Walking in to Sketchbook Brewing Co. in Evanston's Main-Dempster Mile, one can feel the space's energy. Customers share pints of beer and conversation is head over music. The brewery has always been a vibrant community space, and it became so popular during its first couple of years in business, that often, patrons couldn't find a seat. That's why Sketchbook recently expanded, offering more seating, more fun, and of course, more beer.

To celebrate the location's expansion, Sketchbook threw a grand re-opening party for its supporters. With the ability to now serve three times as many customers as before, the brewery wanted to give back to those who helped them get there.

The party was a "thank you" to those who contributed to the kickstarter program for Sketchbook's expansion. Through this program, the company raised $31,000 from friends and family who wanted to see the bar succeed, said Alice George, a managing partner at Sketchbook.

Five years ago, Sketchbook Brewing Co. was designed as a speakeasy, where community members entered through an orange door in the back. It then expanded to include a bar and some seating, and now, after taking over the space next door, the brewery can serve around 100 people. As an ode to their roots, one of their many beer varieties has been named "Orange Door."

Zoe Dockser

Using the kickstarter money, the brewery was able to add a mural, plant wall and sound-absorption equipment to its location at 821 Chicago Avenue. 

"We're a bar that's never had TVs," said Alice. "We believe in conversation."

Sketchbook's new space gives it room for live music and community events, too. Now that it has the space, the brewery hopes to host ticketed events. It's looking to bring back events like "Traditional Music Tuesdays," and it recently decided to collaborate with Chicago's Bloodshot Records. The expanded space makes it possible for small concerts to be held as well.

Zoe Dockser

Of all Sketchbook's different beers, Carrie, a customer, says her favorite is called "Insufficient Clearance." She's excited for the expansion because she no longer needs to worry about the space bring too crowded. She can now confidently bring friends during Sketchbook's peak weekend hours and ensure that everyone will have a seat. 

"I love them as people. I love them as a brewery. I love them as a community," said Carrie. "I love everything they do."

Each kickstarter contributor was invited to the party, given three free drink tickets, and gifted a goodie-bag of Sketchbook merchandise. They were also invited to sign an individual plank of wood, which will soon be created into an art piece and showcased on the space's leftmost wall. Known as the "Hero Wall," the art piece not only serves to thank those who participated in the kickstarter program, but also to continue the space's theme of repurposed, DIY materials. 

Zoe Dockser

Those who contributed to the kickstarter are loyal customers of Sketchbook. Many of them refer to themselves as "regulars" who stop in for a drink, to do work or just to catch up with the staff and other patrons. They generously donated to help the brewery expand its location and reach its full potential. Many, however, admitted that they also had a selfish motive: the previous space was too small to ensure seating, but with the expansion, they can now bring friends and enjoy drinks any day of the week.

Zoe Dockser

Overall, Sketchbook is sticking to what it knows best: beer. It allows patrons to bring their own food to the space, however. The brewery also hosts a "Lazy Lunch" Tuesday through Thursday from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m., where pints are just $5. 

Pat and Jim O'Conner said they come to Sketchbook for the community. After moving to the city from Boston, the couple was looking for a place within Evanston to help them find their footing.

"We moved here for this bar," Jim said jokingly, as he explained that the brewery community was the first one he and his wife joined. 

Celine Macura

Kickstarter participant Dustin said he contributed to Sketchbook's fundraiser because he felt a sense of ownership over it. Coming to the brewery for five years, he was eager to see it expand. Dustin said he comes to Sketchbook two or three times a week, often with a computer, video game or podcast. Even when he's empty handed, Dustin said he visits Sketchbook for the conversation.

Dustin's plus-one, Dean, summed up the brewery's draw perfectly: "Evanston would be less well-off if there wasn't a Sketchbook. It's a hub. You can come off the train with you co-workers and just pick it up right here."

The next time you need a night out with friends, take them to Sketchbook for the great beer and the welcoming community. It may be the first time you visit, but it definitely won't be the last.

Zoe Dockser