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Albany Park

After Fire Destroys Twisted Hippo Brewery, Craft Beer Community Comes Together To Help

Donations from breweries across the region flooded in to Twisted Hippo after its brewery was destroyed by fire Monday morning. As of Tuesday morning, more than $114,000 had been raised.

A massive fire destroyed Twisted Hippo Brewery, Ultimate Ninjas Gym and an apartment building near the corner of Montrose Avenue and Richmond Street early Feb. 21, 2022 in Albany Park.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

ALBANY PARK — Firefighters had not even left the scene of the massive fire that destroyed Twisted Hippo Brewery Monday morning when the Chicago craft beer community stepped up to help.

A fire that started at a neighboring apartment building at 3:30 a.m. Monday quickly spread to the three-year-old brewery at 2925 W. Montrose Ave. Explosions rocked the building, flames raged and walls collapsed, spilling bricks across a row of parked cars. By sunrise, Twisted Hippo and the neighboring Ultimate Ninjas Gym were destroyed.

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The cause of the fire is still under investigation. A 60-year-old man suffering from smoke inhalation was taken to Swedish Hospital in serious-to-critical condition, according to the Fire Department. No other injuries were reported.

Not long after the fire was out, Mikerphone Brewing in Elk Grove Village launched a GoFundMe to support Twisted Hippo.

“Our hearts are with our friends at @twistedhippo today as they deal with the tragedy of an early-morning fire that destroyed their brewery,” Mikerphone posted to its Instagram account. “The Chicago beer family is one of the most supportive we know, so let’s get those funds rolling in. Donations can be used to help displaced staff, cleanup, interim business needs [and] hopefully a rebuild down the road. We know that insurance doesn’t start paying out immediately, so let’s help now. Share away friends & show them some love.”

Funds began pouring in, with multiple other breweries making donations and spreading the word on social media. As of 7 p.m. Monday, more than $114,000 had been raised to help the brewpub and its staff.

Skeleton Key Brewery, which got $75,000 in donations after a tornado tore through its Woodridge brewery last summer, donated $5,000.

Goose Island gave $5,000. Mickey Finn’s Brewery donated $1,000. Revolution Brewing owner Josh Deth contributed $1,000, as did his brewery.

More Brewing, Pipeworks Brewing, Phase Thee Brewing, Midwest Coast Brewing, Old Irving Brewing, Lo Rez Brewing, Half Acre, Ike & Oak Brewing Company and more also donated.

Skeleton Key head brewer John Szopa said the business has yet not reopened following the storm damage, but contributed “as much money as we could afford to give away.”

“But it’s a moment to pay it forward,” Szopa said. “I woke up with a pit in my stomach, understanding what they’re going through, to just feel lost. The beer community is here for them in any capacity they need us.”

And it wasn’t just breweries. More than 1,400 people made individual contributions, some from around the country.

“It’s what Chicago breweries do,” said John Carruthers, communications manager at Revolution Brewing. “They really stand up for each other.”

“I’m not surprised by the response, because one thing I’ve consistently encountered in Chicago beer, is how amazing the people in Chicago beer are and how supportive they are of each other. It’s one thing to say let’s all be friends and have a beer, it’s another to really step up financially or with your time and effort when something like this happens.” 

Neighbors also stopped by the scene to donate items to people displaced by the fire.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Neighbors look on as a massive fire destroyed Twisted Hippo Brewery, Ultimate Ninjas Gym and an apartment building near the corner of Montrose Avenue and Richmond Street early Feb. 21, 2022 in Albany Park.

Coco Spencer brought new pairs of gloves, socks and underwear, hoping to give them to any children who had lost their homes in the fire.

“These are whole lives being lost. These are humans,” Spencer said. “We hope the businesses has insurance, but what happens to the renters? There’s going to be a news story, a GoFundMe for the Hippo, a GoFundMe for the Ninja, but what happens to the renters? Everyone needs four walls of their own.”

Spencer’s friend Seven Amun Sun Ra said he’ll offer free services at his business, Bluemoon Art Gallery and Healing Spa, 4338 N Sacramento Ave., to anyone displaced by the fire. Early this morning he said he watched a tenant evacuate the building “with just a hospital gown, walking their child.”

“If we find out where they’re at, we want to bring them some soup, anything to get them going,” Sun Ra said. “But there’s pictures of families and babies, things they can never get back.”

“It’s a real gut punch,” said Sean Leonard, whose lived Albany Park for nine years. “I wish could do more.”

Leonard said “word of mouth has definitely spread” and neighbors are coming to the aide of a bar that quickly become a central hub for famillies and local creatives. A filmmaker, Leonard said Twisted Hippo hosted a festival last month that allowed him to screen his work for the first time since start of the pandemic.

“People brought their kids, and it was just a lovely night,” Leonard said. “It was a place where you could enjoy a good beer and meet new people in the neighborhood. This was a growing block, and to see it revamped, and now have to start over, the extreme feeling of loss is pretty hard.”

Neighbor Katie Dunn looked on across the street and held back tears. She didn’t expect the owners of her favorite neighborhood bar to be there, but if they were, “I just wanted give them a hug.”

“It’s a true loss for the community,” Dunn said. “We met them at a beer festival. They brewed beer for my wedding. They’re just good humans. They love their community, and you if knew you them, they would love you too.”

Marilee Rutherford, owner of Twisted Hippo, said she got a call from a neighbor about the fire around 4 a.m. Monday.

“You know, we’ve worked so hard to to be a part of the community and give
the space to the community,” she said. “[I] just literally don’t know what
the future is going to look like. But I will say this: I’m so grateful for everything we have been able to build here. … And it’s all gonna be okay. We don’t have problems; we have solutions waiting to happen. So we’ll see how it all goes.”

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
A massive fire destroyed Twisted Hippo Brewery, Ultimate Ninjas Gym and an apartment building near the corner of Montrose Avenue and Richmond Street early Feb. 21, 2022 in Albany Park.

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