I, Rob, will be your narrator here because there are many workhorses involved in this operation and I'd like to share a couple words on how we all met and what we all do. The way Workhorse operates is pretty unique, and by that I mean... Complicated. A lot of hands make this thing go round. Looking back, it is surprising that everyone listed here believed in this project so readily, and for that I am excessively thankful.
My background is in music, music education, and hospitality. My mother recently told me when I was two years old I used to bring cups while taking a bath and serve my parents various types of (imaginary) coffee over the side of the bath tub so apparently I've been serving people behind a bar (or what I thought was a bar) for longer than is really appropriate! After working at coffee and cocktail bars, I wanted to explore the idea of making whiskey, so I took "Craft Distilling Operations & Technology" at Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago which led me to start this project. After David and I spent a year developing our whiskey, I left to work for New York City's oldest whiskey distillery (at four years old), Kings County Distillery. I lived in Brooklyn for a year and worked for some beautiful cocktail bars while making whiskey laboriously by hand, falling head over heels for New York as a whole, which was for some reason unexpected. I came back to San Francisco in mid 2013 as our first batches of Workhorse Rye whiskey turned two years old, ready to take our project to the public market. For the past few years we have been working ourselves to the bone for this phase to come. We brought whiskey samples to over a hundred bars in the states and sent quite a few out of the country as well. Now it feels surreal to say that we will have whiskey in San Francisco, LA, and San Diego. Here are our friends that have helped make this dream a reality.
David and I met at my parent's dinner table in Tucson, AZ when I was 8. He is my older brother's friend who eventually became my friend too. Apparently he thought I was mute at first, I guess I didn't say anything to him all night. Although I don't remember that, I can only assume I was observing him to assess if he'd be a good business partner. Throughout the years, I became a fan of his paintings, and he became a fan of my music so we kept in touch quite a bit. Fifteen years after meeting we were having a meal again, as we do, on my front porch in San Francisco and I mentioned in passing that I thought there were categories within whiskey that were wide open. So completely untouched in the market that a whiskey company could focus an entire career on these fringe ideas. Since I had just come back from Chicago having taken the course "Craft Distilling Technology & Operations" at Siebel Institute, I was fired up and had begun working at a distillery in San Francisco, in addition to my cocktail and coffee jobs. David was very interested in hearing more about the project and before I even completed the thought he said "Let's. Do. This." I've seen David's mindset of "creativity and quality trumps all" make big impacts on the people we work with, and I am lucky to be apart of this journey with him, his sweetheart wife Nicole, and daughter/Workhorse mascot Natascha.
Since David and I established our roles and we already had the distillery to work with, the next step was to find a brewery with which to work, since whiskey comes from beer. This turned out to be the most difficult piece of the puzzle. I emailed every brewer in the bay area asking if they'd let me make beer at their brewery, pay for it, and truck it to Treasure Island to distill. This is a little bit crazy to request as EVERY bay area brewer is beyond capacity, trying to keep up with the demand of thirsty bay area residents. So to interrupt their brew schedule for some guy wanting to buy their beer at wholesale... This was complicated. After many visits and many meetings, I walked into ThirstyBear Organic Brewery and met with Master Brewer Brenden Dobel. I walked into the meeting with nothing more to offer than outlandish ideas and what could have then be seen as delusions of whiskey grandeur. That must have been August of 2012 and by the end of that year, Brenden had been won over to the Workhorse vision and we started brewing. Brenden and Patrick have been beyond crucial to not only the launch of Workhorse Rye but also in honing the flavor of each whiskey we make.
Before we went to brew 1,000 gallon batches of beer at a time at ThirstyBear, we needed to do smaller test batches to get our boat legs, and lots of them. For that we were introduced to Bryan of Pac Brew Lab fame, a meeting that eventually led to exactly what we needed. Bryan is a recovering scientist who left the field to practice chemistry on a more tasty and time-flexible basis: brewing! If you haven't had a moment with his beer yet, next time you are at a fine brew establishment in San Francisco ask them what Pac Brew Labs beer they have on tap.
Adam & Bill are all around mavericks in the beer world. The beer they make and the contribution they make to the beer community is commendable, and Workhorse is indebted to them for their constant support through sage advice and sheer muscle. Brew day without Adam and Bill would be awful. Hauling 1,000 gallons of beer at a time from ThirstyBear to Treasure Island is quite a feat, and without The Lucky Hand Boys would not be possible, and certainly not as fun.
Rohit is the resident grew-up-in-the-rainforest-then-went-to-Harvard straight-lacer at the Workhorse camp. Everyone needs one in their camp. Well, at least we do, we'd be lost without him. Upon meeting through friends at a crawfish boil in a sunny backyard in Brooklyn, he said something to the effect of "I like making IPAs, I guess its just in my blood, you know, because I'm Indian"... Which... I thought was hilarious and turned out to be a great start to our relationship. He put his Applied Math and Economics Harvard degree to use for four years working for financial and hedge fund juggernauts but eventually decided to opt out and put his skills to use on more creative and "Brooklyn-esque" endeavors. He currently lives in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and runs the East Coast wing of Brand Development for Workhorse Rye, among other things involving home brewing, park activities, and the obligatory and painful whiskey research (that's a joke, you got that right?). You will see him at bars discussing bitters and whispering very business-like things into our ears like the ever popular "make sure you save all receipts" and "is that a realistic timeline for that to get done?" What a guy.
Andrew is as fluent in fly fishing as he is marketing. He's as Scandinavian as he is Nordic as he is a good ol southern boy with good manners. One day I met him while working at Four Barrel, and apparently the coffee was so good he said "Hey can I be on the whiskey strategy team?" The answer was very complicated but led to a solid "yes please". You will see Andrew's face at Workhorse events pouring whiskey, at which point you should ask him about Georgia, the mountains (any mountain will do, he knows about all of them), fried chicken, and daisy dukes. He has much to say.
Wizardy is an understatement. Alex Powar would not approve of such a title, and upon reading this is turning a bright salmon or bubble gum pink... But everyone else in the world who has been in Four Barrel while Alex is working knows that his hospitality style and deep, almost cavernous-like knowledge pool is as shocking as it is educational. He's the kind of guy that drops out of medical school to follow his passion for coffee. Alex and Four Barrel have helped us develop our Coffee Rye Bitters release, which is quite a distinct product. You must go to one of his classes and drink coffee made by him and all the folks at Four Barrel.