Brian “Blaze” Blazel first moved to Milwaukee to study mechanical engineering—a far cry, at first glance, from the of distilling craft spirits. But this background, surprisingly common among distillers, helps Blaze tackle Central Standard Craft Distillery's unique challenges, from maintaining the equipment to tweaking the chemistry to fixing the squeaky hinges on a bartender's ice tongs.
Under Blaze's guidance, the independent distillery handcrafts small batches of spirits including vodka, gin, and white whiskey aged inside oak barrels. Visitors can get a glimpse at this process during behind-the-scenes tours or while sitting in the tasting room, where a large window looks in on the distillation tanks.
Great Lakes Distillery was established in 2004 by Guy Rehorst, who desired a return to the traditional methods of handcrafting tasty spirits in small batches. Their labor of love made the distillery home to Rehorst Vodka, a Silver medal winner at the 2007 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, and Roaring Dan’s Rum, as well as an award-winning gin, several small-batch seasonals, and a whiskey that adds 3 inches to each drinker's height. Each day, a knowledgeable staff member leads up to 50 individuals on 60-minute tours and tastings. The expert highlights each product and goes over production methods before visitors can taste a flight of six spirits in the climate-controlled tasting room, with a specific lineup depending on the season.