I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there appears to be a bit of war against homebrewing in Illinois. It all started when the Illinois Liquor Control Commission (ILCC) told the Peoria Jaycees that homebrewed beer would not be allowed to be served at their beer festival, even though homebrew was a part of that fest for the last 19 years. More recent happenings involved Chicago homebrew general store Brew Camp being shut down a couple weeks ago because they did not have a food service license (really???) and a few days ago, homebrew shop Brew and Grow had all of their homebrewed beer confiscated. It is becoming more and more challenging to be a homebrewer lately, and homebrew clubs have not been immune to these challenges. CHAOS (Chicago Homebrew Alchemists of Sud) Brew Club encountered a bit of a set-back after their Cinco de Cerveza event in May when David Williams, co-founder of CHAOS, received a cease and desist order from the city, which encouraged Williams and the other members to seek out a way to reorganize so that such events could happen in the future, worry free.
“Certainly Cinco de Cerveza forced our hand and made us come to this new structure sooner,” said Williams. “But the main driver of the new structure was the growth of our club and making sure that we grew in the future, legally.” The city told Williams that CHAOS could continue to host events but they could not be open to the public, which motivated them to form a legitimate, 5013c non-profit that will provide craft beer and homebrewing education and appreciation. They can now legally host events but must maintain an active roster of members, and only those members will be permitted entry.
So, how does one become a member? There are a number of different membership options to meet the needs of individuals that are homebrewers and those that just want to attend the events. “If you would like to be a member, want to try things out, we have a trial membership that we offer year round. If you wanted to go to an event or check out the brew house, see what CHAOS is all about, the trial membership is a great way to do it,” said Williams. James Lewis, the Vice President under the new organizational structure, continued to promote the trial membership by stating that it “will allow you to brew in the brew house like an Apprentice Brewer level member can, so you can reserve a time to brew as long as someone else is there to walk you through the whole thing. Then there’s the Friend of CHAOS level member, and this level is for those individuals that don’t need to brew here.”
What makes CHAOS Brew Club unique is the brew house. “We have a brew house which is great because many of us in Chicago have a difficult time brewing at home because our apartments are small, it’s not a feasible thing,” said Lewis. Brewer-level members have 24/7 access to all of the equipment needed to brew beer; all you need to bring is a fermentor and the ingredients! “But some of our members don’t need [the brew house] so if you just want to go to classes and events, you want to be a part of CHAOS but don’t need access to the brew house, then Friends of CHAOS is the level of membership for you,” said Lewis.
CHAOS events have increased in popularity over the year and it was quite a blow when news that events were shut down indefinitely. But CHAOS is back and better than ever, thanks to the hard-working members that have reorganized the structure of the club, and they will host a Harvest Festival on October 20th. “We are doing it a little bit different this year because we need to make it a private event so we will have an active roster. In order to get in you need to be on that active roster. And there are a couple ways to do that. We just launched new membership tiers so there are a couple ways to get in. If you are already a member, you have nothing to worry about, you just come on in,” said Williams. “But it is our second annual event of this theme where we are having ciders and seasonal ales.” There is also going to be plenty of edibles to help soak up those seasonal libations. “We’re going to have a lot of different foods like apple-cider pulled pork, brats and kraut, and applewood bacon smoked hot dogs,” said Lewis. And, rumor has it, that I will be making some pumpkin beer bread!
The CHAOS Brew Club Harvest Festival will be held this Saturday, October 20th from 3pm to 8pm. Membership is required for entry so be sure to visit their website and choose the membership level that best suites your needs. “This is CHAOS’s reemergence,” said Williams. “We had to take a bit of a hiatus because we had to figure out legally where we stood with the city, changing our membership structure, reorganizing as a not-for-profit. We’ve kind of been laying low while we figured all of those out. But now that we have all of that behind us, we’re ready to get back out there and offer as much as we can to the city of Chicago. Our events are a great way for us to bolster this community that we’re trying to build.” I’ll see you there! Welcome back, CHAOS!