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Reviews on PubCrawler from the enemy
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December 22, 2014 @ 04:15 AM EDT
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Reviews By
the enemy

Beer Reviews

Restaurant Reviews

User Tagline: Lend me ten quid and I'll buy you a drink.
Favorite Beer: Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA

Beer Reviews from the enemy

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Average Rating
Beer Quality
Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Good Good Great Good

Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Good Good Good Great Good

Establishment: Destihl Restaurant and Brew Works, Normal, IL

Located in a poorly marked and difficult to find ew-ish big open building on a mall out-lot -- you know, the kind of building and location that typically houses a Chili’s or Crapplebee’s or something of that nature. No matter how you do up the decor in a building like that, whether it’s faux-Irish, faux-classic-bar-and-grille, or in this case, faux-contemporary, there’s just no disguising what it is, and any attempt to just comes off as contrived. I won’t deny that it’s nice inside but somehow it still feels phony.

Food was OK, a little disappointing given its casual-upscale pretension. Beer was slightly better than average, though one was so butterscotchy that I sent it back. Learning from two sources now that the head brewer here used to head up the Elmwood brewery goes a long way toward explaining the average quality of the beers here. It's no mystery to anyone who tried their beers why Elmwood went out of business; fortunately, the fellow seems to have honed his skills a little bit in the intervening years. Maybe the brewpub format suits him better than bottling.

Service was pretty good -- a little slow to come around sometimes but I never had to endure an unduly long wait. She was very patient about answering my never-ending stream of questions.

I drove about 250 miles round-trip to check this place out, and I won’t be making another 250-mile round trip just on account of this place. If I’m in B-N on other business I’ll hit this place up but otherwise I have little desire to go back. Nor will I eagerly anticipate their arrival in Champaign.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall

Establishment: Nicolet Brewing Company, Florence, WI

Well Rob, I'm not terribly surprised. While I don't ever cheer for the closing of a mom-and-pop brewery (unless its owned and/or managed by dicks), I can't say this is a terribly big blow to the craft-brewing scene.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Lousy Lousy N/A Great Lousy

Establishment: Mugs Bunny, Chicago, IL

Not a beer bar in any sense of the word; it's a blue-collar hangout corner bar in a blue-collar neighborhood. Their four taps included Old Style, Coors Light, Miller Lite, and Guinness. Rated "lousy" not because there's anything wrong with the place -- it's fine for what it is -- but it's lousy as a beer bar. Frankly, this listing doesn't belong on Pubcrawler.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Great Good Good So So Good

Establishment: Barley Island Brewing Company, Noblesville, IN

I must have gone to a different Barley Island than the fellow below me. I found nothing decrepit about the outside (do a Google Street View and judge for yourself; looks to me like a converted warehouse, which is exactly what it is) or disorganized about the place. I certainly don't concur with the assessment that the beers were bland or flavorless. Maybe it's because he hails from the Pacific Northwest where beer is considered weak and inferior if it doesn't taste like concentrated hop-and-malt syrup, whereas around here we understand that subtlety and restraint in brewing does not necessarily equal flavorless boredom. And I will never understand people who complain about smoking in a bar that openly and explicitly permits it, but I reckon that's neither here nor there.

Anyways, first up was the flat top wheat. Pale and cloudy like expected; crisp and clean with a faint grassy flavor and a touch of tart and a light to medium hop bitterness that sneaks up on you. Next up was their Belgian-style wit with its standard bubble-gummy and clove flavors with some citrus tartness -- not great but drinkable. Next, the Blind Tiger pale ale had a nice bitter hoppy flavor that was well-balanced with the nice caramely malt. After that came the Dirty Helen Brown Ale with its nutty, toasty, grainy flavor with slightly more hop kick than one would expect from a brown, and a nice touch of chocolate that sneaks up in the end. Slightly unconventional hop profile for a brown but still well done. After that came the Barfly IPA, a solidly hop-forward, citrusy, piney, and well-balanced throughout -- definitely not an overkill IPA as is tiresomely common from craft breweries these days. And finally came the imperial stout, which was one of the best I've had in a long time. Rich, dark, malty, chocolatey, bitter-toasty, this stuff was HEAVY. I could barely finish a 10-ounce snifter of it; by the last few sips I was literally chasing it with water, that's how rich it was. Flavorless beer? Huh?

Service: kind of a letdown. The bartender was kind of flaky and distracted though we were usually able to get her attention when needed. But the cook didn't bother to show up until 45 minutes after the place opened, which pissed me off because I was so hungry I could have eaten one of the tap handles.

Atmosphere: not bad for a place in the middle of nowhere. Nothing fancy, but it's not like you're drinking in a dive bar or a pole barn either. I'd classify it as comfy.

All in all, I'd give this place a mild thumbs-up. But if the service on my second visit is like that on my first, there probably won't be a third.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Great Good N/A Great Great

Establishment: Broad Ripple Brewing Company, Indianapolis, IN

So, I finally got to check this place out. Nice place, interesting and intimate layout. They focus heavily on English style beers which limits their repertoire; but they do English-style beers very well. I tried 8 different beers and they ranged from acceptable to excellent representations of the style. And seeing how I wasn't behaving like a drunken lout, I had no issues whatsoever with the service. Since I'm not a big fan of English beers, I don't know that I'd spend a whole lot of time here if I lived in Indy, but it's a nice place to hit up during one of my occasional visits to town.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Awesome! Great Awesome! Awesome! Awesome!

Establishment: Firkin, Libertyville, IL

I've known about this place for years but just never seemed to find myself up in the neighborhood. I wandered up there today and I'm glad I did.

Their beer menu is impressive. Not a dud on it. No mass-brew corn sodas. The 40 or so taps feature mostly American craft beers and a handful of Belgians. There were two engines but unfortunately both were empty. The bottle selection was smallish for a high-end beer bar at about 50, but again, all of them were solid.

The food was killer. It seemed overpriced at first, but the money buys superb quality. I had the queso fundito with scallops, shrimp, fresh-cut onions and red & green peppers. Absolutely brilliant and worth the $11 asking price.

Service was very friendly and mostly attentive. Decor was very sharp, lots of wood and nice high ceiling. This is a nice place; I'll be back.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall

Establishment: Goose Island Beer Company - Clybourn, Chicago, IL

Well at least the bottling operations will keep going, and the Wrigleyville location will remain open. But it's just not quite the same...


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Great Great Great Great Great

Establishment: Galway Tribes Irish Pub and Ale House, Frankfort, IL

Huh... I thought I had already posted a review of this place. Anyway, my only gripe is that it's a suburban out-lot pub in a brand-new suburban-style building that tries a little too hard to pretend like it's not a suburban out-lot pub. But they do a better job than most in that regard. And what counts the most is what's on the inside rather than the outside. The interior is done as well as you can expect of a building of this nature and even provides a pretty convincing dose of atmosphere. Yes, the beer selection is pretty imprssive and it's the best I've seen on the South Side yet. It doesn't compete selection-wise with Chicago's heavy hitters like Map Room and Hop Leaf, but they still fill the craft-beer market better than anyone south of Division Street has even tried. If I lived in the area this would be my "regular" spot.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Great Great Great Great Great

Establishment: Central Waters Brewpub, Marshfield, WI

Mr. Bie's got the basics of the ambiance covered. Nice contemporary (but not snooty) open-air setup in an historic building. About 10 beers on tap, many of which are also distributed throughout central Wisconsin in bottles. Said bottle distribution has already given Central Waters a reputation as a solid-quality brewery throughout the upper Midwest while some of its top-tier products are sought after nationwide by those in the know. The brewpub will only help solidify that reputation.

Food was interesting and unique. I had a tasty and unique Cuban sandwich while my wife worked on a onion-blossom thingy which was the best I'd ever tasted. The clam chowder was also spot on.

Service was a bit on the flaky side. It seemed like they were prepping themselves for the Friday Fish Fry rush that eventually wandered in and packed the place while I was there. Interesting crowd at this place -- a little more, uh, "civilized" (I guess) than I'm used to seeing in a small-town Wisconsin pub. Almost made me feel underdressed in my T-shirt and jeans.

Overall, a great joint with a very solid beer lineup, nifty atmosphere and good pub grub. Yet another small-town Wisconsin brewpub with a touch of class and sophistication.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Good So So N/A Good Good

Establishment: Angry Minnow Restaurant and Brewery, Hayward, WI

Nice counterbalance to its crosstown rival Muskie Capital. Whereas MC goes for the "lodge in the woods" ambiance, Angry Minnow goes for the "old-school small-town elegance" ambiance, and does it very very well. In terms of ambiance, this is one of the nicest brewpubs I've visited. Nice hardwood floors, tin ceilings about 12-feet up, wrought iron chandeliers, and huge windows and an open floor plan to give it a nice, airy feel. While it aims a bit upscale, it is not at all stuffy. It is as relaxed and inviting as the sleepy little town outside its windows (at least it was sleepy in late October with most of the tourists and weekenders gone).

Now, if only the beers lived up to the pretension. There was only one of the 5 on tap that did, namely the oatmeal stout with its rich and grainy, creamy, nutty, roasty flavor with bits of coffee and toffee. The River Pig was pretty solid with a good presence of citrus, hop bitterness and rich chewy malt sweetness, though the citrus could have been dialed down a tiny notch. The honey wheat and Oktoberfest were both pretty drinkable, while the skunky German pilsner was not.

I didn't try the food, having just ate before, but the menu items looked pretty interesting. I'd like to try eating here some time.

Service was adequate, mellow and low-key. It almost seemed like they didn't want to be there, but if that was the case, they were decent enough to keep their sentiments to themselves.

While I didn't think the beer was that great, the overall experience was quite enjoyable. Places like this make Wisconsin a special pubcrawl state. I hope to be back some day.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Good Great N/A Awesome! Great

Establishment: Muskie Capital Brewery at the Old Hayward Eatery, Hayward, WI

Now called Muskie Capital Brewery. The restaurant and the brewpub are now separate entities though they share the same building and the restaurant portion is still called Old Hayward Eatery. Kind of confusing.

Nice enough place with a suitably casual yet tasteful Northwoodsy ambiance. Though this is a heavy tourist town, there was a good deal of locals in the pub on a Saturday afternoon; I suppose the Badgers football game drew quite a bit of them in while the cold October temperatures kept the weekenders & tourists away (except me).

Beer ranged from average to competent to great. The cream ale and red lager were OK while the porter, nut brown and pale ale were all good, solid examples of their respective styles. The standout was a fall seasonal called Harvest Ale. Brewed with maple syrup as a fermentable sugar, it had a lovely autumnal essence with maple sweetness and a touch of nutmeg spice. Very well-done; get some while you have a chance.

The bartendress was attentive and friendly, though she didn't seem to know much about the house beers. That always annoys me in a brewpub. That minor niggle was more than offset by the fact that the owner and brewmaster (who also happens to serve both functions for the South Shore brewery up in Ashland WI) was very generous with his time, chatting for a while about numerous Wisconsin breweries and beer in general. He was also very gracious about receiving candid answers when he asked for opinions about his beers.

All in all this place is a class act from top to bottom. Even though it probably draws most of its business from tourists and weekenders, it has a very homey vibe that makes you feel like you've stumbled onto a local secret. If I make my way back to Hayward any time soon, this place will be one of the reasons.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Good Awesome! So So So So Good

Establishment: Bent River Brewing Company, Moline, IL

Ambiance seemed pretty OK for what it intends to be; namely, a no-frills brewpub in a no-frills Midwest mini-metropolis. I rather liked the bar area with the fermenting and serving tanks right behind the bartenders without so much as a pane of glass separating the tanks from the serving area. Nice touch bringing the brewing aspect right into the same space shared by the beer consumers rather than keeping it separate and inaccessible.. They had some 10 selections on tap during my visit, showing some daring such as a jalepeno pepper beer and a honey porter. Beers were not mind-blowing but still fairly solid. They also had a decent bottle selection in their two stand-up fridges. Food was pretty bland and average, even by pub-grub standards. Nothing special on the menu. Ambiance took a hit or two because of the cheap mom-and-pop-burger-joint chairs/tables, the lung-clogging smoke even with a medium-sized crowd, and because all available tables in the dining area were filthy. We waited and waited and waited for them to clean a table and seat us, but we eventually had to seat ourselves and then ask the waitress to clean the table that we just sat at. Sorry, a customer just shouldn’t have to seat himself at a filthy table and then hope for the best. This place has a lot of potential, but it hasn’t lived up to it yet.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Great Good Great Great Great

Establishment: J.W. Platek's Restaurant and Brewery, Richmond, IL

There is a rumor in some beer circles that Platek's no longer serves its own beer. As of mid-June 2007, I can attest that this rumor is false.

First thing I noticed was a pretty big disconnect between the unassuming exterior and the upscale-ness of this restaurant. The interior is not overly decorative either; it's tidy enough to be inviting and casual enough to be comfortable. But in terms of the food prices and clientele, I might as well have been in a country club clubhouse, complete with guys in golf outfits sitting at the bar smoking cigars and talking about their latest escapade on the links. I'd guess the average of the clientele is late 50s/early 60s, generally well-off and enjoying the fruits of decades of professional work.

Average entree price was about 20 bucks so I didn't try the food. It must be good though; the place was buzzing by 4:30, just half an hour after opening.

They had 5 house beers on tap: an amber, a pale ale, a Belgian strong ale, an English brown ale and a stout. The only miss was the amber, which exhibited a flavor clash between the malt and hop combo. The rest were solid, flavorful and rather competent examples of the style.

All in all, this is a pretty sharp place. It's basically an upscale-ish Wisconsin-style supper club (though it misses actually being in Wisconsin by just a few miles) doubling as a brewpub. Hopefully my wallet will accomodate their dinner menu on my next visit.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Good So So So So So So So So

Establishment: Mike's Ale House, Chicago, IL

This place is under new ownership and management, and it shows. It used to have a decent beer selection. Now it has three tap handles: Goose Island Honker's, Three Floyds Alpha King, and Buttwiper -- in other words, three beers you can find together at about 3,872 other bars across the Chicago area. Except that there wasn't actually anything on the Three Floyds and Goose Island lines, leaving Buttwiper as the only tap selection. Exasperated, I turned to the bottle selection where I found the most exotic selections to be Leffe and Hoegaarden. I ordered a Leffe and the bartender opened it and placed it in front of me as if I were to drink it out of the bottle like it was Miller Lite. I asked for a glass and she gave me a shaker glass even though they had La Chouffe tulip glasses there; plus, the glass was filthy. It became quickly apparent to me that these people know f#*k-all about beer, so rather than explain to her that you don't serve a Belgian abbey ale in a shaker glass, I simply asked her to bring me a clean glass. Food was mediocre -- I had a barbecue burger that was served with luke-warm tater-tots and the cheapest barbecue sauce imaginable -- something akin to Open Pit. If you're going to be that cheap, at least spring for something halfway resembling actual barbecus sauce like KC Masterpiece. While she was flaky and knew nothing about beer, the bartender was actually pretty nice and so was the clientele. I don't want to be too hard on this place because it actually seems like a pretty decent little neighborhood corner bar; but the point is, that's all it is any more. This is no longer a "beer bar" and it doesn't look like they're trying to pretend otherwise.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
So So So So So So So So So So

Establishment: Mike's Ale House, Chicago, IL

First, a couple of notes about this place to clear up some confusion. Yes, this is technically the same place that used to be about six blocks further west on Irving Park Road, and yes, there used to be another Mike's Ale House on Western and Bryn Mawr. However, Mike Hirsch sold both places; the one on Western is now Sherry's, and the one at the 5134 W. Irving Park location retained the Mike's Ale House name. Unfortunately, it did not retain the beer selection the original Mike's had. They now have all of three taps: Buttwiper, Goose Island Honker's Ale, and Three Floyds Alpha Kings -- all three of which are on tap at about 38,000 other bars in the Chicago area. Except those 38,000 other bars probably actually serve the beer too, instead of having the tap handles adorn empty lines. Dismayed that they didn't actually have any of the two palatable tap selections on tap, I turned to their bottle selection to find that the most exotic bottle offerings were Leffe and Hoegaarden. So I ordered a Leffe with a sigh of resignation. The bartender opened the bottle and plopped it in front of me, as if I should drink it straight out of the bottle like it's Miller Lite. I asked for a glass, and despite the fact that they had La Chouffe tulip glasses there, she handed me a pint shaker glass (which, by the way, was absolutely filthy.) It became evident that these people know nothing about craft beer, so I simply asked her to replace the dirty glass rather than try to explain that you don't serve a bottle-conditioned Belgian ale in a shaker glass.

For food I ordered a "flight" of three mini-burgers, none of which were that great and one of which (the barbecue burger) was kind of nasty because they used cheap-o "Open Pit"-style barbecue sauce. Good grief -- if you're gonna use crappy store-bought barbecue sauce, at least take one step up from the bottom and use something halfway palatable like KC Masterpiece. It also came with tater-tots that were luke-warm. I asked for sauce to dip them in; had to remind the bartender 20 minutes later to please bring me the sauce. Service was similarly flaky throughout my stay. She was very nice though, so at least I didn't get a side-dish of attitude with my mediocre meal and improperly served beer.

It seems like this place is not at all trying to carry on the legacy of the original Mike's Ale House, so maybe it's not fair to judge them against that standard. It does seem like a nice enough little neighborhood corner bar. The bartender was quite friendly and the patrons were pretty low-maintenance-type folks who were easy to chat with. If that's all you need from a bar, this place is worth checking out. But Mike's Ale House is no longer a "beer bar" for craft-beer aficionados.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Awesome! Awesome! N/A Great Awesome!

Establishment: Landmark 1850 Inn, Milwaukee, WI

More or less the Map Room or Fat Head's of Milwaukee. This place is obviously making it on reputation and word of mouth, because it's sure not making it on location. What a truly strange location, literally a couple hundred feet from one of the Milwaukee Airport runways. You'd never know it from the inside though, where it feels every bit like a neighborhood corner bar, complete with old-school woodwork and tin ceiling. Quite a nice little beer house.

Tap selection was pretty expansive at 48, covering all bases from Miller products up to Belgian tripels and lots of American craft brews in between. Didn't try the food but the pizza looked/smelled pretty good. Waitstaff was prompt and conversational. Too much stale smoke odor -- give the place a good scrubdown. Nice place... I'll have to make an excuse to head up to Milwaukee again soon.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Good Good Great Great Great

Establishment: Little Apple Brewing Company, Manhattan, KS

OK, so here we have a brewpub in a strip mall in a small college town in the middle of Dicklestick Nowhere, an area not generally renowned as beer-chic. Couple that with the fair-to-middling reviews posted here and one comes in with low expectations. I figured this would be the kind of place that brews poseur beers just so they can say, "we brew our own beer and that makes really cool n' stuff." I walked out concluding that the low expectations were unjustified.

First, the beer quality. I concur with comments that they don't take a lot of risks with daring styles or super-bold creations. But let's take a realistic look at the business climate they operate in and keep in mind that these folks need to make money. Is Manhattan KS really ready for, say, a bourbon-barrel imperial brown or a 12% ABV thick-as-syrup barleywine? Granted, this is no excuse to make bland watery beer, and in my estimation Little Apple does not. I found that each beer had at least a basic degree of quality required of a hand-crafted beer, and many were even better.

I suppose regular locals are in a better position to comment on the ups-and-downs in consistency and quality control, but I can only comment on my own, one-time expereince. When I went in November 2006 I did not experience many of the quality problems mentioned in the previous and some other reviews. I found that each beer had at least the requisite level of quality of an honest, non-poseur brewpub. I did not find rampant diacetyl in my samples. I did detect some in the oatmeal stout, but in a complex stout a modest amount of diacetyl is permissible and can even add to the flavor complexity. My only quality complaints were that the oatmeal stout and the IPA were not adequately nitrogenated/carbonated, respectively, and that led to a disappointing mouthfeel in both cases. That's highly unfortunate because I found both of these beers to have an intense and exceptional flavor profile. The stout was intensely chocolately with coffee, vanilla, crunchy oatmeal and a hint of maple, and these attributes were well-layered. The Prairie Pale Ale with its big orange-citrus & bitter noble hop flavor and rich, upstanding malt backbone is one of the best-tasting British-style IPAs (as opposed to the American/Pacific Northwest-style) that I've ever had from an American brewery. I thought it good enough that I hauled a growler of it all the way back to Chicago with me. In all I gave the beer quality rating a “good” because of the flat palate of the stout and IPA, and because the complaints of the “play-it-safe” tap lineup are valid even if justified by the realities of the business climate. I wish I could there was a “Really Good” to pick from between “Good” and “Great” ratings, because I would have applied it to the beer quality here.

Next, ambiance. This is a strip mall, and a pretty small one at that. There's only so much you can do with a mini-strip-mall space. And they make the best of it. I rather enjoyed the Flint Hills-oriented cattle house/steakhouse décor and thought it was well-done, even if a touch corny. There was a bar room separated from the dining area with a chest-high wooden divider that then had etched glass from the top of the divider all the way to the ceiling held in place by brass-rail framing. I'd guess the bar was about 800sqft, and seemed like a decent place to put down a pint or two of suds.

Next, food. My wife's steak was very good, as one would expect from a steakhouse in the heart of cattle country. Our appetizer onion rings were bready, huge and delicious, and came with a zingy taco-dip-type sauce. Nice touch. My nacho platter had yummy spicy beef and an excellent zingy salsa. I'd definitely eat here again.

Service: I don't know if my waitress knew the first thing about the beer she was serving. And I don't really care since the supplied written descriptions were informative enough that I didn't need to ask her about them. She was quite friendly and personable, and as a dine-in waitress, she didn't miss a beat.

Overall I was much more impressed with this place than I thought I'd be. If (God forbid) I were sentenced to live in the cultural purgatory that is Manhattan, I'd spend a lot of time at this place and I'd be proud to call it my local brewpub.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Great Great Great Great Great

Establishment: Free State Brewing Company, Lawrence, KS

Well, in my estimation this place deserves the accolades it receives, which it does from both locals and beer travelers. True enough that nothing here is going to set the beer world on its ear; but everything they serve up is very high quality. Of the seven beers I tried, the Wheat State Golden was the lightest effort, but hey, nobody expects much from a Kölsch and it was done true to style. Two true standouts were the Couer de Saison with its intense sweet citrus and spice combination and a surprisingly creamy mouthfeel; and the Stormwatch, a nearly mahogany-colored IPA with a unique dry-grain backbone along with the standard American-IPA attributes of piney, floral, citrus-grapefruit hop flavors and clean sweet malt. Other solid efforts I'd gladly avail myself of if I were a regular were the oatmeal stout and the Copperhead pale ale.

Food was also quite good. I ordered an appetizer -- can't remember what I ordered but I do remember that it did not disappoint. I also had the jambalaya. I like my food spicy and I find myself supplementing many supposedly spicy dishes with tobasco sauce. No need to in the case of their jambalaya; it came out of the kitchen with enough kick that I didn't need to add any more.

The atmosphere is befitting of the "college-progressive" business district it sits in, and not surprisingly, they draw the clientele to match. There appeared to be a couple jock-types there but by and large this was more of a "liberal-arts" crowd if you will. The building itself is part of a renovated trolley station, with liberal use of wood throughout and a byzantine floor plan of small side rooms and second-floor loft spaces and what-not in addition to the main dining/bar area with 25-foot ceiling in the front. The front facade of the building is recessed about 12 feet to provide an outdoor seating area between the front window-wall and the sidewalk. This area was filled almost to capacity on the Saturday after Thanksgiving as people enjoyed the beer and 60-degree weather in their sweatshirts.

Even with a good-sized crowd there, the service was very attentive almost to the point of annoying. After a while, being asked "can I get you anything else?" every 28 seconds gets a little annoying. But it sure beats getting ignored, so I won't complain too much.

All in all I had a very pleasant experience all around. Lawrence is a vibrant, cultivated college town almost on par with Ann Arbor, and with a great brewpub to make it even more complete. The locals have every right to brag about this place; it has properly earned their affection with solid beer, great food and college-hip atmosphere.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall

Establishment: Slab City Brewing LLC, Bondeul, WI

Closed as of October 2006. No surprise there -- lousy quality control.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall

Establishment: LogJam Microbrewery, Tomahawk, WI

Closed as of July 2006. The beer was OK but it's easy to see why this place didn't make it. Still, too bad in some respects; they were nice folks and their tap room was a quintessential small-town Wisconsin tavern experience. I'll miss this place but I won't miss their beer.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
So So So So So So Great So So

Establishment: Brockway Chophouse, Palatine, IL

The building owner booted Emmetts to make room for this place? Bad call, man. Really bad call. Emmett's may not have been "upscale" enough, but for all of Brockway's upscale pretensions, Emmett's blows this mind-numbingly mediocre place with their bland beer and their boring, overpriced food. Skip this pretentious place with its $12 appetizers and go to one of the other Emmett's instead.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Good So So So So Good Good

Establishment: Abbey Pub and Restaurant, Chicago, IL

I really wish this place actually were a beer bar since I live within easy walking distance. However, it's not. It's more of a pseudo-Irish place with the standard Guinness, Bass, Boddingtons, a Goose Island or two, the sort of thing you expect to find in any of the several dozen other Irish-type places in this city. It's far better known as an indie-rock venue as has been pointed out, playing host to such acts as Mates of State, Stolen Babies, Veruca Salt, Ida, Guided by Voices, et cetera. Don't go out of your way for the beer, that's for sure.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Great Good N/A Great Great

Establishment: Laschet's Inn, Chicago, IL

For some reason I always overlooked this place on my way to Resi's Bierstube, which is practically right across the street. I think I've found a new home for German beer slurping, at least during the winter months when the biergarten at Resi's is closed.

It was uncrowded when I went on a Thursday night at 11pm. The kitchen was closed by then, which is too bad because the lingering aromas suggested they had just finished serving up some tasty stuff. The atmosphere is somewhere between Resi's drop-ceiling dinginess and Chicago Brauhaus's Disneyesque Hans-and-Franz "Bavarian-ness." There are a few steins and some pseudo-European decor but it doesn't shout "Look how German we are!" from floor to ceiling like Brauhaus does. Perhaps the best part of the atmosphere is the patrons. While the Lincoln Square/North Center's distinctly German character is starting to give way to generic yuppification, a few old-neighborhood holdouts have heretofore refused to give in. Like Resi's and the Brauhaus, Laschet's is a place where you're far more likely to find 40- and 50-something life-long Chicagoans with SNL "Da Bears" accents than 26-year-old oxford-shirt-wearing ad execs who grew up in Iowa but moved to The Big City after college and think fake-loft condos and apple martinis are the essence of urban living. There were also a handful of immigrants when I was there; one from Serbia, one from Poland and one from the Czech Republic. Very interesting mix of patrons here, none of whom have the slightest interest in fruity martinis.

On the whole, the beer selection is about average compared to what you're likely to find in the other German-type bars in the area. It doesn't compare to Resi's but it's more extensive than the Brauhaus. Some 12 taps featured solid German offerings like Jever, Spaten Bavarian lager, Spaten Oktoberfest, Warsteiner, Gosser, BBK Pils, DAB, Weihenstephan hefeweizen, et cetera.

Sometimes I enjoy spending time at yuppie joints. Other times I prefer a more down-to-earth neighborhood feel. When I'm in the mood for the latter, I will certainly head over to Lincoln Square and spend my time at Resi's and now at Laschet's as well. I recommended Laschet's for its modest but solid-quality lineup and its frozen-in-time "old German neighborhood" feel while the rest of the area around it transforms into Yuppieland.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Good Great Good So So Good

Establishment: Shoreline Brewery, Michigan City, IN

Pretty nice conversion of an old warehouse building. Service was friendly but spotty. Food was OK but way overpriced for the quality and portion size. I tried the gumbo which was way too watery, the thistle sticks ("Spicy cream cheese wrapped in wonton skins, accompanied by roasted red pepper sauce and tzaziki") which were disappointingly bland, and the shoreline sushi which was pretty tasty but not quite to-die-for. My wife had the burger and fries, neither of which she was terribly excited about. We both came to the consensus that we'd eat elsewhere first before our next visit. Thr beer was mostly average with two standouts, the Scottish ale and the oatmeal stout. The selection was pretty decent with nine available. Spoke to the owner about beer for a bit. He gave me a sample of their forthcoming strong Scottish Ale (dubbed "Batch 50" for reasons made obvious by its name) which looks to be quite promising once it's done fermenting. He also gave me a heads-up about a bourbon-barrel barleywine that will be coming online about a month from this writing.

I'm not yet prepared to make a habit out of driving some 75 miles to this place, especially since I would be driving right past Flossmor Station and Three Floyds to get to it. But it has potential and I'll be keeping my eye on it. (Come to think of it, Flossmor, 3F and Shoreline could make a nice little South Suburban brewpub mini-tour...) But I will at least be back to try out that barleywine in a month.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Great Great N/A Great Good

Establishment: The Beer Bistro, Chicago, IL

For a city of its size, Chicago is surprisingly lacking in truly great beer destinations. Unfortunately the addition of Beer Bistro doesn't change that situation tto much. It's a far cry from the two essential beer bars in town, Map Room and Hop Leaf. And to be fair, it serves a slightly different clientele than those places. Situated in the super-urban-chic "Lofts 'R' Us" West Loop area, the Beer Bistro's primary constituency seems to be the primped & stylish martini-bar crowd. Cast in that light, The Beer Bistro probably has the best tap selection anywhere in the West Loop area, with some 15 taps and 80 bottles including regional micros (Bell's, Great Lakes, and of course the Goose), standard Europeans (Guinness, Newcastle, Stella Artois), and a handful of Belgian ales (Trappistes Rochefort 10, Piraat, Delirium, Duvel, etc.) My main hangup is that the place isn't as much about the beer as it is about being a "see and be seen" kind of place. I can't exactly fault them for it since their location verily demands this sort of atmosphere, and I suppose thumbs-up is in order for trying to expand the beer horizons of their constituency beyond Amstel Light and Stella. Nonetheless, the loafers-and-oxford-shirt crowd isn't my thing and the beer selection isn't nearly enough to draw me away from the other beer meccas in the city.


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