The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

MyGrain Brewing Co., Joliet

Welcome to stop #49 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: MyGrain Brewing., 50 E. Jefferson St., Joliet
Train line: Heritage Corridor or Rock Island, Joliet
Time from Chicago: 70 minutes (Zone H)
Distance from station: At the station

One of the subtle (to American audiences, anyway) bits of satire in Simon Pegg's 2013 movie The World's End is the sameness of the pubs that the characters visit. They have the same faux-handwriting, faux-chalk menu boards; the same layouts; the same food; the same prefabricated vibe. I have experienced this sorrow as well, when the lovely Blackbird in Earls Court got hollowed out in 2019 and became just like every other corporatized pub in London.

As I did at Emmett's in Palatine, and at Ten Ninety in Glenview, upon walking into MyGrain last Friday I felt...nothing. The servers, all of them just old enough to serve alcohol but not old enough to remember a world before Facebook, seemed friendly enough, even as they missed things like my request for a glass of water with my beer. Or silverware with my hamburger. (The food was fiiiiine.) They did let me charge my phone, though. That was nice.

While watching the US Women's Soccer team beat the Netherlands in penalty kicks to win the quarterfinal, I tried a 9-ounce Service Dog New England IPA (7.3%, 50 IBU) and a 16-ounce Pincher's Pale APA (5.7%, 60 IBU), both of which were fiiiine. They were well-designed, focus-group-tested, inoffensive, and utterly boring examples of the styles.

I get that opening a restaurant inside a large space under railroad tracks has a lot of risk in and of itself. I just wish that restauranteurs would sometimes stray, just a little, from the most-average-customer's tastes and try something interesting. But they didn't, so I finished my beers and my hamburger and checked to see if the 7:30 return train was on time.

Except there is no 7:30 return train. There's a 7:15 and an 8:30. So I wound up having another pint of Pincher's (still just fiiiiine) and watching the USA-Japan women's basketball game with half an eye, reading my book, and forgetting that I would arrive at LaSalle Street Station just as a million teenagers wearing inappropriate clothes would leave Lollapalooza and board the El I needed to take home.

Beer garden? Yes
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? Everywhere, unavoidable
Serves food? Full menu (it's fiiiiine)
Would hang out with a book? No
Would hang out with friends? No
Would go back? No

Welcome to August

While I look out my hermetically-sealed office window at some beautiful September weather in Chicago (another argument for working from home), I have a lot of news to digest:

And finally, Jakob Nielsen explains to web designers as patiently as possible why pop-ups piss off users.

On this day...

Fifty years ago today, George Harrison and Ravi Shankar put on the Concert for Bangladesh at Madison Square Garden:

It was the first major charity concert of its kind — the Concert for Bangladesh. In that corner of South Asia, civil war, cyclone and floods had created a humanitarian disaster.

"There are six million displaced Bengalis, most of them suffering from malnutrition, cholera and also other diseases that are the result of living under the most dehumanizing conditions," former All Things Considered host Mike Waters reported in July of 1971.

The situation was deeply personal for Indian musician Ravi Shankar, a sitar virtuoso, whose family came from the region. So, Shankar reached out to a close friend, former Beatle George Harrison.

He marveled at the astonishing roster Harrison was able to attract. "You have a Beatle — two Beatles in fact — that you have Ringo Starr as well. You have Bob Dylan," Thomson says. "None of these people had played live particularly much in the preceding years. So, that was an event in itself. You have a stellar backing band, people like Eric Clapton." Including, of course, Shankar on the sitar.

What they did end up making went to UNICEF. That weekend alone raised around $240,000. Millions more came later, as a result of the subsequent album and movie, all with the goal of helping refugees.

And exactly ten years later, MTV was born. (And I still have a crush on Martha Quinn.)

Elder Brewing Company, Joliet

Welcome to stop #48 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Elder Brewing Co.., 218 E. Cass Ave., Joliet
Train line: Heritage Corridor or Rock Island, Joliet
Time from Chicago: 70 minutes (Zone H)
Distance from station: 500 m

Joliet: the end of two train lines. Home of the Big House, the Sting, and a weird little brewery that I will make a point of visiting again.

When Andrew Polykandriotis opened Elder Brewing in 2017, he saw the brewery as a part of the push to revitalize downtown Joliet. You can see from the photo above that Joliet still has a way to go, though. No matter: he's created an inviting space with friendly people.

I only planned to have one beer so that I could get food at the other Joliet brewery, so I chose the Poly's Revenge APA (5.5%), one of the first beers Polykandriotis brewed. (The "revenge" is on all the people who predicted the brewery would fail.) It was great: nicely balanced, not too hoppy, clean, and flavorful.

The dog-friendly taproom has free popcorn and a library of old VHS tapes that they will happily play on the TV over the bar. A couple of patrons had just started The Little Mermaid when I came in. They also have a rack of menus if you want to order in from the local restaurants (a rib joint nearby looked like a good bet), and board games for all ages.

With a minor-league ball park a block away and easy access on Metra, I might make a day of it in Joliet at some point. Elder Brewing will be on the agenda.

Beer garden? Yes
Dogs OK? Yes
Televisions? One, avoidable
Serves food? Only popcorn (free!)
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Imperial Oak Brewing, Willow Springs

Welcome to stop #47 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Imperial Oak Brewing., 501 Willow Rd., Willow Springs
Train line: Heritage Corridor, Willow Springs
Time from Chicago: 32 minutes (Zone D)
Distance from station: 100 m

It is very important to remember, if you plan to visit either of the breweries along Metra's Heritage Corridor line, that they run only three trains only from Chicago on weekday afternoons, and none to Chicago. So when I visited Imperial Oak Brewing yesterday, I took the first train towards Willow Springs, ensuring that I could get from Willow Springs to Joliet on either the second or third trains, and not have to figure out how to get home some other way. I didn't price a Lyft from Willow Springs to the next-nearest Metra station, but I imagine it would have cost quite a lot.

Once you get to Willow Springs, the first thing you see getting off the train will be the brewery, and its large and quiet patio. It felt a little like a country pub in England, surrounded by trees with almost no car traffic except for the few on the Willow Springs Road bridge overhead.

I tried four 5-ounce pours while sitting at one of those picnic tables with a book.

The 'Merica American Stout (center, 6.2%, 50 IBU) gave me some unexpected hoppiness, with good chocolate and caramel notes. I found it pretty bold for a stout, with a nice long finish. The Crank It Hop Citra-Mosaic IPA (right, 6%, 50 IBU) tasted excessively hoppy for my taste, but crisp and clean (and no caffeine!), and a good example of the style. The just-released Roundabout Hybrid Pale (left, 5.4%) was my favorite, with a good balance, some grapefruit notes from the Citra hops, and a crisp finish. I also tried the Udderly Black Milk Stout (not pictured; 5.3%, 20 IBU), which I found kind of bland after the hoppier guys I tried earlier. I did cleanse with potato chips and water, but the milk stout just didn't do it for me.

Beer garden? Yes
Dogs OK? Outside only
Televisions? Two at the bar, avoidable
Serves food? No, but food trucks stop by
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Summertime daftness everywhere

A few examples of idiocy, bad intent, or general ineptness crossed my desk this morning:

Finally, in an effort not to complain about politics or the Olympics, Gail Collins takes on robocalls.

Ancestral homeland opens up

Even thought the Right Honourable Gentleman from Uxbridge and South Ruslip remains a bloviating prat, his ministers did give me a bit of good news this morning:

Double-vaccinated travellers from the US and European Union will have their jab status recognised, meaning they can avoid quarantine when arriving in England from amber list countries, ministers have decided.

After a meeting of senior ministers on Wednesday, sources said the go-ahead was given to treat those who have been fully inoculated in the US and EU the same as British citizens.

Currently, only those who have had two vaccine doses administered by the NHS are eligible for a “Covid pass” they can show upon their arrival in England, meaning they are allowed to avoid isolating for up to 10 days if travelling from an amber list country – so long as they test negative before departure.

A date for the rule change has not yet been set. When it comes into force, it will benefit Britons living abroad, as well as US and EU citizens who are double-jabbed.

So, maybe, just maybe, I can visit the UK this fall? Maybe pretty please with sugar on top?