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Farm-Fresh Beers and Gadgets on the Green

April 2010

By Lauren Olsen, Chicago

The Craft Brewers Conference brought some of the best artisan beers to Chicago this month. Brew masters from Two Brothers Brewing Company, New Holland Brewing Company and more appeared at select restaurants to drink, schmooze, and answer questions about their premium beers.

At the West Loop gastropub The Publican, I sampled the Ruination IPA from San Diego’s Stone Brewing Co., whose microbrews just started selling in Chicago. Sleek and austere, The Publican’s long banquet-style tables, ladder-back chairs, and mustard-colored walls are reminiscent of a farm. Paintings of stout pigs reinforce a menu of spicy pork rinds, aged ham, and sweet breads. A trough-like sink complete with spigots sits outside the washrooms and farm equipment is artfully encased in glass. Unmarked, wooden taps pour anything from Belgian lambics to German pilsners to beers brewed just a couple of miles away, catering to even the most luxurious and adventurous tastes.

With the launch of Metropolitan Brewing and Half Acre Beer Company breweries last year plus Revolution Brewing this year, there seems to be no sign that Chicago’s beer renaissance will be over any time soon. If anything, microbreweries are trying to figure out how to satisfy rising demand. Half Acre just purchased a canning line and will soon be retailing Daisy Cutter and Gossamer in 4-pack tallboys. The North Center brewery also sells growlers, convenient half-gallon jugs, which can be filled and refilled with beer straight from the tap. A great way to take home beers that aren’t sold in bottles or cans, including coveted limited releases.

But as much as we covet a good beer, Chicagoans also crave a good gadget. At Michigan Avenue’s Garmin store, we have our pick of 50 plus products for our bike, car, boat, plane and more. I love that the store includes a theater where I can attend workshops, and that all of their products are displayed in a glass-free environment, where Garmin representatives provide hands-on demonstrations. True longitudinal and latitudinal lines on the floor plus a suspended staircase render a clean, modern feel.

Come summer on Lake Michigan, a few tech-savvy boaters will embark with Garmin's GPSMAP® 720 chartplotter. If you want to take your fishing to a whole new level, add underwater digital sonar scanning capability. With innovative web services and premium add-ons for their devices, Garmin’s GPS products are top of the line.

Unlike some of the other Apple stores found in shopping malls, Chicago’s is a stand-alone - the ultimate destination on the Magnificent Mile. Inside the signature white, square building, metallic walls and backlit signage surround laptops, iPods, and iPads on wooden tables. Like Garmin, Apple showcases their products in an open and clutter-free environment, inviting consumers to get a hands-on experience before committing to buy. Besides carrying the gamut of Apple products and accessories, the Chicago store has the first-ever internet café.

More notably, Steve Jobs was directly involved in designing the store and called for "one last thing" to be installed: a green roof. Made by Green Grid® , the roof is 2,400 square feet, includes 302 four-inch deep GreenGrid modules, and can be seen from many of the surrounding skyscrapers. Innovative customer service options include the practice of offering field trips. Students can use Mac computers to create new projects, like videos and websites, compose their own songs, or use Apple’s facilities to present a project they’ve already created at home or at school.

Food & Drink

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