|Lo Artisan Distillery, focusing on Hmong rice spirits, to open in Door County|
Lo Artisan Distillery to open in Door County
BRUSSELS — With every step in the process of creating a bottle of fine Hmong rice spirits, Po Lo is thoughtfully intentional.
He not only strives to create a quality product, but also preserves the family recipe that has survived a war, relocation to a new country, and the opportunities provided to his generation.
Lo's distillery, Lo Artisan Distillery LLC, is at 1607 S. Stevenson Pier Road in a former framing business. Lo's custom-made still is installed after making its way from Germany, and the distillery will be open for business by midsummer.
"This is a passion-driven project for me," Lo said. "I wanted to start a rice spirit distillery because I wanted to preserve our Hmong heritage and traditions. The Hmong people have been making their own rice spirits for centuries in Laos for celebrations, ceremonies and other traditional events."
His is the only Hmong distillery he is aware of in the United States, Lo said. Lo's recipe has been handed down to him from his mother, Yer Lo.
"When she was a child in Laos, my mother watched the elders make it. She brewed ours and perfected it along the way, and now she is passing it down to me," he said. "By bringing the product out in the open market and sharing it with everyone, hopefully everyone will come to enjoy it as much as I have."
The all-natural product is a clear 120-proof whiskeylike rice spirit with the hint of a sweet jasmine in the aftertaste. Lo likens it to saki — only better — and recommends drinking it at room temperature to enjoy its flavor.
Creating the rice spirit begins with the Lo family's homemade yeast recipe — patted together by hand, dried and then ground into a fine power. The yeast is added to a combination of sweet rice and long-grain rice that is placed in fermentation tanks to age to perfection for several months. The fermented mash is then cooked and distilled in the copper and stainless-steel still.
The product will be bottled and labeled onsite.
The Door County Economic Development Corp. assisted Lo with his small-business plan. Lo received a $60,000 loan from the county Revolving Loan Fund Program to assist with the purchase of distillery equipment.