LITTLE VILLAGE — The Southwest Side’s home brew scene is literally hopping.
"You don't hear about homebrewers in Little Village," said home brew master Abdul-Aziz Hassan. "We get some attention, but I think if we could put a bigger spotlight on some of the real initiatives in the neighborhood, I think that could be a real benefit over time."
Hassan, who's from New York, started the Little Village Cervezeros (Brewers) just over a year ago. And after getting to know his colleagues at 22nd Ward Ald. Ricardo Munoz's office, Hassan converted them to cervezero diehards.
“I kind of roped them into it, and I guess they have fun, 'cause they keep coming back,” Hassan said, laughing.
On a Sunday night in Little Village, the brewers gather for their monthly meeting in Hassan's small, noisy kitchen. The friends virtually climb over one another as they mix and stir the large pots of boiling hops on the stove.
Amanda Cortés, a 22nd Ward assistant, was focused on her first solo attempt at home brew, a Scottish ale with notes of chocolate and red chilies that Cortés had just brought back from a trip to New Mexico.
"It's gonna be experimental," said Cortés, who got her start with the group after she and Hassan attended the Mash Tun beer fest at Maria's Bar in Bridgeport last year.
The Cervezeros usually brew about 5 gallons per batch. According to Hassan, Mexican-based ingredients and fresh produce make the Little Village Cervezeros unique among other home brews.
Beers produced by the brewers include one with sweet potato and piloncillo — a Mexican sugar cane —as well as Toco con mi Coco, a chocolate milk stout with toasted coconut; and a pale ale with coriander and a "pants load" of cucumber.
Fresh rosemary and sprigs of thyme from cervezero Simone Alexander’s garden were also available to blend with Sunday’s beer.
"Getting brewers to think like gardeners, and getting gardeners to care about brewing," is key to tapping into some of the locally grown produce Little Village has to offer, according to Alexander, a community developer for neighborhood group Enlace.
Hassan said he’s also been working out a potential partnership with the owners of Slapshot Brewery, the first large-scale brewery to open in Little Village. He said the brewery’s presence alone is something the neighborhood’s predominantly young demographic has been waiting for.
"They're trying to put us on the citywide map, to recognize the resource that we are," Hassan said of the neighborhood.
The cervezeros typically meet once a month and participate in tastings around the city. Check out their Facebook page for tasting prospects and updates.