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State Line attracts the attention of former NFL QB Drew Brees – Isthmus


Legendary NFL quarterback Drew Brees loves coffee liqueur. And he particularly loves the coffee liqueur made by Madison’s State Line Distillery.

Although Brees has no financial stake in State Line at the moment, he’s become an enthusiastic brand ambassador through Instagram, interviews, and networking within the food and beverage industry nationwide. 

Since retiring from football in 2020, Brees has refocused his energies on the world of business, and has said in interviews that he wants to be involved in projects that are authentic and have a mission, vision and values that align with his own. 

Enter John Mleziva, founder of State Line Distillery. Mutual friends in the industry introduced the two, and Brees found that State Line possessed the type of authenticity and mission he could get behind.

Brees became a loyal State Line customer. He said in a December 2023 Instagram reel that he favors espresso martinis and coffee liqueur on the rocks, and that State Line’s version was “the best coffee liqueur I have ever tasted.”

This aligns with the judges at San Francisco’s World Spirits Competition, where the coffee liqueur has won “double gold” two years in a row, in 2023 and 2024. State Line explains in a press release that means “70 judges awarded State Line Coffee Liqueur a gold medal in a blind taste test.”

In the press release, State Line Distillery describes the relationship with Brees as a partnership in which the former quarterback will “introduce more of the country to State Line Coffee Liqueur through distribution and marketing support.” Brees visited State Line Distillery and Kin-Kin Coffee in April, “meeting the team and capturing behind-the-scenes content for further promotion.”

In an interview, Mleziva tells Isthmus that State Line’s coffee liqueur uses only three ingredients: cold brew coffee from Madison’s Kin-Kin coffee roasters, neutral grain spirits, and cane sugar. Unlike many other coffee liqueurs on the market, State Line uses no coffee extract or artificial flavorings.

The foundation of all State Line’s spirits come from producers in the Driftless region who grow heritage grains and use regenerative agricultural practices. Mleziva says that after the neutral grain spirits have been distilled, the by-products go back to farmers for such things as feeding livestock. “It’s a really cool closed loop.”

Mleziva credits the support and financial investments of family and friends for helping get State Line off the ground in 2017. The company has grown to feature vodka, gin, whiskey, rum, aquavit and the coffee liqueur. 

In keeping with his vision of growing his business in a thoughtful way, Mleziva is eyeing expansion outside of Wisconsin while continuing to work with local farmers and keeping Wisconsin grains as the foundation of State Line’s spirits. “We don’t want to change how we make the spirits or who we are,” says Mleziva, “so our growth has to coincide with our ability to still make spirits the State Line way.”




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