head of the most important department of one of the most important investment banking houses in this country, repeatedly conspires to violate, and violates, securities and tax laws in order to achieve more power and wealth for himself and his wealthy clients, and commits financial crimes that are particularly hard to detect, a significant prison term is required in order to deter others.”

[I]t’s not hard to fathom why Mr. Milken’s saga would resonate with Mr. Trump.

Like the president, Mr. Milken studied business at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania but was largely shunned by New York’s elite.

Mr. Milken’s early clients were corporate raiders who, like Mr. Trump, were disdained by establishment firms like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Mr. Milken and his junk-bond-fueled takeovers were seen as disruptive forces, threats to a complacent status quo on Wall Street and in corporate America, just as Mr. Trump has upended Washington.

And of course Mr. Milken underwent years of distracting investigations and related bad publicity.

NPR interviewed NYU law professor Rachel Barkow this morning, who summed it up nicely. (I'll edit this post later today to add her comments when the transcript comes out.)

I really hope whoever gets the Democratic nomination hammers the president on this stuff. The corruption! Such corruption! It's the one thing Donald Trump does best.

I actually LOL'd when I saw this news alert

The President was busy this morning:

President Trump has commuted the 14-year prison sentence of former Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois, the Democrat who was convicted of trying to essentially sell President Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat for personal gain, as well as the financier, Michael R. Milken and Bernard B. Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner, the president announced on Tuesday.

The president’s decision came the same day that he pardoned Edward J. DeBartolo Jr., a former owner of the San Francisco 49ers who pleaded guilty in 1998 to concealing an extortion attempt and eventually surrendered control of his team.

Mr. DeBartolo, the scion of a prominent real estate development family who created one of the National Football League’s greatest dynasties, was prosecuted after agreeing to pay $400,000 in brand-new $100 bills to Edwin W. Edwards, the influential former governor of Louisiana, to secure a riverboat gambling license for his gambling consortium.

Like attracts like, I suppose. I wonder, will he now turn his attention to freeing the immigrants he's detained at our borders? Or the millions of low-level drug offenders clogging our prisons?

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