Sketchbook Brewing expands with new Tap Room


Keshia Johnson/The Daily Northwestern

The Tap Room, an extension of Sketchbook Brewing Co., opened Friday at 821 Chicago Ave. The new space currently offers 11 different beers on tap and free Wi-Fi.

Nora Shelly, Assistant City Editor

Cesar Marron and Shawn Decker were tired of working out of an alley.

That’s why the two managing partners of Sketchbook Brewing Co., 821 Chicago Ave., decided to open up the Tap Room, an add-on to their existing brewery at the same south Evanston location. Since the new space opened last Friday, their business now has a street-level entrance on Chicago Avenue, so customers won’t have to navigate through an alley to find the brewery’s entrance.

Marron said they had always wanted to expand their business but didn’t have the space to do it. He said the Tap Room was created as a space for community gathering.

“We’re hoping it becomes a neighborhood meeting spot for people who are interested in hanging out and meeting friends and discussing things,” Decker said. “We’re trying to have a place where conversation is foremost.”

The Tap Room currently has 11 different beers on tap, as well as free Wi-Fi, and features rotating work from local artists on its walls. Customers can bring their own food to the Tap Room or buy sandwiches and brownies made at Hewn Bakery, 810 Dempster St. The space will be open from Tuesday through Sunday.

Sketchbook first opened in 2014, with a focus on promoting sustainability and establishing a relaxed community space in the south Evanston neighborhood. The business follows a community-supported brewery model, meaning patrons can buy six-month or year-long memberships to get pints or growlers of beer at a discounted price, Marron said.

“We had constant positive feedback from our neighbors,” said Marron. “We had (an expansion) in mind from the beginning.”

Marron said the Tap Room was created with the neighborhood in mind, aiming to make itself a trademark of the area — similar to establishments such as the Piccolo Theatre, 600 Main St. and Dollop Coffee and Hoosier Mama Pie Co., 749 Chicago Ave.

Their business would not be successful without those other businesses in the area, Marron said.

“South Evanston … is becoming more and more invigorating right now,” he said. “To be a hotspot you have to have other things to complement it.”

Julie Matthei, co-owner of Hewn, said in her experience as a business owner in the city, Evanston businesses are traditionally supportive of one another.

For example, Hewn uses Sketchbook’s beer and spent grains from the brewing process in some of their breads.

“We have a lot of ties to food and beverage establishments right here in Evanston,” Matthei said. “It only helps business when you work together and collaborate on things. We share a lot of customers, and people who love our bread also love Sketchbook’s beer.”

Decker said the emphasis on sustainability is key to their business plan. The Tap Room includes a bar and table tops made from a decommissioned bowling alley, vintage bar stools and elements from a 19th-century home. Apart from the Tap Room, Decker said sustainability has informed a lot of their business decisions.

“For me it was a big factor in deciding to put all the energy into setting up this brewery — the issue of sustainability and localness,” he said. “This business model of going into business primarily as a local brewery, not as somebody that’s regional but rather somebody that is embedded in that neighborhood.”

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Twitter: @noracshelly