Local business is home brewed

Brock A. Stein | 7/17/2013, 8 p.m.
When the slowdown in the housing market forced Brandon Wright to reconsider his career options, it wasn't too long before ...
Chicago Brew Werks owner Brandon Wright

Plainfield, IL - When the slowdown in the housing market forced Brandon Wright to reconsider his career options, it wasn't too long before he decided to do what he was passionate about.

"During the recession it was a tough time," he said of the circumstances that caused him and his wife to strike out as entrepreneurs.

They both decided that they would rather be their own bosses and each started a business that focused on their passions. For his wife, it was photography. She opened Acorn Portraits in Plainfield's downtown.

For Wright it was beer.

"We dove in head first opening a shop," he said.

Wright had been brewing his own beer at home for about a decade first starting in college. When he decided to try his hand at starting his own store, he said he wanted to cater to the needs of the home craft beer brewer. He wanted to do something that would be a one-stop shop for home brewer supplies.

His store, Chicago Brew Werks, 14903 S. Center Street, provides everything from the grains, to the hops, to the bottles, and anything else a home brewer from novice to seasoned expert would need to start bottling their own personal label.

"We have a little bit of everything," he said.


Kurt Triebe with daughter Claire shop for ingredients at Chicago Brew Werks

Wright's store started out in a location along Route 59 in the north end of Plainfield, but after 5 months quickly outgrew the site. He liked the new location's recent renovation and proximity to the downtown. He figures that the move has tripled the store's floor space.

The space also offers some synergy with the nearby Tail Winds distillery next door. He said that the two businesses and customers mesh well.

So far, Wright has four employees with hopes for more as his business grows. Being just a little off the beaten path hasn't affected sales he said because of the nature of the business which he described as a niche, though a growing one. Customers he said have sought him out, coming from as far away as Wisconsin and Indiana to check out his wares and meet with other home brewers.

"We're really a destination location," he said.

Those customers who stop by the Brew Werks will be greeted by the largest selection of products catering to the craft brewer including over 200 types of malts he said.

"We wanted to bring a bigger selection, just a full gamut of items to this area," said Wright.

Wright and a large number of craft brewers are part of a growing trend moving away from the beers of mass market brewers like Budweiser and Miller. The movement ties in to the notion of supporting local entrepreneurs and sourcing products that are made with local ingredients with a big benefit.

"At the end of the day the beer is just fresher and better," he said of the finished product.

Chicago Brew Werks has its own bar for patrons who want to sample some craft beers on tap, and later this year, Wright said he hopes to start brewing batches at the store.

"People can come in and try some craft beer and then walk around the shop and learn about brewing," said Wright.

Governor Pat Quinn recently signed HB 630, which now makes it legal for craft brewers to take home brew out of their homes so they can now bring their brews to club meetings, and to share at shows.

Kurt Triebe, stopped by one afternoon to Wright's store with his daughter Claire to pick up some supplies for a batch of red ale he was planning to brew.

"We can't drink it for a long time but she'll know how to make it," he said holding his 8-month old while he perused an aisle filled with different grain selections. Triebe said a friend who brewed his own beer got him in to the hobby about 4 years ago.

"It sounded like fun," he said.

Contact me with Plainfield and Shorewood area news at bralst1@gmail.com, or on Twitter @brockastein.