Kombucha, craft and creative expression: Boozy beer crawl benefits Evanston Made


Nixie Strazza/The Daily Northwestern

More than 30 Evanston businesses participated in the boozy Arts and Craft Beverage Crawl to benefit Evanston Made and support local artists’ work.

Nixie Strazza, Reporter

More than 30 businesses lined the Main-Dempster Mile to showcase pottery, paintings, sculptures and sketches at the boozy Arts and Craft Beverage Crawl on Thursday evening. 

The event celebrated Evanston’s recuperating commercial district following COVID-19-related business shutdowns. All ticket proceeds from the crawl benefited Evanston Made, a nonprofit arts organization focused on uplifting Evanston artists and fostering community connection through professional development programs, studio showings and public events. 

Painter Scott Greenberg said Evanston Made’s initiatives and collective resources make the city an ideal place to create. 

“Evanston is the best place to be an artist,” Greenberg said. “You go down the street and every other place is a gallery on Central (Street).”

Participating stores in the crawl are clustered in three separate locations along Dempster Street, Main Street and Chicago Avenue. The Main-Dempster Mile assigned each visitor a starting section to avoid large crowds congregating at any one location. Included in the $30 ticket were drinks and small bites like mini grilled cheeses and soft pretzels to be picked up while browsing in-store. 

The event’s art ranged from hand-painted silk scarves to prints done by artists at Visibility Arts — a program for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities founded by Search Inc. After checking in at their assigned starting point, ticket holders explored the artwork available for purchase at every location while sipping spiked samples.

As the hub for the night’s festivities, Sketchbook Brewing Company provided plenty of alcohol for thirsty crawlers. Its flagship beers — West Coast IPA Orange Door, named for the hard-to-miss hue of the location’s original entrance, and Amistosa, a Mexican-style lager — appeared at shops along the main stretch. The taproom also treated visitors to glasses of a German-style doppelbock aptly named The Illustrator. 

“You might find our beer elsewhere, but there are also ones in the taproom that don’t go out for distribution at all,” Manager Sile Malone said. “In order to have them, you have to come to us.” 

The crawl is a reflection of the brewery’s core philosophy: “Beer is art.” Founded by former audio, visual and multimedia artists, creative expression is embedded in Sketchbook Brewing. Partnering with artists is an extension of what makes the brewery unique, Malone said. 

The store featured Evanston native Ailisa Qualkinbush’s work. Using a technique similar to basket weaving, Qualkinbush created lattice-like canvases from fiber strips on which she painted vibrant portraits and abstract designs.

Like Greenberg, Qualkinbush said Evanston Made helped promote artists by bridging together business, community and creators.

“We get to use the spaces here and meet other local artists,” Qualkinbush said. “It’s a way for the community to celebrate art.”

Aside from spotlighting local creators, Malone said the event signaled a return to community gathering and group experiences heading into the summer. After two years of modified operations, the Arts and Craft Beverage Crawl is proof Evanston is open for business. 

For Sketchbook Brewing, Malone said this means developing seasonal favorites and finding more ways to bring people together. Between new beer drinkers and craft connoisseurs, she said there is something for everyone on the menu.

“We get excited about sharing beer with other people,” Malone said. “We’re a communal meeting place that also happens to make and serve beer.” 

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Twitter: @NixieStrazza

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