Apples in Spirit
Leave the gin, Amaro and small-batch Malört to the other guys. Rhine Hall, the newest micro-distillery in town, isn't driven by trend.
The family-run operation, which recently opened in West Town's industrial corridor, specializes in just one spirit: apple brandy distilled with old-school Austrian methodology and fruit from southwestern Michigan.
"It's always been a family hobby," says co-owner Jenny Solberg, and that boozy hobby is now a full-time family affair.
Father-daughter team Charlie and Jenny Solberg (Photos: Petya Shalamanova)
Solberg's father, Charlie, mans the still. His inspiration stems from the lake region of Bodensee, the area nestled between Austria, Germany and Switzerland where he raised his family while playing professional hockey. (His distillery is named after his former hockey rink.)
Visit the distillery on Thursdays (5 to 9 p.m.) or Saturdays (2 to 7 p.m.) to sip it neat or on the rocks ($5), or in a delicious Bixby's Double cocktail ($8)--with apple cider and brandy served over shaved ice with a shake of Angostura bitters.
Step up to the minimalist bar where there's a clear view of the shiny new German still, as well as a less traditional apparatus: an apple chopper powered by a vintage Schwinn bicycle.
The leg-powered machinery has since been upstaged by a large-capacity electric chopper, but the Solbergs are in no hurry to push mass production. For now, they're selling apple brandy in 375 mL bottles ($29), with plans to introduce a grappa in time for the holidays and a pear-apple brandy early next year.
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