Heritage Corridor Ale Trail – Miskatonic Brewing Company

The Heritage Corridor Ale Trail is a multi-county pub crawl that covers craft breweries in Cook, DuPage, and Will Counties.  There are a couple of bonus breweries off the beaten path down near Starved Rock as well.  The Ale Trail creates a Passport every May and challenges the beer connoisseur to visit as many establishments (26 at last count) as possible by December 31.

First, the Passport is completely digital this year.  In the past, it was a booklet that you would have to remember to bring with you.  The brewery would then give you a sticker with a purchase.  Now, it is an app where you “check in” at each location (with the purchase of a beverage).  “Checking in” requires a 4-digit code that the brewer will give you upon purchase.  Some breweries just have the “check in”, while others might offer a bonus.

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Second – there are prizes!  If you hit ten different breweries, you will receive a “Certified Beer Explorer” Pint Glass.  If you visit 20 different locations, you will receive a “Master Beer Explorer” Barrell Bag.  Not sure what this is but I want one.

Our first stop along the Ale Trail was Miskatonic Brewing Company in Darien, IL.  Miskatonic opened its doors to the public in 2015.  In an article about the brewery, published in 2017, Brewery Manager Josh Mowry explains that the company name Miskatonic is “a fictional place out of the stories by a long-dead author named H.P. Lovecraft”.  One of my favorite things about this establishment is its logo.  Mowry goes on to describe this creation: “Lovecraft liked to write about things that seemed normal, until it got very, very weird. Our Victorian lady (we call her Cecilia) starts off normal, but by the time your eyes take in the whole silhouette, everything gets weird.”  How uniquely weird is this?

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The interior itself is pretty great for hanging out.  The main room is darker, with high top tables and come cool graffiti on the wall.

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They also have a smaller, well-lit room on the side with regular tables.  There are board games available for fun and you are welcome to either bring food in with you or order food from a local restaurant.

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You can also take a tour of the brewery and there is a Groupon available for that.  My friend, Ruta, had a Groupon with her that night for $15.00 for 2 flights of five 5-ounce pours.  Not sure how often that one pops up, but you should be on the look-out for it in the future.  Ordering a flight is my favorite way of drinking at a brewery.  Some beer descriptions sound good on paper, but the flavors don’t always translate into the actual taste of the ale.  I have also been pleasantly surprised by a sample that I would not normally order.

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In addition to the tour, Miskatonic hosts events throughout the year.  Draft releases, music, trivia, and food trucks can all be found on their calendar.

So download your Passport and start working your way towards a prize.  You might find a new watering hole or beverage you like along the way!

Volunteer – Race Day with a Twist

The weather is starting to warm up which means race season is in full bloom as well.  Now, we all know that these events happen year-round, however, the Spring and Summer months seem to be the high time for these competitions.  5K, 10K, Half-Marathon, Marathon, Triathalons, Iron Man, the list goes on (and on).  Some races exist as fundraisers for causes (breast cancer, lukemia/lymphoma, etc.) and some as fundraisers for your local park districts.  Some races are competitive, and some are just for fun like the bubble run or color run.  My point here is, there is bound to be a race or competition near you sometime in the near future.  And they are always looking for volunteers.

Last year, I wrote about a mini triathalon in my area that I volunteered for.  One of the things I pointed out was that, a husband/wife couple (and close friends) volunteer every year and work the same station together.  I also worked a station with another husband/wife couple (and close friends).  It is an easy activity that you can do together while also supporting a cause and cheering on any neighbors who are participating.

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The “with a twist” that I am referring to above is, that, I volunteered for a race that my SO participated in.   So, while we were not technically doing this activity together, I was still there to see him and cheer him on at that start of the race and then I had something to do while he is running.  I also got to see him again after the race.

This year I volunteered for the Quarryman Challenge in Lemont.  This unique race hosts a 5K and a 10 mile run though the streets of Lemont.  The HILLY streets of Lemont.

What makes this particular run “unique” is the end game.  They serve free beer and pizza to all of the finishers!  This is one of my SO’s favorite runs simply for this treat.  Others would agree as they had almost 700 runners this year.

Beer vendors

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The other “unique” aspect is the prize for the top runners.  They do not hand out the standard medal.  Lemont was known, back in the day, for its quarries and the production of dolomite (a version of limestone).  Each winner (3rd place and up) gets a chunk of rock from the quarry with an engraved plate.

So, look up some races or other events near you this summer and volunteer together.  It is a great feeling to support your community and neighbors.  And who doesn’t like a free t-shirt?

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Volunteer – Race Day

There are opportunities to volunteer for races in every community, for every charity, all year long.  My SO has participated in 5K run/walks on various holidays (4th of July, Thanksgiving, etc.) and for various charities (Race for the Cure, Run for the Zoo).  He has also taken on the Chicago Marathon and other half marathons in his running career.  I’m not bragging about his accomplishments, I am simply pointing out that you can find an event like this, year round, no matter where you live.  And they are always looking for volunteers.

My community hosts a mini triathlon every year and I have volunteered for the last 3-4 years now.  I worked the Tri for the first time back in 2012.  My son needed community service hours for school and we thought this would be a great opportunity.  I found out at this event that two of my neighbors had also signed up and had been working the Tri for several years.  Mark and Chris are at the first water table as soon as you transition from your bike to the run.  They enjoy working this spot and request it every year when they sign up.

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So, inspired by them, two other neighbors and I decided to follow their lead and start volunteering.  The first year we were assigned the main pool and we have requested it every year.  My job is to get everyone lined up by their assigned bib number and keep the line moving once the race starts.  That’s it.  Not so hard, right?  I like this location because it gives me a chance to talk to some of the participants while they are waiting to get in the pool to start.  Many of them are doing this triathlon for the first time.  And, seeing as a tri has a swim, bike, and run component, you might assume that all these athletes are in great shape.  Not necessarily.  Some are doing it in an effort to get in better shape.  Some are doing it to check off an item on their “bucket list”.  Whatever the reason, color me impressed.

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This triathlon also hosts a kid’s version.  Fewer laps in the pool and a shorter bike ride and run.  The number of participants has grown each year that I have volunteered.  They are a little more excited to get in the pool (i.e. antsy) and they are a lot chattier in line too.  Which is great because I have already had my full tumbler of coffee by the time they start 😊

Once an athlete crosses the finish line, there are tents set up in the parking lot with food (bananas, granola bars) and drinks.  Many of these items are available to the volunteers as well.  Racers can get massages.  They can buy new gear.  My SO’s favorite tent after this race (any race really) is the beer tent.  Go figure.

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I look forward to working this event every year because I get to cheer on my husband (in the pool anyway), I run into friends and neighbors who are racing, and I get to hear inspirational stories.  My favorite athlete this year was the 68-year old who was doing her first triathlon.  I want to be her when I grow up.  Minus the triathlon part.  As a final bonus, I got a t-shirt and some swag too.  So, get out and volunteer.  Your community needs you!

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