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Our Daytonian of the Week stepped up big-time during the coronavirus crisis

Brad Measel is co-founder of Flat Rock Spirits/Stillrights Distillery in Bath Twp.  2015 file photo by LISA POWELL / STAFF
Brad Measel is co-founder of Flat Rock Spirits/Stillrights Distillery in Bath Twp. 2015 file photo by LISA POWELL / STAFF

Credit: Lisa Powell

Credit: Lisa Powell

Stillwrights distillery’s Brad Measel and his co-founders have produced multiple batches of hand sanitizer for WPAFB

Brad Measel and the distillery he co-founded — Flat Rock Spirits in Bath Twp., maker of Stillwrights bourbon, rum and moonshine — have stepped up more than once to help protect employees of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base during the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier this month, Measel was approached by a group from Wright-Patt and asked to help fill a need for germ-killing hand sanitizer at the base. Measel decided to sacrifice 12 batches of what was originally intended to be Stillwrights Rum, and which was ready to be bottled. At retail, the batches would have been worth about $100,000. Instead, Stillwrights re-distilled the spirit to produce 190-proof alcohol, which was then blended with a few other ingredients and made into the sanitizer.

“I wish we could do more,” Measel said at the time.

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And this week, he did. Stillwrights is doing the same re-distillation process with about 200 gallons of wine contributed to the cause by Caesar Creek Vineyards, in New Jasper Twp. east of Xenia.

Measel is our Dayton.com Daytonian of the Week. Let’s let him tell you more about how he ended up in this position to help.

Please tell us your background and how it came about that you launched Flat Rock Spiritss/Stillwrights Distillery. 

My background is in industrial machinery moving, and industrial construction. I went to work for my father’s millwright company straight out of high school, as did my three brothers. Dad grew up in East Dayton working with his father as a carpenter and then later as a millwright working for Muth brothers, American riggers and Orbit machinery movers before starting his own millwright company in 1982, with his dad and his brother.

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My brother Shawn and I, along with our cousin James, operated dad’s millwright company after my dad’s passing in 2007. The downsizing of the auto industry in the Dayton area put a big strain our millwright business and eventually forced us to look for another line of work.

I came across the micro-distilling business while searching for “recession-resistant businesses,” and being a bourbon lover, this sounded like something worth looking in to. And so it began.

What’s a typical work day for you? 

My typical work day now starts with starting the still for a distillation run, or starting a mash-in, which is step one of the bourbon-making process, and then turning that over to James to finish. The remainder of the day may include checking on sales orders, warehouse stock and liquor-store inventory. I also do facility and equipment maintenance on a daily basis.

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Why did you decide to stay in and settle in in the Dayton area? 

We started our distillery in Bath Twp. (at 5380 Intrastate Drive near I-675 and State Route 444), in one of the buildings we had been using for the millwright business. It isn’t in the best location, for sure, but it’s 10,000 square feet of “paid-for,” so it kind of made sense.

What’s been your most recent professional challenge, and how did you push through the challenge? 

We have been challenged lately, as everyone has, been with the COVID-19 situation. We decided to switch our production over from making beverage alcohol to making alcohol for use in hand sanitizer.

The biggest challenge in this for us has been making 190-proof alcohol. Our still is basically a pot still design for making whiskey and rum.

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We also use the still to make our moonshine, which we distill to 180 proof, but getting to 190 proof is a slow go. The still has a small reflux column, so we can distill up to 190 proof, but it takes three times as long as it would with the correct equipment.

We don't know when we'll go back to producing Stillwrights bourbon and rum again, but we hope it will be soon.

For after the pandemic is over, what are your favorite places to eat and/or drink in the Dayton area? 

When the pandemic situation eases up and we can all get back to doing more normal things, I look forward to playing some music with my band-mates. We had a couple gigs booked at the Miamisburg Moose lodge that we were looking forward to, and are now looking forward to rescheduling them and having some fun when this is over. Brimstone will rock again soon!

What’s your guilty pleasure? 

My guilty pleasure is getting alone with my Stratocaster, cranking up a jam track on YouTube and letting everything else wait!

What inspires you about the Dayton area?

Lately I’ve been inspired by my fellow local musicians, and how they are supporting the music fans of the Dayton area. Doug Hart (of the Doug Hart Band) did a great streaming jam the other night, and I saw one from Reyna Spears that was great, too. It’s great for their fans, and it’s therapeutic for artists. The coronavirus can’t stop Dayton from jammin’!