The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

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

£53,676 per pour

A single 750 mL bottle of whisky sold at auction this week for £907,500, the highest price ever paid for a bottle:

A European buyer [won] the 1926 Macallan Valerio Adami 60 year old on February 17, 2020, setting a record for Scotland’s most expensive whisky ever auctioned.

It’s also the sixth standard-sized whisky bottle ever to achieve $1 million at auction, and the third-highest auction price ever achieved for a bottle of whisky. Even with the lower premiums charged by online whisky auction houses, this sale unambiguously surpassed the previous record for the Valerio Adami bottle, set in 2018.

That works out to £1,210 per millilitre, or £46,537 per ounce, slightly more than the highest-priced whisky at Duke of Perth (Macallan 25, $73 per ounce, $110 per pour).

Note that the whisky was already 60 years old when it went into the bottle in 1926, meaning Macallan distilled it about a year after the American Civil War ended.

I wonder what it tastes like? If I had a million dollars, I might find out.

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

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

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

28 Mile Vodka, Highwood

Welcome to stop #5 on the Brews and Choos project.

Distillery: 28 Mile Vodka, 454 Sheridan Rd., Highwood, Ill.
Train line: Metra Union Pacific North, Highwood station.
Time from Chicago (Ogilvie): 52 minutes, zone E
Distance from station: 300 m

Chicago has far more breweries than distilleries, even though the foundation of all spirits is beer. Also, Chicago's distilleries often congregate in far-out industrial parks away from train lines.

Fortunately, 28 Mile Vodka is exactly what it says on the sign, and only a 3-minute walk from the Highwood station (mile post 28).

Highwood has a colorful history, to say the least. It abuts formerly-dry Highland Park to the south and Fort Sheridan to the north, so for decades the wealthy elite from HP rubbed shoulders with the soldiers from the army base. Now that Fort Sheridan has scaled back to a few Army and government offices, and Highland Park allows booze, Highwood has gotten a better reputation.

Enter a brand-new distillery that produces really good spirits. I had 1-ounce pours of their flagship vodka and their new gin. They also have white whiskey, which I'm happy to pass on until it becomes Bourbon in a couple of years. The vodka had a lovely sweetness and smoothness that would make it great on the rocks or as a top-shelf mixer. The gin had floral and citrus notes and a clean finish, which I wouldn't want to sully with tonic but I would put a drop of dry Vermouth in and take it up with a twist.

I'd like to see the place on a weekend night. I'd bet it's fun.

Beer garden? Yes
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? None
Serves food? Small bites, including caviar
Would hang out with a book? Maybe
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.

Lake Bluff Brewing Co., Lake Bluff

Welcome to stop #4 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Lake Bluff Brewing Co., 16 E. Scranton St., Lake Bluff, Ill.
Train line: Metra Union Pacific North, Lake Bluff station.
Time from Chicago (Ogilvie): 61 minutes, zone G
Distance from station: 100 m

I liked this taproom a lot. I only had 35 minutes between trains, but that was enough time to enjoy the chill atmosphere and to try a beer.

The pint of Inspiration IPA (6.2%, 66 IBU) went down cleanly and easily. It's a straightforward IPA that doesn't have as much bitterness as you'd expect from its IBU rating. The bartender also gave me a sip of the Velvet Hammer Imperial Vanilla Porter (9.4%, 26 IBU) that would have started the afternoon a little on the wobbly side had I gotten a full tulip glass. But wow, it was yummy.

The place felt comfortable and the patrons seemed laid back listening to vinyl and chatting quietly. But at 2pm on a Saturday, why wouldn't they be? The bar also had events that, if I lived all the way up there, I might attend, such as monthly trivia nights hosted by the Lake Bluff Public Library.

Beer garden? No
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? 2, avoidable
Serves food? Supplied from pub next door
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes