Good Beer, From Here

I enjoy the microbrewery boom. My wife and I try lots of beers, rate them, and form an opinion about various little breweries. When we travel we always include microbrewery stops wherever we’re at. Last year we sampled in Asheville North Carolina, Cincinnati, Traverse City Michigan and around Madison.


Until recently we haven’t had a microbrewery within 10 miles of home. There was no brewery to call our own. That has changed. Now Chain of Lakes brewery is open in McHenry, Light the Lamp (a hockey themed brewery) in Grayslake, and Tighthead Brewing in Mundelein. I am happy to have them all,


Tighthead is special. Tighthead refers to a position in rugby. From what I gather the picture in our heads of Offensive Lineman is similar to a Tighthead. The big uglies. Anyway, names of beers at Tighthead are a glossary of rugby terms. They always have a lot of beers on tap, from common styles to real experiments. I tend to stick with ales, have had several there, and they are all good. On a recent stop they were touting being named “Best beer in Chicagoland.” I can believe it.

Tighthead is a convivial bar, with an efficient, friendly staff. The place was packed on my recent Sunday afternoon visit, so they have been discovered. The owner (a former Tighthead) was organizing a tour of the brewing operation. They don’t serve food at Tighthead, but they encourage you to bring in your own or have something delivered. It is not uncommon to see a table with sandwiches from Subway, and carry-out pizza at the next table.

My wife is all about IPA, the super hoppy ales modeled after beer brewed in England for shipment to India. She loves the IPA at Tighthead. I think we have found our home brewery.


Embracing Winter

It has been a brutal winter. It seems to me we have two choices: embrace winter by getting outside and doing something, or be apart of the majority that seems to wallow in complaining about it. I suppose a third choice is to go somewhere warm, but when you are a working man that option is not so readily available so…….

I am choosing to embrace it the best I can. Two weeks ago I got out ice fishing for the first time in years. The focus on a seven inch hole is not the same as open water fishing, but it will do as a substitute. It would have been more fun if I had caught some fish, but I discovered that a cold beer tastes great even when you’re sitting on a block of ice. My neighbor/friend Greg Battle caught a couple of nice bluegills. I’ll post a pick of Greg, but he has got to learn that fish look bigger when we hold them out toward the camera. This was a very nice bluegill he is holding.


I have gotten out several times on the cross country skis, usually with Bonnie, but there is so much snow I can just step out the door and ski away. I tried to return to a state park where I used to ski challenging trails 25-30 years ago. Evolution has taken place, however. I saw no skiers on the trails, but there were several people snow shoeing. Years ago the area would have been crowded with cross country skiers of all skill levels. The snowshoes had completely matted the snow on the trail making it difficult to ski, so it was back to the picnic grove in our neighborhood. Bonnie and I have a well worn ski rut to follow in a large oval. Two times around is about 30 minutes of exercise.

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Think spring. Until then I’ll try to keep finding ways to embrace it.


The fishing show

I went to the fishing show in Schaumburg on Friday. Snuck out of work early and spent two hours there. I ran into a couple of old friends, which was nice, but mostly I was reminded that I don’t like fishing shows.

As much as I like fishing, I really don’t like fishing shows. Just my opinion, but it seems like they haven’t changed in 30 years. They showcase the same products, the same speakers, and the same resort owners and guides are there saying, “You should have been here last year (or last week).” It doesn’t take long for me to get bored. It is not a substitute for actual fishing, or for doing anything outdoors. C’mon spring.

When I was a kid my dad took me to a show at the old International Amphitheatre, on the south side of Chicago. This venue had hosted Republican and Democrat national conventions, The Beatles, and a boxing match featuring Joe Frazier. It was also the first place Elvis wore a gold lame suit. Our trip was before the Chicago Bulls played their inaugural season there.

The show was crowded and dirty, but I was impressed by Victor the “rasslin’ bear.” Volunteers from the audience would try to tackle or push over the full grown black bear. No luck. After a minute or two of tolerating this, Victor would gently pin the volunteers’ shoulders to the mat, and the match was over. Then Victor’s handler would give him a bottle of Pepsi. The bear held it between his paws and guzzled it down. Chugged it. I know I’ve changed, but the shows have changed, too. That was a show!


For the birds

From the heated comfort of my living room I’ve been watching the birds through the window as they visit the feeders. Have you noticed these things, too?
The Blue Jay is known as “bully of the birdfeeder.” When they arrive they scold and aggressively poke their beaks at other birds until they flee. But the Mourning dove will not be bullied. The dove hunkers down atop the seed as the Blue Jay scolds and hops around. Eventually, the Jay gives up and comes back after the dove departs.
The female Cardinal always arrives ahead of the more colorful male. After the female has eaten for a minute or two the male joins in. Is the male being polite to his mate, or is the female serving as a tester, making sure the food isn’t poisoned before the king eats? Is it because the brightly colored male is more vulnerable to predators, so the female goes first to make sure the coast is clear? Please advice.
The slate Colored Junco only knows snow. Even when it is 15 degrees below zero, and there is food to be had on a feeder, he prefers to stand in the snow and paw through it to find seeds that have fallen.
How do Chickadees ever get enough to eat? They insist on flying off with each individual little seed to eat elsewhere before repeating the process over and over again.
That’s all for today. I need a warm-up so I can get back outside.


I enjoy people that have compelling interests. You know who I mean don’t you? They are the life-list birders, the artists, writers, and others that are drawn to participate in their chosen activity frequently and intensively. My dad for example, spent every free moment during his work life, and all his productive post retirement years woodcarving.
Well, I guess my brother-in-law Gar is one of those guys. He recently retired as a paleobotanist (fossils of plants guy). He donated his collection of plant fossils to the Field Museum in Chicago. How many fossils do you think he donated? A few hundred? a few thousand?
Actually, he donated 250,000 rocks. The museum needed two semi-trailers to move them from Ohio to Chicago. Way to go Gar. Don’t do anything half-heartedly.

Welcome message/first post

Happy New Year. I’ve committed to trying something new. I endeavor to post at least one entry per week on this blog. Expect a dose of outdoor news and adventure; fishing, kayaking, bird watching, etc. I’ll observe the change of seasons, and add anything else that is compelling to me at the time.
The problem with a weekly post is that it comes up….well, weekly. I hope that the self-imposed pressure to have something to say at least 52 times this year will encourage me to do several things; get out more often, call friends more often, and get the kayak out rather than watch TV. Please join me on this adventure.
This isn’t this week’s post. I’ll add something today or tomorrow.