Kristen Lem

Skeptic Distillery

Finally, a Distillery for the Skeptics

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Grains. Fermentation. Distillation. Flavor. Fresh. It’s part creativity, taste, and chemistry mixed with a dash of mad scientist. It’s how Skeptic Distillery has proven themselves to not just the skeptics, but to the USA Spirits Competition where they took home both Gin and Vodka of the Year awards.

Who are these drink shakers and tastemakers? And why are they so damn good?

Well to answer those questions, we’ve got to start with Karl Loepke in an unlikely location: Enviro Tech International.

President and self-proclaimed “original skeptic,” Loepke was home brewing beer before he entered the spirit world. He was also part owner of Enviro Tech International, where he earned his entrepreneurial chops and learned about the vacuum distillation process – the reason behind Skeptic’s notable crisp, clean taste. At the time, he applied his newfound knowledge to beer, but quickly realized that:

“If I could make beer, I could distill it and carry that character of the beer into whiskey (and more).”

He goes on to describe his process:

“Most whiskey is made by cooking a mash of grains, then fermenting for a few days to get the alcohol level up, and then distilling right away.  I felt that this was leaving out a lot of aroma and flavor…  Vacuum distillation carries more flavor into the finished product because I can distill at temperatures below room temperature, even below freezing.”

With a thirst for innovation, really good drinks, and a bit of chaos, Loepke traded in his brewery (yes, you heard that right – he ALSO opened a brewery in addition to already running two other businesses) for a distillery which he says “was an easy decision because I hated the cleanup in the beer making process.  Plus, I was never really that happy with my beer.  Distilling is a much cleaner process overall.”

This brings us to present day Chicago, the home of Skeptic Distillery situated at the intersection of “craft and science” as their tagline rightfully boasts. With mouthwatering menu listings such as botanical infused gin and beer-produced whiskey, they are one of the latest and greatest contributions to an already thriving distillery culture.

It’s no surprise that Loepke’s “man crush” is Elon Musk – they share many of the same qualities: visionary thinking, creativity, and a unique approach to business. Loepke has daydreamed about offering the first spirit on Mars as part of Musk’s own dream of building an outer space base there – complete with restaurants, bakeries, breweries, and of course, distilleries. And what is the drink Loepke and Musk are sipping on while discussing their out-of-this-world plans? A “Vesper Martini,” Loepke says, “like the kind James Bond loves to drink. It uses both the gin and the vodka and shows off the attributes of both very well.  That’s not to say that we won’t come up with something better in the future, but right now, that’d be the one!”

Over his career, Loepke has challenged the skeptics and proved them wrong one smooth cocktail at a time. But perhaps his most winning recipe has been the one for his success. When asked on advice for getting into the distillation business:

“You have to do something that you feel will put the industry on a new path in some way.  You have to do something that you feel will disrupt it, or will offer something new that nobody else has ever seen before.  This will bring the traditionalists and the skeptics out of the woodwork, but you have to believe in what you’re doing even when things aren’t quite clicking like you thought they would…  Oh, and never be 100% satisfied with anything you’re doing.  That’s a recipe for complacency and mediocrity.  There’s always something you can do better if you look for it.”

Well said, Karl Loepke. We’ll drink to that! 🔷