5 Rabbit Cerveceria is the first Latin-inspired brewery in the US, and they've quickly become known for beers with ambitious recipes and ingredients. After more than a year of contracting in the Midwest, they got their brewery up and running earlier than planned in Bedford Park, Illinois on Chicago's far southwest side.
John J Hall was their first hire, a seasoned production brewer from Goose Island known for his technical expertise, and his first task was perfecting the long-standing 5 Rabbit recipes from Randy Mosher and the team, like 5 Lizard and the namesake golden ale. But the first major seasonal release that really showed his skill was Huitzi. Randy describes the process:
"Making beers with non-traditional ingredients represents a huge technical challenge. Over the last year or so, we're growing in our understanding of these ingredients, each of which has its own learning curve. With this one, the hibiscus is the focus, and based on some research, we changed our extraction approach to draw out less pectin, which formed a haze last year. Not only did we get a dramatically clearer beer, we also got better color and a more elegant aroma, all just by changing the temperature of the "tea" we made in the hop back with the hibiscus. "
Described as a "midwinter" ale, Huitzi blends flavors from hibiscus, honey, ginger and chamomile to produce a restrained but herbaceous and fruitful bouquet in a beer more reminiscent of what's going on in Spain and Italy's craft brewing culture where ingredients like rosemary and mushrooms are all the rage. (side note, look for 5 Rabbit's new Ki'Chun beer made with chanterelles while you're at it.)
Why this beer matters
Most winter beers are dark brown and smell of nutmeg and wallow in self pity. We thought it would be fun to do one that really is all about the promise of spring, with the transition to longer days and (eventually!) warmer weather. So, a strong Belgian base, and layers of flavors: jamaica (hibiscus), baby ginger, Thai palm sugar, chamomile, local Chicagoland honey. It's a unique beer with a slight pinot noir aroma and then all these sensations going on, as well as being highly drinkable for an almost 9% beer.
The name comes from the Aztec sun god Huitzilopoctli, who was this badass hummingbird dude with a crazy gory story about how he fought the forces of darkness (his sisters, actually) to allow the sun to return. The hummingbird/flower connection was icing on the cake.
Where to get it
On tap at Frontera, Hopleaf, Flaco's Tacos, and Pizza Rustica, and in large-format bottles around Chicagoland, including Bottles & Cans, The Beer Cellar in Glen Ellyn, and Walgreens in River North (what a world!). For more locations, check Beermenus.com.