Our Journey Thus Far

Every great adventure begins with the statement ‘what if..." Our great adventure began in the summer of 2002, over pints in a small pub in Edinburgh, Scotland. 
I had long wanted to be involved in the beverage industry. When I moved to Scotland to earn a Masters of Science degree in brewing and distilling, I discovered the art and science of producing spirits. From the selection of a particular yeast strain and its effect on flavor, to learning about the importance of using full-sized barrels during whiskey maturation, I was hooked.
State Line Distillery is a combination of hard work, great partnerships, and of course the commitment to produce the finest grain-to-glass spirits. We hope you enjoy drinking our spirits as much as we enjoy crafting them for you. We look forward to raising a glass with you in the cocktail lounge. Cheers!

-John Mleziva, Founder of State Line Distillery


“The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team.”

John Wooden


Founder & Head Distiller


The founder of State Line Distillery is a man named John Mleziva. Muh-LEZ-i-vah. His Czech heritage can be blamed for the preposterous confluence of consonants and vowels from which his last name is assembled. He attended UW-Eau Claire as an undergrad before attaining a Master of Science Degree in brewing and distilling from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2012. He's left handed. He sings baritone with the Madison Choral Project. He's been skydiving in Switzerland. He and his wife have a daughter named Chloe. He was once an emergency medical technician. As a teenager, he had frosted tips. He's an excellent swimmer. He's been glacier-climbing in Alaska. The basement of his childhood home, though located in suburban Minneapolis, was a near fetishistic shrine to the glory of the Green Bay Packers. He has owned several shelties. He's pretty hairy. At age 17, he organized a pay-to-play squirt gun game called "Assassination" for several hundred of his high school classmates which dictated virtually every element of their lives for almost a month. Each year, he rides his bicycle from Duluth to the Twin Cities to raise money for MS research. He was once spared from injury when he fell down a flight of stairs because he was wearing a giant sombrero. It rained on his wedding day. He swears prolifically. He's a speedy walker, a clumsy bowler, a Singing Statesman, and he's eternally devoted to his craft. He also snores.

Production Manager & Distiller


Mark grew up on a small farm in the Northwest, then decided to rebel and move to the big city to make Art. He fell in love with a girl, and together they moved to a bigger city. He paid the bills with office jobs, while having way more hobbies than his small apartment had room for - anything fermented was of particular interest. One day, Mark concluded that pushing pixels wasn't good for his long-term sanity prospects, and he decided to make fermented things instead. Mark found a production job at a new distillery in Evanston, Illinois, and spent a few years learning and growing with the company faster than he thought possible. Mark and his partner had a kid, which changed things completely, as they do. This cute little agent of chaos got Mark and his wife dreaming of a place where they could raise their growing brood. Somewhere family friendly, with a great university, outdoorsy, cultured, and of course great food and drink. Hmmmm... what about Madison? As Mark + family were making the leap to Madison, he reconnected with John Mleziva, who as chance would have it was starting a new distillery. Yes, Madison will do nicely indeed.  

When Mark isn't at the distillery he's trying to get his kids into a canoe/sled/bike, reading Sci-Fi, pretending to know Linux, or starting some new hobby that he doesn't have room or time for.

Bar Manager & Spirits Ambassador


Mike has been behind the bar in some capacity for years now and let's just say he knows a little bit about the water of life. He started his professional career with Bittercube Bitters based out of Milwaukee. With Bittercube his focus ranged from cocktail creation and training to crafting bitters and doing research and development on new products.  He also spent those years leading his community as the President of the Milwaukee Chapter of the United States Bartenders' Guild (USBG).  

He has since left his hometown to branch out on his own.  He moved to Madison to curate a bar program and quickly joined Madison's already thriving cocktail culture.

At the same time and after providing some guidance from his experience as President of the Milwaukee USBG he and some colleagues decided it was time to form a chapter here in Madison.  They quickly formed one of the fastest growing chapters in the nation and he was elected Vice-President of the Madison Chapter.

Naturally he didn't want to stop there.  Chef Dan Bonnano of "a pig in a fur coat" knew Mike was interested in new projects and that he wanted to grow as a consultant.  He introduced Mike to John and the rest is history.

Since we've opened Mike has also embarked on a journey of his own with our wholehearted support. He started a craft ice/consulting company with Milwaukee bartender/consultant Joey Houghtaling, named Beaker & Flask Beverage Company. Together they focus on distributing crystal clear cocktail ice, bar consulting and will be working with us on new products and projects. Their ice is featured in our cocktail lounge and available for purchase there as well.

Melissa Riddle
Director of Events


Melissa started her hospitality career at 19, working as a Reservations & Event Specialist at Moving Mountains Chalets in Steamboat Springs, CO. She loved it so much that she decided to move back to Madison to attend Madison College where she obtained her Event Management Associates Degree in 2014. She enjoys all aspects of planning events, especially when she has the ability to customize and help create a vision for her clients. Working at a distillery just made it all that much better for her!

She has spent the last year as the 1st Vice President at NAWP – Madison Area Chapter of Wedding Professionals. In addition to this, she also volunteers for Reach-A-Child serving on their Development & Gala Committees, Mikayla’s Grace, and Runs with Rock’n’Roll Events as a St. Jude Hero to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. She is an avid supporter and fundraiser for Make-A-Wish America and March of Dimes.

When Melissa is not creating experiences for others, she spends her time exploring the world or perfecting themed birthday parties for her daughter, Amia. Some of her favorite places include Paris, Cornwall in South West England, and Nashville. Some destinations up next for her include Philadelphia, Portland Maine, New York City and of course France … which is on permanent repeat until further notice. She enjoys yoga, reading, personal development podcasts, sushi and of course- tasty beverages! She is thrilled to be a part of an inspirational team at State Line Distillery. Whether it be a brunch wedding reception, an intimate gathering or corporate function, State Line Distillery offers a remarkable experience.

Danielle Leoni
Assistant Distiller


Before joining our staff, Danielle spent her days working in the hospitality industry and after several months of training, was recognized as a Level 1 Sommelier by the Court of Master Sommeliers. Her passion for spirits was driven by her love of wine, and when she tried State Line’s Aquavit she was hooked. When she’s not making spirits, Danielle spends her time playing air guitar in the kitchen while listening to 90’s R&B. She swears like a sailor (so we’re told) and if she could have one meal for the rest of her life it would be mac n’ cheese.

Anna Sumi
Bar Staff


Anna joined State Line in the fall of 2018 as a bar back but quickly and eagerly took on more responsibility and began helping with prep for the bar, primarily production of all of the house made syrups. Now you can find Anna behind the bar or in the distillery, bartending, cleaning, or prepping ingredients, but always with a smile on her face.

Anna grew up in Madison and always loved the plentiful local food and drink culture that the city has to appreciate and that the community fosters. Anna, and most of her family, also loves gin. State Line was a natural fit and she has really found a home here.

When she’s not at the Distillery, Anna enjoys creating art of all kinds, particularly illustration, petting dogs, and biking around the lakes of Madison. 

Drew Hartberg
Bar Staff


Originally born in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, Drew's early life consisted of several moves that brought him throughout the Midwest and ultimately back to Madison, WI to fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming a Badger (those close to him would know the secretive full extent of this journey). Now pleasantly rooted in the city, Drew splits his time between working behind the State Line bar and pursuing his passion for photography and videography, working in multiple facets of this creative field. When he's not working, Drew is, often found in the kitchen cooking a delicious meal, spending time with his friends and family, and always listening to music.

Ashley Haan
Bar Staff

Ashley is a sassy lady who wears many hats. Being a data nerd who appreciates concise and organized lists, she is a...

  • Former 8th grade math teacher

  • Current meeting planner for various non-profit societies

  • Certified yoga teacher and practitioner since 2010

  • Proud dog mama of two Goldens & one Bernese

She loves to…

  • Take spontaneous road trips

  • Get new stamps on her passport

  • Read cookbooks cover to cover

  • Break into dance moves in public (and private) spaces

  • Talk to other yogis about their yoga practice

  • Treat herself to copious amounts of sushi

She strives to…

  • Get outside as much as possible

  • Learn something new everyday

  • Find the positive spin in any situation

  • Be a person who encourages you to stoke the inner fire of your passions and goals

  • Send a Michael Scott meme once a day in a relevant conversational context

Jeff Dachauer
Bar Staff


A transplant from the distant land of central Illinois, Jeff has been behind the bar at State Line since we first opened. He can usually be identified by a beard and a wild patterned button up. Outside of the distillery, Jeff has also been a practicing massage therapist for the past four years. When he's not busy working, Jeff enjoys collecting vintage razors and vinyl records, being a plant dad to a small jungle, and spending as much time outside as possible.