Out of four years residing in the micro-neighborhood of Graceland West, among the cemeteries and the isle of Daniel Burnham, beer-wise, I spent most of my time at Long Room. Though, a pristine beer bar and still one of my favorites to this day, besides midnight horror screenings at Music Box, there wasn’t much to do around that immediate area at the time. Half Acre’s storefront was a thirty-minute walk to procure a growler of Gossamer, and Revolution was a full cab ride to a mysterious land in which I could not yet grasp.
To the very week of my moving from Graceland West, Begyle Brewing opens up on my old street a few blocks away in Ravenswood Industrial Corridor. I move to Crete, Illinois for some reason. I am attracted to the vintage bowling alley on my new street, and I look forward to hanging out in the dingy bar, alone on weeknights. I soon learn it is permanently shuttered. During that same window of my initial months being a Cretion, Dryhop Brewers, and Kuma’s Too both open in Lakeview East – the former craft beer desert where I also previously lived for two years. I become an Excretion, and no sooner do I depart from that odd little town than Evil Horse Brewing opens up inside the vintage bowling alley.
I’ve seen a lot of beeracles in my day. But the level of non-beeracle mishaps like the kind that I’ve witnessed may be incomparable. If additional convincing is requisite, and an even bigger non-beeracle is what you desire as evidence…let me introduce you to one.
I began working in an office housed in an old industrial building at 1440 North Kingsbury – situated next to the actual Goose Island-island and a block and a half from Division and Larrabee, where Cabrini-Green once stood. Demolished in 2011, instead of the Cabrini row houses, now sits a Target.
My office was unintentionally rustic, constructed back when they they left brick walls exposed and ductwork visible because, well, there was no need to cover them up. Who knew this would one day provide a level of warmth and ambiance, away from cookie cutter, white-walled Schaumburgian cubicle caverns.
Between my daily mundanities of sketching sewer layouts and writing Requests for Information on removal or addition of ADA ramps, I would walk next door to Whole Foods to get coffee. Not great coffee by any stretch of the most ambitious imagination, but good enough for the negative-space craft coffee wasteland in which I labored. One fateful day on my short trek back from coffeetime, I noticed a sign that read “Off Color Brewing Employee Parking Only” on the side of my office building.
Initially I figured Off Color was merely renting an office space there. But then I thought about how far we were away from the actual brewery. I realized I should quit being dumb and I looked in the front window. O’ what visions to behold! With my nose pressed to the glass like a rosy-cheeked yuletide Christmas boy seeing the Marshall Field’s windows on State Street for the first time, I witnessed multiple barrels and oak tank foedres that were sure to bring hope and harmony to North Kingsbury. A joyous season was upon me and I was ready to sniff, swizzle and sip among the geese and the mossy wood planks that lined the river – and it was all nestled within the cozy exposed brick and in between the familiar red-painted railing where I spent a big chunk of my week.
But the conflict emerged immediately. The struggle between having Off Color Mousetrap soon opening ten feet away from my desk and the restraint required to not go there on my lunchbreak was as vibrant as the brightest IPA. Which Off Color doesn’t brew. But I wouldn’t even have to leave my building to go to the taproom. But I didn’t want to get fired for estimating a project while hammered. Full, legit cocktail program and Coffee Dino S’mores; Unemployment. Pink Pils. Pink slip.
It didn’t matter. In the spirit of all anti-beeracles, and per standard of my life’s roadmap, just a few weeks before Mousetrap opened, I was not only transferred out of the Kingsbury office to a different project, but I was transferred out of the Kingsbury office to a project ninety minutes away, in Rockford.
And so goes the comically illustrated diagram of my beer life.
The good news is that all these places still exist whether I live or work near them or not. I was able to return and visit Mousetrap for a colleague’s going away party. I got to chat with John Laffler, former grandmaster of the Goose Island barrel program. With (and probably partially due to) a background in addiction counseling, I find Laffler 101% less awkward to converse with than 99% of all the other brewers I’ve met. No blank stares or awkward remarks. No backing away slowly with mouth agape. Just normal, productive conversation. I love that guy, and his tasting room is no place for juicebros. I got my Space Tiger wild farmhouse and I got my Blueberries Feel Pain featuring native yeast harvested directly from blueberry skins. Aside from my co-worker’s departure, it was a significant evening.
Alas, in a final, ridiculous nippletwist of pain I eagerly attempted to shell out cash for the Off Color Mousetrap tee shirt which featured a cartoon sketch of my former office building. My plan of proudly sporting it while promenading about town was dashed after being informed they only had two sizes left: XS and XXL.