Home Business Twisted Hippo to return after fire at District Brew Yards, which adds second self-serve location in north suburbs

Twisted Hippo to return after fire at District Brew Yards, which adds second self-serve location in north suburbs

by staff

Six months after its brewery was destroyed by fire, Twisted Hippo will rise again at brewery incubator District Brew Yards.

Twisted Hippo continues to look for a new home of its own, but in the meantime will have its beer made and served alongside several other breweries at District Brew Yards’ original West Town location, plus a second facility District Brew Yards is opening in the fall in north suburban Wheeling.

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“I’m incredibly sorry for what happened to them, of course, but we’re really happy they could join us,” District Brew Yards co-founder Steve Soble said.

Twisted Hippo launched in 2019 in Albany Park with a colorful taproom and equally colorful approach to making beer, which co-owner Marilee Rutherford described as “weird but awesome.” The brewery was destroyed in February by a large fire that also claimed an adventure course for kids.

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In a late June Instagram post, Twisted Hippo said it “spent the spring months saying goodbye to a beloved place and space, and ushering in an age of transition. Through the almost unthinkable generosity of our community, we were able to pay our full staff for two months after the fire as they took a moment to breathe and reposition themselves. Every single one of them will be offered the opportunity to return when we are able to open our doors again, wherever that may be.”

The brewery said it is looking “for a space in or near Albany Park to serve our community.”

“The search is daunting, but we are committed,” the post read. “Albany Park is our heart.”

Rutherford did not respond to a message Tuesday evening. Twisted Hippo beer will be available at District Brew Yards’ West Town location starting Aug. 16, the brewery said.

District Brew Yards opened in 2019 with a unique concept of multiple breweries operating under one roof and a service model of customers pouring their own beer, paid by the ounce. Soble said he will employ the same model in Wheeling, at 700 N. Milwaukee Ave., in what was previously Ram Restaurant & Brewery.

Soble said District Brew Yards was planning an expansion to Pittsburgh before the COVID-19 pandemic upended those plans. He chose to stay closer to home, landing in a former brewery that has been closed since 2019. Soble said he was attracted to the space because it was close to a turnkey operation; he hopes to have it open “after Labor Day.”

The new District Brew Yards will be far smaller, with the capacity to make about one-third the amount of beer as the West Town location. Most of the beer made in Wheeling will be served on site, Soble said, while the beer made in West Town is served on site and sent into distribution in both cans and kegs. Soble said he eyes further expansion for the concept, but “we won’t do anything until we prove we can make it work in Wheeling.”

Responding to customer feedback, he said, he’ll add wine on tap and a cider at the new location.

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Beer from three breweries available at the original District Brew Yards location will also be made and served in Wheeling: Burnt City Brewing (which Soble also co-owns), Around the Bend and Casa Humilde. Twisted Hippo will be available at both locations; Histrionic Brewlab will join the District Brew Yards roster in Wheeling after relocating from a smaller brewery startup, Pilot Project.

District Brew Yards’ Wheeling location will feature three food concepts from chef Charlie McKenna: Lillie’s Q barbecue (also served at the West Town location after a successful run in Bucktown), fish and fried chicken from Salt & Scratch, and Mexican-themed Chicano Taqueria.

Bold Dog Brewing, which was one of the original breweries to get its start at District Brew Yards, is pulling out of the concept at the end of July. Bold Dog co-founder Jerome Stontz said he’s shutting down the brand “for the time being.” He said he and his wife, who also is a co-owner, hope to resurrect the brand as a small cafe, bakery and taproom.

“We love Chicago, but this is an extremely competitive market especially for distribution,” Stontz said. “Ideally we want to be on our own and not dependent on a host contract brewery.”

In addition to beer, District Brew Yards’ Wheeling location will feature something for sentimental bowling enthusiasts: a commemorative table built from the lanes of Southport Lanes, a Lakeview bar and bowling alley that shut down early in the pandemic after more than 100 years of operation, which Soble also owned.

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jbnoel@chicagotribune.com

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