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Aug 23, 2014

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Chicago Continued

July, 1999

By Bobby Bush

Here we are in our third installment on this extended- actually two separate trips -visit to the greater Chicago area. Our final stop on trip number one was strange, very strange indeed. Lunar Brewing Company, located in the blue collar community of Villa Park, is a local bar in need of an identity. Open for two years, they’d been brewing for one when we cruised through the door to the strains of a bad country band segueing from Beatles to Hank Williams Jr. Not a good omen!

This rustic place was decorated with various lunar symbols, hanging seemingly everywhere, and accented by dull silver, quarter moon tap handles. The beer wasn’t quite as alien as many moons on rough oak would suggest, but our first try, a vinegar-like Honeymoon Red Ale, reeking from infection, caused much concern. Kosmic Kolsch, luckily, was clean, light and highly drinkable, featuring apple overtones. Raspberry Cream Ale was too sweet for my taste and Pale Moon was unavailable. That left the decent, dry-hopped Luna Lager and Belgian Dubbel, a complex brown ale complete with raisin notes dominating its sweet flavor profile, which yielded to a bitter, dry finish. Glad we stopped in, but we vowed not to return- the experience wasn’t worth the trouble or pain in our ears.

As fate would have it, I was back alone in Chicago just three weeks later. On my previous visit I had made myself a promise to make the long trek southward to the suburb of Flossmoor. Thirty-three miles- about 45 minutes in late rush hour traffic -later, I found myself among new friends at Flossmoor Station Brewing Company. A pair of old codgers, swilling Budweiser from cold, sweaty longneck bottles, invited me to join them at the bar. What a time we had, talking about life, love and beer. Seems these two extroverts enjoy the house-brewed beers, but must limit themselves to just a few because they’re “too strong.” I proceeded to deluge them with the attributes and benefits of such wonderful Flossmoor brews as the medium body, faintly sweet Gandy Dancer Honey Ale; the highly hopped, brown-headed Panama Limited Red Ale; creamy smooth, chocolate-esque Iron Horse Stout; sweet Der Bahuh of Brau lager; and 8% strong Belgian Dubbel, with its tart malt slap in the face.

Interested and amused, they sampled as I consumed a tasty brat sandwich. Overhead a toy electric train circled unobtrusively. For the first time, I paused to study the long wood bar, filled with talkative patrons, and noticed a plethora of train memorabilia on the walls. Open as a brewpub since July 1996, the sturdy brick structure had once served the city proud as its train station, dedicated in 1906. No one noticed as a real passenger train lumbered hurriedly by, just yards from the rattling windows behind the bar. Though it was time to move on, I parted reluctantly, walking slowly down the stone steps with my new Chicago friends toward our cars. I’d make the drive to Flossmoor most any time. Discussion of and over beer- as fleeting as they may be -are the stuff memories are made of.

Upon the advice of the bartender, I steered toward Harrison’s Brewing Company, a fairly new brewpub in Orland Park, sort of back toward downtown. This cozy, local hangout has been brewing only since May ‘98, but already seems to be part of the neighborhood. A fireplace on one end of the bar stood opposite a small brewery-under-glass on the other. Though the bartender was snarly, and obviously overworked, he managed to fetch me a sampler of each Harrison’s brew. All were served too cold. My favorites were Harrison’s Red, a light, tangy ale with practically no aftertaste; WinterFirst, crisp, pale with minimal bitterness, falling somewhere between Miller Lite and Spaten; and the creamy (nitrogen-infused?) Black Diamond Stout. Though a bit thin, the Stout revealed rich coffee and chocolate twists as it warmed. LaGrange Golden Light (“low in calories and alcohol”), Harrison’s Wheat (American style, flat and served with lemon slice) and three fruit wheats- raspberry, cherry and apricot (talk about overkill) rounded out the Harrison’s line-up. Not bad, but Harrison’s could concentrate more on the beer and less on fruit cocktail brews. Who needs that many?

Good Night Chicago wraps up this ravenous brewpub binge through the Chicago area.

This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.

© Bobby Bush

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