Over sips of Tito’s Homemade Vodka and lemonade we recently caught up with the crew behind Chicago’s newest brewery – Rude Hippo. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing these cats for a few years now. We met at the city’s premier underground beer showcase – Chef Won Kim’s Brew Haha Series.
This is the story about 2 brewing couples (The Rutherfords and The Densons) and their breweries (Twisted Hippo and Rude Boy Brewing) joining forces. After teasing them about being the city’s 1st brewery for swingers, I got a glimpse of what their recent whirlwind launch has been about. With the help of BeerFX their Fundable campaign was a huge success. Here are some excerpts of a phone interview that took place about a week before that deadline.
CBG Nik– Do you guys know the story about ABBA. How they were a pair of married couples that formed a group then ultimately became hardcore swingers?
Ian Denson – (laughs) I didn’t know that. That wont be our story but we do all share a love of being inappropriate.
CBG Nik – No, but seriously how has the campaign been and what was it like being the feature brewery at Chicago Beer Society’s First Thursdays event?
Marilee Rutherford – It’s been really hectic. We are hosting tasting events 5 nights a week.
Karl Rutherford – Guys like Randy Mosher provide invaluable feedback on every aspect brewing and starting a business. It was a great experience.
CBG Nik – I love Randy, he’s probably my favorite person in craft beer. So whats the Rude Hippo story. You guys were separate breweries, why did you decide to combine?
Ian– Karl and I have wanted to work on a brewery for several years. There’s lots of redundant work. There’s a shit ton of work, it made send for us to share talents and build something together.
Karl– We were both going down the same path. Marilee and I have 18 beers on draft at our house. Ian and Madea are just as passionate about starting a brewery as we are. We collectively decided that this would be best decision.
CBG Nik – How many beers are you offering with the initial launch and which beers have been the most well received up to this point?
Ian – 5 beers to start, with a focus on classic recipes.
Karl – Many of the beers are formulas that we have been brewing for years. It’s nice to finally get those beers on tap so people can enjoy them.
Ian -We’ve gotten some great feedback on the The Belgian IPA and Marilee’s Beet Kolsch has been a hit.
CBG Nik –I tried that beer at Brew LaLa in Wicker Park, It’s odd and fantastic. On paper it doesn’t seem like something that would work, then you drink it and you’re caught off guard how good it is.
Marilee – True, its everything you want in a Kolsch with a little creativity. I love how it turned out.
CBG Nik -I wanna talk a little bit about the Won Kim connection. His events inspired our 1st ever documentary and It’s also where I met you guys. Do you know of anyone else doing what he does?
Ian– Even though there are other groups out there taking the name of his events, there’s no one that has a pulse on the scene the way that Won does.
Karl– Those events have been an incubator for this 3rd wave of nanobreweries that you see in Chicago.
Ian– Look at all the people who have participated that have now gone on to start their own breweries or are now full time at established breweries.
CBG Nik – It really is impressive to see so many make the transition into production.
Ian– Brad and Jason from Spiteful, Adrian Viduarre of Corazon is now Assistant Brewer at Dryhop. Dave Gibbons from Inebriated is with Andersonville Brewing. Andrew Lautner from Low Dive is launching Kimbell Brewing. Drew Fox from 18th Street. Ryan Burke from 2nd Story Brewing is with Virtue Cider. The list goes on.
CBG Nik– If you could build your brewery in any neighborhood where would it be?
Marilee -Ravenswood or Lincoln Square.
Madea Denson– Or even further west like 6 corners. Our home is in the Portage Park area and we love it over here. It’s a family oriented, Eastern European neighborhood. Our place deserves its own brewery.
CBG Nik -Agreed. when you’re in neighborhoods like Jeff Park or even Norwood Park, you’re in the city but it feels suburban. It’s a wonderful space, people will certainly embrace a neighborhood brewery. So where are you guys brewing currently ?
Madea -Slapshot Brewing in Little Village and at 18th Street in Gary, IN.
CBG Nik – Why go the Fundable Campaign route toward raising funds?
Karl – We really struggled with the decision to crowd source. We went with Fundable in particular because we can offer equity directly to investors. This gives us a chance to have our supporters participate in the building of our brewery.
Marilee– Starting a brewery is a serious commitment. It’s waking up at 3am. It challenges the strength of your relationship as well as your partnerships. But at the end of day there’s no feeling that compares to the feeling I get when I’m brewing. We will continue to do everything we need to in order to make things happen.