On-the-job training leads to spirited career

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Stevie Lowery
Landmark News Service

A batch of moonshine isn’t made overnight.

And neither is a successful business, especially in the spirits industry.
But, in less than two years, Limestone Branch Distillery has doubled its sales, introduced several new products, and started a new career for at least one employee.

This past March, Steve Beam, co-owner of the distillery, hired his first two employees through the Lincoln Trail Area Development District’s on-the-job training program, which is made possible by the Federal Workforce Investment Act of 1998. The two employees did not have the skills needed for the job, so during their training period, the program reimbursed Limestone for a portion of the employees’ wages.

“Being such a new business, we probably would not have been able to afford two employees, so this program was of great assistance to us,” Beam said.

Beam’s employees learned the entire process of making moonshine. From getting the grain to mashing, fermenting, distilling, proofing, etc., they learned it from start to finish.

“You learn something new every day,” Beam said. “There’s always a moving target. It takes a good year before you’re comfortable dealing with situations that arise.”

And, like a good bourbon, the business can be addictive. Or, at least that’s what Beam was counting on when hiring his employees.

“I only hire people who I think are going to retire from here,” he said. “I’m looking for people who are planning to be here for the long haul.”

Dustin Van Meter, who has been working for Beam since March, said he definitely sees a future with Limestone Branch Distillery.

“This is the best job I’ve had my entire life,” he said. “It’s the kind of job that, when I leave, I can’t wait to come back the next day.”

Van Meter is brand new to the business and knew nothing about moonshine or bourbon when he moved to the area from Orlando, Fla.

He and his wife, Allison, moved to her hometown of Springfield soon after having their baby boy, Dallen, in January. He drove by Limestone Branch Distillery, located just off the Marion County Veterans Memorial Highway, one Sunday afternoon and introduced himself to Beam. Beam ended up hiring him through the on-the-job training program, and Van Meter has learned about every aspect of the business, including doing everything by hand—the old way of making moonshine.

“I was eager to learn,” Van Meter said. “And you have to want to learn and understand because every single day the environment is different.”

Van Meter actually had an opportunity to go work at the Toyota plant in Georgetown, but he loves his work at the distillery so much he decided to stay put.

“I feel like I owe it to Steve to stick with it,” Van Meter said. “I know that he trusts me because my hands touch every single bottle that comes through here. And, there is a sense of pride that comes with this job. It’s a respected industry.”    

Beam is pleased to have Van Meter on board, and the business shows no signs of slowing down.

“We haven’t even begun to market our bourbon yet, which is ultimately where we want to be,” Beam said. “Bourbon is in our blood… it’s in our DNA.”