After spending time in the Army, Luke Jean started his career journey at Starbucks, but quickly learned he wasn’t chasing his passion. While he didn’t stay in the coffee industry, one thing he took away from Starbucks is sensory analysis skills. He’s tweaked what he learned in their Coffee Masters program and now applies it to spirits. “I’ve since learned how to lead tastings, how to do pallet cleansings, and other things that are useful in distilling,” said Luke, a student in SPSCC’s Craft Brewing & Distilling program.
He was drawn to the coffee company because he’s always wanted to experience the best products possible. The idea of tasting the best coffee—or the best spirit he could find—quickly morphed into wanting to learn how those products were made. Then once he went down that path, he branched off into other areas.
“I felt if I’m seeking out the best, then how do I get into learning the process of making it?” Luke recalled.
He found that opportunity when he landed a job at Heritage Distilling Co. in Gig Harbor. He spent nearly two years at Heritage and, in February 2020, he left his sales role and ventured into the entrepreneurial space. He’s now in the planning stage of beginning his own distillery, as well as doing consulting work for other brands on product development.
Homesteading in the heart of bourbon country
During his time at Heritage, Luke moved to Kentucky to be closer to family; he travels to the Olympia area for quarterly in-person classes and labs. He and his wife live outside of Bowling Green, Kentucky, in the tiny town of Smith’s Grove and consider themselves homesteaders. They have a farm full of animals, including seven horses, seven chickens, nine ducks, four dogs, four cats, and a cow.
Besides distilling, an additional hobby he’s getting into is craft home brewing. Luke says it’s not something he wants to pursue professionally but sees the value in developing transferrable skills to stay sharp as a distiller. Ultimately, he knows he wants to be on the creative, production, and operations side of the business.
“I loved working in sales, it’s a great learning piece of the business, but I have more of a heart for creating and distilling.”
Turning a hobby into a career
Like Luke, Myriam Boyer also ventured into the craft beverage industry through a winding path. Myriam has a background in education. Originally from Quebec, she taught French as a substitute teacher while her husband was in the Army.
But four years ago, her husband gave her a home brewing kit for their wedding anniversary. She’s always loved to cook and bake, so the kit was something she was eager to try out. She started making beer and hasn’t looked back. “It seemed like the perfect gift for someone who loves cooking, biochemistry, and mixing stuff,” she said.
Besides brewing beer, she also makes cheese and kombucha. It was her interest in home brewing that encouraged her to find a way to move into the craft beverage industry. And the first step of that journey began when she joined SPSCC’s Craft Brewing & Distilling program.
“When I saw the program I thought it would be a good opportunity to learn more, to pursue my hobby, and make it profitable.”
Looking to the future
After she graduates, Myriam would like to gain experience in sales or production. She’d love to work for a local brewery to learn even more about the brewing process and the industry. And like her classmate, Luke, she also has entrepreneurial aspirations.
“I want to open my own brewing facility with a tap room, and I have a vision of how I want it to look.” Although she’s the brewer in the family, her husband backs her vision. “This is a goal my husband shares with me,” she said of their mutual dream.
Looking to get started in this grow your skills in this dynamic industry? The application deadline for the 2020 Fall Quarter is July 6.