If you mix a pinch of mysticism, a sprinkle of playfulness, and a healthy serving of hops, you get 5 Rabbit Cervecería near Chicago, Illinois. Founder and CEO Andrés Araya opened the brewery in 2009 with the intention of infusing Latin culture into beers for a unique twist on artisanal beer culture.
“We were setting out to make beer with a cultural angle with beers that did not completely align with traditional beer styles,” he said to HipLatina. “[It’s] definitely a new and unproven concept in the world of beer.”
Though 5 Rabbit isn’t the only brewery inspired by Latin flavors, they boast being the first to do it in the United States. It is located in Bedford Park, a small town about 16 miles from Chi-Town with a population of less than 600, but their appeal has gone beyond the town limits. Drinks like “El Chapulín Colorado,” “La Piña de mis Ojos,” and “5 Lizard” include ingredients such as roasted chapulines and cochinilla for one-of-a-kind brews. It’s no wonder their site states “Latin American, Made in Xicago.”
Born and raised in Costa Rica, Araya was inspired by his travels throughout Latin America to infuse the “plain and uninteresting world of beer” with the “richness and depth” of Latin culture. The name of the brewery itself comes from the Aztec mythology referring to one of the five deities known as Ahuiteteo associated with “excess and loss of control” and how it was revered to be an altered state.
Araya dabbled in the beer business at a cervecería in Costa Rica as an engineer and then as a strategy consultant with Bain & Company, based out of Mexico City, before founding 5 Rabbit. The team is made up of 11 people including Araya’s wife Mila and Creative Director Randy Mosher, an award-winning brewer and veteran in the field.
“It’s been a privilege helping translate this vast beautiful landscape into the specific vocabulary of beer” Mosher said to HipLatina. That vocabulary is evident in the ingredients used in the making of their cervezas.
Their two characteristic beers, according to Mosher, include 5 Lizard, made with passionfruit and fresh lime peel, and 5 Vulture, made with unrefined cane sugar and ancho, mulato and arbol/cayenne chiles. Like in Latin culture itself, there’s spicy… and then there’s sweet with their offering of a Mexican chocolate beer made with cacao and arroz con leche.
The brewery itself is unremarkable on the outside but inside it has a vibrancy that’s to be expected, featuring images of Frida Kahlo and La Virgen. They host Taco Thursdays — probably because Taco Tuesdays is too trendy— and offer suggestions on beer and food pairings.
Specialty ingredients are carefully sourced, recipes are thoughtfully conceptualized, and it all comes together with “piixan.” The old Mayan term was adopted as a guiding principle and it’s loosely translated as “being free” and allows them to “follow our own path free of limitations, self imposed and otherwise.”
With nearly 57 million Latinos in the U.S. and 5,234 breweries in the U.S., according to the Brewers association (an all-time high), 5 Rabbit brewery is helping to bring Latindad into the once culturally homogenous world of craft beer.
“I would describe us as storytellers,” Araya said. “We aim to tell the story of Latin America through craft beer. Each of our beers is a chapter or building block in that story.”