middle brow \ citizen how /

your own personal river. really.

i'm sitting here. in my landlord's side yard. listening to the hypnotic sound of running water. in their wo-man-made, artificial creek-coi pond thing. and it makes me reckon: rivers are it. really. the only metaphor we ever need. rushing. mellow. loud. soft. rude. gentle. simple. complex. wide. narrow. thoughtful. inconsiderate. anyway... rivers really are it. (there's another word! really! i had a dream last night that i named a daughter realize. so that i could call her really. as a sort of nickname. and how beautiful really would sound bouncing and echoing through the house and neighborhood. really!)


some people jump in lakes. some people don't. indeed they very much ease into them instead. the thinking being: this water's gonna shock-hurt the hell out of my penis/vagina! i better take it slow! ... and whew! there it goes. yikes! that was a rush. oh. ooooh. ok. ok ok. i think i got it. yeah. ok. yeah now i'm used to it. and oh how this describes craft beer. and life. in such a boring and obvious way. ... like: some people really take life by the horns! some people are a little more cautious!! oh hell fucking yes! george gordon lord byron over here. a regular pynchon paragraph. hang it up!

but no no. i mean this: we go so blind to everything. all the time. we let life happen to us, adjust our nerves/emotions/blood, and live a new life. we get into a lake or a river one way or another, and water currents flow past our bodies. and change our internal body temperature. and we adjust our brains to those bloody changes. and are totally blind then to the fact that our status quo has been altered.

there's a craft beer story here. ... imagine waking up early as f. i'm talking dark-outside 3a. and hooking up your flat-bottom boat to your hitch. and driving out to the humboldt park lagoon. pre-gator. and lowering the boat in. and floating around for a couple hours. with a fishing line and some bait. and a beer or two. dragging behind you. in the water. why does that beer get cold-ish (depending on the water) faster than a beer you put in the fridge? cuz new water is running past it constantly! stealing the heat from it! and starting again!

----~-~-~~~-~(cold water)~~-~~~---~~-~~> (floats past warm can) ----~-~-~~~-~(hot water)~~-~~~---~~-~~> repeat cycle. until: ----~-~-~~~-~(cold water)~~-~~~---~~-~~> (floats past cold can) ----~-~-~~~-~(cold water)~~-~~~---~~-~~>.

the can's internal temperate changes so quickly because water is flowing past it quickly and ripping the heat out of it (through conductive aluminum) quickly and jesus christ i'm just fucking kidding this is not how it relates to craft beer. not at all.

it's more like when people scream-say "behind" and "corner" in a restaurant. i sometimes say it too. but sometimes, instead, i merely say "excuse me" at a normal volume. or else i scream, "i'm walking at a particular pace and i refuse to break this pace not even for a second and so you better get the fuck out of my way" sarcastically. and that's how rivers relate to craft beer. and, for that matter, to restaurants. in the brashness and rudeness and inconsideration of such. ... we do try constantly at bungalow to be more like a nice river, gently flowing around a rock. making way for the things that existed there before us. or that exist in a peaceful state. no need to interrupt them. or make them move. unless absolutely necessary. unless we've got a fucking avalanche we're trying to contain. or a fire we're trying to put out. (this metaphor works!)

but there's a bigger picture here.

craft beer: i read a tweet recently. can't remember by whom. and it caused me to scribble a little note in my "modestly topics" book. and it was about craft beer growth. and adaptation. and someone was baggin' on craft breweries for navel gazing. and making their 8th ipa of the year by february. and spending far too much time yelling dramatically and fecklessly about the macros (bud. miller. heineken. corona.). and patting each other on the back. and all the while, the macros are growing smart. they're acquiring good, sound craft breweries. they're investing in the brewpub movement. they're investing in online shopping and delivery. they're investing in media. etc. etc. etc. running circles around the silly little craft beer boys and girls. dumb to the river flowing past them. enveloping them.

and in some ways, this is right! but in other ways, it completely elides the organizing purpose of "craft" as an industry. as a word, even. the point of "craft" beer was to get back to caring about the craft. not simply rivering the shit out of a business. and acquiring this piece and that piece. and growing this way and that. and making whatever new selzter and CBD widget it floated past. could craft breweries STFU about their craft a bit more? fuck yes. please god. could they navel gaze a bit less? yes. see (every single goddess-living modestly ever written.) should they spend a single fucking second worrying about macrobreweries? i mean, shit. if they're a faux macro, maybe. if they're sierra nevada or sixpoint or some "authentic" craft "ish" dixie or PNW brewery with a jewel-osco font(tm) or whoever. but should we? should transient? should pipeworks or is/was? no.

point is: the relevant people employed by the macros don't spend time thinking about beer. and how to make it cool. and how to make it different. how to innovate behind it. they also don't really think about the brewpub experience in a real way. to the extent these things don't play into a particular widget growth model. whereas craft breweries have set up their companies in such a way as to encourage beer innovation. quick-footedness. painstaking attention to the manufacturing of a single beer. and the broader consumption experience. to make it personal to the proprietor. and that's what makes them fun. that's what makes them exciting. and edgy. that's what makes them attractive places for customers to gather. that's what makes them different.

that's what makes them real. really.

so the fact that AB Inbev is running circles around we modest craft folk wrt seltzer and cbd and distribution channels and media and etc etc etc does not matter. we want to be run circles around. we want to make something nice for our neighbors. to create a special "third place". and to make a modest living doing so. and to grow! from something very small to something very meaningful! and to create a career and a community doing so. ... we don't have to create 40 "third places" around the country. we don't have to sell our shit on amazon. we don't have to grow our company from $1 billion to $1.1 billion next year. cuz we don't have institutional shareholders who require national (international?) domination. and cuz then we'd just end up looking like the ballast point in fulton market. or that giant bud bar in the new wrigley field playlot. or whatever the fuck that giant disney-fulton flop is up there.

this applies to restaurants in chicago (and many other cities) too. it makes us a little cringy when we see resto group after resto group opening joint after joint after joint. ... true: if you wanna make a living in this business, you gotta be agile. you gotta be thinking about growth and the leading edge. constantly. but far too many people get caught up. they let the rude river take them for a ride. they open a place, and while it's on fire from lack of sound management, they're prancing around town opening up a second and third and fourth place. nice widget, there. would be a shame if it failed in the next five years. but then again, so what! just open a new one!

true: this model works. for money. for power. for "success". for good stories in 80s america. but does it work for self-respect? for happiness? for good stories in radical america? wethinks not. and we're happy to be part of the generation that thinks about self-respect. and happiness. and that values humans qua humans. and not qua economic animals.



new beer break down


hey. we sent out a lot of new beers in the past month or so. but none has us more excited and weirded out as *STILL BEER!*. and that's because it's unique. in chicago. and in the country more generally. sorta like our house sour kvass series. ... we know other breweries have flirted with zero carbonation. but we haven't seen any such beers on the market in years. we've been talking about it for awhile. and bryan finally came to me a couple weeks back. in reference to a wine barrel-aged mixed culture beer that we wanted to put on tap. and he said "why don't we make it still?! no bubbles!" and i said "fuck yeah. let's make this the one!" and so we did. and it's SO F'N WEIRD!!! and good. and cool. and it was aged for 9 months in a chardonnay barrel. so it's got oak. and a bit of butter. and all sorts of weird bretty and buggy things happening. lacto. pedio. you know.

and hey. again. we have this massive aversion to saying "we're the first!!!" we think it suggests a massive lack of perspective. and immaturity. and anyway. being "the first" is meaningless. often, if it isn't outright inaccurate bull shit, being "the first" is more an accident of timing and the synthesis of a dozen other ideas executed well by other people. ... so, we don't know if any brewery in chicago has released a still beer, or blended their beer with a natural wine, or made a kvass. but we don't care if they have, cuz we're not trying to be original.

but. are we the first brewery to release a still beer in a little while, and the only one that we know of in logan square to have one on tap? for now. yes. but we have a feeling, if this goes the way every other thing in craft beer goes, that we won't be the only ones for long. it's too weird to become popular, but it's not too weird to go unnoticed.

get your still beer here. *STILL BEER!* before your friends. now that's somewhere you can be first.



also new this weekend: another well-timed seasonal fruit brut ipa. this time, we used peaches. which are, like, just about to pop off. and whereas the strawberry essence is super sweet, and it gave folks the perception that our strawberry fruited brut ipa was sweet, peach essence isn't so much sweet.

... you know that cool burst you taste when you bite into a peach. where the skin sorta rips around the bite hole. and the peach fibers reach out toward their flesh partners, gone forever. into your mouth and gut. and your brain wakes up. and you stop thinking about everything you were just. and you taste a hint of sweetness from the skin. and juiciness from the flesh. and bitterness from the tang and scorch. it's almost a green peach. an early summer peach. a slightly unripe peach, tart and loud and fuzzy still. not mushy and soft and over-sweet. (though those are incredible, too.)

we packed a bunch of peach puree into an already-full fermenter. it was teeming. and we extracted just enough fruit for you to discern it. just the way we like it. subtle. another-able. so come drink a super light-bodied ipa. with a peach bite. on our patio. in our yard. this weekend.



another kvass. the drink of choice for slavic working men and women. made by soaking bungalow breads in hot mash water. this time, about double the poundage over last time. with a hint more rye than before.

the mouth is silky. the nose and palate are jammy and fruity. and finish is light and clean. again, we may not be the first chicago brewery ever to make a kvass. but we're the only ones right now with a kvass series. made using bread from our in-house bakery.

we're slowly becoming a local food fermentation lab. with our own haacp plan and everything. stay tuned here. and watch us forage and shimmy and shake. thanks ed.

fresh beer fridays. at bungalow by middle brow.

beer in bread

beer in bread

run never through it

our bungalow.

our bungalow.

it seems that every time i sit down to write now, i'm apologizing. for taking so much time away. ... i'm sad about it, really. i loved waking up early as fuck on friday mornings and shitting out a stream-of-conscious email. on things. on people. getting older. and wondering why.

but then my grandma died. and, while it wasn't exactly sad in the traditional way, it did take a lot out of me. a lot of words, that is. and then our patio started growing a bit. and we built a humble bar. the "littlest bar in illinois", in fact. and we reorganized our kitchen a bit more. and we hired some amazing new folks on the front side. and on the back side. and on the distro side. and are interviewing some even more amazing humans. management material, all of them. and we started selling our breads to wherewithall, the new joint by johnny and beverly of parachute. and our HVAC broke. or was maybe never designed or installed so wisely to begin with? either way, i spent two weeks straight on the roof everyday. but then we got some fans! and it feels like a fucking ball of a bar in puerto rico now. all the time.

and we kept producing beer! we've released so many in the past month. i hardly know where to start. *IS THIS IT*. *HOUSE SOUR #2*. *STILL BEER!*. *PEACHES*. *BLOC PARTY PASSION*. *IN THE WOODS*. *FIGURE IT OUT*. ... and events! we threw our very own pitchfork after show. and did a publican burger battle. and kept trucking out to green city market every single saturday morning. up by 330a. silently loading and preparing for the day. 98.7 fm tuned on. driving toward the rising sun. which kept rising. and setting. every single day. since we last spoke. a river in space, as it were.

dig deep / stay tuned.

middle brow citizen how

nothing's wrong.

so we've got a little bike friendship blooming among several of our employees. chucky started it all. and he roped his friend heather from letherbee in. and sam. and robyn. and german. and another couple new faces have rolled through with some major gearage. and so bikes are abuzz at bungalow! which has me all giddy, of course. ... i didn't have access to a car from 2009 to 2015. i rode my bike virtually everywhere i needed to go. very rarely taking the train to cover longer distances like the suburbs. so i'm a big bike head. with some old bike knees. and every time anyone is talking about their bike or a ride they recently took or plan to take or my chain keeps squeaking yo dude you gotta grease it up with chain grease or even wd-40 will work in a pinch and what's up with your bottom bracket is your wheel true? oh good. good. that's a nice wheel. a niiiiice wheel. that's a perfectly nice wheel! why you getting rid of it? ah shit i don't know i sorta want some of them cool yellow deep v rims all flashy and fixie and shit cuz i want my bike to be a target for theft and my seat to get stolen and this one time i rode from minneapolis to chicago in 5 days. 

"dude, i always wear a helmet," said chucky to german one day recently over the overwrought iron fence. [did someone just bring up bikes? i better go give them my two cents!] so anyway, i went and listened for a minute and then of course i did. i told them i'd never owned a helmet in my entire life. and i can't really foresee changing that habit in my late 30s. and chucky said: "i ain't trying to die out there". and ed brady chimed in that he fell hard once and crushed him helmet and the doc said that based on the impact necessary to crack the helmet he certainly would have split open his head and melted out of it. and i talked about getting hit by a car and flying through the air over by presence about 15 years ago. and landing, thank goddess, on the bike lock that i stuffed in my belt loops. which turned into a steel sled. saving my head from a monster of a whip toward the ground. probably would've perished then and there too. without the lock in my pocket. but even that didn't change my helmet behavior. 

... and then i rode off. naked of hard hat. down armitage and left on richmond home. thinking about climate change. and an argument i had in the back of a new your city cab with this stuffy ass lawyer from cravath called ian. about the precautionary principle. lawyers are the absolute worst. just ask one and they'll tell you.

so: the precautionary principle says: if you suspect something bad will happen, take action to prevent it from happening. but let's strawberry-flesh that out a bit. if a thing is extreeeemely unlikely to happen. and the bad result is super insignificant, it's unlikely anyone will take precautions against it. nor should they! compare that to an event, though, that's likely to occur in the extreme. the consequences of which are devastating. people should indeed take precautions against that. 

let's talk bike helmets again. what are the chances that a biker gets hit by a car? there's about 19,000 such accidents in the US per year. 800 of which result in death. but what's the context? about 130,000 pedestrians are treated in ERs after being hit by cars every year. and nearly 6,000 die. but let's back up again: wayyy more people are walking around than riding around. so those bike numbers actually sound a bit more serious. no surprise: biking is more dangerous than walking. but in 2013, almost about 4,500 motorcyclists were killed in car crashes. so there's some real dangerous shit for you.

in any event, riding a bike can be dangerous. but isn't some wildly dangerous sport or mode. despite that, though, parents these days are super fucking serious about putting helmets on their kids' heads. (note: every child born in the social media generation has at least two heads.) but it bridges political, racial and social divides. trump republicans in rich suburbs do it. anti vax liberals in hermosa do it. black parents. brown parents. pink parents. it ain't like the 80s. kids wear helmets. and adults wear helmets. but why? why, if fatal bike crashes are overall a pretty rare thing, given the context?

because losing a child is a massive loss. and so palpable. a single story about a kid knocked off his bike into purgatory is enough to send every young parent into a tailspin. are helmets even effective? doesn't matter. there's actually some surprising academic work and reporting on it. the mere fact that they intend to reduce head injury is enough. because head injury can be so devastating to a young child. 

which brings me to climate change: the jury is not out. it's in. it's been in for years. as certain as untreated cancer cells will cause death: human activity has lead to climate change. which will lead to famine, war, death, etc. so why does half of this country ignore the precautionary principle when it comes to climate, but not when it comes to their child's safety?

first, a helmet is cheap. it doesn't require virtually any sacrifice by any republican or democrat. 

on the contrary: the actions and behaviors meant to stall climate chance are pitched as expensive ones. and some of them are! my response to that, though, is who the fuck are you?!?!?! what's up with this massive sense of entitlement? why should you get to live the way you want? why are you entitled to a lawn, and a big car, and keeping lights on all the time, and water on while you brush your teeth, and etc. etc. etc.

we've organized a completely inefficient society because we were myopic. we didn't think about certain efficiencies, when, for example, we allowed companies to build factories far away from city centers where land and labor are cheaper. without taxing them any more. ... some of the most important things governments do is help us get from point a to point b. trains. subways. buses. long, clean highways. we all pay for the construction and maintenance of those highways, for example. and those highways allowed a rich man once to build a massive factory way out in the hinter. where land was cheap. and where he could hire people, pay them fairly low wages, build cheap housing for them, etc. and get rich!!! rich rich rich!!!! and we all paid for him to do that. 

this seems a bit fucked up to me. i walk or ride to and from the brewery every day. and drive once or twice a week usually within a mile or two of my house and work. but i pay for a road that makes an ugly man rich! and why?! he should have paid us for that road. fuckloads more!!! and then maybe he wouldn't have done it.

... well ... what about all the cheap stuff you get, pete?! yeah. what about it? do i need it? why'd we organize a society that encourages that kind of consumption? do i really need two salad spinners? i don't even use the one, clearly. all i frankly need is a nearby thrift store with blue and black clothes and plaid wool blankets. a bike. a tool set. some reclaimed lumber. and youtube. jk jk jk. i do way more than that. and i most definitely don't know how to use tools. but the bigger point here is that i don't knead, like, 80% of the "cheap stuff" i have. and i don't need the roads. my happiness and quality of life would be terrific without any of it. i know it cuz i've done without it. and i ain't that special a study.

the point of all of the above is: the consequences of climate change are certain to be bad. if we change our behaviors, we could slow or even reverse it. we aren't entitled to a certain way of life. and we're capable of the sort of long term vision necessary to make changes. (see: bike helmets on rugrats.)

now if only we could alter our human nature to join teams.............. (or, at the very least, our myopia about why certain political teams take certain positions: rich people don't want to change their behaviors or pay more in taxes, so they rile up people about other shit like abortion (how nervous the reasonable rich are getting!) and guns (the laws never seem to change!) to garner team support for policies with low impacts on the economic status quo.)

i'll start wearing a helmet if you stop leaving your lights on all night cuz you're afraid of the other comfortable white people in your suburb. what a deal! let's make more deals like 'em! ones that are nicer to our future bodies and our future children's future bodies.

in the meantime...

mean times

in them always. or never.

the meantimes of wintertimes are screen times generally. (and, i'll digress in a tic here, but i think that says a lot about the lie of chicagoans being tough about the winter. where's the winter hiking?! where's the ice skating and the snow shoeing and the rolled maple snow cones?)

but today we marvel at how much meantime the springtime brings. in them meantimes, we go outside. ... or maybe we're thinking about it wrongly. maybe the springtime steals meantimes. instead, we fill that time with walks. and gardening. and sharing plants and recipes and catching up with neighbors. and bike rides to cal fisheries. and such. and maybe all that stuff ain't the meantime; the mean between what?!?!? maybe instead the work and home making times are meantimes. and the above are all the real times.

these are all questions and bloody metaphors for you to ponder on our brand new patio. legal as of yesterday. which we might open today (stay tuned to our social media). and it ain't gonna be nothing special. we still got a big ol' puddle in it. and we haven't finished the tables quite yet. and we've got some major planter work to do. but we'll have a jockey box out there. and a couple beers flowing from it. and you can look up at the sky. with a couple friends or a good book nearby. in a real time.

new beer notice


we gots a new brut! a new brut ipa! a sparkling beer! pet natty, but not actually natty at all. it's called *STRAWBERRY JAM*. it tastes very lightly like strawberry candy. but not saccharine. as our former baker/current pal hanna put it. ... more like fruit leather. which strikes us as right on. it has a sort of oranj wine color. and is effervescent and zap of body just like a good pet nat'd be. the subtle thought like "is this beer?" and "is this wine?". shit if we didn't ask that ourselves from sip to sip.

one problem, wethinks, with strawberry beers is that there's either too little strawberry going in 'em. or too much strawberry kool aid action. like someone took a net of strawberry mamba chews and submerged them in some half-fermented wort. (wait, is that a description of all neipas'n stouts these days or nope?)

but this brut babe is like you nosed a mara de bois. in some wild mountain out-town. and you wondered how you'd ever eat a jewel-osco strawberry again in your life.

come drink a light ipa beer. with some light fruit. and some other earth and such. and bubbles! and life! and summer time! an orange petty beer for the patio.


and we got another one!!! a hoppy hefe. a hopfenweisse, as it's called in another country. saxony. and don't you pretend that beer culture will fall apart if our servers can't quite say the word. we can call it a hoppy hefe and it'll all be just fine.

anyway, this sucker is neat. (words by bryan.) it's like a screaming loud orange creamsicle. familiar but totally foreign at the same time. a hop bill of amarillo, mandarina and caliente. and it's way fruity and easy and mouthy. but then, still, every few sniffs you'll remember that last time you cut morita chile peppers.

fresh fridays! at bungalow by middle brow!

nice times

a long time ago, i told y'all to dig deep. and to stay tuned. it's because i started writing this memo when i we had all but signed a lease on a new space. and i knew we had a future, rather than merely a past. 

this weekend, after years dreaming (i'm talking 17 years since the first dream happened), we're effecting the last piece of the first item on the list: an outdoor element. polly's planted some plants. some donated by our radical neighbors, jamie and serena. and some purchased by her. we're readying the jockey box. for a couple modest kegs. it's pretty DIY out there. and catch as catch can. as colleen malone put it. which is about who we are. and who we've been. for the past 17ish years. and the past 8ish years. and the past two years.

hope to see you soon.

dig deep / stay tuned. 

another nice photo by michael albert.

another nice photo by michael albert.

middle brow citizen how

in the human.

polly's grandma polly. (i should say: one of polly's grandma polly's. both of her grandma's are named polly. ain't that the most adorable fucking thing ever? ... one of them i never had the pleasure of knowing. as she's been peacefully resting in michigan for quite a bit. but whoa did she seem cool. more on that someday. for now, i'll just discuss polly nevins. not my wife polly nevins. but my grandmother-in-law polly nevins.)

anyway: in addition to being a dancer, polly nevins was a schoolteacher. (so was polly mcgurrin, in fact.) she taught children. and so, naturally, she has a schoolteacher's perspective on many things. and a couple christmases ago, she was trying to get into lyft. but it wasn't coming so easily to her. she'd rather dance to an ear-blistering waltz in her foyer than spend time on trivial things such as summoning drivers. though, she will say, that she had the most *lovely* time in a lyft from her home to the eye doctor last week. with the most *lovely*  man as her driver. and anyway she values her independence. she only recently stopped driving. at 90. she's a special woman with an incredible energy and subaru. but lyft is now her vehicle (!) for expending that energy. 

but back to lyft: she was having a hard time cracking the code. so i volunteered to teach it to her. and wrote it all down. in steps. on an index card that she'd keep in her clutch. ... about halfway through the lesson, she grabbed my arm, looked at me briefly and seriously. and then turned to polly to say "this man must be a teacher. he just keeps repeating himself over and over again." and it was funny. but also true! sorta. ... i could never claim to do the hard work that schoolteachers all over the world do. day in and day out. their job is so much more complex and difficult than simply "teaching" is. but i had been teaching, in the definitional sense of the word, for about 13 years. ... for money after college, and in law school, and even sometimes as a lawyer, and then most certainly while trying to get middle brow off the ground, i taught LSAT prep. (don't worry! i only raised ethical law students!) 

so: teaching LSAT prep is tough: there aren't grades. there isn't homework. the material is extremely demanding. and voluminous. and classes were 4 hours. twice a week. from 6-10p. after most students had spent the day in school or at work or otherwise tiring out their brains... and so after the first 30 minutes, it was hard for students to pay attention. and i quickly learned something important about humans: they *never* absorb everything you tell them the first time. they probably only absorb 5% of what you're saying. so if you repeat yourself several times, they start to absorb more and more. eventually, though, you gotta move on. but it's crucial that when you return to a topic that you've already addressed, you don't presume that anyone knows what you're talking about. and you repeat yourself yet again. and then 3 or 4 more times before moving on again. several days of this, over the course of several weeks, and you've got a student who knows what you're talking about.

that taught me something critical about management at the brewery. and in the front-of-house and back-of-house: to be generous with my fellow humans. to understand their humanity. that breweries and kitchens and floors are busy, overwhelming places. and brains get very quickly get very tired by all the activity. and the context in which we're *teaching*, in a sense, our staff to do things the way we need them to be done, is not very conducive to them learning with any sort of speed. we need to repeat ourselves over and over and over. and after a few weeks, we should expect to see changes. *not*, it's important to note, after a single lesson. or even after a single day or two. the timeline for effective and full absorption is measured in weeks. it's inhumane to expect anything sooner.

i reckon all good teachers know this. and are thus, by nature or experience, patient-as-fuck people. but non-teachers should know it too! it makes for good managing. it makes for good parenting. it makes for good friending, even! and so i thought i'd share my experience. with all of you dear readers. 


one other thing i learned in teaching cocky college kids: verbal direction is totally ineffective. in teaching, and in developing good relationships. if you want your students to learn "right", or your staff to work "right", you have to *do* the thing you want them to do. with them by your side. over and over and over again. tell a student to do a problem alone, and they'll do it fully and correctly about 10% of the time. it's not because they're lazy or bad students or disrespectful. it's because they're human. better put: they're tired humans. and new motions are hard. and decision-making is tiring. and synapses form during sleep anyway. so it tends to take time before the thing is done "right". ... but ask them to help you do the thing that they were supposed to do alone, or simply do it for them and tell them you did it, and how and why you did it, and they'll think a bit harder about it next time. 

this applies fully to restaurant management: if you want your staff consistently to sweep up all the semolina that spills onto the floor during an intense pizza shift, start by doing it yourself! several times. and then start doing it halfway, and asking them to finish up so you can go tend to another task. and slowly but surely they'll develop the muscle memory and eye memory for the task. and do it long before even you see that it needs to be done.

of course: you have to be careful. that they don't just depend on you always to do the thing. but that just takes a particular, thoughtful tack and focus and persistence by the manager. or the teacher. or the parent.

anyway, this rant ain't that ranty. or preachy. or political. or beer-focused. but hopefully it makes you think about humans a bit differently. hopefully it makes you a bit more generous with friends and family. and patient with co-workers. and strangers. 

after all, just like you, the rest of us are merely human. with more sames than differences.

middle brow missions

humboldt park cleanup!

illinois craft beer week tends to make most of our brewery friends groan: it's just a week of working a long brewing day, and then working events all night. most of which are poorly attended. cuz there's a million events. ... well, every year we try to fight that. and we fail. cuz we end up hosting a bunch of events ourselves. and creating other events at bars. and etc. etc. etc. 

but..... we *DO* succeed in fighting it in one small sense. every year. on the day after craft beer week ends. we organize an event whose entire focus is our city. our community. this year: we're hosting a humboldt park cleanup. we've noticed piles and piles of litter. collecting everywhere in our neighborhood. and litter contributes to lack of care in other ways. so we want to remove it. and we've got the power to do so! cuz we can pick up anything off the street! at any old time! sometimes that's where we get our mushrooms and greens from! bon appetit!

anyhow. come to bungalow tomorrow. anytime twixt 10a and 3p. and grab a big old garbage bag. and we'll give you a city block. and send you off. and then go be free! and pick up all the garbage you can! and come back with your bag of good garbage. and we'll buy it from you for a beer token. which you can set down on our bar any time you're thirsty.


*May 4th, 2019*

what's a kvass? ... *MAY 4th 2019* is a kvass.

i don't know. what's a russian? what's russia? what sense are borders at all? just a way to organize teams. to create thems. to create reason for protection. ... i mean, lots of folks will tell you that borders give a country integrity. what's a country without a certain kind of cultural integrity? but really, though. what is a *country*? why is it valuable? why must borders be erected around people with shared language and history and cuisine and art?

it seems to me that the only answer is: for fighting. humans are the same. humans are different. simultaneously, it's true. our differences, though, scare the shit out of us. the ugly side of our human nature wants everyone in the world to be just like us, or else they're some kind of asshole. see dat 4-week old letter of mine re *why aren't you me?*. and we tend not to have too much hesitation fighting assholes. ... so countries help us get our fighting rocks off. fighting neighbor assholes is hard cuz what happens when the paper comes the next morning? but fighting far away assholes ain't so hard. and we get to fight!!

and i suppose that's why i don't care much for borders. or *russia* or *slavic* as concepts. they're certainly fun and neat to think about. i love history. but i'm definitely one of those border-hating liberals your aunt talks about. i think humans have more sames than they do differences. i think free trade and the internet have shown that. we love each others cuisines. rene redzepi brings japanese cooking techniques to copenhagen, posts an instagram story about it, and a brewery in chicago is fermenting something special. russia manipulates american democracy via twitter. the us manipulates venezuelan democracy via money. we're all the same!!

so let's keep stealing each other's beers. kvass! how do you say that word? kə'vaas. emphasis on the bold. but say it however you want! really! we'll get it. ... and why should you order it? well, to start, it's a beer made with bread! better still: it's a beer made with *our house-made bread*. if you haven't heard, we make delicious bread in house. we have a sort of micro-bakery. buzzing and alive and well at 6a daily. well, we'd been trying to make a kvass with publican for years. but the timing never worked out. and then we rolled out of bed one day and we owned a bakery in addition to our brewery! whoa! we can make kvass any time we want! ... and so now we do. we're collecting stale and day-old bread all the time for them. we've got the next one in the hopper now, in fact. cuz the first one was so delicious.

back to this one, though: it's called *MAY 4TH 2019*. it's tart. sour, even. but lightly so. it tastes like bread, sure. but only tertiarily. primarily, you get brightness from the acidity. secondarily, whoa! stewed berries and apricot marmalade and all sorts of jam all over this sucker! and yes indeed: you do get some bread on the palate. mostly, for us, on the back end. after a handful of sips. 

we tend not to be surprised by beers anymore. we search and search and search for a new brewery to love. (mostly, it's just hype-y nonsense.) or for a new style, or a new take on an old style. but excitement is hard to drum up when you surround yourself with a think everyday for 8 years. not so with kvass. this style is wild! so stokin'! super sharp and flip worthy! the complexity is special. to lightness. the tartness. the fruit. the whoa. 

come in and have a hundred. less 98. or whatever number gets you down to a total that leaves you simply warm and happy and not slow-blinkin'.

get your kvass at bungalow by middle brow. and nowhere else in chicago. at least for now.

new beer notice


ever been to a mexican grocery store? if you live in logan square and you haven't been, then you live in lincoln park.

anyway. if you haven't been you should go. if you have, then you know about the juice box aisle. i don't mean capri suns and shit. even though we here love capri suns. especially as post-game snax. ... i'm talking about jumex. i'm talking about goya. big boxes of fruit juice. for kids, sure. but for adults too.

we made a beer that, it turns out, smells and tastes just like a big box of jumex guava juice. it's a session ipa called *CAPE TOWN CRUSH*. cape town cuz them guava-driving hops come from south africa. and cape town is a wonderful geological and biological story. under constant threat of drought and plant-species endangerment.

and the hometown of one of our best friends, tor.

fresh fridays! at bungalow by middle brow!

it's orange-hued and hazy. but not "hazy"

it's orange-hued and hazy. but not "hazy"

a modest week

a photo by michael albert

a photo by michael albert

sometimes i say i'm sending a short email. but this weak it's really true! you'll see! ... illinois craft beer week ends tonight. and we had an event nearly every single day! from BUG to *breakfast beers* to our bike drive with working bikes (which is still happening, by the way. bring your old bike over and we'll get it in good hands!) to *QUEERS IN BEER* to *friends of foeder crafters*. hence event soup. ... but this email is about new beers. and our final community-improvement event of the week. with some bits about human nature thrown in. but anyway go forth and stay focused! on supporting local craft beer! this next year among all years!

middle brow \ citizen how /

our cordless telephone has been nothing but a hassle. not cuz it lacks a cord and we can't ever find it. that's no problem at all. it's a perfectly worthy sacrifice to make for the convenience of being able to wander the joint with a phone on our ear when we have to. we love our brewpub. and we love the way it feels home-y to people. and that's likely cuz it's more our home than our home is. polly and i are there constantly. paying personal bills. trying on our new shoes or flightsuits after the amazon guy leaves. kicking around a soccer ball in the lot. etc. bungalow is our bungalow! and so when we're trying to fix a foam issue on tap 4 with a cordless phone tight 'twixt our shoulder and our ear, talking to a woman about how we don't take reservations and we can't make exceptions for her party of 4 but we promise we'll make her comfortable and happy if there's a short wait, we're usually all on-cloudy and happy.

but then there's the spam shit-calls. and i guess our place is a little like your 80s home was when those came in, too. at least, if your ma did the old "we don't want any" and abruptly hung up on courtesy callers. ... you'd never believe how intense and manipulative the sales calls are for new businesses. a ComEd scammer calls and freaks out our host with "we're gonna shut off your power in 15 minutes if you don't pay us $900", and he scrambles to find polly who then asks me why the hell i didn't pay our power bill. but it's all fraud! we paid! this guy ain't part of ComEd.

or else, the chicago bears and bulls and hawks and white sox and cubs all want to sell us space in their catalog this upcoming season. and the dude asks for "his old friend pete. who's expecting my call." and of course i don't know him and had to look up the main chicago sports teams just a second ago to make sure i listed them all. so we have no interest in that. 

and the private equity guy who wants to give us money! whoa! what honor!

but the most frustrating of all is the sexist-as-fuck yelp fraudster. this guy has called us time after time after time after time. always ruining those cute 90s moments we try to have with the cordless phone. and they want our money. they want it mainly to prevent bad yelp reviews. and we learned from harrison ford never to negotiate with terrorists. so we tell them to fuck off. and a couple days later it happens again. and so on and so on.

and one day a couple weeks back, this yelp affiliate called. and polly answered. and he asked to speak to the owner. and she told him she was the owner. and he explained that he had tried to get through to the owner several times and he hadn't had any luck. and that he had special power to stop a company called HD Scores from posting our negative health department report on yelp. if we paid him a sum of money. and she told him we weren't interested. and he pressed on, saying that it was about the go live. and she pushed back, saying that we weren't interested. and hung up the phone.

he immediately called back. and polly answered. and he said "sorry we were just accidentally disconnected. is the owner available?" and she said "i am the owner, and we weren't accidentally disconnected." and he then pressed again, about how this bad review was about to go live. and she said "no thanks dude". and he said "ma'am, please put the owner on the phone." and this infuriated her. this wimp of a man. whose work is ethically bankrupt. simply could not believe that someone with polly's.... pitch? was the owner of our business. let's just say it: he didn't think a woman could possibly own our business. any business? who knows. he's clearly a misogynistic fuckface, so probably. ... in any event, she hung up the phone. and he called back. and i answered this time. and he played the "accidentally disconnected" game. and i said "no no. it wasn't an accident. she hung up on you. and i don't know why you're having such a hard time understanding that she's our owner. and if you call again i'm gonna reach through this phone line and tickle a little bit under your chin before i maul your whingy face with my teeth." because we want it to feel like home in the 90s here at bungalow!!! and because i have less class and patience than polly. (also i was way less measured and way more stuttery-angry than that.) just like your dad and mom.

anyway, a couple days later bryan opened his yelp app (which, why does bryan have the yelp app? and, even more importantly, why did bryan open his yelp app?). and what he found *shocked* him when he searched for bungalow by middle brow: a bad *Health Score Alert*, right there at the top of our yelp page. due to "11 violations". then, very oddly, some grey preview text. reading: insects, rodents and animals not present. food and non-food contact services cleanable, properly designed, constructed and used..." and on and on. this *Health Score Alert*, it tells us, is "Powered by HDScores". the same misogynist company that called us incessantly, demanding money lest they publish a bad health score (with the oddly harmless verbiage under it). well: they followed through on their threat. ...

anyway, we opened the health score. and found 12 violations actually listed. because why would a computer know how to count? and those "violations" were *actually* just 4 of the exact same violations listed 3 times each. now... let me explain our violations: when the health department comes for an inspection, they give you a list of your violations, which fall into three categories—normal, bad and very bad. we had four violations before we opened, which showed up on each of our three license applications (liquor, food and packaged goods). without further ado, the four... the top of our garage door showed some light pouring through: first violation. our floor sink seams weren't caulked to the floor: second violation. the wood fence around our tank farm didn't have a sufficient number of coats of paint on it: third violation. and we had no sneeze-guard between customers and our open pizza kitchen: fourth, and most serious, violation. as this last one was the only one that prevented us from opening, we addressed it right away. and built our lovely sneeze-guard. our health inspector passed us two days later and we opened for biz several weeks thereafter. we've since fixed all the other violations. and are healthy as could be! and our food is as pretty from a bacterial perspective as it is on your plate! we promise! come eat it and you'll see that you don't get sick! (best review yet.)

so all of this is to say: hdscores and yelp have tried to take advantage of us. the only way for us to remove the negative health score is to pay yelp for a formal business account, and to formally contest the score. that's also true of any other negative reviews, by the way: a business can't respond to a totally ridiculous, negative review without paying yelp. we didn't even start a yelp page! it was started for us by yelp. and we naturally got (a very small number of) negative reviews. and then yelp came calling. demanding money to fight those reviews. 

great business model, san francisco.

now look: we've met some very cool, genuine yelpers. and we particularly love the guy who says "They really deserve their Michelin Stars!!!!!!" and "Middle Brow Bungalow is the best restaurant in my life." but the people running and affiliated with this platform are pure evil. like, donald trump evil. and consider also that humans are boundedly rational. and their capacity for honest reviews is very limited. take anchoring: people rely too heavily on the first piece of information offered. like, if they see a bunch of 5-star reviews, they're more likely to give a 4- to 5-star review. if they see a bunch of 1-star reviews, they'll give the same. this phenomenon alone makes yelp pretty well useless. to say nothing of all the dishonesty and misogyny flying around.

so do your part: stop referencing yelp. ever. use your local weekly mag to find new restaurants.


the saddest, wisest call. in the kingdom.

we're still listening to music here at bungalow. sometimes it's madonna. sometimes it's the cure radio. sometimes it's ethiopiques. sometimes it's belle and sebastian or hot chip. sometimes it's nico. or scott walker. or helado negro. or yo la tengo or bunny wailer. but it's never boring. unless it's real estate. then it's way boring. but intentionally so, you know? boring is the best way to let the breeze and light talk to you.

here's a link to our may playlist. listen along. work while we work. sing while we sing. sleep while we don't.

you'll hear the wisdom of the whale in song one. https://spoti.fi/2IVmMrX

green city market

a city in green!

i know. it's been raining non-stop. and 40s cold. and it has us sorta sad too. these 60s and sunny teases have taken their toll, another year. but we truck on! we love the rain for it's life-giving side. we fight through it! we go drink and eat and socialize no matter! we wake up early on the first may saturday of the year and go to green city market to soak and smell up the locally-grown fruit and herbs and flowers and toast. 

wait... toast?!?!?!?!?!?! did you just open up your fingers and type out toast?! since when can you get big, beautiful hunks of toast at green city market?! slathered in buttermilk or cherry preserves or goat cheese and spreadable meat?!

since tomorrow, actually. as bungalow by middle brow will have a booth every saturday at green city market. from now until at least the end of the season. selling toast. and loaves of our freshly-baked sourdough bread. and giving away smiles and warmth for free. especially in the early morning. our favorite time to be alive. foggy. forgetful. a little odd-of-smell. bed-head. goo-eyed. hyperactive.

come look ugly with us! every saturday morning from now til november! in the park by the lake. named for abe. 

urbs in horto.

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new beer notice


we once aged our milk stout in koval oat whiskey barrels. for about 2.5 years. nothing we had ever tasted before. nothing we had made. it had taken on a life of its own. it was so good that we had to get some other liquid into that barrel stat. and so we filled it up with our salted caramel scotch ale, ad astra. and let that sit for about a year. and tapped it last night. and it's all cherry. and prune. and wood-nilla. and caramel. and chocolate. and smoke. and salt. and crush one with a cookie.  

but this is an old beer. made new again. but *may* have a new beer for you this weekend too. a new new beer. our kvass. that beer we brewed last week. with all the house-made and house-staled bread in it. we'll just have to see how it tastes today.

but stay tuned for our instagram. if you were hoping to be first in line for the kvass.

fresh fridays! at bungalow by middle brow!

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so way back when. when socialists and communists were less hip. when they were maybe more common but on the down swing in popularity in american politics. as opposed to now where they're somehow on the upswing. and there's some good and bad in that. if only everyone discussing such were well caught up on their terms and their history and such. but i digress...

way back when, the haymarket affair went down. right here in chicago!!! and it's an ugly story of bombs and death and such. but it all started with a peaceful gathering in support of the labor movement's fight for an eight-hour workday. just the day before, 8 of such group were murdered by police during a strike. and anyway it was all labor! and all socialism! and all fuck the police! and all worker spies! and eugene debs! and workers of the world, unite! for a few days here in chicago. and, really, for much much longer than that.

and we're seeing a nice bit of that attitude return of late. and we here at bungalow are super proud of chicago's labor history. and the efforts of smart, hard working men and women to balance out their lot with the rich and lucky-born's lot. and we do our best to contribute. with free breakfasts. and with the slow but certain implementation of our work training program.

but in the meantime... we're honoring may day. international workers day. worldwide labor day. with a beer special for union card holders. on this coming weds. may 1. bring in your union card between 3 and 6p. for $2 beers. that's two (2) dollars!!!!! for a craft beer!!!! anything you want. teachers. nurses. stagehands. pilots. plumbers. masons. laborers. mailwomen. ... whoever. 

thanks for your proud work. please come have a way-affordable cup and rip of ours.

middle brow missions

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but wait! i gotta write about something! right?! we're major missionaries this week. like, the kind who believes deeply in what they believe. in what they're doing. in the fun of it. the good of it. the why of it, really. cuz the what always comes back to widgets, right? it's the why of it that matters. and this week we got three big why stories to tell. count 'em three.

first. and most importantly i must say. remember when you were a kiddo? (remember when? remember when? it's like the start of every beer review i write. and every rant i write. and every EP i record. and college the virtues of which i extol. (not my own mater, sadly.)) but remember that? remember when you'd come in from playing outside. you'd been fucking running around for like 4 hours. your little legs. running everywhere. never walking. and it was cold as hell but you didn't know temperatures or comfort or care about sound design or lighting levels or "can i please have a blanket?" or "this steering wheel is really cold i need gloves". the short of it: you didn't fucking complain about your conditions. 

but then you'd go in for dinner. and you'd be a dick to your little sister for some reason. maybe she was washing her hands and singing out of tune and that pissed you off so you hip-checked her into the toilet and started washing your own hands and hobbes felt vindicated in his grave and then your parents heard her wails and punished you by sending to your room without a single morsel. and at first you didn't care cuz you had all your baseball cards in there. and your train set. but after awhile. your stomach started to growl. and your family was cackling about something. and you were lonely, yeah. but you were also fucking hungry. i mean, you started to feel those fake hunger pains that we americans have learned to immediately gratify just like the way we put on three cute blankets on at the slightest chill. but then you got the courage to peak your head out of your room and our ma saw you and asked what you needed and you asked if you could come eat dinner and she asked why you were in your room in the first place and you shrugged and she said then go back to your room and then you admitted that you hip checked gretchen because she was done washing her hands she was just standing there singing poorly and refused to move when you asked her nicely and your ma told you to go back to your room and then you admitted that you really just did it cuz gretchen is tone deaf and your ma asked you if that was appropriate and you shook your head and hobbes was defeated because his philosophy is almost too silly even to read and consider other than to prove its lack of depth or to place in in history somehow.

YOU WERE SO FUCKING LUCKY. because your family ate dinner every night. and your belly was so damn full that your hunger pains were fake news. and your ma was confident enough to send you to bed without dinner cuz you were so damn well-fed all the damn time! and most of you readers probably can relate. to the story above. but there's gobs and gobs of kids who can't. whose parents would never punish them that way because they barely get more than one meal a weekend anyway. sometimes because there's another bill due. sometimes because the parents are working three jobs and they cross wires and the dad thinks the mom fed the kids and vice versa until it's 11p and a kid walks out of a bedroom and begs for food and the dad feeds the kid and then cries his eyes out. or sometimes, sadly, the parents are into drugs. or one of them is in jail and the other is just trying to make it moment to moment.

and thank the prince-gods and cool-humans for things like "free or reduced lunch" at CPS! some kids get 2-3 meals a day at various CPS schools. that's amazing! but kids don't go to school on the weekends. not ever. and so what happens to those less lucky kiddos on the weekends? lots of them just stay hungry. and can't wait for monday to come. not cuz they love fractions. like we future spreadsheet lovers. cuz they're fucking hungry! and then we wonder why their SAT scores are lower. 

but wait! again wait! not everyone who comes to our *FREE BREAKFASTS* is a hungry kid. we'll admit it. maybe some are. maybe some aren't. but there's another contour to the story here. some of the kids and families who come in, surprise surprise, are super close-knit with strong mothers or fathers. parents who make damn sure they instill their kids w the right ethics. who always prioritize feeding their kids. who always find ways to take care of them. and so they ain't joining us on some saturdays out of desperation. but instead want to show their kids something new. they want their kids to see the breadth of interests and creativity in the world. and so they come to *FREE BREAKFAST* for that.

anyway. gentrification is a bitch. and we're gentrifying the shit out of our neighborhood. we can't help it. so the least we can do is attempt to feed some of the kids and families around us who might want to hang out together in a *different* place. on a weekend morning. or who might be starving. whichever.

come partake. or support. we'll take care of you the same either way. you beautiful, multitudinous human.

...and then a bus came by.

and the folks from virtue cider got off. with two apple saplings!! in what's honest to god one of the best marketing events i've ever come across, virtue cider is planting apple trees around the city. this saturday. in honor of arbor day. and we're lucky enough to get two of them! and they're gonna be so damn adorable!

anyhow, we're tapping a keg of their rosé cider on saturday after free breakfast. and will have it on until it kicks. and we're stoked'r than ever about what's to come on our patio! thanks to sara and her team.

*DEEP BREAKFAST*   and then there's *DEEP BREAKFAST*. i know what you're thinking.... another breakfast?!?!?! but yes! breakfast is that meal! that meal that only important people eat. right?  so wrong! everyone loves breakfast. and so when my cool cuz michael hilger was fryin' up some eggs one morning. listening to ray lynch's  deep breakfast . he thought, "i should host a deep breakfast event". and so it was born. our chef mickey neely (who, of course, we met through cousin michael) jumped on board. and they threw their first event. and it worked! anyhow, late last year, it became a series. held the last sunday of the month at  sleeping village .   but this month they're traveling! they're on a field trip! to bungalow! we'll be hosting our very first *DEEP BREAKFAST* this sunday. and, just like always, it'll involve breakfast and ambient music. mickey will cook up a dutch baby pancake. jess is offering some killer raisin spice toast with a coconut jam. and michael will play ambient music with macie stewart from the band  ohmme . and we'll have our regular beers on tap. and our regular breakfast dranks. and it'll be a trip!   as cousin michael always says: bring your babies. your dogs (except don't bring them. just bring thoughts of them. cuz they can't come inside. and it'll be chilly sunday.). ... bring your humanity. relax. eat breakfast. talk a little bit. and listen a lot. (ok. he says most of that most of the time. i just talk two words for everyone else's one word usually.)  


and then there's *DEEP BREAKFAST*. i know what you're thinking.... another breakfast?!?!?! but yes! breakfast is that meal! that meal that only important people eat. right?

so wrong! everyone loves breakfast. and so when my cool cuz michael hilger was fryin' up some eggs one morning. listening to ray lynch's deep breakfast. he thought, "i should host a deep breakfast event". and so it was born. our chef mickey neely (who, of course, we met through cousin michael) jumped on board. and they threw their first event. and it worked! anyhow, late last year, it became a series. held the last sunday of the month at sleeping village

but this month they're traveling! they're on a field trip! to bungalow! we'll be hosting our very first *DEEP BREAKFAST* this sunday. and, just like always, it'll involve breakfast and ambient music. mickey will cook up a dutch baby pancake. jess is offering some killer raisin spice toast with a coconut jam. and michael will play ambient music with macie stewart from the band ohmme. and we'll have our regular beers on tap. and our regular breakfast dranks. and it'll be a trip! 

as cousin michael always says: bring your babies. your dogs (except don't bring them. just bring thoughts of them. cuz they can't come inside. and it'll be chilly sunday.). ... bring your humanity. relax. eat breakfast. talk a little bit. and listen a lot. (ok. he says most of that most of the time. i just talk two words for everyone else's one word usually.)

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middle brow citizen how.

jesus of nazareth? that world-historical figure? eat your heart out.


i have a bit of writers' block this morning. and i think i just discovered why: because i've set out to write about such a monumental, important topic. the most important of all, really. and my friday rants might hem or haw at the start to suggest i'm a little bit stuffed up in the fingers but no. ... not so. the truth is that each rant starts off as small. just a miser's point. insignificant. and then as i start typing i realize how much more there is. always more. so much more. and i just start banging the keys and it comes out in one fell swoop with virtually no time between thoughts and keystrokes. 

but this time i know what i want to write about. and it's a topic too big to capture in a single rant. or in forty consecutive rants: polly. 

have you met her? she's my wife. yeah. and my partner in the business. sure. but that's not really what she is. i couldn't go another modest letter without writing about her. about her vision. and about its impact on everything we do at middle brow. polly's got a beautiful, special way. and that way has defined her for, i do reckon, her whole damn life.

 ... we walk to work. we live just 2 blocks down. it's pretty critical to be so close when you've got a newborn business. you gotta be there all the time. making sure the dishes are run the way you know they need to be run. and beers are dumped or touched up when you know they need to be so. and pizzas are sent to the back when you know they need to be "sent to the back" (and the staff cheers! free pizza!). it's the little things that matter. remember that.

anyhow, we tend not to walk to work together. one of us gets up for the early shift and watches jess and @pilarvon and @michaelsbread on the camera or writes emails or modestly. and the other goes in. but this past sunday. that crazy april snow day. we slept in an extra hour, did some work at home, and then walked in together. and the whole way i just talked *at* polly. i was hyperfocused on fixing a problem that we have at the brewpub. and i was talking through unrealistic solution after unrealistic solution, as i tend to do. and polly was nodding along. occasionally humming in agreement. just to humor me. but really knowing the answer all along. and we had arrived at bungalow, and turned left around the corner of the building, and i said "oh! marjie shoveled the entrance! nice work!" to no one.

i had lost polly. 

i turned around, and she was still on the armitage sidewalk. assessing the snow coverage all the way to mozart street. and back over in front of the dodd camera storefront. and down the driveway. and we caught back up to each other. and before i could go on finishing whatever unrealistic, ludicrous thought i was having, she said: i'm gonna grab the shovel. and i finally saw it. 
this is a small story. yeah. sure. and of course it ends with me running to grab the shovel before she could. because i felt insecure about not noticing the other shoveling that needed to be done to make life easier for customers. but there's like two dozen of these stories every damn day. and here's the point: i thought my eyes were open. to a problem. and to all manner of solutions. but i couldn't see what was right in front of me. polly, though. she sees the whole thing. the big business problem; the most likely solution; and the small snow right in front of us. she sees the forest. and the trees. down to the last fucking pine needle. and the sandy soil through which the roots grow and grow. and every last bird who might take quick refuge on whatever branch. oh and she sees two forests over, too.

we've crossed paths with thousands of people since we opened. we've been busy, thank goddess. and every last one of them, down to one or two precocious 8 year olds, have remarked on how beautiful and lovely the space is. how warm. how comforting. last night, we got the compliment of a lifetime when rene (the owner of beauty bar in ukranian village) said it felt like an *alternative space*. with a DIY feeling. ... something accidental, not meant for any one particular purpose. but a whole host of purposes. ... he was speaking our language. i was blushing.

and we take pride in our beer. always have. (thanks bryan!!) and the word-of-mouth buzz for our bread and pizza has eclipsed anything i could have hoped for. (thanks jess and mickey!!) but i can't tell you how important the intangible *feelings* are to the survival of a business like ours. and when tangible products are in the mix, it's easy to forget that. the importance of the intangible feeling likely surpasses that of the tangible products one sells. natch: ideas are a dime a dozen. and holy shit do we have a pile of "ideas" in our battery; ideas are getting old and exhausting at this point. ... but execution is a dollar. no: it's a hundred million thousand dollars. ... i often refer to it as *delight*: we have to delight the customer at every turn. and not one of us who's in the building day-in and day-out knows how to do that like polly does. from the moment someone walks in with a blank stare on their face. until the moment they walk out. the stare converted to a serene smile. ... the way she affirms their entrance. "you're in the right place; come with me!" the way she spots the potential for a wobbly table and avoids it. the way she notices their toddler and tells them that we'll get a kids pizza started for them right away. the way she does the same with beers for the parents. how she knows next to grab the crayons, and in passing tells me that "table 203 needs to be adjusted". ... and all the while, the family's clueless as to how well she's taking care of them. she's predicting their pains before they know they have them. ... instead, they're enchanted by all the *other* things polly's touched in the space. the arrangement of the hutch near the door, with to-go beers and breads and blankets on it. the beautiful water carafe with the water glass resting on top. the plants placed just-so near the french doors. the green table. the yellow table. the white table. the throw pillows on the bench. the candle holders on the old piano. the artwork in the dining room. the bowl of pomelos in the center of the farm table. (what the fuck is a pomelo? doesn't matter. jess had some out and polly turned them into a centerpiece with an old wooden bowl she tracked down off some midwestern byway. and they transformed an entire room.) she takes customers out of their reality. gives them a brief break from it. makes it hard for them ever to leave. because she let's them be themselves in a new reality. an easier, pleasant'r reality. and all because she has a vision that's unmatched. often un-even-known. (it's like a grapefruit.)

"pete, could you comp this cookie? i can't find polly." ... "uhh. sure. but why aren't we charging for it?" ... "polly overheard that the woman just got her first job out of college and wanted to say congratulations with a cookie." 

"here's my new pizza! do you like it?! can we add it to the menu?!" ... "i love it!" . "holy f this tastes so good it's making my ears dumber. i seriously can't hear" . "yep! it's delicious. nice work!" ... (polly): "hmm. i love the chili oil so much. and the fat of the cheese *and* the egg. but i think the customer might appreciate a contrasting texture in this one? what do you guys think?"

and the examples abound. she's taught me so much. about being a good host. a good server. a good conversationalist. a good bartender and manager. a good judge of a new menu item. how to name a beer. how to label a beer. which customers deserve that special touch of attention. how to know when it's time to switch out a decorative branch or flower. or to balance a room by switching some chairs out with a bench. about being ourselves. about focusing on what's in front of me. about calling my mom. about organizing invoices. about growing sustainably. about the right kind and amount of generosity. about conserving water. but also drinking it. about washing and reusing ziplock baggies. (ok. that was maybe her anarchist brother. thanks willy!) how to sell more beer without overwhelming one's palate. everything i do is merely putting action to polly's principles. everything i know about beer and hospitality, she's taught me. all without knowing it. just by acting on her big-ass vision, over and over and over again. right in front of me. and, no matter how hard i try, i just can't keep up. nobody can. or, at least, nobody can who i've come across quite yet. (and i'm telling you! we have an absolutely extraordinary staff!) she's got more vision and empathy in her tiny earlobe than the next best *industry* folk has in their entire past, present and future combined. (that word. blech.)

most of these may seem like little things. to the untrained eye, at least. to the eye that doesn't yet see the new economy. that doesn't understand what a "product" and "business" really is. but fine: i can bludgeon you too. since the day she quit lula cafe. on oct 31 or thereabouts. she's been next to me for virtually every waking minute. working from sometime in the 6s until i literally push her out the door around 1030. that's nearly 6 months. 17 hours a day. with 4 days off. (christmas eve, christmas day, march 19th, and this past tuesday.) (oh. and she went wedding dress shopping with her best friend on some saturday. but that's it.) and she hasn't complained a single second, apart from a comment or two about being a little tired. and she shouldn't! we're lucky! we can't believe how lucky we've been to be given the chance to spend our lives this way. but sadly that kind of stat is about all our capitalist brains can understand when it comes to assessing worth. 

polly is, in a sense, the epitome of a female community-historical figure. (to downright hell with that classic bro, hegel. get over your immortality, man.) the male psycho-sociopath might get attention. for trying to change the world. but he's really failing. or doing more damage than anything. meanwhile the person pulling the strings. setting the stage. making possible what good change there is to make. executing. fucking seeing everything. that's the female. the true community-historical figure. changing everything about your life without you even knowing it. affecting hospitality trends in a whole city. changing the way neighbors treat neighbors. being *nice* because she is. but also because it's community-changing to be so. and, in that, it's world-changing to be so. see my recent rant about each of us as a single raindrop.

ok. i'll stop. no more glowing about my spouse. i hope you got the point: bungalow wouldn't exist without polly. we'd just be middle brow still. stumbling from one beer to the next. trying to "make our schedule more efficient". and to *change* the way you see the little things in your day-to-day (see next week's screed about the true evils of yelp.) while she'd be accepting you for who you are, and *making* your day-to-day doubly better. adding a yet-to-be-known poe-wet-tree to it. and you'd be all sing-song the rest of the day. whistling like a weirdo. not knowing why. ... or maybe we'd have this space. sure. but it wouldn't make any of you *feel* anything. we'd get the big things right. but the little things would be off. wouldn't translate. and it wouldn't set the positive stage for the delicious beer you were about to drink. or the delicious bread and pizza you were about to eat. ... polly turns people happy from the moment they walk in the door. and every experience they have thereafter is better for it.

... well shit. those last two sentences sum up my personal life since 2014 pretty well. i'm gonna go wake her up with a superman-jump on the bed now. and she's gonna ask me if i came in bed "to sleep for another one half hour. cuz that's what i'm doing".

but we hope to see you at bungalow later tonight. on this windy, creepy good friday. or, better yet, on beautiful easter sunday! 70 and sunny! and dry! and we're open! to serve you pizza and beer after your boring easter brunch! with wide-open french doors!