A little over 5 years ago, Matt Lessnau and his fiancée Kacia decided to give up their corporate Seattle careers to move back to the beach where Matt grew up. Trained as an aeronautic engineer, it was hard for Matt to imagine a life back in rural Long Beach that would fit his skill set. Little did he know that working as an event bartender for a wedding at Adrift Hotel would quickly lead to becoming Bar Manager for Pickled Fish and then eventually to him becoming the head distiller of an award winning craft distillery.
That summer Matt was approached by Adrift Hospitality owners Brady and Tiffany who were looking for the next project after opening Ashore Hotel in Seaside. They wanted something that would fit with their current properties and be an added amenity. A craft distillery seemed like a good fit as it dovetailed with a surplus of cranberry concentrate from Starvation Alley (a cranberry farm and juice company owned and run by Tiffany’s family). They only knew of one other distillery that made a cranberry liqueur and they thought it could be a hyper local product that could do very well.
From the beginning, Matt worked closely with the Turners in developing plans and buildout of the distillery, eventually moving from his Bar Manager position to full time Head Distiller and part owner of Adrift Distillers in 2017. And the first product they launched in December 2017, was the Starvation Alley Cranberry Liqueur which is still one of their biggest sellers.
Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the distillery has made quite the pivot, moving from craft spirits to distilling hand sanitizer for the local community and Washington State.
Matt plans to make sanitizer alongside the craft spirits as long as the FDA continues flexibility for small distilleries to do so. That may change in the future when there isn’t such a global need, but Adrift Distillers is continuing to go with the flow and find their niche in an ever changing market. In the meantime, Matt recognizes how different his lifestyle is at the beach compared to back in the tech world of Seattle and he doesn’t plan to give that up anytime soon.
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