BELTWAY BANTER with PETE KAMER Interview between Pete Kamer & Robert Lehrman
elow is an email interview between Pete Kamer and Robert C. Lehrman. PROVIDED BY PETE KAMER Kamer started his distilling career with Seagram distillery in Louisville in 1978 working in distilling, bottling maintenance, plant maintenance, utilities, plant engineering, and corporate engineering. He is a licensed professional engineer. In 1985 he went to work for Barton Distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky, as their engineering manager, handling all engineeringrelated work in the Bardstown and Atlanta plants and assisted in the Carson, California plant. His duties included the selection and installation of new equipment, troubleshooting existing equipment, increasing capacity, and improving operations. Mr. Kamer retired from Barton in 2011 and started his own engineering company, Distillery Engineering. Since then he has helped small- to medium-sized distilleries with everything from site selection, equipment selection, plant layout, startup, and troubleshooting.
Tell us about your career so far. I started working for Joseph E. Seagram in 1978 and worked there for about seven years. I left there and went to Barton Brands in Bardstown, Kentucky and worked there as the engineering manager for 26 years. I left Barton in 2011 to go into partial retirement and work as a consultant to small distilleries. I have my own company named Distillery Engineering. Since I started my consulting business I have worked for about 45 different distilleries.
How did you get into the spirits business? When I came out of college with a degree in Civil Engineering, I wanted to work in big construction. The economy was slow and no one was hiring new civil engineers. Seagram’s offered me a job in my hometown of Louisville. I took the job figuring I could work at Seagram’s for a year and then go do construction. I would also be in Louisville with my friends. One month later I was sent to Lawrenceburg, Kentucky to work in what is now the Four Roses Distillery. Once I was in the distilling industry, I loved it and never thought about leaving.
Any good stories from the early years? When I started working at the Four Roses Distillery, it had not been run in a number of years. The first thing we had to do was inspect the equipment, put it back together, and start it up. I got to learn from guys who had been working on this equipment their whole lives, and they taught me a lot about it. Once the distillery started running, I became a shift supervisor. I was able to do my work in a couple of hours; in the remaining time, I got the operators to teach me how to operate the equipment. On the first day, I would follow them around and get them to tell how and why they did everything. After a few days, I would get them to let me run the equipment with them watching me so that I did not do anything really bad. I did this for every position in the distillery. At first, the operators were a little suspicious why I wanted to do this. By the end, they understood I only wanted to fully understand the distillery. They became very open with me and wanted to tell and show me everything. I learned a lot about what works or did not work in the real world. This still helps me to this day.
“Once I was in the distilling industry, I loved it and never thought about leaving.” WWW.ART ISANSP IRITMAG.COM
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