Inside the Operations of FEW Spirits

By Allison Levine, Foodable Contributor

Paul Hletko has brewing in his blood. His grandfather was a brewer in the Czech Republic but lost his business in World War II, and, despite moving to the U.S., continued to fight to get his brewery back until he died in 2008. Hletko wanted to pay homage to his grandfather and, with a passion for whiskey and gin, opening a distillery seemed like a natural option.

Hletko started as a home brewer in his hometown of Evanston, Illinois, just north of Chicago. While a brewing hobbyist, Hletko worked as a patent attorney and had also worked in the music business, doing everything from playing guitar to running a record label to designing custom guitar effects. He began to plan the distillery, and it took five years before it was operational. Hletko was juggling two businesses but knew it was time to exclusively focus on distilling spirits. 

“I was no longer able to do both and it was a real gut check,” he says. “The mind will tell you all sorts of things that it wants you to believe, like you need the money or that people will laugh at you or that you aren't good enough to do it or whatever it takes to keep you in your comfort zone. But I had to make a choice between doing what I wanted to do and doing what I had to do.” 

The shift from home brewer to commercial distiller occurred in 2011 when FEW Spirits opened its doors. Read More

Startup Stories of Spirits Entrepreneurs: FEW Spirits

Startup Stories of Spirits Entrepreneurs: FEW Spirits

Startup Stories of Spirits Entrepreneurs is a mini-series that gleans firsthand insight and delves into the challenges, inspiration, lessons learned, and more, from a variety of spirits entrepreneurs.

By Allison Levine, Foodable Contributor

Paul Hletko has brewing in his blood. His grandfather was a brewer in the Czech Republic but lost his business in World War II, and, despite moving to the U.S., continued to fight to get his brewery back until he died in 2008. Hletko wanted to pay homage to his grandfather and, with a passion for whiskey and gin, opening a distillery seemed like a natural option.

Hletko started as a home brewer in his hometown of Evanston, Illinois, just north of Chicago. While a brewing hobbyist, Hletko worked as a patent attorney and had also worked in the music business, doing everything from playing guitar to running a record label to designing custom guitar effects. He began to plan the distillery, and it took five years before it was operational. Hletko was juggling two businesses but knew it was time to exclusively focus on distilling spirits. 

“I was no longer able to do both and it was a real gut check,” he says. “The mind will tell you all sorts of things that it wants you to believe, like you need the money or that people will laugh at you or that you aren't good enough to do it or whatever it takes to keep you in your comfort zone. But I had to make a choice between doing what I wanted to do and doing what I had to do.” 

The shift from home brewer to commercial distiller occurred in 2011 when FEW Spirits opened its doors.

Read More

FEW Spirits: The Apex of the Craft Distillery Boom

FEW Spirits: The Apex of the Craft Distillery Boom

By Suzanne Deveney, Foodable Contributor

Love small batch whiskey or gin? 

You’re in luck, because the craft distillery industry is growing at an incredible rate, which means more spirits in the market and more places to try it. 

In the United States, the number of craft distilleries has grown from about 50 in 2005 to more than 600 today. If growth continues at that rate, the number may double in the next several years.

Distilleries have also spread around the country. While California, Oregon and Washington remain the states with the most operating craft distilleries, distilleries can now be found in 45 states, including Illinois, home of FEW Spirits. 

Founded by Paul Hletko, a former patent lawyer, FEW is located in Evanston, a town about 13 miles north of Chicago’s city center. FEW is the first legal distiller of grain spirits in Evanston, and the irony of the location is not lost on those who know Evanston’s history. 

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