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Cheers to two years

Paradise North Distillery celebrates second anniversary

By Janelle Fisher

City Pages Editor

Paradise North Distillery will celebrate its second anniversary this weekend, having opened its doors in 2021 as Green Bay’s first and only distillery.

At just two years old, the distillery also holds the default title of Green Bay’s oldest distillery, which Owner Tom Feld said he was surprised to learn.

“Oddly enough, there has never been a legal — that’s the qualifier — distillery in the City of Green Bay,” he said. “I had an opportunity in our first year to do a presentation with someone from the Neville Museum and then the Brown County Public Library and they helped me out and did some digging and they were like ‘yeah, we cannot find any record of a distillery,’ which to me was kind of odd. I would have expected with all the breweries and wineries and everything else that somewhere along the line there’d have been a distillery, but there’s not, so we’re two years in and then that makes us the oldest.”

One of the reasons distilleries are not as common as breweries or wineries, Feld said, is the inability to try your hand at the practice at home, like many brewers or winemakers do before jumping into a full-fledged business.

“Distilleries are a little odd in that there is no legal way to do any distilling [at home],” he said. That’s allowed to a certain extent with breweries and wineries, but when we do it we have to kind of find a different route… Because it is illegal to distill at home, it’s not like we can start making it and having people over for parties and trying it. So my route was classroom training, online training, whatever I could get my hands on, reading every book that there is out there on distilling, but then also — and importantly — spending time with other distillers. I met a couple here in the state that were willing to share what they know and that was a huge help because without that, I honestly don’t know how else you’d figure it out to the point where you can actually make something — and make something that people like and want to buy.”

Even with so many breweries in the area, Feld said he doesn’t view them as competition so much as opportunities for collaboration — and sometimes cause for confusion.

“We do collaborative projects with some of the breweries,” he said. “We work together on things, so we don’t really view it as competition. You’d be surprised at the number of people that come in here and don’t realize what a distillery is. They’ll come in and they’ll be like ‘okay, what kind of beer do you make?’ And we’re like, ‘okay, well, that’s not us. That’s not what we do.’ So it’s been a kind of educational experience for us, educating the City of Green Bay on what a distillery is and this is what we do. That was a little surprising — the number of people that didn’t realize what we actually are and what we make. They’re very familiar with breweries, but being the first distillery, not everybody knows what that is.”

Feld said even though not everyone knew right away what Paradise North was or what a distillery did, the response from the public since opening the establishment has exceeded his initial expectations.

“I’ll refer back to our original business plan quite a bit, just to see how we track,” he said. “Our business is significantly bigger than I expected it to be at this time. We’re producing more and a larger variety of products than I expected to be doing at this time. I hadn’t expected to be making our own bourbon this early in the process, but the demand for that was so great from the day we opened that I jumped into it sooner than I had planned and the response when we released the first one last fall was so great.”

It’s not only interest in the drinks, though, that has surpassed expectations Feld said, but interest in being in the distillery, which is located at 101 Bay Beach Rd., Suite 5, in Green Bay.

“Our tasting room business is much more than we expected it to be,” he said. “We’re now expanding into having a small event space because that has been a request that we get repeatedly. So we just recently added on some event space that we rent out for people.”

Feld said that even though he’s comfortable with the distillery’s current operations, he’s always looking for new things to work on.

“We’re settled in, but there’s so much on our to-do list yet,” he said. “Some things and opportunities that we recognize and that we can do and other products that we would like to produce and come out with. From an operations standpoint, yeah, we’re settled in. We’ve kind of established a little bit of a comfort zone, which is nice. But the good thing — and what keeps it fun — is there’s always more we can do, so there’s always something new that we’re working on.”

One of those things to work on, Feld said, is the addition of aged products to Paradise North’s product lines, but those things take time.

“The biggest thing is just our aged products,” he said. “Oddly enough, aged products take time. So the gradual release of some of those things we’re putting in barrels. We’ve got a barrel-aged gin sometime before the end of the year that we’ll have available. Zambaldi Brewery had used some of our barrels to age their beer and we’ve got those back. One of those barrels is getting filled with spiced rum, so we’ll have a beer barrel aged spiced rum, which I can’t wait for and which will be delicious. We just started putting in barrels a new bourbon… It’ll be a while before that’s ready to release. We did a project with Ledgestone Vineyards. We took some of their wine and distilled it and we’ve got several barrels of brandy that will be almost two years before we can release it… We’re always working on something, and that’s what makes this business fun — just being creative and figuring out what we want to make next.”

Another place Feld said he’s had the opportunity to be creative is in the naming of the establishment itself.

“Paradise North is a reference to our home here in Green Bay,” he said. “Ever since my kids were old enough to travel, we’ve done family vacations to any number of places, but when they got into college, for probably eight-nine years, every March we would spend a week in Florida. We had kind of a running joke when we would travel about who’s the first one that’s going to use the word paradise to describe where we’re at? Because that’s how vacations are, you know, you get away from everything and it’s just like every place to go is perfect. And our home started to become referred to as our paradise north. It was a place we always traveled back to and we could find paradise as a family, sitting on our patio in our backyard.”

And Feld said the Paradise North theme continues in the naming of all the distillery’s products as well.

“All of our products are branded after some of our favorite places that we think other people can relate to,” he said. “So all of the rums are Beach Road rums — so Beach Road Silver Rum, Beach Road Coffee Rum — and Beach Road refers to when we vacation in Florida, the place we stayed was on Beach Road. Our vodka line is all Essen House, so Essen House Vodka Essen House Gin, Essen House Chocolate Vodka. Essen is the street that we live on here in Green Bay, so Essen House refers to our home. 10 Mile Bourbon and Old M28 Bourbon, both of those names refer to family that lived in the upper peninsula of Michigan — and we still have property up there. 10 Mile is the river that runs along the property and Old M28 is the road that our cabin is on. So everything kind of ties back into that little Paradise North theme.”

Paradise North Distillery will celebrate its second anniversary this weekend with deals on cocktails Friday from 4-6 p.m., Yoga with Tree at 11 a.m. Saturday and live music with Nathan Decker starting at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

Learn more about Paradise North Distillery and its anniversary celebration by visiting paradisenorthdistillery.com or following Paradise North Distillery on Facebook.

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