Preamble by Steve Siciliano
A day game at Wrigley Field, bar hopping on Sheffield Avenue and an excellent meal at Ditka’s Restaurant were the highlights of a two-day visit to Chicago last week. Accompanying my wife Barb and I on the train trip to the Windy City were good friends and traveling buddies Pat and Marcie Macauley.
The Pere Marquette pulled out of GR promptly at 6:30 A.M. and four hours later rolled into busy Union Station in the heart of the Loop. After taking a cab to Lincoln Park we checked into our hotel and then walked to Nookies, a diner down the street on Wells that has some good eats to go along with its thought-provoking name. After breakfast we climbed into another cab and within minutes were enjoying Bloody Marys in an outdoor watering hole just a bloop single away from the Friendly Confines.
Wrigley Field’s well-known sobriquet was supposedly coined by Ernie Banks, the hall of Fame shortstop who spent his entire nineteen-year career with the Cubs. Banks hit 290 of his 512 home runs at Wrigley which might help explain his fondness for the hundred-plus-year-old ball park located just blocks away from the big lake. When the wind is blowing out harmless fly balls can end up in the outfield bleachers. The wind was blowing out that day, the Cubbies smacked two round trippers over the iconic ivy-covered walls and the home team beat the Marlins 4-1.
After the game we walked a few blocks down Sheffield and hailed a cab for a ride back to the hotel. The Wrigleyville cabbies were taking full advantage of the law of supply and demand so we decided against paying the inflated fares and opted to hoof the two miles back to Lincoln Park, occasionally stopping at a watering hole along the way for some liquid nourishment. When we spotted the sign for a basement Italian eatery a few blocks from the hotel I talked my compadres into giving it a try. The fact that there were hardly any patrons sitting at the tables with cheesy red checkered table cloths should have tipped us off that we were about to make a mistake. An appetizer of sausage and peppers was passable but the entrees that followed were tasteless. An overpriced bottle of Malbec exacerbated the pain. Oh well, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.
We recorded a win the following day. After spending some touristy time up on the observation deck of the John Hancock we descended from the clouds and took the short walk to Ditka’s. A couple of drinks at the comfortable bar whet our appetites so we snagged a table in the dining room where we indulged on perfectly cooked filets followed by huge slices of very tasty banana cream pie. The food and service were so good that I didn’t mind dropping big bucks on a bottle of Alexander Valley cabernet.
New and Returning Beer
Alaskan Honey Blond, $1.79/12oz - "Alaskan Blonde Ale is a classic American blonde: easy-drinking and approachable, with low-to-moderate hops and malt and a delicately sweet, biscuity character" (source).
Anxo Transcontinental, $4.19/12oz - "Transcontinental is made from a blend of the finest cider apples including Foxwhelp, Yarlington Mill, Dabinett, and Golden Russet grown on Snowdrift Ciderʼs orchard in central Washington. This cider is big, full-bodied, and off-dry. Expect a tannic backbone with notes of orange blossoms, orange oil, tropical fruit, and fresh flowers, making it perfect for the table" (source).
Arvon Rags to Riches, $5.09/16oz - "Galaxy and Cascade hopped NEIPA" (source).
Arvon Solar Flare, $8.59/22oz - "French Saison dry hopped with Galaxy. Finish crisp and dry with grapefruit and lime hop flavors" (source).
Bee Well White's, $2.59/16oz - "This crisp, semi-sweet apple blend proudly represents friend and farmer, Mark White, and his variety of Michigan greats. Macintosh, Spy, Empire, Cortland, Ida Red, and Jonathan apples create this tart, bright, fragrant batch, truly representative of a Northern Michigan harvest" (source).
Bells Oberon Mini Keg, $21.99/5L - "Oberon is a wheat ale fermented with our signature house ale yeast, mixing a spicy hop character with mildly fruity aromas. The addition of wheat malt lends a smooth mouthfeel, making it a classic summer beer. Made with only 4 ingredients, and without the use of any spices or fruit, Oberon is the color and scent of sunny afternoon" (source).
Brooklyn Summer, $1.89/12oz - "Summer in Brooklyn is all about following your impulses, winging it from beaches and barbecues to stoops and rooftops. Brooklyn Summer Ale is a refreshing, flavorful pale ale made to accompany you on all your warm weather adventures. 100% British 2-row barley brings its famed bready flavors, capped off with German and American hops to provide a snappy, clean bitterness and a bright, floral aroma. It's a sunny pale ale, Brooklyn style" (source).
Dupont Brewer's Bridge, $4.69/12oz - "We're excited to bring you this rare beer, created using time-honored Belgian brewing techniques combined with American hops and craft brewing innovation, resulting in a unique beer that highlights the best of both breweries" (source).
Kickstand Center Stage, $2.99/16oz - "Toasty malt character, fairly light body with a dry ﬁnish" (source).
Odd Side Foster the Banana, $8.29/12oz - "Imperial ale aged in bourbon barrels with bananas, cinnamon, brown sugar, and caramel" (source).
Odd Side Juicy Contradiction, $2.39/12oz - "A hybrid brew, with the smooth, creamy mouthfeel and juiciness of an NEIPA, combined with the crisp, bitter, and dry finish of a brut IPA" (source).
Old Nation Brut, $4.09/16oz - "Brut IPA uses the same recipe hops as M-43 combined with the Brut brewing technique...It is meant to be more clear, juicy and dry. Very dry" (source).
Ska Decadent, $2.79/12oz - "The flavors of bitter grapefruit and caramel-like sweetness smack the taste buds, but there is plenty of bitterness throughout. There is just the right amount of finishing hops and carbonation to set you up for the next round" (source).
Ska Mexican Logger, $1.99/12oz - "If you are a closet Pacifico drinker during the warmer weather then seek this one out. It is a far better brew, my friends. SAAZ hops are the star in this amazingly delicious lager" (source).
Craft Beer 101: How to Tap a Bell's Oberon MiniKeg