Uncharted

Friends forging a course together through the unexpected

Northwoods Get-Away Recap June 17, 2015

Filed under: Karla — Uncharted @ 6:44 pm
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This past weekend Matt and I packed up my Escape, for our second get-away to the northwoods of Wisconsin. Our agenda was quite simple: a little work and have a lot of fun.

Work consisted of mowing the lawn, finish staining a lower portion of a new kitchen cabinet and cleaning. The fun part included exploring a new brew pub, going to our favorite breakfast place and visiting a well known Wisconsin brewery.

The new place we’re happy to add to our favorites list is Aqualand Ale House in Boulder Junction. The brew pub boasts their own four specialty beers as well as a nice mix of craft beer from the Midwest. Matt and I both ordered flights and a few appetizers. Their homebrews and food were delicious. My favorite brew was a cream ale, which we ended up getting a grumbler of to take home. We had a great time talking to the bartenders and are already planning to visit them again in a few weeks.

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Flight sampler at Aqualand

If we’re only up for a few days or a week, we always make sure to enjoy a breakfast at Cafe Holiday located in Hazlehurst. My parents discovered this gem a few years ago and it has become a family staple. Matt always orders a full biscuits and gravy breakfast meal served with two eggs. And for me, it’s the stuffed cranberry-apple french toast with a side of hashbrowns extra crispy. My mouth is already watering from writing about it.

Our last favorite stop took place on the drive home. Often we’ll stop in on the way up or down in the little Swiss town of New Glarus, Wisconsin, home to New Glarus Brewery. Once we arrived at the brewery, Matt literally jumped out and headed straight for the beer depot to see if any of the recent brown sours were still available. Luck was on his side because they were! With our haul secured we ventured out to enjoy a Belgian Red straight from the tap on the patio with Porter. Best rest stop ever.

Porter hanging out on the patio at New Glarus Brewery

Porter hanging out on the patio at New Glarus Brewery

We’ll be back up north in another few weeks for much of the same. A little work and a lot of fun. I think that’s going to be my new motto for the summer.

 

Checking out St. Charles and Geneva June 10, 2015

Filed under: Karla — Uncharted @ 8:04 pm
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On Saturday Matt and I headed west to Geneva for a night out and to meet up with my cousin. We started off our evening at Stockholm’s brewery located right in downtown Geneva. We had no trouble finding street parking nearby the restaurant. Once we arrived at Stockholm’s we were immediately greeted and asked where we wanted to sit. Matt and I both agreed to enjoy our meal out on the back patio.

Our meal started off with the scallop appetizer and a beer sampler. The appetizer was great, a hint of lemon, light greens and deliciously cooked scallops. The beer did not live up to the same standards sadly. For our main meals Matt ordered a beef tenderloin salad piled high with blue cheese, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries. He was in heaven. I ordered the shrimp taco platter. My plate was filled edge to edge with rice, sour cream, pico de gallo salsa, lettuce, sliced avocado and of course three shrimp tacos. All in all our dinner was great but we wouldn’t go back for the beer. As soon as we finished our meal we met up with my cousin and headed out for our next stop.

We got back in the car and headed north to Saint Charles. Our destinations was the House Pub located right behind the Arcadia Theatre. My cousin warned us that their beer selection was massive and hand-written on a huge chalkboard wall behind in the bar. And she was not kidding. All of us spent about 5 minutes going through the menu trying to decide what we wanted. With our orders of good beer in hand, we grabbed a table and settled in for the evening. Just after the Hawk’s game ended a live jazz band started playing. They had a fun funky sound but it was very loud. A little after 10:30 we all called it quits because we were losing our voices trying to talk over the music.

All in all a nice little visit out to the western suburbs. We both really enjoyed Geneva and St. Charles so I foresee a few more outings this summer. If anyone has any other recommendations let me know!

 

Beer Tasting Recap April 29, 2015

Filed under: Karla — Uncharted @ 7:06 pm
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Throughout the year, our beer friends will get together about 3-5 times to try a wide variety of beers. This past Saturday we had the privilege to host a tasting. Even with the weather not cooperating, we were still able to grill, drink a wide variety of beer and enjoy excellent company.

Here’s how our tastings work. Usually a few days before we make a note of who is bringing what to eliminate any duplicates. On the day of, everyone breaks out their bottles and we create a line-up. Starting with the lighter beers and ending either with the “whales” or pallet crushers. At this past tasting here was our line-up:

  1. Devoir Saison from Penrose
  2. A cider called Mitten from Virtue
  3. Maria’s Tears from Marz Community
  4. La Beire Fantaisie from Side Project
  5. Cuve Diable from 4 Hands
  6. Black Angel Cherry Sour from Wicked Weed
  7. Goose Island Grimm Vicar
  8. 2014 Bourbon County Barleywine
  9. Madagascar from 4 Hands
  10. Downfall from 4  Hands
  11. Black Ops from Brooklyn Brewery
  12. Fyodor’s Classic from Stone
  13. 2014 Bourbon County Stout Proprietor’s from Goose Island
  14. Elevated IPA from La Cumbre
  15. Imperial Red from Marble
  16. Serenity from Wicked Weed
  17. Big Hugs Imperial Coffee Stout from Half Acre
  18. Pancho Verde Chile Cerveza from Rio Grande

BeerTasting

There’s nothing better than trying samples of beer with your friends. It’s a great opportunity to sample a few rarer beers and to try out different styles. For this tasting we had a few sours but mostly stouts and barleywines. I will say, I did try everything, even if it was just a sip. This allowed me to confirm that I do not like sours but I do like stouts and a few barleywines. And since we do such small pours, sometimes you get lucky and can get a second round of your favorite.

From this tasting my top three favorites were the Bourbon County Stout Proprietors from Gooseland followed by the Mitten cider from Virtue and then Downfall by 4 Hands. They are all delicious. Now I just have to wait for the next tasting!

 

Break Time at the Noon Whistle April 15, 2015

Filed under: Karla — Uncharted @ 8:17 pm
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After taking last week off, I’m back! This past weekend Matt and I checked out a new brewery called Noon Whistle in Lombard. The establishment focuses more on session brews, which means there is not a lot of alcohol in the beer so you could theoretically drink more :). From the listing of nine beers on tap when we visited, the average ABV was around 5%. However, they did have one barleywine that weighed in at 10%.

When you first walk in, you can see the brewery operation as there are no walls dividing that area from the seating area. The place is a decent size with a few large tables and four person barrel tables as well as a bar. There is also a large garage door that can be opened to let in the nicer weather we are finally starting to experience. They don’t serve any food but on the weekends they do have a rotation of food trucks that stop by.

After reviewing the menu, we both decided on a tasting. The tasting included four four-ounce pours. I went with the lighter beer styles, including a saison, German Weiss, wit and Kolsch. Matt went for the IPA/darker ones, including a dubbel session, an IPA, the barleywine and pale ale. All of the beers were very easy to drink – no surprise since they were sessions.

Our samples from Noon Whistle

Our samples from Noon Whistle

We went on a Saturday evening around 8 p.m. and it filled up quickly. The place can be a little loud with a lot of people. Sometimes I felt like Matt and I were yelling during our conversation so we could hear each other. I think they next time we go back, we’ll try to go a little early and maybe bring a board game to pass the time as we drink our many beers.

 

Beer and Ice Cream the Best Combo Date Night March 25, 2015

Filed under: Karla — Uncharted @ 7:46 pm
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Saturday night Matt and our friends Lei and Chris headed to Lagunitas TapRoom. We’ve been wanting to check out the brewery since it opened in January. The taproom is located just South of Ogden and North of Cermak, practically next door to the Cook County Courthouse.

With traffic heavy on 290, we simply jumped on Ogden and we were there in no time. We grabbed an excellent parking spot and headed inside. The entire building is gigantic, especially after visiting Penrose; everything seemed to be on steroids. We walked in and waited in line before we could head up stairs to be seated for food. While waiting, we were able to hit up the downstairs bar and grabbed a few beers. We only waited about 10 minutes before we were told to head on up.

Lagunitas Taproom

The restaurant is open seating. It was like a cross between Urban Chestnut’s Grove Brewery and Harpoon’s Boston Brewery. Tons of picnic tables lined an open space with a bar at one end and a stage at the other. When we walked in we were greated by a live band and quickly grabbed four open seats. Our meal started off with brisket topped nachos and a large pretzel with horseradish mustard. For the main course Lei and I both ordered the sandwich special, which was pulled pork with a side of coleslaw and chips. Chris got a burger and Matt got a sandwich with bacon, ham, cheese and pickles. Everything was delicious, including the beer!

My favorite part of the location is the restaurant is where it’s situated on the third floor. There is an observation deck, where you can sit and enjoy your food and overlook a lot of beer and the entire beer making process. The third floor also features walkways where you can overlook the process too. The night we went, we were treated to watching some of the crew fill up quarter kegs.

Lagunitas Taproom

Between the beer, food, live music and good company, I’m sure we’ll be back again soon. But that’s not quite where the night ended.

Since we were already downtown, I figured we’d grab some dessert. And what better place than to check out Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream’s new store in Wicker Park?!?! Apparently a lot of other people had the same idea because we couldn’t find parking anywhere. So, I gave my order to Matt and parked with my flashers on. It was totally worth it. My order was a goat-cheese cherry that was fantastic. What better way to end a night than with delicious ice cream?

 

Penrose Brewery Review March 11, 2015

Filed under: Karla — Uncharted @ 8:27 pm
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Penrose breweryThis year, I got Matt a Groupon to Penrose Brewery for his Valentine’s Day gift. Penrose had been on our list of breweries to try out so I figured this was the perfect opportunity to actually go. The $15 Groupon included a tour, 2 free samples, a glass and an empty growler. To make the deal even sweeter, I was able to apply a 20% coupon for Valentine’s Day!

When he opened his gift, he was very excited and wanted to go that day. Unfortunately, there were no tour openings. So we reviewed our schedules and then selected an upcoming tour date and time on Penrose’s website. Then we just had to wait.

Finally the day came for our afternoon adventure to Penrose. Our tour was scheduled for 2 p.m. so we decided to get there ten minutes ahead of time. Mostly so I could check out merchandise and Matt could decide what beer he’d like to drink while on the tour. The layout of the tap room includes a bar and lots of large tables perfect for a large group or for meeting new people. Penrose even supplies board games for enjoyment. Our timing was perfect and we each got great sample beers for the tour.

We’ve been on a few brewery tours and this was probably one of our favorites. We had a charismatic tour leader and a very inquisitive group. We started in the back of the facility with the grain and hops to review the process of how Penrose brews their beer. Then we moved on to the fermentor area and then to the bottling area. We ended up learning a lot about the company and future growth plans while enjoying our tasty beers.

After the tour we grabbed a table with another couple who was on the tour. We had a great time talking about everything from local restaurants, favorite spots for vacations, to the process of buying a home. All while drinking a few more beers.

I’m glad we finally made it to Penrose Brewery and definitely recommend getting the Groupon if it’s still available. If not you should still go!

Sample time!

Sample time!

 

Favorite Winter Beers January 14, 2015

Winter is a great time for excellent beer in the Midwest. Since November Matt and I have been eagerly sampling our favorite holiday seasonals as well as a few standard porters and stouts. Thus fCabin Fever beer, New Glarusar in 2014-2015 here are my favorite 10 winter beers.

If you’re curious about Matt, here are his top 10 winter beers in no particular order:

Did we miss any? Let us know in the comment section what other beers we should try before winter is over!

 

Dirty Thirty Boston Style October 22, 2014

A while ago, Matt told me to request the Friday after my birthday off. Not asking too many questions at the time, I complied. As my birthday slowly approached, I began asking more questions. Are we going somewhere outside the state of Illinois? Will we be gone the entire weekend or just a few days? Matt did not reveal one ounce of information until the day before my birthday.

When we got home from work, he gave me a box. Inside the box were the the following two pieces of paper.

Boston! On Friday we were off to visit my best friend Jill, and her husband Jaz.

We arrived a little early for our flight on Spirit Airlines out of O’Hare Airport, so we grabbed a beer and split an appetizer at the Goose Island restaurant just outside of our gate. Once it was about 10 minutes before we should start to board we headed over to the gate. Unfortunately we noticed it was delayed an hour.

Then it was another hour, and another and finally another. Due to mechanical issue, our flight was delayed a total of four hours. Once on the plane, we were not treated to any food or even beverages for the inconvenience of being stuck in the airport for an additional four hours. To add to negativity of the situation, Spirit’s credit card processing was even down so if we wanted anything we had to pay cash.

The delay did mess up the schedule for the weekend, jamming everything into Saturday, but luckily we made it work.

Once we arrived finally in Boston, we went back to Jill and Jaz’s place to eat dinner, celebrate birthdays and finalize our plans. Jill made a decadent dessert to celebrate my milestone birthday. She found a recipe where the bottom layer was chocolate cheesecake and the top layer was German chocolate cake. The crust was ground up oreo cookies. Amazing, it was just amazing.

The next morning we woke up, ate our cereal and headed out the door to Bunker Hill. We all climbed the 297 steps to the very top of the obelisk and were rewarded with 360 views of the city.

Bunker Hill Sights

 

Our next stop was the U.S.S. Constitution. This ship is the oldest commissioned warship in the world, commissioned in 1797. Matt and I had a great time exploring the ship and learning about its history from actual navy personnel living on the ship. I think we both could have stayed on it for another two hours!

U.S.S. Constitution

Next on our itinerary was to check out Harpoon Brewery for a tour. We picked up a 2 p.m. tour and headed over to Yankee Lobster for lunch. Jill and Jaz both got the fish and chips, which were very tasty according to their accounts. Matt and I on the other hand might have gone a little overboard. So much so, that we ordered so much food that we figured we were going to miss our tour. Fortunately the brewery is practically next door to the restaurant, so Jaz was able to run over and grab a refund. What did we gorge on? Well, we each ordered a 1 ¼ lb lobster that came with fries, corn on the cob and coleslaw. In addition to that, Matt also ordered three fresh crabs.

Yankee Lobster

The only logical thing to do after we stuffed ourselves was to head back to Harpoon for a few beers. The brewery offered three different types of preselected flights. Matt and I each got a different one so we could try even more. I really enjoyed their UFO white ale and UFO pumpkin ale. We picked up a bomber of their Imperial pumpkin and some barware to take home.

Harpoon Brewery

After the brewery we decided we needed a walk. So we headed back into downtown and walked around the Boston Common and Boston Garden. We took a few obligatory pictures with statues as well as outside of Cheers.

Boston Commons

Once we had worked off a sufficient amount of our lunch and beer we headed back to the car to head to Salem. Yep, we went to Salem, Massachusetts before Halloween, although you couldn’t really tell by how dressed up EVERYONE was and how the town was decorated. Streets were closed, street vendors were selling different types of products from witches hats and socks to candles and incense. My senses were literally overloaded.

Our destination in Salem was the visitor’s center to meet up for a walking tour with Spellbound Tours. We easily found the location and our group. Our guide was very friendly and informative throughout the evening. We walked for about an hour and a half to a variety of locations around downtown Salem. Our guide informed us of past history as well as current happenings around town. My favorite part of the tour was visiting the second oldest cemetery in the U.S.  A little creepy at night, but very cool.

After the tour we went to a Mexican restaurant called, Howling Wolf Taqueria. We waited a about forty-five minutes to get in and the food was well worth the wait. Jaz and I both ordered burritos and mine was absolutely delicious. Jill ordered enchiladas that were gone in about ten minutes from her plate. Matt ordered pork tacos with a pineapple chili sauce that were pretty much gone in the same time as Jill’s meal.

With full bellies, we said goodbye to the semi-crazy folks of Salem and headed back to Boston. With an early afternoon flight, we enjoyed a relaxing Sunday morning before heading back to the airport. Thankfully, this time heading home our flight left Boston and arrived in Chicago according to plan.

 

 

 

First Trip Up North June 4, 2014

Escaping to the Northwoods of Wisconsin in late May/early June is one of my favorite annual trips. The area isn’t busting at the seams with tourists, lakes are a little too cool to go swimming, summer vacation homes are just starting to air out and you can easily find a parking spot downtown. Which makes it quiet and peaceful, the last few moments of calm before the whirlwind of summer hits.

On our way up from Chicago we normally hit up a few breweries to help break up the drive. With Porter in tow this year, we decided just to go to O’So Brewery in Plover. Their location is immediately off the highway and they boast an outdoor area where we can enjoy our drinks (mine was called Picnic Ants, a Belgian Saison, Matt got a black IPA, oh and we got a growler of their dopplebock, Dominator) and have Porter with us. I love dog-friendly places!

O'So Brewery

What we did each day was dependent on the weather and the mosquitoes. Saturday we spent enjoying the outdoors, ever thankful for a stiff breeze to keep the bugs away. We started off with breakfast on the deck followed by walk to a nearby lake to teach Porter how to swim. Grabbing a stick we started off slowly introducing him the water and gradually threw the stick further and further away from the beach. He figured it out quickly and before we knew it he was doggie paddling and jumping off of the dock. Porter is going to be a great water dog!

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We headed back to the house for a light lunch and then went into town to pick up some supplies. “Supplies” is a keyword for beer, cheese and brats. We picked up some of my favorite brats, pizza brats, from our local grocery store for dinner.  And they were very, very tasty.

Sunday the rain rolled in so we played ball inside the house with Porter to burn off some energy in the morning. Then it was time to earn our stay by replacing two shower heads in our bathrooms, cleaning, and organizing the rest of the cottage. It was the perfect rainy day to putz around and get rid of old stuff.

Around two in the afternoon the sun came out.Grabbing our fishing poles, citronella candle, bug spray, beer and Porter (not to be confused with beer, but yes we did name our dog after a style of beer), we headed to the dock. Thankfully there was a good breeze on the water and the bugs stayed away. Unfortunately the fish did too. Matt got the only catch, and even that was a little disappointing. Ready to forget our fishing expedition we were ready to drown our sorrows with beer at one of our favorite brew-pubs – The Minocqua Brewing Company.

Our orders usually don’t change much. For starters it’s the beef carpaccio and/or cheese curds. The main meal is usually one of their fantastic burgers. This time around we did do the beef carpaccio, Matt enjoyed his black and blue burger and I had an amazing beef and brie sandwich with sweet potato fries. As for beer, I ordered their seasonal, which was a citrus hefeweizen. Matt decided to sample a few…the hefeweizen, the red ale and porter. And yes, we took home two growlers, one of the hefeweizen and one of the porter.

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Monday came all too soon, it was time to head back to Chicago. Our next trip back up north isn’t scheduled until August but I have a feeling we might try to sneak up another weekend in July. There is no other place quite like it.

 

A Weekend in St. Louis May 7, 2014

This past weekend was spent in the Gateway to the West, St. Louis. Matt, Porter and I went down to visit Matt’s best friend Ken. St. Louis is one charming city. Not as big as Chicago but still boasts plenty of personality in its downtown as well as lots of amazing craft beer.

We arrived late Friday night, but not too late to hit one of our favorite breweries – Perennial Artisan Ales. Their open patio even allows dogs, so Porter was able to enjoy his first brewery visit.

Porter and Matt

Porter and Matt

 

We ordered chips and cheese curds to complement a few samplings of beer. The beer list for the night including Sump Coffee Stout, Barrel Aged Sump Coffee Stout, Aira, and Sasion de Lis. All beers were amazing and we cannot wait to see what Perennial brings up to Beer Under Glass!

Our main mission for the weekend took place on Saturday and the focus was yard work. Ken recruited us and of course Porter, to dig. And dig we did. Ken wanted yard trim placed around 10 arborvitae trees he planted last fall. After a trip to Home Depot we were ready to get started. The first hedge took about an hour to figure out but by the third we had our system set and we were averaging under 20 minutes per tree! We were able to get all ten trees done in one day. And after all of that hard work it was time to hit up another brewery.

The second brewery stop of the weekend was to Urban Chestnut. Last time we visited we hit up the Midtown location. We loved the outdoor beer garden and authentic German feel. Ken informed us that UC opened up a new location in the Grove so we decided to check it out. The open “beirhall” is massive with tons of communal style seating and one huge bar.

Urban Chestnut Brewery's Bierhall

Urban Chestnut Brewery’s Bierhall

The new location even boasts a lovely outdoor patio with more communal seats. We pretty much gorged ourselves on their menu. We shared everything including brats, fries, soft pretzels, beignets, deviled eggs and pork sandwiches. (Can you tell we were hungry?) The food was AMAZING.

Our round 2 of food from UC

Our round 2 of food from UC

 

Everything we tried we loved. The beer was equally delicious. I enjoyed a supreme cider and a farmhouse ale.

For dessert we went to Schlafly, yes another brewery. Ken promised me the best dessert in St. Louis and he delivered. The server brought out one of the largest pieces of sticky-toffee pudding in my life. With a side of fresh cream we dug in. And of course, we ordered a few beers. I definitely want to grab dinner or lunch sometime at Schlafly since the dessert was so good. Guess I know what we’re going to do next time we visit!

 

 

 
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