Peters ’14: Gaining Experience with (Kindred) Spirits

A couple months ago, while reading over the various descriptions of available internships through Wabash, I read the words, “Our intern will have to wear a lot of hats.”  The description belonged to my current summer employer StilL 630 in St. Louis, MO and could not have been a more accurate description of the position.  After a resumé submission, a phone interview conducted while my car was breaking down on the Pennsylvania turnpike, and a mad dash to secure summer housing, I made the move to St. Louis to begin working with David Weglarz ’03 at his start-up craft distillery.

I’ve been at the distillery for three and a half weeks and I feel as I’ve done every job in the distillation business.  David uses the tagline, “From Grain to Glass,” to describe the process of making our whiskey products, and again he is spot-on with his description.  We start by combining water with our chosen grains for the spirit (malt rye, barley, winter wheat, etc.) in a mash tun.  The mash tun is about six feet tall and holds 500 gallons.  It also requires regular cleaning, a perfect job for a summer intern no doubt!

Here I am cleaning out the mash tun, where the whole process starts

The process continues with the mixing of these ingredients during various heating and cooling steps.  The “mash” is then brought to one of our four fermenters where yeast is pitched in to begin breaking down the usable sugars provided by the grain into alcohol (getting interesting right?).  While it is in the fermenter for a 2-5 day period, the mixture is now called distiller’s beer; think Sam Adams without all the hops being added.  The distiller’s beer is then brought to our still, which was handmade right here in St. Louis.  At StilL 630, our current spirits our double distilled, which means we run the liquid through the distillation process twice.  The first run, called the “stripping run,” boils off usable alcohol, leaving water behind.  This alcohol is about 45% alcohol by volume (ABV) and will be run through the freshly cleaned still (also the job of an intern) again in a “spirits run.”  This is the good alcohol that will end up in a bottle or a barrel.  We make cuts of this alcohol first however, as the spirits come off in three categories: heads, hearts, and tails.  Hearts are the good alcohol that is drinkable (once proofed down, even for college kids) while heads remind me of moonshine.  Tails are used when a whiskey is barreled for aging.  The esters of the tails react well with the charred barrels and give it the amber color that we are used to in whiskey.

While running, the “mash” has to be broken up to produce sugar

But like I said earlier, lots of hats are worn.  I’ve bottled our whiskey, labeled it, and then sold it by walking to bars and giving tastings.  Right now we survive on word of mouth advertising and social media buzz (follow us @STILL630 or on Facebook).  So instead of hats, I wear a suit as often as a dirty work shirt.

With all this work being done, that doesn’t mean we don’t have fun however.  I personally love going out to different venues to run tastings and talk with patrons, bartenders, and restaurant owners.  We get to drink the whiskey that I helped make and get to spread our proud product around the city.  I’ve even taught David to play some lacrosse in our down time.  Also, David and I were lucky enough to score free ultimate BLT’s from Crown Candy Kitchen, a historic STL kitchen that has been featured on Food Network multiple times, for just talking to them!

It’s bigger than my head!

David, his wife Sydney, his newborn son Mason, his big dog Jake, and I actually just returned from Louisville, KY.  David and I went on a bourbon trail distillery tour, visiting the likes of Maker’s Mark and Heaven Hill, to do some research but also have a great summer experience.  And so far that’s exactly what this summer has been.  I’m extremely happy to have been chosen for this position and I would like to thank the Small Business Internship Fund and Wabash College Career Services in helping me earn this position!

One last thing however, you over 21 year-olds need to keep your eyes open for Rally Point Rye Whiskey and Big Dog Jake White Whiskey on a shelf near you to help some Wabash brothers out!  David is on his way to taking over the industry, I’m just glad I can be here for the first few steps.


Alex Amerling ’14: Physics in the Real World!

Alex Amerling ’14: I have interned at Mercury Marine for the past three summers, and each year my job gets more interesting. Mercury is the world’s #1 producer of boat propulsion systems (boat engines) and I get to work with the best and brightest in the industry every day. This year I am working with the Engineering Facilities group, and it’s the coolest job I have had so far.

I have built 3 portable data acquisition units that are used to collect on boat data. These data loggers can collect temp, rpm, voltage drop, you name it, these guys can do it. So far, one went to Panama City FL, one to Seattle and one to Malaysia. I have been soldering, slicing and drawing up wiring diagrams for these units so that whoever has to make these in the future can do so easily. When I was first tasked with building these units the first thing I thought was “wow, this is shockingly like my Electronics class.” Building the units was the first task, and then I had to get them to work. This took a lot of testing in the DYNO cells (where the engines are tested) to get the math of the unit to work properly, but after a few hours and some strong words directed at this little box, I got it.

The corporate environment here is something that is not for all people but I have been able to assimilate and operate within it. As the new Head PCA, I want to let everyone know Career Services can help you learn how to properly operate within a big company like this. Sending emails to other professionals, how to dress and how to approach people are all things you can stop by the office to get help with. It’s not rocket science, but there are some things that may escape individuals.

I’m happy to be back at Mercury and it truly is amazing working for the most innovative individuals in the industry. It’s an honor to have these people ask me to help them do their work. I am proud to say that I am an employee of Mercury Marine, and will continue to enjoy my summer!

Safe Boating,
Alex Amerling