Southside (Chicago) beer enthusiasts, please listen up: You don’t have to go to Wicker Park, Roscoe Village or whatever the trendy neighborhood is the days to find good beer on tap. Rock Island Public House in Blue Island is a great craft beer bar with a wide and well-chosen selection of regional and specialty brews. Owners Dave and Jen Brown’s establishment is in the heart of old Blue Island, under the Western Avenue bridge near Jeben’s Hardware and Mario’s, in a building that had housed many different businesses since it was built in the 1860s (that’s a guess). The atmosphere is open and inviting, and Dave’s passion for beer is obvious as he describes the beers on tap while assembling a flight of beer based on your preferences. My flight consisted of Greenbush (Sawyer, MI) Broken Promises Wheat IPA (excellent!), Brewery Vivant (Grand Rapids, MI) Trebuchet IPA (hoppy, malty and very lacey), The Bruery (Placentia, CA) Tart of Darkness Sour Beer (vinegar and cherry notes, but better tasting than my description sounds) and Sixpoint (Brooklyn, NY) Harbinger Saison (like a wilder weiss).
The jukebox had a great selection of the good music from my era (I’m 50) with a lot of local artists, and none of the overplayed junk that you get sick of hearing. The front door is covered with cool decals, the decor has elements of tramp art, a reclaimed Gold Medal Flour wall mural and WWI-era propellers on a ceiling-mounted pulley system that serve as both a means of circulating the air and for starting conversations. There’s plenty of room inside and a patio that gives a great view of the Rock Island trains that pass periodically.
I have a soft spot in my heart for Blue Island. It was the “Big City” to us kids from Midlothian. We’d go to Klein’s to buy Sunday clothes or our gym uniforms, Iverson’s for the best baked goods (they still are) and maybe your old man would go to Haas’ Tap for a Gettelman’s after his shift at Modern Drop Forge or Libby’s. It’s good to see people breathing life back into a great little town that has seen better days.
Here’s to you Dave and Jen, and best of luck with the Rock Island Public House! I’ll be back, and I’m bringing more craft beer lovers with me!