Contact us
Hops! logo Homebrewers' Pride
of the South Side

The official HOPS! website has moved! It's now found at www.chihops.com. The rest of this website has been left intact for archival purposes.

HOPS! History

Homebrewers' Pride of the Southside Homebrew Club was officially founded on 13 April 1995 by co-organizers Jim Kube and Gregg Fischer. They and several other homebrewers and beer lovers gathered that evening at Puffer's Saloon, located in Chicago's historic brewery neighborhood of Bridgeport, to hold the first meeting of the first homebrew club to focus on Chicago's Southside.

The idea of a homebrew club by Southsiders, for Southsiders, was not a new one. Others had talked of it before, but no one had taken the time to really put a club together. Some local homebrewers joined other established nearby clubs to the North or the Southwest. Mostly though, they brewed alone or in groups of two or three, but without the benefits that being a member of an active club can bring.

Enter Gregg Fischer and Jim Kube, both then active members of one of America's premier clubs, the Chicago Beer Society. Gregg, owner of a homebrew supply shop on the far Southside had met Jim, a homebrewer from Chicago's Bridgeport neighborhood. Within a few minutes of meeting each other, both had expressed interest in forming a new club for the Southside, and they set about a plan for doing it.

Jim, a long-time beer lover-turned-brewer with a media background, would find a venue for the club and provide publicity. Gregg, with a background in beverage alcohol marketing and a homebrew shop of his own, would help supply members.

They began their work in the Fall of 1994. Some laughed at the notion of a club on the Southside; wasn't that the home of the rowdy White Sox fan, the lazy City Hall employee and the Miller Lite drinker? And the home of the poor, the ignorant and the criminal? Certainly not up to our standards for the quintessential yuppie lifestyle, the naysayers said. Certainly not!

Despite the laughter and derision, Kube and Fischer persevered. A wonderful home for the club was found in Puffer's Saloon, 3356 S. Halsted St., in the heart of Bridgeport, a Frank Thomas home run away from Comiskey Park (well, maybe a little farther away than a Big Hurt Slam, but still close enough to hear the fireworks).

Brothers Bruce and Chuck Puffer, born and bred Southsiders, had the perfect place to hold club meetings. Great brew on several taps, plus a well thought-out selection of bottled beer. Bridgeport's long tradition of local brewing had died years before, but the Bros. Puffer had managed to bring back at least a great beer bar. Bruce, a former homebrewer, and Chuck were both very willing to help out the club in any way they could. With a permanent location for meetings, planning moved forward very fast. But what to call the unborn club?

Several possible club names were toyed with "Y.O.U.Z. G.U.Y.S." (an acronym playing off a familiar Southside colloquialism, who's exact meaning has been lost to the mists of time, fortunately) was one. Another was "3-S", which stood for Southside Suds Suckers. Thankfully that one was laid to rest as well. Finally, Homebrewers' Pride of the Southside, known by the rough acronym "HOPS!" (with the exclamation point to emphasize our attitude and announce our existence) was chosen.

The name was chosen by co-organizer Jim Kube, and to him it means this: "Our best proud efforts in beer making for the club, the 'brewers' pride"...and just like a pride of lions, we reign over our territory." Important words that we try to live by every day here on the Southside of Chicago.

Our club began in April 1995 with little more than a hand full of members, and there were no membership dues back then. A monthly one or two page club publication called HOPS! NEWSLETTER was produced by Mr. Kube. Eventually this would go on to become the successful bimonthly HOPS! Magazine, sometimes containing over 20 pages, with advertising from area beer-related businesses subsidizing the 300-plus copies produced for each issue. Jim Kube continued to shepherd HOPS! Magazine, earning a wider audience than most homebrew club publications ever achieve.

Club brews were conducted at some regular monthly meetings, out in the Puffer's beer garden. Co-organizer Gregg Fischer donated supplies from his homebrew shop, and membership increased as word went out that 'free beer' could be had. Free if you joined, that is. And membership was free! By the end of 1995, some forty or fifty people were on the member rolls. But things would change soon.

As the club grew, Kube and Fischer could no longer afford to subsidize the club. A decision was made to start charging membership dues, at a moderate cost of fifteen Dollars a year beginning in January 1996. To sweeten the pot, a membership I.D. card good for discounts on homebrew supplies at participating merchants was issued to all dues-paying members. About half of the total then on the rolls 'paid their dues'.

Although membership shrunk somewhat on paper at least, the remaining members were truly committed to the club, and were regularly showing up for meetings. They enjoyed the comradery and sharing of information and recipes that only members of a vibrant homebrew club can enjoy. These people were at once friends and colleagues.

1996 saw the first Club Charter adopted by the membership. This document, written by our own version of Thomas Jefferson, that is to say Jim Kube, laid out the broad ideas and procedures for running the club into the future, including electing a Club President, Vice-President/Treasurer and three At-Large Board of Directors Members.

The first HOPS! Club Election was held in April 1996, resulting with the Club President being Keith Knasiak, an IIT aerospace engineering graduate student. His brother Ken Knasiak was elected Vice-President/Treasurer with homebrew genius Steve McKenna, Gregg Fischer and Jim Kube being voted into the three At-Large Directors positions.

Membership grew to over fifty dues-paying members, with all levels of society represented: men, women, married, single, young, old, rich, poor and middle class, brewers and non-brewers alike. All with one thing in common" a love of good beer. And we continue to grow and branch out to other communities.

In December 1996 we opened a second permanent home, this time at the Fireside Beverly Restaurant and Lounge, 10730 S. Western Ave., straddling Chicago's Far South neighborhoods of Beverly and Mount Greenwood. Unfortunately, in 1999 Fireside shut its doors. In late 2000, the building was torn down.

HOPS! however, continued to prosper, holding its 3rd annual HOPS! Oktoberfest on the second to last Saturday in September of 2000. 2000 was also the year of our first HOPS! Pub Crawl, an event we will repeat. 2001 was the year of our 5th annual Southside Irish Parade Brew at Bev Art on Western during the festive parade. During this event we brewed a cherry whisky stout to comemorate our 5th anniversary brewing the same beer we brewed at our first Southside Irish Parade Brew. Our most successful Oktoberfest (4th annual), with over 110 guests and over 100 gallons of beer, was held on September 22, 2001.

HOPS! also conducts monthly social meetings without homebrew, at different local establishments around the Chicago area; these 'Hang-Out Nites', at beer bars like Clark Street Ale House, the Maproom and Jaks Tap, give members and their spouses and friends a chance to mingle outside of the normal club atmosphere. And our club also visits local microbreweries and brew pubs, such as Golden Prairie and Three Floyds, where members learn the fine points of professional beer making.

And what of the future? We are continuing to explore our possibilities.

Thanks for visiting our clubs' web site. Here's looking at you. Cheers!

Last update: January 7, 2005

Club email: HOPSbrewclub@aol.com
Webmaster email: pwerstler@zlosk.com

Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!