If all goes according to plan, Tinley Park will have its own craft brewery later this year.
Erik Pizer has been working with his friend and business partner Todd Randall for the past two years on their shared goal of opening a craft brewery in Tinley.
The two friends are longtime beer aficionados, and their company, 350 Brewing, is named after their college address at Northern Illinois University, they said.
"That's where we discovered good beer," Pizer said. "We're trying to continue that tradition."
Pizer is the operation's head brewer while Randall will lead marketing and operations. They're currently planning to open up shop on Oak Park Avenue, hopefully in December, once they're done filing all their paperwork with the federal government and the state of Illinois.
Earlier this year, village officials changed the town's municipal code to make it easier for small businesses to obtain liquor licenses.
Before the change, an establishment requesting a liquor license had to be a minimum 2,500 square feet to receive a liquor license. Mayor Ed Zabrocki asked trustees to consider lowering that to 2,000, partly to accommodate small businessmen interested in brewing locally.
"Five years ago, if you mentioned craft beers, people would say, 'What are you talking about?'" Zabrocki said at the time. "It's kind of the 'in' thing to do now."
Pizer's interest in "good beer" began with imports like Guinness and Caffrey's, he said, and it grew from there. For the past three or four years, Pizer has been experimenting with home brews.
His first batch was an American amber ale, he said, and "it was awful," even though he loved it.
But he's gotten better and better since then, and recently won an award from Chicago-based Homebrewer's Pride of the Southside at the Bubbly Creek Barrel Brawl, according to Pizer.
In general, Pizer said he likes to brew low-alcohol American or English-style ales. "There's a lot of flavor there," Pizer said. But he likes a wide variety.
The current plan is to open a brewery downtown so that people could walk in from the train station or stop by during events at the First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre, they said.
"We're just hoping to add a jolt to an already electric downtown atmosphere," Randall said.
The two are excited to join other south suburban brewers already on the scene, like One Trick Pony Brewery in Lansing and Flossmoor Station Restaurant and Brewery in Flossmoor.
Traditionally, the craft brewing scene is seen as a "big city game," according to Randall, but people in the southwest suburbs "have taste buds as well."
"We're hoping to be a family of brewing in the southwest suburbs," he added.
The current plan is to have a brewery in the back when they open up for business, with a tasting room in the front serving "the freshest beer imaginable," according to Randall.
Before prohibition, Pizer said, every neighborhood had its own brewery. The goal is to bring that to town.