Making one's own beer at home requires a number of things: time, patience, a batch of decent hops. But all the fancy ingredients and good intentions in the world aren't going to transform a 500-square-feet Chicago apartment into an appropriate place in which to brew. Not if you want to live in it.
Two years ago, development entrepreneur and major DIY guy Conrad Fuhrman found himself in that predicament—granted, his apartment was 530 square feet—and began brewing beer with CHAOS Brew Club. Short for Chicago Homebrew Alchemists of Sud, CHAOS is a home-away-from-home for home brewers who don't have space to brew substantial amounts of beer, or don't have the funds to buy equipment. CHAOS members have access to mash tuns, power grain mills, floor burners, brewing kettles, and, perhaps most important, a temperature-controlled room for beer to be stored during fermentation.
"From what we can tell we're the only club in the nation that has brewing and storage on premises," Fuhrman explains.
Since its inception in 2011, CHAOS has moved three times; the recent move, in August, brought them to a facility off Hubbard Street with a fermentation room that Fuhrman—now a member of the club's board of directors—says can hold three times more beer than the previous location. And he's taking advantage: when we spoke he was working on a Kölsch, an imperial IPA spiked with green tea, a bourbon porter he plans on barrel aging, and a cherry-chocolate stout. And then there are beers that are collaborations among the club's members. Fuhrman says the opportunity to learn from other brewers is part of what makes CHAOS great.
"We might not have the most polished walls in the world, but we brew good beer."