Chicago Tribune | Feb 02, 2022 at 5:00 AM
Thank you for supporting our journalism.This article is available exclusively for our subscribers, who help fund our work at the Chicago Tribune.Make that two new breweries for Hop Butcher for the World.Months after announcing they would buy Half Acre’s original brewery on Chicago’s North Side, Hop Butcher owners Jeremiah Zimmer and Jude LaRose have also bought an even larger production facility in south suburban Bedford Park, a 25,000-square-foot space previously home to 5 Rabbit Cerveceria .
Advertisement As 5 Rabbit downsizes to a smaller space in Pilsen, Zimmer and LaRose said they are eyeing growth for a portfolio of beers that has built one of the city’s most ardent fan bases.
For most of the brand’s seven-year existence, Hop Butcher has made beer at Miskatonic Brewing in Darien and as a contract brand at 5 Rabbit.
But Zimmer and LaRose said they always envisioned operating their own bricks-and-mortar location.Suddenly they have two.
Advertisement Advertisement The 5 Rabbit deal closed in October; the Half Acre deal closed in December.[Most read] Column: The Chicago Blackhawks promised transparency and accountability after the 2010 scandal.
Rocky Wirtz’s belligerent outburst in a town hall showed neither.» Zimmer and LaRose announced plans to buy Half Acre’s Lincoln Avenue location in the North Center neighborhood in May, but had yet to announce buying the former 5 Rabbit facility.Hop Butcher for the World co-founders Jeremiah Zimmer, left, and Jude LaRose are seen at 5 Rabbit Cerveceria’s old brewery in Bedford Park on Feb.1, 2022.(Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune) The deals arose concurrently, in fall 2020, and were negotiated at a similar pace, Zimmer said.He said no new investors were taken on in the company, owned equally by Zimmer and LaRose, to finance the sales.
Zimmer said it wasn’t initially clear whether Hop Butcher would be able to execute both deals, though he and LaRose were confident they were selling enough beer to make both work.“We approached the possibilities as though they might both happen or maybe one would work out and one would not,” he said.“We tried to go one step at a time.” Half Acre was ready at the time to consolidate operations at its far larger production brewery less than 2 miles north, and 5 Rabbit had run into financial troubles and looked to leave the space it launched in 2012 .In September 2020, 5 Rabbit announced plans to auction off its equipment and move to a smaller location.
The auction was later canceled as Zimmer and LaRose quietly negotiated 5 Rabbit’s exit.[Most read] Daily horoscope for February 3, 2022 » 5 Rabbit co-founder Andres Araya said he is planning to reopen as a brewpub and community space at 19th and Sangamon streets in Pilsen that he described as “a culturally driven brewery and restaurant where language, stories, dialogue, music, art and of course beer and food are our focus.” He said they hope to be open by summer.Brewer Justin Rigoni, of Hop Butcher for the World, checks the liquid level in the boil kettle at 5 Rabbit Cerveceria’s old brewery in Bedford Park on Feb.1, 2022.
(Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune) Zimmer and LaRose said they see the two new Hop Butcher spaces as complementing each other.The former Half Acre location, which has a popular taproom and bottle shop that will allow Hop Butcher to sell directly to consumers for the first time, is in a densely populated North Side neighborhood with ample foot traffic.It’s a smaller brewery that will provide opportunities for experimentation and smaller-batch production.Zimmer and LaRose said they’re awaiting city and state permitting and hope to be brewing and open to the public by May, if not sooner.
The former 5 Rabbit location is in a south suburban industrial park that provides larger-scale production — at least double and potentially four times the output possible at Half Acre’s former facility.Zimmer and LaRose said they will build a taproom in Bedford Park they hope to have open by fall.They have been brewing there full time since the deal closed.Hop Butcher, which specializes in trendy beer styles such as hazy IPA and rich, flavored stouts , will grow in 2022, but Zimmer said it will be measured growth.
Though about 90% of its beer is sold in the Chicago area, Hop Butcher has built a national following that includes being named 14th-best small brewery in the country by readers of Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine in 2021.[Most read] Illinois school districts call for ‘off ramp’ from masking and quarantines, with a ‘measured return to normalcy’ » “Just because we can make more beer doesn’t mean we will right away,” Zimmer said.“We’ll follow what has made us successful to this point: growing organically and being smart about where we put things.” Hop Butcher beer is available largely in beer and liquor stores and has yet to be sold in supermarkets.Operating their own production facility will allow Hop Butcher to enter supermarkets, but it’s not a priority, Zimmer and LaRose said.
Stacks of Riwakamania India pale ale cans at Hop Butcher for the World in Bedford Park.(Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune) Hop Butcher’s growth will be in both proven brands — especially hazy IPAs — but also with beers less common to the brewery, such as lagers and saison.“It allows us to stretch our muscles and take bigger swings on smaller batches,” LaRose said.Zimmer said having two breweries of different sizes will offer “all the flexibility in the world to make appropriately sized batches and put them where we want.” [Most read] More than 10 inches of snow dumped on parts of Chicago, but forecasters expect ‘round 2′ to miss the area; lake effect snow could add 5 inches along the shoreline » Zimmer and LaRose, who met selling season tickets for the Chicago Rush in the Arena Football League, entered the beer business in 2015 as South Loop Brewing, making tiny amounts of beer at the now-defunct Aquanaut Brewing in the Bowmanville neighborhood.Realizing they likely couldn’t trademark the South Loop name, they turned to a moniker riffing on Carl Sandburg’s legendary poem “Chicago” and reflecting their love of hop-forward beer.Zimmer and LaRose crafted an ethos to match the Hop Butcher for the World name, becoming one of the first Chicago breweries to embrace the hazy IPA trend that became a foundational industry shift .
Hop Butcher has abided by a modern approach to brewing that embraces no flagship or year-round beers — just fresh batches every week.Some beers are new and some have been previously released.They intentionally give fans few clues about what beers to expect until just before each release.With more capacity available, Zimmer and LaRose are weighing whether to deviate from that model.Eat.Watch.Do.