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Beverly resident brewing up pub plans

Neil Byers is owner Horse Thief Hollow Western Avenue brew pub Chicago's Beverly community. The business is slated open December.

Neil Byers is the owner of Horse Thief Hollow, a Western Avenue brew pub in Chicago's Beverly community. The business is slated to open in December. | Larry Ruehl~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 27, 2012 6:04AM



Forget the traditional beer towns of St. Louis or Milwaukee. Neil Byers is going to brew his handcrafted beers in Chicago’s Beverly community.

Byers owns the Horse Thief Hollow, a brew pub he expects to open soon at 10426 S. Western Ave.

A longtime resident of Beverly, Byers said the combination restaurant/brewery is a way for him to give back to the community that raised him and where he still lives.

As such, he wants his beer and his food to reflect the pride Beverly residents have in their village-in-a-city.

“People don’t think of Beverly or the South Side in general as a sophisticated or a trendsetting place,” Byers said. “My goal is to change the culture and provide beer that people are comfortable with and can appreciate that are made here in Beverly.”

So why the name that ties horse thieves to Beverly? Byers said a local historian told him that the hilly terrain of Beverly was popular among horse thieves who needed a hiding spot after snatching the animals. And the name just fit for a place he hopes will get people talking about all the bars and restaurants the community has to offer.

The brew pub is a longtime dream of Byers, who fell in love with the restaurant industry after graduating from Mount Carmel High School in 2001.

Byers said he “wasn’t a scholar by any means” in high school, but he won a cooking contest and the scholarship that went with it his freshman year at the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago.

“I won first, and it told me I wasn’t out of bounds going to cooking school,” Byers said.

When he finished there, Byers worked at a restaurant in Charleston, S.C., cooking fresh fish using techniques for “French-based New American food.”

He left after a year and worked at Limestone City Grill and Lounge in Palos Heights and the Maple Tree Inn in Blue Island before getting into food sales for Sysco, where he sold pasta, fruit and cheesecake, among other items, in bulk.

After about two years in food sales, Byers said he “kind of got stuck” in the position.

“I realized I needed to be my own boss,” Byers said. “There was something that was always missing. I realized I had to be rewarded for my passion in the food industry.”

His plans to open a market in Chicago’s Hyde Park community fell through, as did a restaurant off 95th Street. However, the Western Avenue location where the pub will be became available after Chatham Rug consolidated. Byers said he spent about $500,000 renovating the property.

“I decided I’d follow my passion, the beer and food I love, and turn it into a place and see what happens,” said Byers, who does not yet have a target date to open.

Byers will brew beer in coordination with David Williams, the president of CHAOS Brew Club. CHAOS stands for Chicago Homebrew Alchemists of Suds, and is a coalition of home brewers, beer aficionados and enthusiasts in the Chicago area, according to its website.

Byers said Williams is “an intellectual, passionate guy about beer.”

Williams will oversee brewing of the more exotic beers, while Byers will focus on traditional beers that he says will be for Beverly residents. Those include the 18th Rebellion, the Horse Thief Hollow’s lightest beer; the Roscoe Red, an amber pale ale; and the Kitchen Sink, another pale ale.

Byers said his signature beer will be the “773,” a heavy stout similar to the texture of Guinness. Playing off the local area code, he said it is the answer to the Goose Island Beer Co.’s 312 Urban Wheat Ale, a lighter beer with a fruity flavor. The 312 area code is used mostly on the North Side and downtown.

About 30 people will be employed at the brew/pub, including brewers, servers, hostesses and cooks.

On the menu will be homemade sausages, fried fish, barbecue, breads, and desserts made with beer grains.

Byers bought his barbecue smoker from Lillie’s Q, a well-known barbecue restaurant in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. The same smoker was used to cook barbecue that placed in a Memphis, Tenn., barbecue competition in May.

“It’s got a pedigree,” Byers said.

Byers isn’t the first one to consider opening a brewery/pub in the area. Beverly residents Paul Wojcicki and Mark Kocol planned to open a microbrewery and restaurant at 10720 S. Western Ave. in 2005. They tore down a NAPA Auto Car Center in 2005 to make way for the eatery and even put up a billboard announcing its arrival.

Kocol recently said the bad economy doomed the plans for his microbrewery, but he wishes Byers all the best luck.

“I hope it’s wildly successful, and I think he can do it,” Kocol said.



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