Sketchbook Brewing Company grows after five years of success


Zoe Malin/Daily Senior Staffer

Sketchbook Brewing Company’s Evanston location has undergone extensive renovations in the past few months. The updated space will open before Thanksgiving.

Zoe Malin, Reporter

When Sketchbook Brewing Co. first opened in Evanston in 2014, the company produced around 500 barrels of beer a year. Now, five years later, it makes over 3,000 barrels a year, and sells its product to major grocery stores like Jewel-Osco and Mariano’s.

Because of the increased demand, Sketchbook recently rented a 15,700 square-foot building in Skokie, at 4901 Main St., which will house another taproom and brewery. Cesar Marron, head brewer and managing partner, sees the expansion as a way to meet more customers’ needs.

“This is 100 percent what we need to make customers comfortable and allow them to continue enjoying our beer,” Marron said.

Shawn Decker, Sketchbook’s business director and managing partner, said the Evanston location has always been a small space. Because it’s located in a residential area, there were also limits on production capabilities. As Sketchbook grew, it began selling beer to big retailers, on top of stocking its taproom. The company then started contracting other breweries to make additional batches of beer offsite.

Decker said the process was “incredibly stressful.” The offsite breweries were far away from Evanston. He and Marron decided they needed to search for an additional location to call home.

“When we found this awesome location in Skokie, we knew it was the right time,” Marron said. “We feel like it’s also the right time for Skokie, and a perfect match.”

Skokie’s taproom will be “more of a traditional brewery production taproom” compared to Evanston’s, said Decker. He said the new space will be industrial and open, with outdoor seating. Decker said the large parking lot could accommodate food trucks, and there will be an event space for private parties and live music, too.

The Skokie brewery “represents a threefold increase in Sketchbook’s production capacity,” a September news release said. Decker said Sketchbook will brew bigger batches and mainline beers in Skokie and make smaller batches and specialty beers in Evanston.

Sketchbook also has another project on tap: renovating their Evanston taproom after it was so “packed” that customers couldn’t find seats. 

“To best serve Evanston, we wanted to focus on creating a really good space that customers would love hanging out in,” said Decker.

From there, Sketchbook started a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for music, food and beer education nights. The company aimed to raise $15,000. Decker said they reached this goal within days, and the amount then doubled. A total of $31,223 allowed the company to purchase new furniture for Evanston’s taproom and add an operable garage door to the building that opens up to Chicago Avenue.

Once renovations are complete — expected to be before Thanksgiving — the Evanston taproom will have about 100 seats for customers. Decker said this “quadruples” the current seating capacity. The taproom will resume hosting special events and live music, which were stopped due to a lack of space.  

Evanston’s renovation also includes creating a catering area. Local restaurants will be invited to showcase their offerings on the weekends and during themed events. Both the Skokie and Evanston locations will serve snacks and light food items, though the “bring your own food” policy will remain.

An important feature consistent in Sketchbook’s Evanston and Skokie taprooms will be a lack of televisions, Decker said. Decker and Marron believe it’s important for people to talk to one another and even play games, keeping with Marron’s value on being present at Sketchbook.

“Sketchbook is focused on the here and the now, both in the atmosphere at our locations and in how we serve the communities,” said Marron. “I’m looking forward to bringing this mindset to Skokie and reimagining it in Evanston.”

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