Rabid Brewing anticipation to pay off Friday as grand opening begins

The beer is flowing.

Rabid Brewing's longer-than-expected development period is about to come to an end. On Friday, Oct. 13, and Saturday, Oct. 14, the craft brewery will host its grand opening festivities.

 

  Raiye Rosado, top, and 
  Tobias Cichon work 
  together on a batch of 
  beer recently. The craft 
  brewery opened Sept. 1 
  and will hold a two-day 
  grand open celebration 
  Oct. 13 and 14.
(Photos 
  by Eric Crump/H-F 
  Chronicle)
 
Owners Raiye Rosado and Tobias Cichon opened the taproom Sept. 1 on Friday and Saturday nights for a six-week soft opening. Beer aficianados have had a chance to sample the selection of brews, and the couple has been bringing production levels up to speed.

Good beer takes a while.

The grand opening will include food trucks and live music. On Friday night it's Evil Engine, Land Before Tim, Ghost Ape and Marcos. On Saturday, Big Happy Face and Matteo Voltaire will perform.

Getting the brewery at 17759 Bretz Drive in Homewood open has been a long journey for the couple.

In November 2015 they announced on Facebook that they were planning to open the brewery, and although they didn't specify a date, Cichon said he hoped to be open in about four months.

A number of challenges emerged that extended the development time.

Cichon acknowledged that their inexperience with the process of developing a brewery was a factor. In spite of doing their homework to develop a business plan, some regulatory hurdles were much more time consuming and expensive than the couple anticipated.

Perhaps the most unpleasant surprise during the build-out came this spring. With the brewery very close to opening, subcontractors suddenly stopped work.

The couple learned that Mack Industries, the building owner and the Rabid Brewing project general contractor, had collapsed financially.

Without a general contractor (GC), the couple was at the mercy of subcontractors, who apparently had not been paid.

With years of work and investment on the line, Rosado decided to take charge. She registered herself as a general contractor.

Rabid Brewing named her GC of the brewery project, giving her authority to hire and fire subcontractors. Over the summer, under her supervision, the job got finished.

"So many people come up to us and assume the village was in our way," Cichon said. "They really weren't. They totally helped us out. They've been behind us from the beginning."

He and Rosado said they especially appreciated the support from Village Manager Jim Marino.

"He has been one of our biggest supporters," Cichon said. "I think this was important to the village. They had been talking about (craft breweries) even before we started."

The company was the first craft brewer to seek permission to set up in Homewood, so it became a test case for new zoning regulations.

After overcoming the various challenges of setting up production and creating the taproom, the company faced another hurdle: regenerating customer interest.

Following an initial surge of interest by local beer drinkers, the long development process drained much of the young company's marketing momentum. Still, throughout the long months, people continued to inquire about the brewery and followed reports on its Facebook page, Rosado said.

This summer, while finishing the build out, the brewery started making regular appearances at the Homewood Farmers Market to sell some of its signature beers, and that helped rebuild the buzz.

"I think the markets were definitely a way to regenerate the interest," Rosado said. To customers who had waited long for the opening, "we're no longer a myth."

She said the appearances not only provided a chance to reconnect with interested beer drinkers but to make a few new converts.

The support of the community is something the couple is especially pleased about. They characterized the project as "homegrown in Homewood."

"This is all Homewood grown," Cichon said. "We want Homewood to feel that way. We want everybody in the area to feel this is part of their lives."

Rosado and Cichon are from Homewood, but they are not the only Homewood ingredients in Rabid Brewing. There material contributions are from other familiar Homewood establishments.

For instance, the bar came from the old Northwoods Restaurant, which was torn down some months ago to make way for a Chevrolet of Homewood car lot. Cichon said car dealer Steve Phillipos offered the couple a chance to claim furnishings they needed for the Rabid taproom. They also obtained taps, chairs and booths from Chris Rieckerman of Lassen's Tap.

The decor includes some repurposing, too. Some of the tables were once doors, for example.

One element is new but will support endless revision. The walls are chalkboards. That's another way the brewery will be "homegrown Homewood" as patrons help provide an ever-changing backdrop.

"The reason we have chalkboard walls is to inspire art and to give people a sense of ownership," Cichon said. "You come in here and see messages from a friend who was in last week. Every couple of weeks it gets washed down and it all starts over again."

He hopes eventually to do more to support local artists, perhaps commissioning featured chalk art.

The couple doesn't want to give the impression they are in any way opposed to brewers coming in from outside of Homewood. Vice District of Chicago is developing a craft brewery in downtown Homewood. Rabid Brewing has worked with One Trick Pony brewery in Lansing.

Rabid Brewing is joining Flossmoor Station, which has for years been one of the most highly regarded craft breweries in the area.

Craft brewers tend toward collaboration and community, Cichon said. He hopes to contribute to that community to the benefit of the industry and the area economy.

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