The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Blue Island Beer Co., Blue Island

Welcome to stop #41 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Blue Island Beer Company, 13357 Old Western Ave., Blue Island
Train line: Rock Island, Blue Island-Vermont (also Metra Electric, Blue Island)
Time from Chicago: 20 minutes (Zone D)
Distance from station: 800 m

This entry might run a bit long, as Blue Island Beer Co.'s owner Alan Cromwell sat down with me for about an hour when I mentioned the Brews and Choos Project to him. And while we were talking, Jim Richert, president of the soon-to-open Banging Gavel Brews in Tinley Park, also sat down with me. I have two pages of notes, most of them actually legible despite this being my third stop of last Saturday and Cromwell's insistence that I try seven beers.

So before I get started, let me give a shout out to Metra for painting some of its modern locomotives in historical livery, like the one pushing the train that got me to Blue Island:

Back to the brewery.

Cromwell, whose family lived in Blue Island from the turn of the 20th century, opened Blue Island Brewing Co. in April 2015. With Enterprise Zone incentives and a good chunk of their own money, the partners got the brewery off the ground quickly. They're a founding member of the Dixie Highway Brewery Trail, sharing brews and marketing with seven other breweries.

And they make really good beer. I started with a simple flight of five:

From left to right, we've got the Lost Weekend rye barleywine (10.1%), the Dank Punk hazy IPA (7%), the Massive Political Corruption pre-prohibition amber (4.6%), the Hard Luck American IPA (6.8%), and finally the English Manor brown ale (5.3%). Unfortunately, over the course of an hour talking with Cromwell and Richert, plus the two additional samples Cromwell gave me (including his delicious imperial milk stout), my notes require some deciphering. Suffice to say I would drink any of them again, though I tend not to go for barley wines or sweet stouts. (That milk stout, though, would make a great dessert.)

I should also note that the Hard Luck IPA comes out of a low-carbon-dioxide pump at near room temperature, making it a superb and flavorful American interpretation of an English real ale.

When the weather warms up, I'll head back, bring a book, and chill outside. And have fewer beers.

Beer garden? Yes
Dogs OK? Outside only
Televisions? Two, avoidable
Serves food? No (BYOF)
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Why I hate the suburbs

As I mentioned in my post about Hailstorm Brewing that went out earlier today, you can have an excellent brewery with a TV-free taproom within 1500 meters of a Metra station and still qualify for the Brews and Choos project only on special dispensation. Because wow, getting from the Metra station to Hailstorm (and by extension, when I go later this spring, to Soundgrowler) might kill you.

Here's the path from the Hickory Creek Metra stop to Brothership Brewing:

It's short (just under a kilometer), along nearly-deserted exurban streets, and the streets have sidewalks for most of the way. Sure, you pass this:

But that's a typical landscape in northern Will County.

Now look at how you get to Hailstorm:

Why did I go through an ugly subdivision, several parking lots, and behind large industrial buildings instead of just walking down 80th Avenue? Because 80th Avenue is a six-lane arterial with no sidewalks and not a lot of stoplights. Cars drive down it at 90 km/h with nothing to slow them down except the stoplight at 183rd and the railroad tracks to the north.

And when I say "ugly subdivision," I mean a complete horror show of exurban McMansion architecture:

I really wanted to run over to some people I saw sitting in their garage and ask what series of life choices brought them to the decision to buy such an ugly house?

So, yes, I liked Hailstorm, and I hear good things about the tacos at Soundgrowler. But the entire point of the Brews and Choos Project is to drink beer safely. That means without driving to the breweries. But it also means not getting run over walking there. And the suburban/exurban landscape along the Cook-Will border (183rd St, on the map above) will kill your body if you walk along 80th Avenue or kill your soul if you walk through this development.

</rant>

Hailstorm Brewing, Tinley Park

Welcome to stop #40 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Hailstorm Brewing, 8060 W 186th St., Tinley Park
Train line: Rock Island, Tinley-80th
Time from Chicago: 38 minutes (Zone E)
Distance from station: 1.7 km

The tl;dr on Hailstorm: Great beer, difficult location. I'll start with the beer.

Since Hailstorm doesn't do flights, I only tried two of their 20-or-so selections, the Cumulus Hazy IPA (6.3%), and the Chasin' Waves West Coast IPA (7.5%).

The Cumulus had delightful Citra flavors, with grapefruit most prominent, and a good balance and finish. The Chasin' Waves also had terrific balance between the in-your-face hops and smooth malt. I'd drink either one of them again.

In a separate post I'll explain the problem, which has to do with its location. That said, when I come back to Tinley Park to visit Soundgrowler Brewing, which is just two blocks from Hailstorm, I'll come back here as well, because look:

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

Brothership Brewing, Mokena

Welcome to stop #39 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Brothership Brewing, 18781 S 90th Ave, Mokena
Train line: Rock Island, Hickory Creek
Time from Chicago: 43 minutes (Zone F)
Distance from station: 1.0 km

Brian Willig and partners opened Brothership Brewing on 22 February 2020, which says a lot about their beer. It's that good.

I started with a standard flight, but Emily Willig (Brian's wife) gave me very small samples of their two special brews as well. From left to right: the There Goes Gravity New England IPA (6%) had a bright nose, lovely not-too-bitter hoppyness, and great flavor; the excellent Teleporter (7%) gave me caramel and chocolate notes with a long finish; the Solar Orbiter New England Double IPA (7.6%) had the fruit flavors I'd expect from the Citra hops but balanced those really well with just enough bitterness; and the Cosmic Surfer West Coast IPA (7.4%) had a little more malt than I expected, with bold hop flavors and a lingering finish. I'd drink any of them again, especially the Porter, even though Emily said Brian hadn't initially planned on making one.

She also let me have a couple sips of the Orbit One New England Triple IPA (9%), which had hops on the nose, hops in the (big!) flavor, and hops in the finish; and finally, the Space Debris Vanilla Stout (12%), about which my notes begin with: "oh, baby!" Vanilla, cream, even a maple syrup note, really rich and really sweet. I'd have this for dessert after a steak dinner, and I don't usually go for stouts.

If you live in the southwest suburbs, it's worth the trip. I'll be looking for their beers at my local Binny's.

Beer garden? Yes
Dogs OK? Outside only
Televisions? 2, avoidable
Serves food? No; BYOF
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Good morning!

Now in our 46th hour above freezing, with the sun singing, the birds coming up, and the crocuses not doing anything noteworthy, it feels like spring. We even halted our march up the league table in most consecutive days of more than 27.5 cm of snow on the ground, tying the record set in 2001 at 25 days. (Only 25 cm remained at 6am, and I would guess a third of that will melt by noon.)

So, what else is going on in the world?

And now, back to work.

Dry Hop Brewers, Chicago

Welcome to stop #38 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Dry Hop Brewers, 3155 N. Broadway, Chicago
Train line: CTA Brown, Purple, and Red Lines, Belmont
Time from Chicago: 16 minutes
Distance from station: 800 m

Dry Hop Brewery on Broadway belongs to the same restaurant group as Corridor Brewery and Provisions (stop #37) and Crushed by Giants. It has similar (good) food, plus the advantage of sharing space with the fourth restaurant in the group, Roebuck Pizza. Like Corridor, Dry Hop's beers are pretty good. Unlike Corridor, they don't do 5-ounce tasters.

I had just two of their beers: the Candy Paint (double dry-hopped hazy IPA, 7%, 30 IBU), which was juicy and well-balanced with a decent finish; and the Johnny Quest Thinks We're Sellouts (black IPA, 7.5%, 45 IBU), a complex chocolatey, malty IPA with good but not overwhelming hops and a clean finish. I also had a pizza, which tasted excellent but was a little droopy. (I think they should have cut it into squares.)

I ate in the Roebuck section. The Dry Hop section has more light and more brewing equipment, but both were quiet (they were playing an old jazz LP) and the staff were friendly without being overbearing. In the summer, they take over a good stretch of sidewalk. As soon as practical, I will investigate whether they allow dogs out there, as I'm interested in tasting more of their beers.

Beer garden? Sidewalk
Dogs OK? Maybe outside?
Televisions? None
Serves food? Yes, pizza and sandwiches
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

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

New York, 10 years ago

Shortly after upgrading from my old Canon 20D to a new Canon 7D, I flew to New York for business. My company let me fly in on Saturday instead of Sunday as the lower airfare offset the extra hotel day, enabling me to spend Saturday afternoon and evening getting to know the new camera. You can see some of the results here. This morning, I revised the treatment of one of the photos I posted that evening:


1/30 s, f/3.5, ISO 6400, 18mm

I think the Mark II could do even better. Whenever I'm able to travel to New York again, I'll re-shoot the scene.

I got this 10 years ago already?

Facebook reminded me this morning that 10 years ago today I got the first digital camera I've ever owned whose photo quality approached that of the film cameras I had growing up. My new Canon 7D replaced my 5-year-old Canon 20D, and between the two I took over 32,700 photos in just over nine years. In May 2015 I upgraded to the Canon 7D mark II, the first digital camera I've owned whose capabilities exceeded my 1980s and 1990s film cameras.

I've updated the chart showing all the photo-capable devices I've owned since I got my first SLR in June 1983, along with other data showing, to some extent, how technology marches on:

Here are four example photos. (To see all the details, right-click the photos and open them in separate windows.) First, one of the earliest photos I took with my AE-1 Program, in Raton Pass, N.M., mid-August 1983:

Keep in mind, this is a Kodachrome 64 photo scanned some 38 years later, with a bit of help from Adobe Lightroom. Printing directly from the slide would make a better-looking photo...maybe. In any event, the resolution of the slide exceeds the resolution of the scan by an order of magnitude at least, so there really is no way without specialized equipment to produce a JPEG image that looks as good as the slide itself.

Jump ahead a few decades. Here's an early photo I took with the 20D on 20 May 2006 in Portsmouth, N.H.:

The original photo and this edit have the same resolution (2544 x 1696) and the same format (JPEG). Other than a few minor burns and dodges, this is what the camera recorded. It almost approaches film quality, but had I shot this image with Kodachrome 64, it would have much more vibrant color and a depth of texture that the 20D just couldn't achieve.

Now from the 7D that I got 10 years ago today, near Saganonomiyacho, in Kyoto, Japan, in November 2011:

With the first 7D, I gave it a 32 GB memory card and switched to the lossless CR2 format. The JPEG above has as much depth and range as a JPEG can have, but the CR2 file it came from finally has as much detail and photographic information as consumer-quality negative film from the 1980s or 1990s. Its 5184 x 3456 resolution comes awfully close to the density of, say, 100-speed Kodacolor VR-G from the mid-1980s, but the 7D's CMOS chip has literally 32 times the sensitivity of the fastest consumer film then available (ISO 12,800 vs. ISO 1600). I shot the photo above with a focal length of 250 mm from a bridge 250 meters from the subject, at ISO 1600, 1/500 second at f/5.6. The same shot on Kodacolor VR-G 1600 would have massive grain, and the same shot on Kodachrome 64 would have required an exposure of 1/15 second—guaranteeing camera shake. (I've re-edited this photo slightly from the quick-and-dirty treatment I gave it in my Tokyo hotel room after getting back from Kyoto.)

Finally, take a look at this photo from my current camera, the 7D Mark II, of the Chiesa de San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice:

I mean...wow. Even cropped slightly from the raw photo's 5472 x 3648 resolution, the detail is just as fine as Kodachrome 64 ever gave me. I shot this at 1/1000 sec., f/5.6, at 105 mm using a borrowed EF24-105 f/4L lens. (I posted a similar shot in June 2015 when I got back from the trip. I think this one has better composition and editing.)

One more thing, which I won't illustrate with a comparison photo but which I do think bears mentioning: these days, I only pull out the 7Dii for serious work. For day-to-day photos and snapshots, my smartphone's camera works better than digital SLRs from 15 years ago. We do live in the future.