“This industry is uniquely demanding. It takes a tenacious drive to get your business rolling.
The entrepreneurs we meet, the distillers that are four or five years in, even the masters, they all have it, that tenacity. It’s a privilege to be part of their story.”
Since its location is 50 miles at most from many of the nation’s most well-known distilleries, Distilled Spirits Epicenter has learned to capitalize on this proximity by bringing some of the most highly skilled professional distillers to its education division, Moonshine University. Their workshops bring in people from all over the world who want to learn the art of distilling, and when they see Master Distillers from companies like Jim Beam, it’s akin to meeting their heroes.
Even the best week-long workshop in the world won’t be enough to teach distilling hopefuls everything they need to know to open up their own shop, but Moonshine University embraces this. Their goal is to teach students more about “what they don’t know,” as it gives them the framework to continually learn long after the workshop ends. Students are even given a full binder of course materials, key contacts and other knowledge they can refer to down the line. The venerated Kentucky Distillers’ Association was so impressed with what Distilled Spirits Epicenter has done that they made them the exclusive education provider of the entire organization. When distilleries like Jack Daniels and Jim Beam are standing behind Moonshine University’s quality education, you can be sure it’ll be worth every penny.
Artisan Spirit Magazine, Winter 2013 Issue
“You need a firm understanding of how things have been done before you can play with how things can be done.”
Moonshine University was created to bring together specialists from every facet of the distilling and spirits industries under one roof to provide education, training, R & D, and support for industry professionals, established companies, and those entering the business. “Within 50 to 75 miles of Louisville, there is every resource imaginable for the distilling industry,” says Founder Dave Dafoe. “There are distillers, distillery engineers, grain producers, cooperages, equipment manufacturers, glassmakers, places to buy labels. These experts make up our faculty.”
Moonshine University offers technical training and business management education for start-ups, industry professionals, and those looking for careers in the industry. “Dave recognized the craft distilling movement taking on momentum, much like craft brewing 20 years ago,” says Kevin Hall, Business Development exec for Moonshine U. However, this tremendous surge in demand for distilling permits had no foundation. “There was no training or business management education specifically for these emerging craft enterprises, and that threatened the integrity of the industry as a whole.”
“In 2006 there were 143 federal permits for distilled spirits plants. In 2014 there were over 1,500.”
In 2012, Dave opened Moonshine University next door to his thriving beverage development company Flavorman. Together the sister-companies make up a beverage campus that houses a fully-equipped distillery, state-of-art classroom, production facility with bottling line, extensive sensory library, and 24,000 square foot beverage innovation laboratory. Moonshine University’s 5-Day Distiller Course qualifies for 5.5 Business Management credit hours through Jefferson Community and Technical College, and seats sell out months in advance. No other facility can match the level of expertise and resources Moonshine U offers, and no other staff invests in the success of students more diligently.
“When you come through our programs, you’re family. That’s just the way we do things.”
Colin Blake | Director of Spirits Education
Colin joined the Moonshine University team in 2012 as its Director of Spirits Education. As a researcher and writer of spirits and cocktails with a background in film production and comedy, Colin is known for delivering expertly curated courses with an entertaining presentation. He is also the proud co-creator of the Stave & Thief Society. When he isn’t teaching, Colin is busy producing custom educational experiences for craft distillers and large spirits brands, alike.
"This is the friendliest, most open industry I've ever encountered. There aren't too many fields where you can call up nearly anyone in the business, introduce yourself, ask a question and get the answer."
Clay Smith | Distillery Operations Manager
Since 2003, Clay has served across many facets of the liquor industry – from Head Distiller of Corsair Distillery to Liaison of the Kentucky Distillers' Association. Clay has been an educator in botanical spirits at Moonshine University since 2013, officially joining the team as its Distillery Operations Manager in 2018. Clay also assists with on-site consultation and product development services for distilleries nationwide.
"While the Science must be respected, the Art must be loved."
Christin Head | Registrar
Since 2015, Christin has been Moonshine University’s “keeper of classes” through her role as Registrar. When she isn’t assisting students with class selection, Christin serves as an educator and representative at industry events. She also holds memberships as a Stave & Thief Society Executive Bourbon Steward, Certified Tourism Ambassador, Bourbon Woman, and Whisky Chick.
"The stories told in this industry weave a connection through families, communities, and history. They are one of most powerful tools you'll wield as a brand owner."
Kevin Hall | Corporate Development
Kevin has been a part of the Moonshine University team since 2011. Through his role in Corporate Development, Kevin spends his time identifying new opportunities in a quickly evolving industry. In addition to sourcing bulk spirits and providing consultation services to students and others entering the space, Kevin serves as an educator and representative at industry events.
“In this business, there is always something more to learn. Even the legendary master distillers put in a call to each other from time to time.”
Who should attend Moonshine University®?
- Entrepreneurs interested in opening their own distillery or launching their own brand.
- Industry professionals who are looking to gain a better overall understanding of the craft, science and trade of beverage alcohol.
- Those looking for careers in the distilling industry.
- Distillery owners/operators who want to specialize or improve in a certain area of their business.
What will I learn?
Our 6-Day Distiller Course provides a complete overview of the craft of distilling and the beverage alcohol industry through comprehensive technical training and business management education. We bring in over 50 industry experts for an intensive, practical, hands-on learning experience that covers every facet of the craft and the industry, from raw materials sourcing and best manufacturing practices to branding and getting your product into the hands of consumers.
Our workshops are designed to advance understanding and skills in specific areas of the business, such as individual distillate specialization, operations, and route-to-market, through practical study and hands-on on application in the classroom setting.
Are your courses hands on?
During our 6-Day Distiller Course, we spend time in the distillery every day. We distill rum, whiskey, gin, and vodka. Our hands-on distilling consultants, Pete Kamer and Randy Allender, are worth every penny of tuition alone. They go above and beyond to spend time with our attendees before and after class and on breaks to answer questions, discuss individual projects, and demonstrate techniques.
We also spend time in the beverage development lab studying beverage development, uses for grain neutral spirits (GNS), chill filtration and the art and science of sensory evaluations.
Similarly our workshops also include hands-on activities designed to incorporate the concepts discussed in the classroom into practical application. Many of our hands-on learning exercises breakdown larger concepts into smaller pieces for a more thorough analysis, such as individual congener study or bench-top distilling.
How are these courses different than other distilling courses?
Faculty: Moonshine University® was created to bring together specialists from every facet of the distilling and spirits industries under one roof to provide education, training, R & D, and support for industry professionals, established companies, and those entering the business. With a faculty of over 50 of the industry's recognized experts, we provide the opportunity to learn from the best of the best, from distillers and marketers of the world's most successful brands to owners and operators of working craft distilleries.
Facilities: Moonshine University® is located on a beverage campus that houses a fully-equipped distillery, state-of-art classroom, production facility with bottling line, extensive sensory library, and 24,000 square foot beverage innovation laboratory. Our proximity to industry supplier and manufacturing facilities allows us to incorporate "field trips" into our curriculum.
Recognition: As the exclusive educational member of the Kentucky Distillers' Association, Moonshine University® has the full breadth and depth of its support. KDA members produce nearly all of the major brands and many of the well-known craft brands in the United States. It is with these resources that we are able to offer such an in-depth training and business education for the distilling industry.
What do I get to take home from the course?
In addition to your learning materials, you will come away with a network of professional contacts from suppliers to distillers to distributors. During your time here at Moonshine U, you will have exceptional opportunities to personally engage with best of the best in the beverage alcohol industry, including:
• Distillery Equipment Manufacturers
• Distillery Architects and Contractors
• Beverage Scientists
• Distillery Operators
• World-renowned Master Distillers
• Brand Managers
• Distribution Managers
• Distillery Engineers
• Beverage Law & Compliance Consultants
Attendees will learn from an experienced distillery construction team made up of:
• Distillery Architect
• General Contractor
• Critical sub-contractors
• Key equipment manufacturers
• Distillery Engineer
• Distillery Operator
Where is Moonshine University located?
Moonshine University® is an artisan distillery and education center located in downtown Louisville, Kentucky. For a virtual 360° tour using Google Maps, click here.
Are you open for tours?
Since our focus is education and not production, are not open to the public or offer public tours. If you are interested in attending a class and would like to meet the team at Moonshine University® and see the facilities, please contact us to set up an appointment.
Is Moonshine University® backed by any professional organizations?
As the exclusive educational member of the Kentucky Distillers' Association, Moonshine University® has the full breadth and depth of its support. KDA members produce nearly all of the major brands and many of the well-known craft brands in the United States. It is with these resources that we are able to offer such an in-depth training and business education for the distilling industry.
Does Moonshine University® offer job placement?
While we do not offer job placement, classes at Moonshine University® will put you in a better position for employment in the industry. The networking opportunities available through our courses are incredibly valuable for advancing in the industry. In addition, Moonshine University® acts as a resource to all graduates, providing information and helping to connect people.
Who makes up the faculty at Moonshine University®?
The faculty at Moonshine University® is made up of over 50 industry experts who represent hundreds of years of experience. Every class and topic is taught by the professional with years of experience in the area able to present in-depth, practical content and insight. Our faculty is not in house; they’re out working in the spirits industry. See more on our faculty page.
What range of classes do you offer?
We offer everything from one-day classes for enthusiast who want an unbranded, hands-on experience, to two-day and 3-day workshops that dive deep into specific areas of production and the industry. We also offer our flagship 6-Day Distiller Course, an intensive, practical, hands-on learning experience that provides a complete overview of distillate production and the beverage alcohol industry.
Do you offer private classes?
Private group classes are available upon request. Pricing varies based on group size and class content. We also offer individual training and product development. Please contact us for details.
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