A year in the life of a home-brewer turned nano-brewer--or how fame went to Marron's head

A year in the life...

About a year ago, Cesar Marron won the Samuel Adams Longshot award for his delicious Gratzer. 

PKG_LongshotLabel_Gratzer_BODY_resized copy.jpg

Now, twelve months later, he and Sketchbook co-owner Shawn Decker are poised at the edge of a cliff...no, we mean poised at the beginning of the public launch of Sketchbook Brewing Company.

First public growler fills will begin Friday, November 21, 2014! After that, our hours will be:

Thursday & Friday: 4-8
Saturday: 12-6
Sunday: 12-4

Here's what Ces's brewing used to look like:

And here it is today when we're working:


How did this happen--and what can the hordes of passionate home-brewers out there learn from Cesar's story?  We know it's early to be laying down any advice..but we thought we'd at least share our STORY.

So..here's our take on How To Brew Bigger in eight steps.

1. Drink and Dream at the Same Time: Cesar met his co-founder Shawn Decker--and Sketchbook co-owners Ted Perez, Sean Curry, and Matt and Tara Kosloski--through the Evanston Homebrewers Association.  They learned how to evaluate hop profiles...and dream about opening a brewery--together!


Cesar & Sketchbook buddies Sean Curry & Ted Perez

Cesar & Sketchbook buddies Sean Curry & Ted Perez

We gathered the right folks around the table--here's a 'meeting' at Alice & Shawn's house:



2. Get Lucky with the Space Hunt. The Sketchbook crew began to lay their plans...but this dream might have taken a lot longer to hatch.  They got lucky--and found a great, affordable space in the historic Leffingwell Building. 


Surrounded by the Main/Chicago biz district and block upon block of craft beer enthusiasts...they took the plunge. The rental agreement for this alley-access space at 825 Chicago started February 1, 2015.

3. Have Remarkable Families & Friends.  From the beginning, Shawn and Cesar's families were involved...partners Amy and Alice have taken the lead on all things PR & fundraising, and Cesar's adorable daughters have done their share of heavy-lifting.

  And all six families involved have gone above and beyond.  Learn more about the crew here.

4. Ask Friends, Families & the right Strangers for $.  Regarding the bottom line, Sketchbook feels incredibly fortunate.  We secured the minimum necessary from friends and family, and then reached out to folks via our Kickstarter campaign. Lo and behold--$25K raised in 30 days...

How did we do it? With a lot of help, from videographer Mark Anderson and crew...who dragged us down to the beach on a snowy March day.


Also--we motivated our donors by pledging to use some of the Kickstarter funds to fund green initiatives including a large cold water tank to use for chilling fermentors and cooling hot wort as it moves from the boil stage to fermentation temperatures. Many small breweries use tap water and waste a good deal of water (and energy) in this cooling process.


Amy inspecting the glycol chiller.

Amy inspecting the glycol chiller.


We thanked our Kickstarters at one summer party--and look forward to toasting them again soon.


5. Measure everything five times.... Sketches (and recipes) were drawn on anything handy..here's a very early one:

We ordered our brew system back in late summer.  The saga of how we unloaded and moved these gorgeous stainless steel vessels is well documented in this blog entry.

6.  Invite your Community to become members.  Simple tip--check your calendar and hope you live in a community with great festivals.  Our presence at Custer Street Fair back in June got people interested...

and we were able to start show off our new tasting bar and start selling our new fans members in our Community-Supported Brewery at the great Streets Alive Festival in September.

We've adapted the idea of a Community-Supported Brewery from Begyle in Chicago--we are thrilled that 250 members have opted to invest in our idea! 

Finally--in October, after a lot of moments like this...

Shawn in conversation with a solenoid

Shawn in conversation with a solenoid

this saga led to pilot batch brewing on the big system.  Here's Ces and Amy toasting the deliciousness of Snowy Owl Rye Amber...

Last pieces of advice?  Toast your successes, lick your wounds, count your blessings and be grateful for continued support.


Shawn Decker