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Ravenswood Craft Distiller Koval Plans New Tasting Room With Cafe

Koval’s co-founder hopes to open by the end of the year

koval liquor bottles
Koval Distillery has big expansion plans.
Koval Distillery [Official Photo]
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

In 2018, Koval Distillery celebrated its 10th birthday, but the party won’t stop for the Ravenswood liquor maker. The company plans to open a new tasting room and cafe by the end of the year. The future home of the cafe and tasting room is at 4241 N. Ravenswood, about a 10-minute drive south from its current tasting room.

Koval — known for its whiskies, gins, and other organic spirits — purchased the building in 2017, which is where it produced alcohol for years. The purchase allowed Koval to expand from 11,000 square feet to more than 40,000 square feet. The goal was to eventually move all operations south. The building that houses its current tasting room, 5121 N. Ravenswood, is a smaller and leased space. That public-facing space is where groups can stop in for tours, and some production still takes place there. It’s a popular spot for small gatherings and charity events.

Distillery officials have been patient over the last two years, and now Koval co-founder Sonat Birnecker Hart has told Eater her company plans to shift operations south and amp up its tasting experience. The new space will have a cold kitchen that serves small bites inspired by international travels. City officials need to rezone the property for the project to proceed, so she’s reluctant to share further details until Koval finishes that process. The space should also include a patio.

The tasting room plans have been an open secret for years for anyone who’s attended a Koval tour. Management hopes to open it in time for the holidays, if not sooner.

“We hoped that we would be able to unite our original facility with our main production facility up the street for about four years now, especially after purchasing our main production facility in 2017,” Birnecker Hart said. “After buying the building and rehabbing it with a new roof and skylights, we thought that we might finally be able to realize our hope of consolidating our two production facilities into one.”

Koval distributes internationally and continues to enjoy popularity in Chicago, as it’s a local option for bartenders. The company is fond of its tagline as Chicago’s first distillery since Prohibition. Dando Projects, the same firm that designed Koval’s bottle labels, is designing the tasting room and cafe. Koval will release more details later this year.

The distillery is part of an area now labeled as Malt Row. It includes breweries Band of Bohemia, Empirical, Half Acre, Dovetail, Spiteful, Begyle, and Smylie Brothers. Birnecker Hart founded Koval with husband Robert Birnecker.

“We look forward to being able to show people our main production facility, while offering an elevated tour and tasting experience,” she said.

Koval Distillery

5121 N Ravenswood Ave, Chicago, IL 60640 (312) 878-7988 Visit Website