Friday, 19 May 2017

Crystal Lake

Another day of travelling ahead. Though not that complicated. Just a single flight to Chicago.

The taxi queue outside the hotel is as weird as yesterday. This time it’s the turn of the rearmost taxi. I’m glad the drivers are keeping track. This time mine doesn’t get lost. Though I guess the airport is pretty easy to find.

Checking in and security are a breeze once more. Why isn’t it like this in European airports?

Sweets. I need to buy Alexei some sweets. Andrew gets bourbon, Alexei gets sweets. I see a spot selling just that. I get him two packets. What the fuck, $14! It shouldn’t really be more than $4, the robbing bastards. I must remember not to shop in airports.

I need some food. Ah, there’s a steakhouse. That’ll do. As usual my arse is parked adjacent to the bar. I order a Sun King Osiris. and a steakburger. That should see me through the next few hours. I have to say that the beer choice is usually pretty good in US airports. Unlike most countries. (Wetherspoons in the UK being an exception.)

The woman behind the bar is quite pushy. She keeps asking everyone if they want more drinks. No thanks, missus. I’m happy just nursing this pint, thank you.

As I walk to my gate I pass a Granite City brewpub bar. Damn. I remember now noticing it when I flew in. I blame my poor whatdoyoucallit, that thingy. What is it? Memory, that’s it.

Sadly, my United flight isn’t overbooked. Looks like I’m condemned to more years of working.

Once again, I have little time to rest after my arrival in Chicago. I only have an hour or so before I need to be on a train to Crystal Lake, which is about 75 km northwest of the city centre. Why did I agree to do this event? Because they asked me. It’s as simple as that.

It’s my final event of the trip. I realise that I’ve only really had one free day.

I take a double-decker commuter train. It’s pretty full, but I get a seat. Everyone but me is clearly on their way home after a day’s work. My work is just beginning.

I’m trying to take a photo of the outside of Duke’s Tavern, location of tonight’s event, when someone pops out and say “Ron, we’re in here.”

After a second or two, I recognise who it is: Les Howarth. We met in Chicago last September. He takes me inside to meet some other members of his home brew club.

We start the evening with some food. Just as well, as it’s hours since I last ate. Obviously accompanied by a beer or two. Once that’s all out of the way we repair upstairs, where the meeting will take place. It’s supposed to start at 19:00.

I have some equipment difficulties. There’s no projector, just a large TV. And I don’t have the right cable to connect by laptop up to it. They’ll just have to make do with my laptop screen. Fortunately, it’s not an enormous room.

There’s beer to accompany me droning on. That’s been the plan for most of my events. Me talking, home brewers serving historic Scottish beers. It’s worked out pretty well, really.

I get a few laughs, which is usually a sign of things going well. But I can’t linger too long afterwards. If I miss the 21:00 train I’ll have to wait until 00:30 for the next one. Which would have me getting to bed far too late.

Once I’ve dumped all my stuff back in the hotel, I realise that I’ve still got a bit of a thirst. The internet tells me that there’s a TGI Fridays a couple of blocks away. That’ll do for a quick eye-closer. On my last night in the USA.

It doesn’t have the greatest beer selection. I go for a Sam Adams Rebel. It does the job. I vaguely stare at the basketball on TV while I drink it. The trip is winding down. No more events, no more talking.

Just one place I need to drop by on my way to the airport tomorrow. Then I’m done. At least until the end of the month. When I’ll be back in the USA again. This time for Asheville Beer Week.

Duke's Alehouse and Kitchen
110 N Main St,
Crystal Lake,
IL 60014.
Tel: +1 815-356-9980

TGI Fridays
153 E Erie St,
IL 60611.
Hours: Open today · 10:30AM–2AM
Tel: +1 312-664-9820


Michael+ said...

Always enjoy the travelogues. I know you don't have time to make beer-tasting notes when folks brew up recipes from your books (what with the looking for video plugs and such), but perhaps some kind souls from the homebrew clubs you visit could pass some along through you. I'd love to hear about how they turned out!

Sokratees9 said...

With regards to check-in, I think you've been lucky. My experience over here is inconsistent, and usually pretty bad at New York airports. Security lines are often the worst, but they seem to have improved over the last couple of years.

Agreed about the beer choices in airport bars over here, usually more interesting and varied than in Europe. One airport I love, though, is Munich airport, where they have a little local brewery called Airbräu. Hearty German food and good beer. Not a huge choice, but they often have a seasonal beer to go along with the Helles, Pils and Weissbier. But the most amazing thing? The price. €2.75 for a half litre. Impossible to beat at any airport I think.

Anonymous said...

The TGIFriday's story reminds me of your St. Louis post about the Budweiser brewery. My take on the AB buyouts of craft brewers is that their goal isn't about crushing every little local craft brewer (not that they would shed any tears for any that go under).

I think AB's target is places like TGIFridays and Chilis and Bennigans and all the other chains that serve one or two decent quality beers. AB wants to knock beers from Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada out of those restaurants and get their own sold instead. Those restaurants are already saturated for sales of low end beer, and their customer base is unlikely to ever sell more than one or two higher priced beers, but those one or two beers represent a healthy markup for a place like AB that can crank out huge quantities and sell in the volume that you get at a big chain restaurant.

Something explicitly sold as a Budweiser specialty beer won't cut it, so they hope to that they can start convincing TGIFridays to cut its ties with Sam Adams and start carrying Goose Island or another AB-owned beer instead.

I don't think the AB takeovers will kill small local breweries, but I do think they will put a big dent in any independent brewery that wants to sell anywhere but higher end bars and restaurants.

Anonymous said...

This is clearly the goal of AB-Inbev.

I drink water when there is nothing but AB-I on tap.

(note to self, don't forget your flask of scotch)