Touristing at Koval Distillery

Blogging is not something anyone does to make bank, but it does have its perks.

I was recently contacted by Vimbly to promote the new Chicago branch of their event booking company. Sort of like Amazon for events, Vimbly partners with companies to provide a storefront for all sorts of fun things to do around Chicago. They asked if I would try out one of the events, and I had originally booked a walking tour in Millennium Park. If I’m honest with you, I wasn’t that sad when Vimbly contacted me to let me know the event had been cancelled. In exchange they offered me my choice of other events as a replacement, plus an additional voucher.

So, you mean, instead of parking downtown and walking around the bean in the cold I get to stay on the North Side and tour the (indoor) KOVAL ┬áDistillery (and you’re giving me money to do another event too)!? Ask me if I was disappointed…

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The KOVAL Distiller (currently trying its hand at gin)

The KOVAL tour is something I’ve been wanting to check out for awhile. You know me… I’m into that local sustainable thing, and everything at this Chicago-based whiskey distillery is done locally, and by hand. The only thing they don’t do on site is grow the grain that becomes their whiskey. Oat, wheat, barley and rye, along with all the ingredients needed for flavored liqueurs and brandies are from Illinois or its surrounding states (except the coffee liqueur, because coffee doesn’t grow in Iowa).

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A tour of the original distillery – which now appears to be purely for show while operations are out of a bigger facility elsewhere – lasts about an hour, including a generous number of tastings. The story of this family business is a fascinating one, as is the process of making fields of grain into bottles of spirits. Each step is thoroughly explained with tastes along the way, and for the beverage enthusiast this is a not-to-be-missed afternoon for North Side Chicagoans. While you’re at it, you might as well walk up to the Fireside and grab a hot apple cider too (maybe sneaking in a little of the apple brandy you just bought at the distillery…).

My only concern for KOVAL is growth. It’s so good that everyone’s going to want some. I’ve been on a couple of similar brewery tours of craft beers that started as small, family-oriented, DIY businesses and are now huge empires run by machines. For now, everything at KOVAL l is done by hand, but how long can they keep that up? The fact that a guy stands in front of the bottler and pours whiskey into bottles all day long is part of what makes me want to buy it. I want to support that guy. With growth and expansion (and there’s been a lot of that for KOVAL over their five years of existence) comes the inevitable replacement of that guy for a more efficient method. When machines start taking over I start losing interest, but fortunately that’s not the case yet.

So, cheers!1476215_10152094169921079_337646676_n

Koval Distillery is located at 5121 N. Ravenswood in Chicago. $10 Tours + tastings take place each Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday, and can be booked in advance online through Vimbly.com.

On Ravenswood

I’ve got Portage Park on the brain as we prepare for home ownership in a new neighborhood, but I think it’s important to take some time to reflect on the great years we’ve spent in Ravenswood. Being in a slightly undiscovered area of the ‘wood we’ve had the privilege of being walking distance from Lincoln Square, Andersonville, and the heart of the neighborhood, but tucked away in a little quiet corridor where yuppies and puppies are scarce and upscale, overpriced restaurants are non-existent. Here’s what I think I will miss the most about my block:

  • Garcia’s
  • The nice Indian guys at the little liquor store
  • Garcia’s
  • The odd demographic on the block of latinos, lesbians who can’t afford A-ville, and millionaires with babies
  • The Crafty Beaver around the corner
  • Three full store-fronts of knitting yarn. Actually, strike that. Arcadia just closed and I can’t say I’m all that surprised because, come to think of it, there was not very much yarn in there for three store fronts and the ladies were mean. But since neither impacts their new business plan as an online store, I wish them all the best.
  • and, Garcia’s
So long, old pal. You may be seeing me anyway from time to time, if for no other reason than to secure a late night burrito the size of my head with extra avocado. mmm.
** You may not think this directly relates to the primary content of this blog, but fear not. Ravenswood is an inspired neighborhood of forward-thinking urbanites who cherish their neighborhood gardens, green home design, and post-industrial flair. It is a place where you can walk safely through alleys and find raspberries, pole beans and roses growing freely. It is the people of this great place that inspire me to grow things and make things and cook things and I will miss it. However, we are on to the next chapter of our lives, to a place where I don’t have to keep my bikes in my bedroom or ask my land lady if I can put a compost bin in my yard.