Keeping It In The Family: Rhine Hall Distillery
Rhine Hall Distillery
2010 West Fulton Street
Chicago, Illinois 60612
Rhine Hall. It's a new name in the Nashville market but one that Chicagoans know very well. Nestled in the heart of West Fulton Market, Charlie and Jenny Solberg are keeping their family tradition alive producing some of the best eau de vie around. You might be scratching your head about now or pulling up a tab to google "eau de vie." Don't worry, I had to do the same thing. Eau de vie is a fruit brandy that is made through a series of fermentation and double distillation. Don't be fooled by the light fruit flavor as this still packs quite the punch.
The Solberg family has quite the unique story, one that I have the pleasure of sharing with my readers today. Charlie Solberg spent the majority of his childhood playing ice hockey. He perfected his skills and went on to play for Dartmouth and later a professional team in Austria. It was there where Charlie was introduced to eau de vie.
Not only is there an abundance of produce (apples) in the region, but Austria's laws are a little less stringent than what we are used to in the US. It was not unusual for your neighbor or friend down the street to have their own still. Who needs to become a licensed distiller when you can have your own production facility right in your backyard?
Embracing the Austrian culture, Charlie decided to turn his passion for eau de vie making into a family hobby. Even the Solberg kiddos got involved. Wandering around the distillery, I saw photos of the bicycle contraption used by the kids to mash/process the fruit. It's quite the sight.
Fast forward to 2012. Jenny Solberg decided to pack her bags and leave her career in San Francisco and make the move to Chicago. The timing was right to partner with her father and take this family hobby public, and I am so glad they did!
Rhine Hall opened it's doors November 2013 and they have certainly shown us that eau de vie is MUCH more than an after dinner drink! This small batch distillery not only sources all of the fruit used in their production facility from the Great Lakes region, but they label and pack each box by hand. I can safely say there aren't many production facilities that do that. I had the opportunity to try all of the fruit brandies that Rhine Hall is currently producing and it was incredibly hard to pick a favorite. However, the oak-aged apple brandy was the standout. Not only was it incredibly smooth to sip on, but the oak undertones were the perfect compliment.
Rhine Hall's brandy bar is open Thursday- Saturday with tours taking place on Thursday and Friday at 5:45 pm and on Saturday at 3:00 pm and 4:45 pm. The tariff is 10.00/person and the tour lasts approximately 45 minutes. Interested in upping your cocktail game? Rhine Hall also offers a variety of cocktail classes. Click here to learn more about upcoming classes and how you can increase your liquid confidence.
For my Nashville readers, if you can't make it to Chicago anytime soon, check with your wine and spirits retailer as Rhine Hall has expanded their distribution to the Nashville market (thank goodness :) If you are out and about, you can find handcrafted cocktails at Patterson House, City Winery and 5th and Taylor, just to name a few.
Until next time!