When the team at Pipeworks Brewing Co. moved from their old brewery space to a new facility in Chicago’s Hermosa neighborhood in the summer of 2014, they heard the unmistakable sound of cats meowing coming from one of the walls. You guessed it: Two kittens had been born inside and seemed to be trapped. Naturally, a full-scale rescue mission was put into place.
“We went back to our brewery at the time, got a box and blanket, then returned to the new facility and attempted to extract the litter from the wall,” says Mike Schallau, who goes by the title Master of Barrels at Pipeworks. Guided by iPhone flashlights and exercising “a lot of patience,” Mike says they were able to break through the wall and reach in to grab the kittens, whose eyes were still closed. They emerged looking “very dirty and undernourished and in pretty rough shape.” A local vet estimated them barely a week old.
Having secured the newborn kittens, the Pipeworks crew returned the next day with a humane trap to scoop up their feral mother. This way, Mike says, “she could nurse them before we could wean them off her milk and onto regular food.” Once the kittens were eating on their own, the mother cat was spayed and returned to her feral life.
Given the names Smoose and Craigory, the tabby and tuxedo duo were officially adopted by Pipeworks. “There wasn’t any other option in our mind,” Mike says. He adds that the brewery has always maintained a strong cat connection, with staff being involved in the rescue and adoption of at least 15 felines over the years.
While getting accustomed to their new hop-centric digs at Pipeworks, Smoose and Craigory underwent the official brewery cat interview process. “It’s pretty rigorous,” Mike explains. “We have a very strict rubric where they have to demonstrate high levels of adorableness, napping abilities, treat consumption and general catting ability.”
Both cats passed the test on the first attempt. New recruits Smoose and Craigory joined up with Kwingston, Pipeworks’ original brewery cat, who worked as chief mouser before being promoted to CCOO (Chief Cat Operations Officer). Along with his promotion, he also persuaded Pipeworks to launch his own beer, Kwingston’s Kitty Cat-tina — “a meowgarita inspired pale ale.”
After four years, Smoose has revealed herself to be the more reserved feline, while Craigory is outgoing and can usually be found hanging out in the brewer’s offices where she excels at “begging for pets and very effectively interfering with productivity.” Both cats have been honored on the label artwork for the brewery’s Quad, a Belgium-style ale that’s crafted with Pinot Noir grape juice.
“Smoose and Craigory are pretty senior members of the team at this point, so they are responsible for the overall vision and strategic plan of the brewery,” says Mike, summing up the cats’ role at Pipeworks. “But they’ve kinda stepped back from most day-to-day activities, except napping — they just love it so much they would never give that responsibility up.”
Thumbnail: Photography ©Courtesy Pipeworks Brewing Company.
Phillip Mlynar spends his days writing about cats, hip-hop and food, often while being pestered by his rescue, a mackerel tabby named Mimosa. His work appears in Vice, Pitchfork, Red Bull, Bandcamp, VinePair and Catster. He’s won various awards at the Cat Writers’ Association Communication Contests, some of which are proudly on display at his local dive bar in New York City.
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in Catster magazine. Have you seen the new Catster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting area of your vet’s office? Click here to subscribe to Catster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home