With the explosion of craft beer in the US, it's no surprise that brewing at home has become one of the fastest growing hobbies for beer nerds. The American Homebrewers Association estimates there are roughly 1.2 million homebrewers in the US and that number is growing everyday. Today at THR, we're excited to launch Homebrew Banter, a series that will glean how-to's, tips & tricks, brewing lingo and techniques from the same people that brew the beer you drink and love. Over the past year, we've had the opportunity to chat with some of Chicago's most talented brewers and we've amassed an arsenal of brewing information. Homebrew Banter will be a place to share those insights with you so that you can brew just like the big guys. We'll be pairing the brewer's years of expertise with our own visuals and guides to make us all better brewers. If you haven't brewed a batch before or if you're an experienced brewer kegging your all grain brews, there will be something for you to learn here.
For those of you who are just getting your feet wet brewing, below is a beginners guide to brewing in Chicago. We've outlined shops, classes, and homebrew clubs where you can learn the ins and outs of all things brewing.
We're fans of shopping locally and when it comes to homebrew supplies, we've found two places that will carry everything you need. Whether you are looking for a beginner recipe kit or getting ready to keg your beer, Brew Camp and Brew & Grow have you covered. Not only do they carry everything you'll need to brew, they're staffed with homebrew junkies who are well equipped to answer all your brewing questions.
Brew Camp - 4639 N Damen Ave, Chicago and 821 Chicago Ave, Evanston
Brew & Grow - 3625 N Kedzie Ave, Chicago and 19 S Morgan St, Chicago
Now that you have everything needed to brew, you might have a few questions on how you turn all that stuff into beer. Again, Brew Camp and Brew & Grow have your back. Each offer extract and all grain courses depending on your level of experience. At $20 for the extract class and $30 for the all grain class, this is a cheap way to familiarize yourself with the brewing process. Brew Camp is now also offering a Hands on with Kegs course which explains the finer points of kegging at home.
So you have a batch or two under your belt and you're making your own beer, but you want to see what other brewers think of it. Homebrew Clubs offer just that with the added bonus of getting to talk shop with nearby homebrewers as well. As homebrewing has increased in popularity, the number of clubs has grown right along with it. By no means is the below an exhaustive list of clubs (for that check out the AHA Homebrew Club Finder), it's merely a few that we have popped in to share a beer.
A paid membership based club that allows you to brew on premise with all equipmenet provided. They even have a walk in fermentor that allows for proper temperature control. With a regularly scheduled open house, you can check out their space and find out more about this great club.
Based out of Lincoln Square's historical DANK Haus, this club focuses on sharing beers and creating a community of homebrewers on the North Side. Regular meetings are held on the last Thursday of the month and all brewers are welcome.
Maybe the oldest club in Chicago, CBS has some serious roots in the homebrew scene. Their regular meeting, First Thursday, held at Goose Island Clybourn, has been a CBS tradition for what seems like forever. Almost every meeting features a guest speaker from the industry who shares their insights and thoughts on beer. That gets followed up with a homebrew share where you can get honest feedback on your latest creation.
One of the lesser known "clubs", a semi-regular meetup hosted by Ben and John Saller of Atlas Brewing offers the opportunity to have you beer reviewed by actual brewers. Hosted at their Lincoln Ave location, there is never a shortage of both homebrew and commercially produced beers. For the the latest meeting date, follow them on Facebook.
The Chicago homebrew scene is thriving and there's no shortage of ways to learn more about brewing and making your own craft beer. Keep your eyes on this section as we'll begin to gather insights and techniques from your favorite local brewers.