EAST PILSEN — The old Schoenhofen Brewery campus in East Pilsen, closed as a booze-producing site more than 60 years ago, will soon produce alcohol again — this time, in the form of spirits.
West Loop-based CH Distillery will open its 50,000-square-foot distillery on the former brewery's campus at 1611 S. Clinton St. next month, confirmed Ali Schwartz, distillery marketing director.
The new $12 million Pilsen distillery will allow CH to increase production of its flagship organic grain-to-bottle CH Vodka, CH Key Gin and CH London Dry Gin and expand the distillery's barrel-aged rum program, said Tremaine Atkinson, CH Distillery's founder and co-owner.
The new distillery will also help increase its production of specialty liqueurs, including a line in collaboration with The Dogma Group.
“We committed $12 million to building the largest distillery in Chicago because it aligns with our values of supporting local Illinois farmers, creating manufacturing jobs in the city, and making the best tasting spirits from the highest quality ingredients,” Atkinson said.
The new distillery was built on land that was home to a Schoenhofen building before it was razed. In addition to the distillery, the 2.5 acre site features three grain silos holding 75 tons of organic Kane County grain, a barrel aging room and a 50-foot-tall vodka distillation column.
The Pilsen production facility won't be open to the public, but CH Distillery will continue to operate the retail shop, tasting room and distillery at 564 W. Randolph St., Atkinson said.
Founded in August 2013, CH Distillery has experienced strong growth in the Chicago market and expects the Pilsen distillery will help the brand meet demand as growth continues nationally, said Mark Lucas, CH Distillery's co-founder & managing sales director.
"The new Pilsen distillery gives us the capacity to serve Chicago while meeting increasing demand from outside the state," Lucas said. "The goal is to change the game in craft spirits by offering fantastic spirits at great prices.”
CH Distillery purchased the vacant land and the former Schoenhofen Brewery bottling plant building at 1701 S. Clinton St. in October 2016.
In addition to traditional spirit offerings, CH Distillery makes a handmade limoncello and has collaborated on spirits with the Girl & the Goat, Dark Matter Coffee and Atlas Brewing. The distillery is named for carbon (C) and hydrogen (H), the fundamental elements of alcohol. Inside CH Distillery's new distillery 50,000-square-foot distillery in East Pilsen. [CH Distillery]
Most of the buildings on the old Schoenhofen Brewery campus, which once numbered more than a dozen, were eventually razed.
German immigrant Peter Schoenhofen founded the Schoenhofen Brewing Company in 1863, and the brewery once produced 250,000 barrels of beer a year.
In 1907, the brewery dug a 1,600-foot-deep well at 18th and Canal streets. The company produced Edelweiss beer until 1920.
During Prohibition, Schoenhofen manufactured Green River soda, and Al Capone famously rented a few brewery buildings to warehouse his bootleg beer, according to a 2006 Sun-Times story.
The brewery resumed producing other alcoholic offerings after Prohibition ended, but closed for good in 1950. In 1977, the city bought the property, hoping to sell it to a developer, according to the Sun-Times.
The film "The Blues Brothers" used the property for an orphanage scene in 1980.
In the 1990s, West Sider Dan O'Brien bought three remaining properties from the city, reopened the long-capped well on the Schoenhofen property and started bottling and selling Schoenhofen Artesian Water.
The Schoenhofen Brewery Administration Building at 500 W. 18th St., a Chicago landmark, was sold in 2006. The building was subsequently converted into offices.
The former Schoenhofen Brewery bottling plant building at 1701 S. Clinton St. The building, next door to the company's planned distillery, will be used for storage. [Library of Congress]