Heritage Corridor Ale Trail – Back Door Lounge, Lodi Tap House, and Tangled Roots Brewing Company

This blog is a companion piece to my blog about hiking in Matthiessen State Park.  All three of these breweries are part of the Heritage Corridor Ale Trail passport so we figured, as long as we were down in Starved Rock County, we might as well hit all three of them.

Our first stop upon exiting the park was Back Door Lounge at Starved Rock Lodge and Conference Center.  Unlike other breweries on the Ale Trail, Back Door Lounge does not brew its own beer on site.  They do offer a Starved Rock Signature Ale, produced by Leinenkugal Breweries, and a selection from Tangled Roots Brewing.

It’s small, but there is a great outdoor patio area that is shared with the Lodge.  We chose to sit outside since it was a beautiful day.  The Veranda is set on top of a bluff overlooking the Illinois River.  So, the views were incredible too.  Unfortunately, sitting on the veranda did not give us access to the menu of the brews on tap.  And we didn’t know that until we were leaving, so make sure you order from inside before you sit outside.

Additionally, you can order food from the Lodge to eat in the Lounge or on the Veranda. There is also live music on Friday and Saturday nights, year-round, with the bands playing on the Veranda in the summer months.

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The second stop took us to downtown Utica and Loti Tap House.  This is another small location, but the beer selection was impressive.  In these situations, I prefer to order a flight so that I can taste as many new beers as possible.  As with Back Door Lounge, they do not brew on site but offer a variety from other brewing companies.

The beer selection is ever changing and from this menu I chose the Strawberry Milkshake IPA, the Sour Berliner Weiss, the Watermelon Saison, the Blonde Ale with Strawberries, and the Cream Ale.  I do not care for IPAs at all, however, the Strawberry Milkshake was my favorite.

Loti Tap House has a decent menu and we opted to eat lunch here.  If you are using the Heritage Corridor Ale Trail app and checking in at each location, Lodi Tap House has a 10% off food bonus.

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Back on the road and heading home, we took one last detour into Ottawa, IL to visit Tangled Roots Brewing Company.  We only entered the Tap Room because we had already eaten and wanted to sit at one of the tables outside near the street.  Connected to the Tap Room is the brewery and a full-service restaurant called the Lone Buffalo.  If you are using the Heritage Corridor Ale Trail app, they offer a $3 pint with purchase of an entrée bonus.

You can take a tour of the brewery on Fridays at 4PM or Saturdays at 3PM.  Their beer selection also changes with the season.  Opting once again for a flight, I chose to sample the Kit Kupfer Amber Ale, the Vermillion River Weiss, the Matthiessen English Mild, and the River Raptor Pale Ale.  My favorite, to my surprise, was the Matthiessen.  Dark beers are not my thing, and I definitely could not drink a whole pint of this one, but it was incredibly flavorful.

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So take a day trip, do some hiking, stop at one of these establishments for food, and definitely drink some beer.  It really does hit the spot after a long hike!

Hiking in Matthiessen State Park

Full disclosure: some of my photos are from a previous hike because the waterfalls were much fuller than the hike we did recently.

If you live in Illinois, you have probably heard of Starved Rock State Park.  Matthiessen State Park is just south of Starved Rock.  It is a smaller park with a shorter hike, but it is one of my favorites because of the waterfalls.  For the best possible waterfalls, I would recommend taking this hike between April and June.

Matthiessen State Park is located in Oglesby, IL.  For me, living in the western suburbs, it was a little over an hour’s drive.  If your drive is longer, there are plenty of options for camping as well as lodging (if camping is not your thing).  Camping is never my thing, just saying.

The hiking in Matthiessen is split into two levels: and Upper Dell and a Lower Dell.  The Upper Dells has gravel surfaced hiking trails that look down into the canyons.

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The hike in the Lower Dells is well-marked but a bit more rustic.  If you head down into the lower dells, and I highly recommend you do, be prepared for the stairways.  There are various sections of the lower dells and you will get a workout taking each of those steps.

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Once you get down into the lower dells, the views are incredible.  Beautiful rock formations, bluffs, and deep canyons.

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You will find, along your hike, carvings into the sandstone.  Mostly names.  While I do not agree with defacing nature in such a way, I do have to chuckle a little when I see something like this:

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One of my favorite things to look for when I hike are exposed root systems.  I don’t know why but I find this creepy and cool at the same time.  It looks like a den of snakes (creepy) but I am amazed at the beauty of nature itself.  Seriously, how is this tree still standing with all of its roots above ground?

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The main attraction at this state park are the waterfalls.  Catching them at their peak in the spring (or after multiple days of rainfall) will also require you to wear shoes that you don’t mind getting wet and/or muddy.

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I would imagine this hike would also be really pretty in late September through October to see the changing colors on the trees.  While you are down there, check out the restaurants and brew pubs in downtown Utica.  A beer tastes really good after a long hike!

AVP Volleyball Championship Gold Series

Volleyball is one of my favorite sports to watch and play.  I’ve never played competitively, just recreationally.  I look forward to this event in the Olympics as well.  When you think of beach volleyball, you (or at least I) picture the sandy beaches and year-round accommodating temperatures of California.  But every year, on Labor Day weekend, the pros come to Chicago for a weekend tournament.  And the public is invited to join in on the fun.  And the best part is – it’s free!

The AVP tournament takes place right along the lake at Oak Street Beach.  Aside from watching top tier players, you also have the sound of the waves crashing behind you and the architecture along Lake Shore Drive as your backdrop.  What more could you ask for?

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The first and second round of play took place on Friday.  Games started as early as 8:00 AM.  We were able to fit this in on Saturday afternoon when they had whittled the match-ups down to the quarterfinals.  The nice thing about this tournament is that, once a match is finished playing, the stands start to thin out until the next one starts.  So, there was never a problem finding a spot to sit.

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There were additional options for upgraded seating, but they were pricey.

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Another great thing about this tournament is the ability to bring in your own snacks and water.  Which we did not do because we did not know.  Next year we will be prepared because they also didn’t have much in the way of food/drinks to purchase.  The one bar we found did not allow you to leave the area with a drink.  What they did have, however, were many sponsor tents handing out free samples or selling their products at a significant discount.

The first match we watched was in the women’s bracket.  Emily Day and Betsi Flint won this one and eventually ended up in the Championship game on Sunday.  April Ross and Alix Klineman won the second match we watched which also put them in the final game on Sunday.  Ross is an Olympic Silver (2012) and Bronze (2016) medalist in beach volleyball.  These were the top 2 seeded teams in the tournament and Ross/Klineman eventually won the Championship.



The final match we watched was in the men’s bracket.  This game was a little more exciting because the number 1 seed (Budinger/Patterson) was taking on the (underdog) number 20 seed (Lotman/Partain) in the quarterfinal round.  The Lotman/Partain pairing was interesting because Miles Partain is only 17 years old.  His partner is 33.  They have only played a handful of times together, yet, they held their own through the entire match.  They lost both games by just the 2-point margin but Budinger and Patterson had to work (hard) for those wins.


There are AVP tournaments year-round, all over the US.  But if you happen to live in Chicago, find your way down to Oak Street Beach on the next Labor Day weekend!