Beloit native shares tale of pursuing his dreams

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Rob Gard chills out on Islay, a Scottish island. He wrote a book on his travels on the island titled "Distilling Rob: Manly Lies and Whisky Truths." Gard, raised in Beloit, worked in a distillery after writing extensively about whiskey in Los Angeles.

Rob Gard, son of Gary and Nora Gard of Beloit, has written a spirit-filled book about his stint at a distillery. He said his journey growing up in Beloit, and subsequently fleeing to pursue his dreams in Los Angeles led him to an unlikely place — a distillery on a Scottish island.

His book “Distilling Rob: Manly Lies and Whisky Truths” spills over with stories of fermentation, both of the liquor and of the man.

“Beloit mirrors my journey. Beloit has really reshaped itself from how uncertain it seemed to be in the 1970s and 1980s into a city that can be proud of itself. My maturation process mirrors Beloit’s in many ways,” he said. “It’s a raw and honest book. There are some truly hilarious moments in there, and dark moments. It tries to figure out how we are supposed to mature into adults where we are beset by images on TV and film and of sports stars.”

Gard, a 1988 graduate of Beloit Catholic High School, went on to major in English at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. He was voted most likely to leave Beloit in high school and admits he was always drawn to the fantasy of Hollywood.

However, as he grew older he began to treasure his youth in Beloit, fondly recalling when a pal of his disguised a whiskey as a coke and other childhood shenanigans.

After high school, Gard worked at several local newspapers and wrote for the “Discover Wisconsin” TV series before moving to Los Angeles to embark on a career in TV and film. He the worked in strategic communications for non-profits, political organizations and more.

It was while working at a newspaper in the Hollywood area that he decided to respond to an invitation to a whiskey expo in San Francisco. He befriended people in the business and started writing about it for magazines.

Although his professional life was taking off, Gard didn’t feel like he found what he was supposed to be in life.

“Coming from a working, middle class background, a lot of my friends seemed to have more centered lives than I did. I wanted to get into the heart of things, and get up each morning and do that type of work,” he said.

In 2009, he used his connections to get a job on the island of Islay, filled with eight distilleries and a unique smoky tasting whiskey. Living in a cottage on a sheep farm, he had a 25-mile bus ride to work, where he would labor in all facets of the distillery. Being an outsider he had to earn the trust of locals, but eventually bonded tightly with the men in the warehouse and eventually led distillery tours.

Despite the labor, he said he enjoyed being more engaged.

“Working in the distillery reconnected me with the complete connection the people had with their daily lives. It was the kind of connections I grew up around. People found great pleasure to going to their job and then going home and staying with family or seeing the same friends in their same pub seats. It taught me there was comfort and presence to be found in life when you are connected with all you do,” he said.

To purchase advance copies of Gard’s book people can visit the website at www.whiskyguyrob.com and click on the Kickstarter button on the top of the page for more information. The Kickstarter campaign is funding the final design and edit of the book.

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