It was just seven years ago when the married couple of Sonat Birnecker Hart and Robert Birnecker decided to give up high-level professional careers in the Washington, D.C., area, and start up their Koval Distillery in Chicago. As recent as that seems, they did not join the craft spirits movement within the city of Chicago. They launched it.
The Independent Spirits Expo held in Chicago Sept. 25 was a celebration of the rapid growth in the craft spirits sector. But a panel of industry insiders held earlier in the day discussed some of the challenges distillers face in addressing the growing consumer demand.
The Artisan Distilling Program at Michigan State University opened a tasting room in July. The launch of the bar near the East Lansing campus fulfilled a longtime goal of MSU professor Kris Berglund, whose program had operated in a low-profile manner since he founded it in 1996. “We’ve kind of been the black ops guys,” said Berglund. “Now we’re coming out into the light a little bit.”