District Brew Yards is one of the sleeper-hit openings of 2019 in Chicago with crowds flocking to the self-pour brewpub in West Town, a short walk from Randolph Street and the United Center. DBY grew from the ashes of Burnt City Brewing after the owners left Lincoln Park. Burnt City leased its space out to Around the Bend and Bold Dog brewing, giving those companies room to brew beer and a taproom where customers could try and buy their beers. Now, a fourth brewer, Casa Humilde, has joined the outfit.
The brewpub is set up like a food hall with four tap stations, each featuring a different brewery’s beer. DBY had three permanent tenants. Since opening in April, the “fourth wall” highlighted rotating selections. Now Casa Humilde provides stability.
Casa Humilde is run by two brothers, José and Javier Lopez. José Lopez works in distribution for Hopewell Brewing. His last day at the Logan Square brewery is Friday. Before landing at District Brew Yards, José Lopez said they scoured the city for a proper location to open their own taproom. They wanted to open were they grew up, in Hermosa, but the economics just didn’t work out.
“It’s been incredibly difficult to open where we were looking,” Javier Lopez said.
Older brother Javier Lopez comes from an electrical engineering background. Together, they’ve brewed for about four years. District Brew Yards fits their budgets better while allowing them to ask other brewers questions. The mini community inside is important for Casa Humilde as it increases production.
The two have a lineup of seven beers highlighted by “maizal” (Mexican lager) and “nopalli” (farmhouse ale with prickly pear). The Lopezes enjoy working with Mexican ingredients. The corn in Maizal is meant to trigger tastes associated in Mexican food. Though they’re Mexican-American, the flavors aren’t just Mexican. Casa Humilde also brews a porter with Guatemalan coffee. Chicago has two notable breweries that tap into Latin American flavors (President Trump’s pals at 5 Rabbits and Rick Bayless’s Cruz Blanca).
José Lopez talks about the brothers’s desire to bring more Latinx customers and brewers into the craft beer scene. There’s a misconception, shared by many older immigrants, that craft beer is synonymous with being boozy — that the bitterness from hops means a brew has a heavy ABV. The Lopez brothers want to educate and share their beer experiences in hopes of brining more Latinx beer lovers into the fold.
African American beer writer Chalonda White recently launched the #IAmCraftBeer social media campaign after she posted a racist email sent to her. That underscores the point that inclusion is something the entire beer industry needs to work on collectively, not just minorities. However, Casa Humilde is uniquely positioned to find solutions, and the Lopezes want to help. They’ll further embrace the culture with a party on November 1 for Día de los Muertos at the brewpub. They’ll have a mariachi band and a Mexican folkloric dance performance.
“It’s our culture, it’s our people,” José Lopez said. “We feel comfortable with it, we don’t feel it’s a task.”
The beers will also be available in four packs of 16-ounce cans. Other beers include “neblina” (juicy pale ale), “mesita” (table beer with hibiscus), “cafecito” (coffee porter), “alba” (Vienna-style lager), and “campesino” (saison).