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Jan 17, 2020

In this week’s episode, we’re joined by former NFL star Matt Light and Bill Dessel, the co-founders of sessionable spirit brand Keel Vodka. At 23.8% alcohol by volume and 58 calories per serving, Keel promotes itself as “the world's first premium light spirit.” 

Prior to co-founding Keel, Light was key member of the New England Patriots’ offensive line in three of the team’s Super Bowl wins. Although he faced ruthless competition as a professional football player, Light explained in our interview that entrepreneurship “is more challenging than it ever would be on the playing field.”

“There are so many variables that go into having success in the business realm,” Light said. “But some of the same [lessons apply]: Are you able to get up when you get knocked down? Are you really invested? What do you bring to the table and how can you do that better tomorrow than you did it today?”

As part of our conversation, Light and Dessel discussed the origins of Keel, how they overcame initial regulatory hurdles and challenges in consumer education and how they’re attempting to take advantage of growing interest in low-alcohol beverages. They also spoke about the benefits of a local distribution strategy, how they establish guidelines for their respective roles and why “living the lifestyle” is critical for brand ambassadors.

Show notes: 

1:14: Free Tees, Zesty Z’s and Punchy P’s -- The episode opens with a call to action: review Taste Radio on the Apple Podcasts app or your favorite listening platform, tell us you did by sending us an email to and the team will send you a free T-shirt. Later, the hosts extoll the talents of The King, munch on a number of crunchy snacks, chat about a hoppy drink and BevNET’s Elevator Talk series and discuss an odd video that was shared on our Slack account.

15:25: Interview: Matt Light/Bill Dessel, Co-Founders, Keel Vodka -- Light and Dessel visited BevNET HQ in Watertown, Mass. and sat down with Taste Radio editor/producer Ray Latif for a conversation about the launch and early development of Keel, and why the initial communication strategy was focused on the low-calorie aspect of the vodka. They also spoke about how they address consumer skepticism about a light spirit, why you can’t rely on distributors to promote your products and Dessel’s three rules for entrepreneurship. Later, they explained why sampling is all about “where (the) consumer lives” and why the company hires and educates its own brand ambassadors and avoids using third party service for demos and events.

Brands in this episode: Full of Chips, Whisps, Zesty Z, Oregon Hop Springs, Punch Pops, Chum Fruit Bites, KEEL Vodka, Absolut Vodka, Miller Light, Veev, Skinnygirl