Battling winter humdrum via the air, land and sea

Apr 29, 2011 by     Comments Off    Posted under: Current, Summer

Winston Churchill once said in one of the most famous speeches of the second world war, “we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

In a lot of ways, this quote is analogous with a Chicagoan’s take on summer in the Chi. For months we are pounded with unforgiving snow and winds (blitzkrieg, anyone?). Finally, when we believe all could very well be lost, the month of June arrives. Much like Churchill’s speech did for the Allies, June fills residents of Chicago with a newfound hope. The warmer weather gives us the will to conquer the evils that are the wintertime blues, finally giving us the strength to proclaim:

We shall fight the wintertime blues on the lake, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength while watching the airshow, we defend our dogparks, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the lakefront beaches, we shall fight on the bike paths, we shall fight in the baseball fields and in the street festivals, we shall fight in museums, which are free on certain days; we shall never surrender.

Summer battleplans have been drawn, and ChicagoLoopster can’t wait to deploy them. So, without further adieu, here are some ways to defeat the axis of evil that is a Chicago winter via the air, land and sea (or lake).





Museum Free Days 2011


SEA (alright, lake)




So there you have it. You know the plan of attack, now get out there and execute.

Front page photo: DVIDSHUB

The best places for baseball, outside the park

Apr 29, 2011 by     Comments Off    Posted under: Current, Summer

It’s summertime in Chicago and that means it’s time to put away the winter jacket, gear up for the invasion of tourists and enjoy the long-awaited summer sun. One thing synonymous with summer in the Windy City is Cubs and Sox baseball. Don’t have tickets to a game? No problem! Chicago Loopster has your guide to the best rooftop bars at Wrigley as well as some South Side ballpark bars to watch your White Sox.

Photos courtesy of:
Beyond the Ivy
3639 Wrigley Rooftop
Brixen Ivy Rooftop

Additional Rooftops near Wrigley:
Skybox on Sheffield: 3627 N. Sheffield Ave. Skybox on Sheffield
Sheffield Baseball Club: 3619 Sheffield Ave. Sheffield Baseball Club
Down the Line Rooftop: 3621 Sheffield Ave. Down the Line Rooftop
Wrigley View Rooftop: 1050 W. Waveland Ave. Wrigley View Rooftop
Murphy’s Bleachers: 3649 N. Sheffield Ave. Murphy’s Bleachers
Lakeview Baseball Club: 3633 Sheffield Ave. Lakeview Baseball Club
Ivy League Baeball Club: 3637 Sheffield Ave. Ivy League Baseball Club

Although there are no rooftop bars that overlook U.S. Cellular Field, you can still be close to the action. Have no fear White Sox fans, here are some places you can have a beer and watch your team play:

Cork and Kerry at the Park: 3258 South Princeton Ave.
First Base: 3201 S. Normal Ave.
Rocky’s Bar and Grill: 234 W. 31st St. Rocky’s Bar and Grill
Turtle Bar and Grill: 238 W. 33rd St. Turtle Bar and Grill

Now, let’s play ball.

Where to vacation for locals

Apr 29, 2011 by     Comments Off    Posted under: Current, Summer

As summer approaches, Chicagoans are looking to get out of the city and hit up popular vacation spots from the lake to the dunes. Here’s a look at some of the top vacation spots for city dwellers.

View Vacation Spots in a larger map

Six Flags: Great America, Illinois

Photo by: Hendricks Photos, Creative Commons

Distance from Chicago: 42 miles

Location: 1 Great America Parkway, Gurnee, IL 60031

Located on I-94 at Route 132 (Grand Ave.)

Contact information: Guest Services Representatives are available Monday through Friday, between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. CST and during park operating hours. Contact the park at (847) 249-INFO (4636).


Why Chicagoans go: With dozens of attractions for riders of all ages, Six Flags is a magnet from the city for anyone looking to take a day off with family and friends. With Opening Day celebrations on May 7, events and special entertainment are a regular occurrence. Great America also boasts the “best waterpark in the nation,” making it an even better way to get out of the heat on those long summer days.

Harbor Country, Michigan

Distance from Chicago: 75 miles

Location: Eight towns along the Lake Michigan coast in Michigan: Three Oaks, Sawyer, Harbert, Lakeside, Union Pier, New Buffalo, Grand Beach and Michiana

Contact information: Harbor Country Chamber of Commerce Phone: 269-469-5409 Email:


Lakeside Cabins Resort

Photo courtesy of Ted O’Neil, Lakeside Cabins Resort

Location: 7650 Warren Woods Road, Three Oaks, MI 49128

Contact information: Phone: 269-469-3894 Email:


Why Chicagoans go: The resort is spread across 110 acres of wooded ravines, hiking trails, grassy areas and lakes, with Lake Michigan located just two miles away. Visitors can choose to purchase or rent cabins for their stay, and have access to two outdoor, heated pools, two lakes for fishing and kayaking, as well as basketball and beach volleyball courts and a playground. The resort also offers daily and weekend activities and themed events.

Author Caitlin O’Neil is related to resort owners and managers Tim O’Neil and Ted O’Neil.

Garden Grove Bed & Breakfast and Carriage House

Location: 9549 Union Pier Road, Union Pier MI 49129

Contact information: Phone: 269-469-6346 Email:


Why Chicagoans go: For couples looking to escape from the city for a weekend to the beaches and dunes of southern Lake Michigan, Garden Grove offers trees, gardens and relaxation on the decks and enclosed sun porch. All rooms have private baths and a double jacuzzi, hardwood floors, cathedral ceilings, fireplace and a wet bar. Garden Grove is also located less than a mile from the shops, restaurants and galleries in the Harbor Country area.

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Photo by: Digital Sextant, Creative Commons

Distance from Chicago: 80 miles

Location: Lake Geneva Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, 201 Wrigley Drive, Lake Geneva, WI 53147

Contact information: Phone: 262-248-4416 Email:


Why Chicagoans go: Lake Geneva showcases beautiful local lodges, cottages, campgrounds and hotels to stay at along the lake, with over 40 restaurants and unlimited entertainment during your stay. For those wishing to get out of the city and into nature, Geneva offers outdoor adventure parks for ziplining, hiking/biking trails, festivals, orchards, parks, petting zoos, farms and even boat cruises. Geneva also offers a vast number of local shops for those looking for antiques, art and gifts.

Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

Photo by: Chadly, Creative Commons

Distance from Chicago: 195 miles

Location: Wisconsin Dells Visitor & Convention Bureau Administrative Office 115 La Crosse Street, PO Box 390, Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965-0390

Contact information: Phone: (608) 254-8088 Email:


Why Chicagoans go: Named the “Waterpark Capital of the World” on its website, the amusement parks and rides are the biggest attraction for Chicagoans looking to get away. For animal lovers, the Dells offers petting zoos of exotic and heartland animals, as well as horses available for riding. You can also observe the world’s rarest crane, the Whooping Crane, at the Dells. Festivals, golf, live entertainment, museums, tours, shopping and even spas complete the experience. To get away from it all and get a little bit of everything, travel out of the city and to the Dells.

Silver Lake Sand Dunes Area, Michigan

Photo by: Daniel Marchese, Creative Commons

Distance from Chicago: 221 miles

Location: Silver Lake Sand Dunes Area Chamber of Commerce, 2388 N. Comfort Drive, Hart, MI 49420

Contact information: Phone: 231-873-2247


Why Chicagoans go: Nominated by Travel & Leisure as one of America’s Best Little Beachtowns (, the sand dunes are what make your stay in Hart. When you’re sick of the sand in your shoes, the dunes also offer golf courses, bike trails, farmers’ markets, fishing, parks and even boat and canoe rentals. Shopping, wineries and salons are also open to pamper you.

A modest pub crawl

Apr 22, 2011 by     Comments Off    Posted under: Archive, Beer

With the weather about to turn for the better, one of our favorite pastimes is the bar crawl — a jaunt through your neighborhood stopping at each watering hole along the way. It’s a great way to patronize local business while experiencing something different and enjoying a walk in the nice weather.

We took a trip to the Uptown / Andersonville area where there are a number of places within walking distance of each other that feature a wide array of craft ales. Here is a map of five places for you to grab a pint on your next crawl.

View Uptown / Andersonville Pub Crawl in a larger map

Illinois Assembly: Should craft brewers self-distribute?

Apr 22, 2011 by     Comments Off    Posted under: Archive, Beer
Growler's, Hilton Head, SC

Photo by TheDigitel Beaufort

A deadline has been set and the battle lines are drawn in what is shaping up to be one of the most significant changes to Illinois liquor laws since the original bill was passed in 1934. Following a ruling by a federal judge that certain sections of Illinois state liquor laws were unconstitutional because they favored in-state distributors, the Illinois General Assembly has until May 31st to rewrite the bill.

Illinois, like many states, currently has a three-tier system with brewers, distributors and retailers. One provision of the amendment would allow some small brewers to act as their own distributors.

As with any issue where a great deal of money is involved, brewers large and small have started lobbying efforts to sway amendments their way.

Illinois Times: Bud brings beer wars to Springfield

Beer-giant Anheuser-Busch, which recently purchased Chicago’s Goose Island Brewery, is using this opportunity to push the state house to allow all brewers to self-distribute. The court battle that precipitated this change was over whether Anheuser-Busch should be allowed to own a distributor in the Chicago area. Barring a wholesale change, self-distribution limits would be so small that few brewers will be able to avoid using a third-party distributor.

Chicago Tribune: A-B takes beer battle to Springfield

The Illinois Craft Brewers Association is opposed to the bill, saying that the Senate version is imposing production caps that rule out almost all small brewers. Under the current version, brewers who brew 15,000 barrels per year can self-distribute half of their product (7,500 barrels per year). Goose Island, one of Chicago’s most well-known craft brewers produced around 130,000 barrels in 2010, according to the association. You can see their entire statement here.

The Chicago Journal has an excellent analysis of why craft brewers deserve special treatment. The costs of working with a third-party distributor – both monetary and administrative – are often prohibitive to small brewers, reporter Amysue Mertens notes.

Guys Drinking Beer, a Chicago-based blog, has taken up the cause of local craft brewers and is following the news out of Springfield daily. They’ve definitely got a point of view, but for day-to-day analysis, they can’t be beat.

The bill as of April 21, 2011 appears below. It has been referred back to committees in both the House and the Senate.

Illinois General Assembly HB 205 Amendment to Liquor Control Act

Future progress for the bills can be found here:
House Bill 205
Senate Bill 88

The beer dictionary

Apr 22, 2011 by     Comments Off    Posted under: Archive, Beer

If you’ve ever been to a brewery, chances are you’ve been exposed to what I like to call ‘brewer-ese’ — the unofficial language of beer brewing. Suddenly, a ‘malt’ is no longer a cold, cream-based treat, and ‘hops’ aren’t the Easter bunny’s preferred method of travel. So, what’s a wannabe beer connoisseur to do? Consult the Loopster’s beer dictionary, of course, courtesy of Find out the difference between lager and ale, top-fermenting yeast and bottom-fermenting yeast, and everything else you need to know before making your way to your local brewery.

Photo by Bernt Rostad

Alcohol: Ethyl alcohol or ethanol. An intoxicating by-product of fermentation, which is caused by yeast acting on sugars in the malt. Alcohol content is expressed as a percentage of volume or weight.

Ale: Beers distinguished by use of top-fermenting yeast strains. The top fermenting yeast perform at warmer temperatures than do yeast’s used to brew lager beer, and their byproducts are more evident in taste and aroma. Fruitiness and esters are often part of an ale’s character.

Bottom-Fermenting Yeast: One of the two types of yeast used in brewing. Bottom-fermenting yeast works well at low temperatures and ferments more sugars leaving a crisp, clean taste and then settles to the bottom of the tank. Also referred to as “lager yeast.”

Draft (Draught): The process of dispensing beer from a bright tank, cask or, keg, by hand pump, pressure from an air pump or, injected carbon dioxide inserted into the beer container prior to sealing.

Fermentation: Conversion of sugars into ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide, through the action of yeast.

Hops: Herb added to boiling wort or fermenting beer to impart a bitter aroma and flavor.

Lager: Beers produced with bottom-fermenting yeast strains at colder fermentation temperatures than ales. This cooler environment inhibits the natural production of esters and other byproducts, creating a crisper tasting product.

Malt(ing): The process by which barley is steeped in water, germinated, then kilned to convert insoluble starch to soluble substances and sugar. The foundation ingredient of beer.

Pasteurization: Heating of beer to 60-79˚C/140-174˚F to stabilize it microbiologically. Flash-pasteurization is applied very briefly, for 15-60 seconds by heating the beer as it passes through the pipe. Alternately, the bottled beer can be passed on a conveyor belt through a heated tunnel. This more gradual process takes at least 20 minutes and sometimes much longer.

Secondary Fermentation: Stage of fermentation occurring in a closed container from several weeks to several months.

Shelf Life: Describes the number of days a beer will retain it’s peak drinkability. The shelf life for commercially produced beers is usually a maximum of four months.

Top-Fermenting Yeast: One of the two types of yeast used in brewing. Top-fermenting yeast works better at warmer temperatures and are able to tolerate higher alcohol concentrations than bottom-fermenting yeast. It is unable to ferment some sugars, and results in a fruitier, sweeter beer. Also known as “ale yeast.”


Home brewing 101

Apr 22, 2011 by     1 Comment     Posted under: Archive, Beer

With all of this talk about the debt ceiling and the government shutdown, Chicago Loopster got a little anxious. What if the nation’s beer supply chain shuts down as well? To guard against this unspeakable fate, the Loopster decided it would be in our best interest to learn how to make the stuff ourselves. We spoke with John Tedesco, veteran beer brewer and proud Oklahoman, to guide us through this most necessary of processes.

Photos courtesy of:
Tyler Moss

Your iGuide to drinking

Apr 22, 2011 by     Comments Off    Posted under: Archive, Beer

What fun are pub crawls, beer brewing and beer tasting without some phone and tablet applications added into the mix?  From drinking game apps at parties to at-home brewing apps to apps that test your sobriety, smartphones and tablets have thought of everything to make tossing back a beer a whole new technological experience.  Here are some of the most popular beer apps for Android and iPhone smartphones, as well as iPod Touches and iPads.

Drinking Games

-iQuarters–$1.99 on iPad, iPhone.  3.5 out of 5 stars latest rating

It’s no surprise that one of the most popular beer games for iPhones is Quarters.  And the app is played just as the real life drinking game of quarters.  Players flick a virtual quarter into a glass to pass a level, with points varying based on difficulty.  Players can also try for ricochet shots.

Besides the obvious appeal, reviews listed realistic graphics and physics as well as fun music as reasons to get the game.

-Beer Pong Challenge–$0.99 on iPad, iPhone.  2.5 out of 5 stars latest rating

No more need to turn a disgusting door into a pseudo-table and dip a dirt-covered ball into your beer—now Beer Pong Challenge allows players to play the game of beer pong on a touch screen by flicking a virtual ball to simulate tossing a ball into cups of beer.  Players can challenge friends to a game of beer pong, or compete against themselves in single-player mode.

The downside to this virtual beer pong seems to be an update to the app that was released last fall.  Reviewers are now complaining that targets move slower, the music is worse and the game often doesn’t reset once a player shoots.

Toss at your own risk.

-Power Hour Drinking Game–$0.99 on Android

The game is simple: take a shot of beer, every minute, for one hour.  This app helps you with that slow countdown to victory.  The app burps every minute alerting a user to drink again, and even will run in the background if a user gets an incoming call.  Start gulping.

Out on the Town

-Find Craft Beer–$0.99 on iPad, iPhone. 4 out of 5 stars latest rating

This simplistic app lets users find the closest location with craft beer, using GPS to determine a user’s current location.  You can also search for craft beer within a specific city, and even limit the types of locations you’re interested in, such as brew pubs, breweries, bars and stores.

The app got a major revamp when it was released again in early April.  Users conclude it’s a must-have for any beer lover, and that it’s useful for finding places that serve more than just Bud Light, Miller Light and Coors Light.

-College Bars–$0.99 on iPad, iPhone.  Not enough ratings to display an average for the current version, released on April 10

This app is perfect for visitors to a new college campus who just want to find a bar.  The app describes itself as a reference guide to locating popular college bars, with more than 500 establishments registered.  Users can find a bar using the state/city directory or through a map.  The app also provides links to a bar’s Yelp and Facebook pages.

-BeerChooser—free on iPad iPhone, 2.5 out of 5 stars latest rating

For the beer novice, this app is a must have at a bar.  A user rate beers on the app and teaches BeerChooser what he likes and doesn’t like.  After a few beers have been rated, the app gives recommendations tailored to a user’s preferences.  The app also keeps a list of all the beers he or she has tried.  Users can also browse what other app users are drinking at the moment, and can even see what beers are trending near him or her at the moment.

-Beer Ratings Guide–$2.99 on iPad and iPhone, 4 out of 5 stars latest rating

This app promises to help you find a great beer, and offers more ways to search.  Its database includes searching for beer by name, price, style, food pairing, flavor profile, region, producer and designation.  Users can also keep track of discovered beer with the personal ratings list.

Reviewers overwhelmingly enjoy finding and learning about new beer with this app, so the next time you’re wondering what beer to pair with what food, try this one out.

-The Beer Expert–$2.99 on Android

This app helps you identify every beer you’ve ever tasted by taking a picture of the beer’s UPC code, typing in its name, or speaking it into your phone.  The app will provide the user with the beer’s commercial description, style, user reviews, and even a picture.

And once users have sampled the beer they can also give it a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down,” adding to the app’s usefulness.


-iBrewMaster–$9.99 on iPad, $6.99 on iPhone, 4.5 out of 5 stars latest rating

Always wanted to brew your own beer?  Get started with this app.  Users can add, edit and manage your own recipes, but the app also comes with 50 pre-installed recipes that include grains, hops and yeasts from all over.  The app instructs you to create a batch of beer from the recipe database, and then track its progress along the way.  The app will calculate alcohol content, color and calories for you as it lets you know where your batch is in the process (primary, secondary, bottle, aging, etc.)

-Home Brew Calculators—free on Android

This app also helps a home brewer with the process by offering a boil timer with saved hop schedules.  The app also offers calculators to help with carbonation, hop bitterness, strike temperature and yeast pitching.

Random Beer Apps

-Beer Counter—free on Android

This app does just what it says: keeps track of beer consumption.  The app also plots the number of beers you’ve had at your location on a map, so you can keep progress of where you’ve been and how many beers you’ve downed.  Perfect for crawls!

-iBeer Keg–$2.99 on iPad (the iBeer app on iPhone is $1.99), 4.5 out of 5 stars latest rating

Ever wanted to simulate brewing, pouring and drinking beer out of a keg?  With the iPad app iBeer Keg, you can.  The app can be paired with the iPhone/iPod Touch’s iBeer app for those users who want to pour beer out of a virtual keg into a virtual cup.  More drinks are available for virtual pouring besides beer—champagne, wine, water, cola and milk can all be waved around in this interactive liquid simulation.

-DrinkFit–$1.99 on iPhone, 3 out of 5 stars latest rating

How many calories are in a beer or any other kind of alcoholic beverage is usually a concern to most after a weekend at bars and parties.  If you dare to find out how many calories are in your favorite beer, this app provides nutritional information on beer, cocktails, liquor, wine coolers and mixed drinks.  Facts include serving size, calories, total fat and percentage, total carbohydrate and percentage, total protein and percentage and total sugar.

-Drunkometer–$0.99 on iPad and iPhone, 4 out of 5 stars latest rating

The Drunkometer app is something every college student has needed at one time or another.  Its top feature?  It tests whether you’re drunk by checking your reaction time and stability.  If the app then determines you’re drunk, it gives you the option to email your current location to a friend.  If a friend can’t come get you, the Drunkometer also looks for nearby taxis.

The app, however useful it may be, does give the caveat: don’t drink and drive.  Even if the famed Drunkometer determines you’ve passed the test.


Beer apps for Android were found with the help of

Beer apps for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch were found in the App store on those devices.