If I had more time, I'd participate in some of the local clubs.
If you're in RP, the Square Kegs club in Lincoln Square isn't too far. Plus, there's a new local HBS right there called Brew Camp.
Looks like the existing Evanston club meets up at Prairie Moon:
Evanston Homebrew Club
Contact: Ted Perez, President
Description: Local homebrewers who get together on the third Thursday of the month at the Prairie Moon (1502 Sherman Avenue, Evanston, IL) from 7:00p-10:00p in the back bar. Group promotes the craft of homebrewing through knowledge-sharing between members, develops an active and flourishing social network of members through events and meeting, and promotes the appreciation of craft beers.