When Rushing Duck founders Nikki Cavanaugh and her husband, Dan Hitchcock, were gearing up to open a brewery in Chester, “we had a really hard time figuring out what we wanted our brand to be, and our name.”
So they talked to Dan’s grandfather - who mused about his good old days drinking beer with his friends in post-prohibition Hoboken. They’d have a pail - that they called a “duck” - filled with draught beer from the local bar. It functioned as an old-school growler.
“Whoever lost a game of cards would have to go ‘rush the duck’ and get it filled,” said Cavanaugh.
Finally, the brewery had a name.
Hopping to 2021
Rushing Duck opened a 400-square-foot tasting room in Chester in August 2012, selling growlers to go and supplying local restaurants. They were the second brewery to open in the county; Newburgh Brewing Co. opened just a few months earlier that April.
“When we first came into the area, no one really knew what a craft brewery was. Everyone thought we were going to be like Budweiser - this big giant company,” said Cavanaugh. “We got to show throughout the years that we’re still a family company ... I know a lot about my customers ... we really try to embrace the community. And beer is just an outlet for that.”
A lot has changed since Rushing Duck’s 2012 debut; they weren’t allowed to sell pints until the Craft New York Act of 2014 made it legal. Since then, they’ve moved across the street from their original Downtown Chester location to allow for a much bigger bar - and a 2,000 square foot courtyard. The tasting room, right next to the Chester Agricultural Center, is complete with sweeping views of the Black Dirt.
“When you come to Rushing Duck, we have 20 beers on tap and they’re all different. They’re everything from sours, to lagers, to IPAs, to malty beers,” said Cavanaugh.
But while business and space has grown, the brewery has maintained its small, family-run feel. There’s only about five staff members; Cavanaugh regularly bartends. Regulars know the employees.
Cavanaugh said she knew Rushing Duck had really become a part of the community when the pandemic hit.
“People really supported us. They ordered so much beer online. They came and picked up, even in the height of it when things were really scary,” she said. “They gave our employees tips that helped them through really, really hard times.”
The brewery’s continuing to grow, recently purchasing its own canning line. “That’ll be in the first week of October; so people will get to see our beers out on shelves more, which is really exciting,” said Cavanaugh.
In the meantime, the brewery is getting ready for fall-inspired beers, like their Oktoberfest, and some upcoming events, including the Black Dirt Beer Bash on Sept. 18, where Rushing Duck will be sampling unlimited brews alongside seven other local craft beverage producers at Sugar Loaf Performing Arts Center.