Behind the Story: How a group of college students were able to get class credit tasting spirits


It felt as if we had just finished our story on the baby cows… we were exhausted, overwhelmed by calf cuteness and dairy knowledge. But it was Monday, which means Brady was expecting a new story topic.

“There is no time to reflect, only time to report.” -Alice Neary

Matt Medlin, the mastermind behind our newest creation, was the one to pitch Cal Wise. He attended a tour for Poly Reps of the Hot House downtown San Luis Obispo where he originally discovered the start-up. With quite the variety of business ideas, a spirit distillery was one which truly stood out.

At first, the team was overwhelmed by the scope of the topic. It seemed huge. There was the political aspect, 12 craft distilleries in the county, but all which make different products from different bases in different quantities. How could we do it justice?


After the initial interview, the team found the greatest connection to Cal Poly was Cal Wise, a start-up distillery founded by a Cal Poly alumni in the Cal Poly affiliated Hot House downtown San Luis Obispo.


The team met up at Cal Wise’s headquarters, a small cubicle in the corner of the office space above Ross on Higuera St. There, they met with Aaron Bergh,  the founder of CalWise, who refers to himself as the “Commander in Mischief.” The team was able to taste through the spirits he offers while learning a little more about his product and brand. CalWise spirits feature lots of California inspired botanical additions as well as untraditionally artistic labels. Bergh says he, “wants there to be a little more edge and personality to his brand.” After tasting, Kayla Veloso says her, “favorite was the blonde rum because it had a very fruity taste and made me feel super elegant and fancy, kind of like an old man.” This is possibly my all time favorite description of a flavor, ever.


After a lively interview, they proceeded to Granada Hotel and Bistro located on Morro St. downtown SLO that carries Cal Wise. There, they filmed the hipster bartender (yes, he had a man bun) crafting the “Bodega Punch.”  “I knew that I was going to eventually buy a $14 cocktail in my lifetime and this just seemed like it was the perfect opportunity,” said Taylor Mohrhardt. She was impressed.

The team was satisfied, but Brady would not be. They still needed more sources. Alas, the hunt was on. In a false lead that there would be Cal Wise spirit tasting samples at CaliFresh (my bad), the legendary journalist Matt Medlin decides to seize the unanticipated time opening to shoot for something even greater…he spontaneously called Bill Owens, the Founder of the American Distilling Institute, to gain a little more insight to the industry from a man who is definitly an established member. Sitting on a bench outside of the grocery store, Matt recalls being, “pretty desperate at that point and I just happened to catch him at the end of his work day when he was walking to his car to go home.” Thankfully, the people in this industry are happy and willing to share their knowledge of craft spirits. They are hopeful that through education the products they so tediously craft will be appreciated by a broader public.

During this time, Alice Neary was up in Paso Robles getting video footage of an interview with the Co-Owner of Krobār Craft Distillery. He shared some epic insight on the expanding industry including why the Central Coast is the ideal location for this kind of craft movement to begin.

The team had everything they could have wanted. Incredible sources, an exciting topic, and more than anything, they had each other.