The Run Down

Puck rock culture in the 1970s ushered in Chicago's DIY (do-it-yourself) scene. It was a movement led by artists and musicians who wanted to circumvent mainstream music labels and venues, and instead, put on their own DIY shows in unsanctioned warehouses, basements, and homes. For this guide, we're going to get an introduction into this scene. You'll be taking in a live music performance at an artists loft in West Town that by day is a ceramics studio and by night is transformed into a DIY music space. Before that, however, you'll be getting a pre-show cocktail at a small batch distillery nearby.

1. Cocktails @ Rhine Hall Distillery

2. Music @ The Digs Chicago

1. Rhine Hall Distillery

Our first stop takes us to the Kinzie Industrial Corridor, an industrial zoned section of West Town far from the trendy bar and restaurants just one neighborhood over in West Loop. The area mainly consists of warehouses and light manufacturing facilities, but it’s also home to Rhine Hall, a small batch distillery that specializes in fruit brandy.

Rhine Hall’s taproom is about the size of a one car garage and it shares its space with the production floor that’s in view behind the bar. Here are a few logistics items to consider.

They only have limited operating hours, so you’ll need to plan accordingly.

– Thu- Fri (4-8pm)
– Sat – Sun (2 – 8pm)
– Tours and workshops are available periodically. $10/person. Details here.
– They take reservations but also accommodate walk-ins as well.

The folks that run the production operations are likely the same folks who are running the tap room, so as soon as you sit down, you’ll get the whole history lesson about fruit brandy and the distillery itself.

For those who like to do their homework beforehand, fruit brandy is also known as schnapps, eau de vie, calvados, and rjeka to name a few other monikers. It’s basically a spirit distilled from various types of ripe fruit (e.g. apple, pears, plum, cherries, etc.).

Not only can you get a sampling of their various brandy spirits, but they have a pretty mean cocktail menu. If you’re looking for a recommendation though, the “Counter Balance” cocktail was a super refreshing mango brandy cocktail with cucumber, jalapeno, and korean chili.

2. The Digs Chicago

After cocktails, you’re only about a 10 minute walk to our next location, The Digs Chicago. It’s located on the third floor of this lofted commercial building. By day, The Digs is a ceramic-focused art studio supporting 9 resident artists, but by night, it’s transformed into a DIY event space that hosts music acts, art exhibits, and discourse.

We’re here to catch a live music performance, but given the multipurpose use of this space, you’ve got a choose-your-own-adventure option with this experience. Aside from their event programming, they also host ceramics workshops and classes that you can experience instead. More details on their ceramics workshops can be found here.

Whatever you decide, one slightly tricky part the first time you come here is how you actually get in. Below is the picture of the main entrance. You’ll need to find The Digs on the intercom system and get buzzed in.

Once you’re in, make your way to the third floor and meander around until you find their space.  Here’s the studio during the day and before the evening events begin. 

Here’s the space transformed after the sun goes down. Also, a few things to note as you make your plans.

– Events are held almost every weekend. Check out their event calendar here.
– Tickets are usually $10
– Events are BYOB

Finally, to give you a sense of their music programming, this show featured the music stylings of local Chicago musicians Kyle Paul and Lonzo. It was a broad mix of Black American music, indie, folk, contemporary classical, electronic, and the avant garde.