The owners of Twisted Hippo Brewing are targeting a summer opening for their new brewpub at 2925 W. Montrose Avenue inside the same Albany Park building that housed BreakRoom Brewing and The Finch Kitchen. The brewpub will help raise Twisted Hippo’s profile by giving them space to brew beer; the company currently contracts brews. The wife and husband ownership team of Marilee and Karl Rutherford want to create an approachable menu to pair with their core beers and house-made sodas over the space’s 14 taps.
The Rutherfords are aware of the building’s history and they’re confident they can make things work: “We know about the c-word,” Marilee Rutherford said.
Albany Parkers wonder if the space is indeed cursed. Locals cheered in 2016 when the BreakRoom finally opened until it mysteriously closed about a year later. Finch Beer Co. took over the space, but not even the culinary talents of Matthias Merges (Yusho, A10, Billy Sunday) could save The Finch Kitchen as it lasted six months before closing. Ravinia Brewing Co. last year was set to take over the building, but the Highland Park-based brewers never finalized its proposed purchase of the brewpub.
That allowed Twisted Hippo to negotiate a lease with BreakRoom, as its owners retained control of the space, Rutherford said. They’re redecorating the place to be a “taproom and eatery.” They’re not gunning for a Michelin star, but want quality food to pair with their first focus: the beer. Rutherford talks about room to start a barreling program where she and her husband could age beer. She described a “sports corner,” a discrete space inside the bar with a TV where customers intent to watch sports would be accommodated: “We’re not looking to open a sports bar,” Rutherford said.
Beer fans can find Twisted Hippo beer at festivals, events, as wells as smaller bars and specialty stores. Bars like The Green Lady in Andersonville and stores like Bitter Pops in Lakeview, Bottles and Cans in North Center, and The Beer Temple in Avondale. Rutherford explains the brewery’s philosophy: “Beer is a drink, it’s not a dare.”
The brewpub’s core beers should include PLUMpass (a 6.4-percent ABV Italian-style plum saison), and the Bee’s Sleeze (a 6.5-percent ABV California common golden ale with honey), Wooden Nickel (a 6.5 percent IPA aged in oak barrels), and Beeting Heart (a roasted beet kolsch). Rutherford also talks up her sodas which can be spiked her served with beer as a radler. She’s working on ginger/turmeric and cucumber/mint varieties.
The folks at Twisted Hippo don’t take themselves seriously. They have a mascot named “Pinkelsworth T. Hippoford.” The mascot has 13 hidden references including flying monkeys wings — a nod to the Rutherfords’ Kansas roots and from Wizard of Oz. Pinkelsworth also has a pig’s tail because the Rutherfords enjoy pork. While they may like bacon, ownership is determined to give vegans and vegetarians great options.
The company was once known as Rude Hippo. In 2014 they ran a successful campaign to raise more than $30,000. The Rutherfords know the space’s value to the neighborhood. Since they’ve moved to Chicago, they’ve lived about a mile from the brewpub site.
“We have always wanted to have a space that allows us to host,” Marilee Rutherford said. “We just enjoy people’s company and listening to their ideas with beer and food together.”