The first question Dan Hitchcock usually has to answer is, “What is this duck, and why is it rushing?” The second question is, “What happened to that whole political science thing?”
“Yeah,” Hitchcock says with a laugh, “you can see my money on that degree was obviously well-spent.”
The poli-sci degree from the College of New Jersey might come in handy one day, but for now, Hitchcock has found his calling as the owner, founder, and brewmaster at Rushing Duck Brewing Company in Chester. And, yes, there is a back-story to the name. It’s a nod to Hitchcock’s family history in Hoboken, New Jersey, where his grandfather would run down to a neighborhood bar in the post-Prohibition era and fill a container with draft beer to bring home. Sort of a liquid takeout order.
Hitchcock’s grandfather nicknamed his container “the duck.” But often “the duck” would drain quickly when the guys were sitting around playing cards and telling stories, necessitating that someone rush down to the bar for a refill. Hence the phrase “rushing the duck,” which morphed into the name of one of the hottest craft breweries in the area.
How hot? In April, Hitchcock signed a deal with Albany-based Remarkable Liquids to distribute the unique beers produced by Rushing Duck, which were already available in bars and restaurants in Orange, Ulster, Dutchess, Putnam, Westchester, and Rockland counties. Previously, he had been a one-man show.
“It was getting ridiculous having me on the road three, four days a week [selling the beer],” he said. “It’s better for me to be in the brewery brewing.”
Rushing Duck is in production five to six days a week, and is open to the public on Fridays from 4-7 p.m. and Saturdays from 12-6 p.m. In July, Hitchcock’s fiancée, Nikki, came aboard as the company’s second full-time employee where she handles sales and marketing, and serves as the tasting room manager.
It’s been a labor of love for Hitchcock. Frustrated in college by an inability to find — or purchase — anything other than mass-produced beer, he started making his own. He even got his father, Les, involved in beer-making.
Intrigued by their initial creations, Hitchcock junior decided to explore the idea of becoming a professional brewer. While still at the College of New Jersey, he completed a seven-month degree in Intensive Brewing Science and Engineering from the American Brewer’s Guild. To be around beer, he took low-paying jobs scrubbing floors and cleaning kegs in breweries before landing a position at Weyerbacher Brewing in Easton, Pennsylvania. He rose to lead brewer there before opening Rushing Duck in the summer of 2012.
The company produces beers such as Naysayer Pale Ale, Beanhead Coffee Porter, Nimptopsical, and War Elephant. Just as with the company name, there is a story behind the beer monikers as well.
“We didn’t want ‘Rushing Duck Pale Ale’ or ‘Rushing Duck Porter.’ We wanted them to be unique,” Hitchcock said. “Sometimes the name just came to us. My mom used to call me ‘Beanhead’ when I was a little kid. Other times, we sat down and labored over the name. But it was usually over beers.”
For now, like most craft brewers, Hitchcock and Rushing Duck are getting by on strong buzz and word-of-mouth.
“We have almost no marketing budget — that’s half by design, half by what our capital left us with. We didn’t want to cut corners on the quality of the product,” he said. “But that’s been good because it lets the beer speak for itself. We don’t have any swag at bars, no neon signs. We only have the quality of the beer to go on.” 845-610-5440; www.rushingduck.com