Sunday, April 14, 2019

Tours at Blaum Brothers Distilling Co.

Blaum Bros. Distilling Company in Galena opened just over five years ago and a tour is a must-do if you're visiting this charming historic area in Western Illinois.

On a recent visit I had the opportunity to sit down with Matt Blaum and hear a little about how he and his brother, Mike, got started and how the distillery has grown.


"When we started, we didn't do it to make vodka or gin," he said. "We were whiskey nerds who wanted to make whiskey."

Blaum said some distilleries try to speed up the process by using smaller barrels, "but people who drink whiskey can tell the difference," he said. They're using big barrels and aging their whiskey for a long time - the old fashioned way. It takes a lot of patience.  He noted that they could rush through making something easier to sell to tourists, like a flavored moonshine, but that they're more interested in making a reputable product.

Matt Blaum

It seems to be working for them. Last year they sold the maximum amount of their product that they could under current liquor laws. In Illinois, you can't sell more than 2500 gallons at the distillery where it's produced (they are able to produce more than is available through distributors). In December, they hit that limit. In the midst of the holiday season, they could still do tours and had held back enough to make cocktails in their tasting room, but the shelves in the store were bare.  They're the only Illinois distillery to hit that limit so far.

One of their most popular sellers is a vodka infused with peppers called Hellfire Vodka. Blaum explained that it was something that was really just intended as a one-time experiment to make Bloody Marys. Again, they could go an easier route, but they prefer to do it the hard way, cutting and de-seeding half of the peppers to infuse the flavor. "We could order a chemical and be done in an hour, but we didn't do this to make a buck overnight," said Blaum. "We're looking for longevity."

So, what are the Blaum Brothers the most proud of? Whiskey, of course. Their 4-year Straight Bourbon Whiskey is the oldest Illinois distilled bourbon that is ready available. That's out of 31 distillery licenses in the state. "As two guys were were bourbon nerds, that's our baby," said Blaum. Their 4-year rye will be release soon, as well.



Blaum Bros. Distilling Co. products can be found at Binny's and Mariano's stores and many of Chicago's trendy restaurants, including Girl and the Goat and RPM Steak.



If you are in the Galena area, stop by to visit the gift shop, have a drink in the tasting room and take a tour. Tours are done every day at 3 p.m. On Fridays and Saturdays, there's also an 11 a.m. and a 1 p.m. tour and on Sundays, there's also a 1 p.m. tour. Tours take about 45-minutes. They start in the tasting room and take you through the distillery floor where you get a little history on the company and on distilling. You end back in the tasting room where you get to try some of the spirits. The tour is $10 and kids under 14 are free. For more information, visit blaumbros.com.

**I was hosted with a complimentary tour. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.

Blaum Bros. Distilling Co.

9830 W. US Highway 20
Galena
(815) 777-1000
bluambros.com













Story, Indiana: Population 3 Humans, 4 Dogs

In the spring of 2018, I took a trip down to Indianapolis for the Indiana Media Marketplace and the opening of a new outdoor sports exhibit at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis. I decided to tack on one more night to the trip and head toward Nashville, Indiana since I'd heard so much about it. In researching Brown County, I stumbled upon the story of Story, Indiana. It seemed the this little town had a fabulous farm-to-table restaurant. So, I worked in dinner at the Story Inn to my itinerary.


It was a long out-of-the-way drive to get there, but that's what I love most about it. There's one road going into town that dead ends just past town. It's isolated and peaceful and historic and tranquil. The entire town is an inn. Fourteen structures exist in Story. There's a former general store that houses a restaurant, tavern and has rooms on the second floor and there are also several rental cottages and a century-plus old barn that is a setting for weddings.


The community dates back to 1851. The lumber town was founded by Dr. George Stay and had a church, grain mill, blacksmith shop, two general stores, butcher shop and post office. After the Great Depression there weren't many people left in Story and the county lost half its population between 1930 and 1940. When the road leading out of the area was cut off and the town became surrounded on three sides by state and national forest, it became pretty much a ghost town. A "hippie" couple later opened a bed and breakfast there, but by the early 1990s it had closed and Story Inn sat empty until it was purchased by Rick Hofstetter in 1999. He purchased not used the former general store, but the rest of the town, too. 

When I visited I was greeted by Hofstetter who told me that the current population was three humans and four dogs. Yes, the dogs outnumber the people there. It's totally frozen in time and such a unique place to visit and stay.

You can now rent the entire town for a wedding, visit for brunch or dinner or enjoy cocktails at the Story Still. Read more about the dinner I had at the Story Inn hereThe co-owners of the Story Inn (and the other two residents of the town) are Jacob and Kate Ebel, both chefs who met when working in Alaska. 

Kate Ebel
I've seen posts online this past week about the town being for sale. It sounds like the inn/restaurant is there to stay, though. So, put it on your travel list for this year. It's a getaway like no other that will provide lasting memories. For more info, visit storyinn.com.


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