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Rising Stars: Meet Michael Verive

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michael Verive.

Hi Michael, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today.
I started the Fox Valley Whiskey Society in 2018 in my home state of Illinois in the sleepy Western Suburbs of Chicago after coming back from a trip to the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg, TN. My wife and I had taken a long weekend vacation to Memphis, and about 2 days into the trip, we realized the partying and day drinking wasn’t for us, so we decided to do something more our speed: historical tours.

We drove to Lynchburg and took a tour of the Jack Daniel’s Distillery and learned the history of the location as well as the legend of the man whose name is on the bottle. It was there that I fell in love with the culture, the product, and the process of American Whiskey. I had been drinking whiskey for several years prior to this but didn’t really know much about it other than I knew what I liked, and I knew what I didn’t like.

When we arrived home, I created a Facebook Group called the Fox Valley Whiskey Society with the goal of bringing people together that shared a common interest. I invited people I knew from around town and shared the group with other local Facebook Groups in order to grow membership and awareness.

By the time we had reached about 100 people, a local restaurant known for their whiskey selection reached out and offered to host a private dinner and whiskey tasting for the group members. I took them up on the offer and from there, the offers just kept coming.

By 2020, we had hosted dozens of private tastings and dinners at local restaurants, distilleries, breweries, and even a wine shop. I even hosted a Prohibition-themed fundraiser at our local Historical Society. By this time, I had become certified as a Bourbon Steward and started to use the knowledge I have to host private events and help bars and restaurants train staff in all things bourbon whiskey.

In April of 2020, amidst the pandemic, I created a Podcast and YouTube Series called “The Glass Less Traveled”, as a way to keep myself busy and connected to the industry I grew to love. I interview craft breweries, craft distilleries, industry folk, as well as influencers, and professional imbibers and stream them to YouTube and our Facebook Group. By the end of 2021, we had over 2,500 members and we keep growing.

In January of 2021, my wife and I packed our bags and moved from the chilly Chicago Suburbs to sunny Myrtle Beach. I am still able to run the Fox Valley Whiskey Society from afar and have since been given the opportunity to host private as well as public whiskey tastings and events here in Horry County.

I also have been given the amazing opportunity to start working in the industry I grew to love and now help train bar and restaurant staff here in Myrtle Beach on the particulars behind some of our favorite booze.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
It has not always been a smooth road.

Working a full-time job in addition to hosting private events, planning and coordinating dinners and tastings, and coming up with the next idea meant I was always very distant from my family and friends. I would come home from working a full shift at my regular job, then put in another 8+ hours working on the next event, tasting, dinner, etc. but through it all my friends and family stuck by my side knowing that I loved doing this sort of thing and I especially loved spreading my knowledge to others that are interested in learning more. Being able to teach people who are genuinely curious is something I love to do, and as it turns out, there are a lot of people curious about whiskey.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
After moving to Myrtle Beach, I was able to get a job in the beverage alcohol industry and currently work as a Brand Development Rep for a beer, wine, and spirits distributor here in South Carolina. It feels good to be paid to do what I was doing for free back in Illinois.

I get to work with local restaurants, bars, and liquor stores and help them discover new products, teach them about the bottles they have on their shelves and behind the bar, and train staff to be knowledgeable about the drinks they’re serving to their customers, whether it be a cocktail or a neat pour of bourbon.

Being a Certified Bourbon Steward and having in-depth know-how of the industry, the products, and the story behind each bottle gives the business owners I visit peace of mind when they ultimately have to sell it to their customers.

That’s what I’m most proud of. That I can share my passion with others and give them the tools to help them succeed.

What do you like and dislike about the city?
I come from a town about 1-hour West of Chicago and as you can imagine, it gets pretty cold and miserable in the winter. It’s also far too expensive for us to live there. We moved to Myrtle Beach after vacationing here many times and getting to know the city and the people.

It also helps that, prior to our meeting, my wife lived in Myrtle Beach for almost 5 years in her early 20s. The atmosphere, the food, the drinks, the attractions, the beach, and the sand is everything we wanted to experience on a day-to-day basis. Myrtle Beach is a tourist destination, sure, but it’s also home to some wonderful people that take life a little slower and appreciate the things they have and won’t fret over the things they don’t.

Myrtle Beach is resourceful and resilient and is slowly but surely making a comeback as a clean, fun, family destination that people want to visit and spend money at. It has its dark sides, just like every city in the country, but its people are active in making it a better community for everyone.

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