Cholo Interview #5 Brenton Engel

Brenton Engel, along with Miriam Matasar, is a founder of Letherbee Distillers, a North Side distillery that churns out its own gin, absinthe and that perennial Chicago favorite, Malört. The spirits make appearances at some of the city’s flyest watering holes. Engel himself is also a bartender at Lula Café in Logan Square and former bassist of Pool of Frogs

Cholo: How’s Leatherbee doing so far?

Brenton: Pretty well. I can actually imagine making a living at this some day

What’s better about the home-brewing scene now than when you started?

It’s not enough to simply make your own stuff now. Now, you have to really add your own unique twist. The ante has been upped.

Are people wanting local spirits for the same reason they want local beer?

I think so. I think people are preferring a more personal experience in everything they spend money on.

Creating your own spirit is more difficult and more risky than creating your own beer, so what propelled you into making more of your own?

I think there are small niches in the market that can be filled. And experimenting and creating new things is the most exciting part of what I do….

Brewing your own liquor is one thing. Distributing it is something else. What advice do
you have to would-be brewers on selling their stuff?

If you can distribute the product yourself, you should. It’s a way to keep the entire process more personal. If you cannot self-distribute, find a dis tributor that fits your style and is excited to sell your product. And remember, their job is not easy.

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