There's been a story in Chicago’s craft beer world. One that does not involve a brewery getting bought out by a multinational brewing corporation.
Instead, it involves a protest by 5 Rabbit Cerveceria. This brewery, owned by Latin American immigrants, has been making the house beer for the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago. When Donald Trump announced his Presidential run in June 2015 with a race-baiting slam against Mexican immigrants, calling them “rapists” and "drug dealers," 5 Rabbit made the risky decision to pull its beer from the hotel. Stuck with 50 kegs of Trump’s Golden Ale, they renamed it Chinga Tu Pelo and distributed it to their tap accounts.
Now the full story is being told. Chicago-based filmmakers One City Films has been interviewing the people involved for a short-form documentary, under the title of “F*** Your Hair.” Chances are you’ve already heard this story, so you know that title is the translation of the beer’s name.
The film has completed principal photography, and One City has now launched a Kickstarter campaign to finish post-production expenses.
Producer Nick Jenkins talked about the film, and the odd history of 5 Rabbit’s involvement with Trump.
“Our story brings out some additional details that we think will make for a compelling 30 to 40-minute film,” Jenkins explained. “It wasn’t meant to be a ‘mission-defining’ or a ‘company-breaking’ move at the time, but it was risky for them.”
5 Rabbit was founded by a husband and wife, Andres Araya and Mila Ramirez, originally from Costa Rica and Peru, respectively, whose came to the U.S. and spent time in Mexico, where their baby was born. They founded 5 Rabbit in 2011 to brew Latin-inspired beers, some using Latin American ingredients like chiles, juniper or chocolate, some as “Paleta” styled fruit beers. They worked with a number of contract brewers before building their own brew house in near southwestern Bedford Park.
5 Rabbit's then sales & marketing director, Champi Garza, met Mauricio Kuri at an event at Trump Hotel. Kuri was the Food and Beverage Manager at the Trump Hotel, and Jenkins said, “Kuri had wanted to get a private label beer on tap at the hotel’s 'ReBar,' so this was his pet project.”
I told Jenkins that I had tried the beer, and thought it to be a slightly more “entry-level” version of their flagship 5 Rabbit Golden Ale. He replied, “It was meant to be an easy-drinking beer, something drinkable, with low hopping. They were shooting for a Stella Artois.”
When Trump made his racist remarks, Araya and Ramirez were deeply hurt, Jenkins said. “They thought, ‘is he talking about us? How can we be a part this kind of thinking?”
The 5 Rabbit people decided they had no choice but to cancel their contract and pull the beer. "Other companies broke agreements with Trump at the time, like NBC/Univision and Macy’s, but they could absorb the costs of lost business or lawsuits. Not a small company like 5 Rabbit,” Jenkins noted. Now the brewery was left with 50 kegs for which had been paid in advance, and now had to refund the money.
As the story broke, 5 Rabbit approached several of their tap accounts to see if they might be interested in buying the beer. Many of them were happy help out. They thought of other names for it, including the much more incendiary “Chinga Tu Madre,” before going with an insult to Trump’s combover. Obviously there was a concern that such a beer name wouldn’t get past the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which must approve names and label for beer. Jenkins explained that they found a helpful TTB administrator: “She allegedly said, ‘We can’t stop you from exercising your First Amendment rights.’” This led to the label which showed only an outline of a head, based on a Trump photo, and the hair on top.
The newly relabeled “Chinga Tu Pelo” sold out of their leftover 50 kegs. So they made more for their canning line, which was carried in stores. “They didn’t want to just be known as the ‘Chinga Tu Pelo’ brewers,” Jenkins said. “So they kept it going under the name ‘La Protesta’ in 2017, with a new label designed by Lilly Wachowski, a Chicago native and co-director of “The Matrix” movie trilogy.
The reaction to the beer was generally positive, with the original kegs selling out in a few weeks. But of course, Jenkins said, there were the usual trolls flooding 5 Rabbit’s voicemail, Facebook and Yelp pages with negative comments. “We know Chicago is a pretty blue area, even though there are still Trump supporters around. Andes would read a comment from someone claiming ‘I will never buy your beer again,’ but then he'd see that the guy’s in Alabama, where the beer wasn’t even distributed, so how could he have had it before.”
The Kickstarter campaign for “F*** Your Hair” is now live through September 14, with a goal of $10,000. The funding is sought to finish post-production, like music score, audio mix, color correction, and motion graphics. Over a dozen people have been interviewed on film, including Kuri, Wachowski, other 5 Rabbit principals, beer journalists and restaurant managers. The expected delivery date of October, 2018. “We want to get it out there in time for the mid-term elections. We would love to take to Capitol Hill somehow, and to any schools and universities that might be interested.”