There are still seats available for this Saturday’s Craft Brewery Tour 7/1! The tour costs $65.00 per person. This includes transportation from / to the Crystal Lake Metra station, a flight / pint at each brewery, and a $7 credit at the gastropub. Go to to sign up OR tweet me @bestraveler, message me on Facebook or Instagram at bestravelerca. There are some excellent craft breweries in McHenry County lined up for this Saturday.

I have other tours lined up for 7/8, 7/22, and 7/29. Please message me or email to purchase tickets or for additional information.  Cheers!

Posted by: bestraveler | May 7, 2017

AC Hotel Chicago

I stayed at the AC Hotel Chicago at 630 North Rush Street in Chicago. The hotel is situated at the northwest corner of Rush and Ontario. There is a small driveway that you may pull up in your car. The driveway only has space for two or three cars maximum, so only park there if it is for a couple of minutes. Check with the staff and they will provide you with further instructions. 

AC Hotels are part of Marriott. I have stayed at numerous Marriott family properties over the years, but never at an AC Hotel. First time for everything, right? I used the Marriott app to search for hotels in downtown Chicago and the location of the AC Hotel is excellent. I checked in using the Marriott app and it was easy and simple to use! **Bestraveler Tip** Using the Marriott app to check in will speed up the process at the front desk. The total time I was with the front desk agent was at most two minutes tops.

The AC Hotel is located right in the heart of the action in Chicago. From the hotel you may walk to Eataly in three or four minutes. Su Casa is across the street. For Chicago’s famous deep dish pizza, Pizzeria Uno and Due are a couple of minutes away by foot. Head North on Rush Street for about five minutes and you will enter the Rush Street entertainment district. Planning on shopping on the famous Michigan Avenue? One block away. Plenty of choices to eat, drink, shop, and play closeby!

The King room was excellent. The bed was soft yet firm. Slept like a baby! The pillows were wonderful too. This is a hotel room where the details count. Look beside the bed on each side: there is a personal reading light (silver).  I tried it briefly and it worked. This lamp is perfect for any late night reading when you don’t want to disturb others in bed. Thoughtful touch. I loved the minimalist design asthetic – simplified luxury.

This leather couch / loveseat was fantastic as well. The table was on rollers so you could move it around easily without breaking your back or injuring your toes. Notice the flooring: all hardwood. No carpeting. This was a welcome change from all the carpeted hotel rooms I have stayed in over the years. The flooring was not cold at all even though it was chilly outside during the stay. This was a welcome update for this modern and upscale hotel.

The chic design of the hotel room was evident everywhere you turned! Here is space to hang up your clothes, some drawers to store clothing or other items, a mini safe for your valuables, and so much more. Again, this room design covers many details that will make your stay pleasant and relaxing. They even had a pair of slippers!

Not in the photo was the see through glass door refrigerator (smart!), European coffee maker with coffee pods from Italy, and a stainless steel ice bucket. One of the first things I do when I check into my room is go get ice for my water and drinks. The ice bucket was a little more compact than most others I have used but it did the job well. Efficient design! 

Here is part of the bathroom.  The sink, the toiletries, and the design are all luxurious and modern yet simple to use. Again, notice the hardwood flooring here as well. No complaints from me. Different…but it fits the character of the hotel. Nothing is missing from a typical hotel bathroom – only the presentation is different.  You will love it!

Let me just touch on the shower. There is no tub but let’s be honest: when is the last time you ever took a bath in a hotel room? I have only taken a bath once. That is probably one more time than most of you! So, out with the tub and in with a modern waterfall type shower head. You also get the European (portable) shower head that you can hold in your hand. The most important point I would like to make is that figuring out how to use all the features of the shower were easy. Hot versus cold, waterfall versus handheld were all in use in a couple of seconds. You won’t need an engineering degree to take a rejuvenating shower. Hop in and enjoy!

This property has their fitness rooms and pool on the same floor. I say fitness rooms because it really feels like two separate rooms. The fitness center has two rooms but they are connected. The first room you enter has the towels, earbuds, TV with free weights, a weight machine,  and elliptical machines lined up.  The second room has three treadmills and two stairstepper machines. These machines overlook an outside garden / walkway and behind them is the pool. This property does not have a hot tub, but the pool water was temperate. There is a glass wall that separates the treadmills from the pool. I had fun in the pool and had an excellent workout in the morning! 

Go to the AC Lounge on the fifth floor of the hotel! You may sit at the bar or choose a table by the windows and use this device to summon your server. It worked! Pressing that Server button and having a woman or man within a minute be standing next to you taking your order was refreshing. Good service is not dead just yet! Yes, when you are done press the Check button and your server will immediately bring you your bill. The system works and the staff were very attentive.

All cute buttons aside, get over to the AC Lounge for their excellent selection of craft beers, cocktails, and wines. All the wines were from Spain except for one California option. Being a craft beer lover, I was not disappointed. They had several from Revolution Brewing of Chicago so that was the number choice for me. On the left is Anti-Hero and on the right is Eugene Porter. Anti-Hero is a wonderful IPA and Eugene Porter is a rich chocolately malt porter. Two very different types of beers but both extremely satisfying to drink! The views from the AC Lounge are fantastic – the Chicago skyline looked wonderful even at night. Grab some seats by a window, press the red button, sit back, and relax with a nice drink before (or after) you hit the town!

The AC Hotel Chicago is the perfect oasis in downtown Chicago. You are surrounded by food and entertainment choices but you can always retreat back into the AC for a bite, a drink, or a little down time. Recharge yourself and get back out there! The AC Hotel Chicago is your homebase for your Chicago urban adventure.

Posted by: bestraveler | April 24, 2017

Two Brothers Nail Pull & Brewery Open House

Saturdays are usually very busy at Two Brothers Brewing in Warrenville, Illinois. Their taproom is busy pouring their craft  and customers ordering fresh American fare to go along with their beer. They also have brewery tours at 1, 2, and 3 PM…but not this past Saturday! No public tours were available due to this special event.

Barrels of beer have a nail in them to be used as a sampling port. A brewmaster will want to sample this batch of beer for quality control, sample the batch, or just to have a taste.

When breweries “pull nails” from their barrels, this usually means two things: #1 it means the brewery is offering up new flavors that have never been released before or #2 it means the brewery is combining their flavors to make new ones and are allowing patrons to sample them.

This is the largest craft brewery I have visited. This is just part of the barrels that Two Brothers have for all of their beers! Most of them are from France but I did see some from Kentucky as well. All these barrels tell me that Two Brothers is testing different flavors and willing to experiment with their beers.

Look at that row of tankers! This is not all of them but a good representation of their capacity. Walking down this row made me think of all the wonderful craft beer that will be available soon! Two Brothers has been in business for twenty years now and always been an independent craft brewer. This is what twenty years of brewing looks like!

This is how it worked: there were three stations located around the brewery. I started at Station#2 because…well, just because! The craft beers names and descriptions were flavors that I would enjoy so I started here. I started at the bottom with Beatbox Polka and drank all four. All were excellent and never before released. My favorite was Allez Allez Allez due to hints of coffee and blackberry.  I could really taste the black cherry flavor – which I love! Not a bad beer on this list in my opinion. To agree with me you have to be a lover of stouts and dark beer. The exception was Phenomenomnom. A golden colored sour, it went down lighter than the stouts with fruity hints. I declared to the staff manning Station#2 that Allez Allez Allez was the best. They agreed with me!

After sampling all those top notch craft beers, you get a little hungry! They had the buffet set up in the brewery! They rotated different foods on the table as needed. The food was OK. For the most part, this was typical pub fare: wings, sliders, pizza, salad, and potato chips. After completing Station #2, I headed to the buffet to fuel up. You have to pace yourself!

Here I am standing in front of just one of several large white oak barrels imported from France. Again, the size of these barrels contain a lot of craft beer! These larger barrels are where Two Brothers age their sour beers for up to three years. Get ready for excellent beer in 2020!

Here I am hanging out with some of the Station #2 crew. Drinking beer and laughing – good times!

Just more equipment on display for this open house. This was the first ever nail pull / brewery open house at Two Brothers. I spoke to the staff and they said it was such a hit that this will become a reoccurring event. I had a lot of fun, talked to Two Brothers staff, met some other craft beer lovers, and learned a lot about Two Brothers Brewing operations.

I am working on incorporating Two Brothers Brewery into one of my brewery tours! Check back here or sign up to be on the Mailing List at Bestraveler! Cheers / Salud / Na Zdrowie!

Posted by: bestraveler | April 14, 2017

Public Craft Brewing Company

My third and final stop in Kenosha was at Public Craft Brewing Company. This small craft brewery is also located in downtown Kenosha.  This place looks like a conventional restaurant or pub but it is far from that!  This is a very relaxed place to hang out, have some excellent craft beer and meet the locals.


Here is the menu at Public Craft.  Lots of excellent choices and a wide variety of flavors. I love their interior – the exposed brick walls gives it an old fashioned bar feel.  It was pretty busy when I got there and more people were arriving after me.  It was pretty crowded when I left!


So I asked the bartender if I may order a flight.  Usually most craft breweries will let you sample their wares with a flight of 3 / 4 / 5 craft beer choices.  NOT HERE! She told me if I am ordering a flight then I get all of their beers on tap.  Never one to shy away from a challenge (plus I get to try ALL of their beers), I said “let’s do it!”  I could give you a review of these craft beers but my memory is a little cloudy after a few of them.  You see I ordered some pretzels to wash down the beers and to be able to stay upright on my barstool.  Actually, I ordered two jars of pretzels!


Something I found unique to Public Craft was their “coaster policy.”  When you go to any craft brewery, you will find coasters with their logo on them.  Nothing wrong with that.  At Public Craft, you are the coaster designer!  There are markers and Sharpies in cups at the bar and on the tables.  When I walked in to Public Craft, I didn’t understand why so many people were holding markers.  Once I sat down, ordered my flight, and looked around, I saw many people coloring coasters any very focused.  I think it is a very cool idea and it gives patrons something else to do if they are waiting for friends, bored, or just having a beer by themselves.  Officially, you are NOT supposed to take any coasters, but I decided to “borrow” some.  Here are three examples.  People really put a lot of thought, time, and artistry into these works of art!

Public Craft Brewing Company will be a stop on a future Brewery Tour!

Posted by: bestraveler | April 11, 2017

Rustic Road Brewery

My second stop in Kenosha was Rustic Road Brewing Company. This micro brewery is in downtown Kenosha. It looks like a traditional bar but they brew their own craft beer on site.

This is a small place. I mentioned that R’Noggin Brewing was small but this is even smaller than that. It looks and feels like a traditional neighborhood bar – which is great! The bar setup looks nice and the menu is easy to read.

So many excellent choices here on the menu! If you are unsure which craft beers to choose from, just ask your bartender. She was very helpful in answering my questions and helped out others while I was there. Be adventurous!

With so many top notch choices, I got a flight of four: Spring’s Back, Hazelnut Harvest, Amarillo with Citra IPA, and Imperial Cinnamon Brown. They were all easy to drink but my favorite was Hazelnut Harvest. I had a hazelnut craft beer at Small Town Brewery last week (which I loved) but this Hazelnut Harvest had even more of a hazelnut flavor. A very sweet yet nutty craft beer. Easy to drink again and again!

If you were wondering where they brew their beer, look no further! This was almost right behind where I was sitting. Nothing to hide here – just small barrels filled with their latest batches of craft beers. To the right is where the live music was setting up when I was there. No space goes unused at this establishment! 

Another chalkboard behind me filled with their upcoming events, craft beers coming soon, and some of their food items if you get hungry. Yes, this is Kenosha’s oldest operating brewery. I don’t judge craft breweries by their age. How good is  their beer selection and how friendly is their staff? This is more important than how long have they been in operation.

Rustic Road Brewing Company will be a stop on a future Brewery Tour!

Posted by: bestraveler | April 11, 2017

R’Noggin Brewery

My first stop in Kenosha was R’Noggin Brewing Company.  Their tap room is small but since the weather was warm the day I went, they had the doors open. The seating is picnic tables inside and outside the building. I sat inside because all the seats outside were full!

This is the inside of the brewery.  Even though it is a small space,  they have this painted on their wall. The decor is fun, the music was good, and the patrons were friendly. I struck up a conversation with a couple sitting at my table. They were from Kenosha and we talked craft beer, food, and upcoming local events. This place has a great vibe!

I enjoy grabbing a flight at a craft brewery if I have never been there before so I am able to sample a wide variety of their flavors. I enjoy stouts and porters but I have an open mind towards other craft beers. You never know when you will find your favorite pour! I had a stout in the flight but the best one was the Chasing Tires English Porter.

R’Noggin Brewing Company is a small craft brewery with excellent choices on their menu. They do rotate their selections frequently so there is always something new to try!

This brewery is a stop on a future Brewery Tour!

Posted by: bestraveler | April 9, 2017

Scorched Earth Brewery

I went on the brewery tour at Scorched Earth Brewery in Algonquin,  Illinois this past Saturday April 1st. No joke!

Mark was our tour guide and was informative and patient. We had a large group and asked him a lot of questions but he handled them all! I even asked a question about lagers and why they are so popular with national beers in Central America. I was thinking of Imperial from Costa Rica and Atlas from Panama.  Mark answered my question stating that the quality and type of water in locations around the world may affect what types of beers a brewery will be able to produce.

As we moved deeper into the brewery,  Mark turned our attention to the various barrels that they are using for crafting unique flavors. I examined most of them and most were from France but there were a few from Koval Distillery in Chicago. For such a small craft Brewer they had a lot of barrels!  Mark even showed us a barrel that he added blueberries into it. New flavor coming soon!

After the brewery tour, the staff had a flight ready for us to take to the tables and sample some of their menu items. They change the menu frequently but there was a stout, a lager, a hoppy ale, and other excellent craft beers for us to drink. I enjoyed them all while discussing the flavors and aromas with other group members!

I made some new friends last week! By chance I took an empty seat at the table they were sitting at and we started to talk about the variety of craft beers here and around Chicagoland. Some were from Mexico, one was from Argentina, and another from Spain. Talking beer, food, and other topics with Fernando, Frederico, and the others was so much fun on a sunny Saturday afternoon. We even went outside to the patio and kept talking and drinking Scorched Earth’s excellent craft beers. Salud (Cheers)!

Scorched Earth Brewery will be on one of my Brewery Tours!  Join me (coming soon) on a craft beer tour to this location!

Posted by: bestraveler | April 5, 2017

The Onion Pub & Brewery

The second stop last Friday night was at the Onion Pub & Brewery in Lake Barrington, Illinois.

The brewery is on site where the pub is located. I did not see any information about brewery tours so I have reached out to them about setting them up.

We picked up two craft beers brewed on site. They were smooth and wonderful. The pub rotates new beers every week so there is no guarantee that these flavors will be on the menu when we go there. I like this because variety forces you to try something new if you frequent this establishment or take you out of your craft beer comfort zone. Love IPAs? Great! Now try a stout. Love stouts? Excellent… Now try a lager. Craft beer choices are what we love about craft breweries!


There should be a photo of their excellent nachos appetizer with chicken but we were so hungry that it didn’t last very long! You have to believe me that this was the best chicken nachos I have ever eaten. Pork nachos? That is a different story for another time!

I only ordered this bowl of chili because the nachos appetizer was THAT BIG. This size of chili was not small either. The side of cornbread and tortilla were nice sides to compliment the rich chili. Overall,  this chili bowl was the right call after a large serving of the chicken nachos. Good call and excellent pub fare.

The Lemon Pepper Chicken Sandwich was a large pub-sized portion as well. Swiss cheese, avocado, and homemade roasted red pepper aioli on a tasty brioche bun. Between the large side of homecut fries, most of this sandwich was taken home. My advice to any diners here would be not to over order even if you are hungry. The portions are large even for pub fare and the prices are competitive.

I wanted to show everyone what this pub looks like from inside. It was warm and inviting. This place reminded me of a Swiss ski lodge. It was chilly on Friday night so the fireplace was a welcome site!

The Onion Pub & Brewery would be a great stop on one of my Brewery Tours! Join me on a craft beer tour to this location!

Posted by: bestraveler | April 4, 2017

Small Town Brewery

This is not a generic article title but the actual name of a famous craft Brewery. How famous? I bet you have had one of their beers!

Small Town Brewery is in a non-descript office Park. I drove by it and so will you. That’s OK. It is worth the detour.

This craft Brewery will be a must stop on one of my tours! Why? Read on…

We went on a Friday evening and the tap room was empty except for people at the bar. We grabbed a table and an employee came over and gave us menus and was very helpful. The menu had some unique craft beer flavors that I have never seen at any brewery before.

Their most popular and famous craft beer distributed around the USA is #1 Not Your Father’s Root Beer. I first tried this alcoholic root beer in Galena, Illinois. Not Your Father’s Root Beer (#1 on the menu) was the first alcoholic root beer on the market. It invented the “hard soda” category which has been very popular over the past five years. You may now buy Not Your Father’s Root Beer in London according to the menu!

Getting a flight here is not a typical sized flight – look at the size of the glasses!

#1 is Not Your Father’s Root Beer. Always smooth and sweet. I say it is better during the summer! #2 is Not Your Father’s Ginger Ale. It is the same concept as their root beer – but ginger ale. #7 is their Hazelnut. Usually these nutty flavored beers disappoint me with their weak aromas / flavors. Not this one! There was an abundance of hazelnut and it almost felt like I was drinking Nutella. Awesome beer! #15 Is Not My Wife’s Chocolate Spice Kombucha. I was expecting more chocolate than Kombucha or spices but I got the spices. It was still a well crafted beer but the least favorite of the four.

The other flight, as you can probably tell, is a departure from most other craft beers or beer in general. This flight surprised and amazed me! #10 is called Rosalia and has a heavy hibiscus flavor. If you have ever had Jamaica juice at a Mexican restaurant, then this craft beer will be familiar to you. #5 is the Strawberry Rhubarb and it doesn’t disappoint!  It should really be called Rhubarb Strawberry because I tasted much more rhubarb than strawberry. I loved it and it was easy to drink. It looks innocent but be careful! #14 was the Blueberry Kombucha and you can taste the blueberries but the spices overwhelm the fruitiness. For #11 you want to be sitting down when you drink it. The name is Hazmat – Flammable Liquid and it is! Lots of jalapeño in this craft beer…maybe too much. Too much for my taste! I love jalapeños on my nachos, in chili, in my soup…but in my beer? I am not sold on it yet.

Small Town Brewery is an excellent example of a craft brewery that has unique flavors on their menu. Join me on a craft beer tour to this location! 

Posted by: bestraveler | October 20, 2015

St. Augustine, Florida

I heard that King Felipe VI of Spain and his wife Leitizia were in St. Augustine this past August. Ha! I was there in July Mr. King and Mrs. Queen of Spain…I beat you!  So king me!

I am originally from Florida (see my previous blog posts) but I have never visited Jacksonville or St. Augustine.  Ok, ok, I once was flying United (The Friendly Skies!) from Miami to Chicago and I had to connect in Jacksonville International Airport (JAX).  Compared to Miami or O’Hare, it wasn’t anything memorable.  I really didn’t explore Jacksonville and I wanted to focus on St. Augustine.  If it is good enough for me, the King of Spain, and his wife, you should visit it too!

castillo de san marcos

Castillo de San Marcos St. Augustine FL

King Felipe VI and his wife visited the Castill de San Marcos.  This is now a US National Park.  It is along the main drag in Old Town St. Augustine, so parking might be a challenge.  You need to be prepared to walk around Old Town and the Castillo.  The entrance fee is US$10 per adult but check their website for any changes.

castillo de san marcos view

Looking out from the Castillo de San Marcos St. Augustine FL

This is the view looking out from the Castillo (ok, let’s just call it a fort from now on).  Imagine you were a soldier on a Spanish galleon heading to the “New World.”  This fort location is pretty much where the Spanish landed and decided to protect their newly claimed land by buiding a fort. The fort was built in the late 17th century and still looks good.  **Bestraveler Tip: It may be hot, but there are shades areas within the fort where you can get out of the sun.**

aviles street sign

Aviles Street in Old Town St. Augustine FL

The Old Town section of St. Augustine has a European / Spanish flavor to it.  Many of the streets are one way because they are so narrow and only one car may drive on it.  You want to expore this section – it is packed with great restaurants, stores, coffee shops (Kookaburra), and museums.  This is an area you want to get lost in! The main street is Aviles Street, named after Pedro Menendez de Aviles, the founder of St. Augustine.

fountain staug

Fountain in front of City Hall St. Augustine FL

The building behind this fountain is City Hall.  It is the most beautiful City Hall I have ever seen.  When may I move in and live there?!?  There are so many buildings (old and new) in the form of Spanish Colonial architecture.  I wanted to sit in front of this fountain all day!

fountain of youth staug

Fountain Of Youth Park Sign St. Augustine FL

Yes, there actually is a Fountain of Youth!  In this park!  Yes, you may drink from it – I did!  I won’t tell you how it tastes…that is for you to find out! The Fountain of Youth Park is not close to the fort or Old Town.  You may bike it but it would be best by car / taxi.  The Fountain of Youth Park is in the Northern part of St. Augustine.

peacock staug

Peacock Roaming the Grounds

The park is so large that is has on its property over forty (40) peacocks and peahens roaming about freely.  I saw over forty because there were little babies following the peahens and I lost track of the count after forty.  You may spend all day or most of the day at this park.


Timeline Sign in the Museum

There is a wonderful History of St. Augustine museum about 2-3 blocks away from the Fountain of Youth Park.  I walked it and it was a nice, brisk walk even in the hot Florida summer sun.  Get a little exercise and walk or bike to it.


Gator Bob’s – Go to the Museum!

To get to the History Museum, you have to enter through “Gator Bob’s Trading Post” aka gift shop.  It’s cheesy, but they sell bottles of water cheap and they even have a little sandwich shop tucked in the corner.  I didn’t try it but if you need a small bite and want to escape the Florida sun for a few minutes, grab something to eat / drink or just check out their souvenirs.  Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you!


Plates that are hundreds of years old!

There were plates from Spain and England dating back hundreds of years.  This museum is fascinating for anybody who loves history and artifacts.  There are even coins recovered from shipwrecks!  Captain Jack Sparrow would be at home in this place!


Chef Vinny & Family at Uptown Scratch Kitchen!

In between Old Town and the Fountain of Youth Park, there are several hotels, little local shops, and restaurants.  I stopped at this food truck, “Uptown Scratch Kitchen.”  Ii have eaten from many food trucks in Chicagoland and this one was fantastic!  That is Chef Vinny D’Amato & Family in front of their food truck.  Their food is very fresh and reasonably priced.  They have a Facebook page, Instagram page, and they are on Pinterest.  If you are hungry, stop on by!


Old St. John’s County Jail

Right next to the History Museum is the Old St. John’s County Jail.  The jail was built in 1891.  I am always fascinated by old buildings because I try to imagine the living conditions way back when.  This is even more interesting in Florida since there was no air conditioning and very few roads – the modern creature comforts we all love.  What was serving a sentence like in this old jail?  Don’t worry – the guided tour takes you inside the jail and it wasn’t fun or easy.  It was jail!

St. Augustine, Florida is a must see when you are planning a trip to The Sunshine State.  If you are going to Miami / South Florida, then this is too far away.  If you are staying in Orlando, you may drive to these sites.  Orlando to St. Augustine is about a three (3) hour drive.  You could leave in the morning and be back late at night.  **Bestraveler Tip: I would spend at least one night in St. Augustine or Jacksonville to see all the sites.  If Jacksonville is your base, then stay a minimum of two nights to take in all the places.**

St. Augustine, Florida is 450 years old.  It is the oldest city founded by Europeans in the “New World.”  Discover it yourself!

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