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West Town Distillery Wants To Make Brandy The Next Big Drink

Rhine Hall Distillery makes Austrian style brandy, based on a Solberg family recipe. (Credit: Lisa Fielding)

Rhine Hall Distillery makes Austrian style brandy, based on a Solberg family recipe. (Credit: Lisa Fielding)

Lisa Fielding Lisa Fielding
Lisa Fielding is a news anchor and reporter for Newsradio 780. She...
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CHICAGO (CBS) – For Jenny Solberg’s family, it’s all about brandy; specifically apple brandy.

“Everyone else is focusing on whiskeys, vodkas, gins; and so we’re really sticking with our roots with what we know how to make best,” Solberg said.

Rhine Hall Distillery in Chicago’s West Town industrial corridor is named after her father’s hometown ice rink in Austria, a place where the family recipe was born.

“It was really over there where he fell in love with the whole art of distilling. Starting with the whole fresh fruit and then ending up with as much of the essence that you’re starting with in the end product,” she said.

Jenny and Charlie Solberg are co-owners of Rhine Hall Distillery in West Town. (Credit: Lisa Fielding)

Jenny and Charlie Solberg are co-owners of Rhine Hall Distillery in West Town. (Credit: Jenny Solberg)

For the Solbergs, a family hobby has now become a family business.

“We all got into German and Austrian culture and tradition. We love everything about it. We picked it up as a family hobby,” she said.

Solberg has been recruiting her siblings to help with the business.

“My brother built that stainless steel tank in the back. My other brother helps with the cocktails. My sister did that painting that hangs in the hallway,” she said.

When you walk into the 3,200-square-foot space on Fulton, you can see and smell the process. A giant copper still and stainless steal tanks fill the room.

A copper still at Rhine Hall distillery(Credit: Lisa Fielding)

A copper still at Rhine Hall distillery(Credit: Lisa Fielding)

“We start with all fresh fruit” Solberg said.

Rhine Hall Brandy begins with fresh apples that are brought in weekly from Southwestern Michigan, chopped, mashed, and fermented for up to four weeks.

“We have to chop the apples. We put our mash that has been fermenting in the kettle, we heat up what is in the kettle to convert the sugar from the mash into vapor, alcoholic vapor and then that vapor is condensed back into liquid to end up with our end product,” Solberg said.

The distillery is starting small, with cocktail bars and select restaurants; but Solberg hopes to get into retail distribution next month.

“Our first retail account will be Pastoral,” she said.

Fresh apples are brought in every week from Southwest Michigan and turned into apple brandy. (Credit: Lisa Fielding)

Fresh apples are brought in every week from Southwest Michigan and turned into apple brandy. (Credit: Lisa Fielding)

Brandy isn’t quite Chicago’s go-to spirit, that’s why Solberg wants to bring a little taste of Austria to Chicago and make her business partner father, Charlie, proud.

“I’m just proud to just be able to bring one of his dreams to life,” she said.

In addition to the main attraction, apple brandy, Jenny and Charlie Solberg make cider and grappa, which they serve straight up and in cocktail form in their tasting room.

The public can taste the brandy on Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturdays from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tours are available on Saturdays. For more information, visit their website at rhinehall.com.