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CRAFT SPIRITS MAGAZINE
CEO, AMERICAN CRAFT SPIRITS ASSOCIATION | Margie A.S. Lehrman, firstname.lastname@example.org
EDITOR IN CHIEF | Jeff Cioletti, email@example.com
SENIOR EDITOR | Jon Page, firstname.lastname@example.org ART DIRECTOR | Michelle Villas MEDIA SALES REPRESENTATIVE | Annette Schnur, email@example.com
CONTRIBUTORS | Kate Bernot, Lew Bryson, John Holl, Erika Rietz
AMERICAN CRAFT SPIRITS ASSOCIATION
DIRECTOR OF MEMBERSHIP & MARKETING | Ken Brady, firstname.lastname@example.org EDUCATION MANAGER | Kirstin Brooks, email@example.com
ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT | Albab Melaku, firstname.lastname@example.org DIRECTOR OF MEETINGS & EVENTS | Stephanie Sadri, email@example.com
STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS | Alexandra S. Clough, GATHER PR LEGAL | Ryan Malkin, Malkin Law, P.A. PUBLIC POLICY | Jim Hyland, The Pennsylvania Avenue Group STATE POLICY | Michael Walker, The Walker Group, LLC
ACSA BOARD OF DIRECTORS, 2022-2023
PRESIDENT | Becky Harris, Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. (VA) VICE PRESIDENT | Gina Holman, J. Carver Distillery (MN) SECRETARY/TREASURER | Jessica J. Lemmon, Cart/Horse Distilling (PA)
Becky Harris, Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. (VA)
Jessica J. Lemmon, Cart/Horse Distilling (PA)
Tom Potter, New York Distilling Co. (NY)
CENTRAL & MOUNTAIN
Gina Holman, J. Carver Distillery (MN) Colin Keegan, Santa Fe Spirits (NM) Amber Pollock, Backwards Distilling Company (WY) Mark A. Vierthaler, Whiskey Del Bac (AZ) Colton Weinstein, Corsair Artisan Distillery (TN) P.T. Wood, Wood’s High Mountain Distillery (CO) VACANT
Dan Farber, Osocalis Distillery (CA)
Lucy Farber, St. George Spirits (CA) Jake Holshue, Rogue Ales & Spirits (OR) Jeff Kanof, Copperworks Distilling Company (WA) Kelly Woodcock, Westward Whiskey (OR)
Thomas Jensen, New Liberty Distillery (PA)
Thomas Mote, Balcones Distillery (TX)
ACSA PAST PRESIDENTS
2018-2020 | Chris Montana, Du Nord Craft Spirits 2017-2018 | Mark Shilling, Genius Liquids/Big Thirst 2016-2017 | Paul Hletko, FEW Spirits 2014-2016 | Tom Mooney, House Spirits
CRAFT SPIRITS MAGAZINE
Lew Bryson, Alexandra Clough, Sly Cosmopoulos, Dr. Dawn Maskell, Teri Quimby
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© 2022 CRAFT SPIRITS magazine is a publication of the American Craft Spirits Association.
TIME TO EAT
I was at a restaurant in Montreal in November and after I finished my initial cocktail (a magnificent Jack Rose, by the way), the server asked what I wanted next. “I saw you had some interesting eaux de vie on the menu.” His response was, “You don’t want that now, save it for after dinner.”
Look, I get that, traditionally, brandies and other spirits have been treated as digestifs, consumed long after the last bite of the main dish has left your fork and the last plate has left your table. However, on an earlier trip in Austria, I found that, in many places, schnaps or obstler—as fruit distillates are typically known in German-speaking countries—may just as often be consumed during a meal.
Sometimes traditions are just that—traditions—and, throughout history, they’ve been known to change.
Those of us in this particular world are hip to sipping spirits with a meal, whether that be neat, on the rocks or in a cocktail (I’m on team neat). But outside of our cozy craft enclave, in eateries all across the casual-to-fancy spectrum, spirits get relegated to being mere bookends to a meal, rather than accompaniments for the books themselves.
I think it relates to the inherent bias against spirits—often perpetuated by paid advocates for other beverage alcohol categories—as drinks that should be excluded from the beverage-of-moderation club. Of course, we all know better, that a 1.5-ounce serving of a spirit (in any form) is equivalent to a 12-ounce pour of beer or a five-ounce glass of wine.
Adult society needs to normalize sipping spirits with meals, as there are so many flavor experiences on which diners are missing out.
Think about it. Barely two decades ago, the thought of pairing beer with food in most mainstream settings was virtu ally unheard of, the exclusive domain of wine, then (and often still) perceived as the classier fermented beverage. However, now, extensive beer lists are common at even the Micheliniest of the Michelin-starred venues, with staff sommeliers offering custom pairing suggestions. So, it’s not unthinkable that restaurant patrons could be getting advice on which whiskey goes best with a medium-rare bone-in ribeye or which botanical blend in a gin perfectly complements the bounties of the raw bar.
I speak of the latter in particular because oysters have
been a fixture at the most recent additions of Bar Convent Berlin and its Brooklyn counterpart, typically paired with gin and sometimes vodka. And they’re not in the form of shoot ers, they’re legit pairings.
In the V.I.P. section of a recent hot sauce expo (of all places), a gin brand shared its table with The Real Mother Shuckers, a celebrated Brooklyn-based roving oyster cart that offers a wide array of innovative toppings for its uncooked bivalves. It just makes sense!
As for vodka, I’ve started seeing more and more countries outside of Eastern Europe catching on to the fact that the spirit goes great with all things briny, whether that be pickles, caviar or suboceanic shell-dwellers. Oyester44 was one such product at Bar Convent Berlin in October that fully embraces a maritime identity, including an oyster infusion and drops of filtered sea water. The company’s distillery is “just four steps from the sea” in the Dutch harbor town of Bruinisse, leaning into the notion of terroir. The shucker next to Oyester44’s booth was probably one of the most popular people at BCB.
Has any of this made you hungry? Good! There will be more where this came from because among the many devel opments in store for the new year will be more culinary cover age in these pages. We’ll be launching that right after ACSA’s 10th Annual Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show, February 10-12 in Portland, Oregon. (If you haven’t registered yet, what are you waiting for?)
We’ll have more details about our food-and-spirits cover age in the coming months. Until then, bon appetit! ■Jeff Cioletti Editor in Chief
Lew Bryson has been writing about beer and spirits full-time since 1995. He was the managing editor of Whisky Advocate from 1996 through 2015, where he also wrote the American Spirits column, and reviewed whiskeys. He is currently a Senior Drinks Writer for the Daily Beast, and also writes for WhiskeyWash.com, American Whiskey and Bourbon+. He is the author of “Tasting Whiskey” (Storey Publishing, 2014), a broad survey of the whiskeys of the world, their history and manufacture. He has also written four regional brewery guidebooks.
She was previously the editor-in-chief of DRAFT Magazine, and is currently the owner of Se_Ku Skatewear, a brand of athletic apparel for figure skaters.
John Holl is a journalist covering the beer industry. He’s the author of several books including “Drink Beer, Think Beer: Getting to the Bottom of Every Pint” and “The American Craft Beer Cookbook.” He is the co-host of the podcast Steal This Beer, and his work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Wine Enthusiast and more. John has lectured on the culture and history of beer and judged beer competitions around the world.
Kate Bernot is a reporter covering beer, food, and spirits. She was formerly an editor at The Takeout and DRAFT Magazine; she now regularly writes for Good Beer Hunting, Craft Beer & Brewing, and other publica tions. She is a certified beer judge and lives in Missoula, Montana, with three backyard chickens and a well-stocked bar cart.Erika Rietz is a freelance writer with more than 15 years of experience covering craft beer, spirits and a breadth of culinary topics for print and digital publications.
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Bardstown Bourbon Co.
Bardstown Bourbon Co. operates one of the most sophisticated distilleries in the country. Our Collaborative Distill ing Program brings together some of the most experienced distillers in the industry, allowing our customers to create alongside us and drives educa tion, innovation and experimentation. bardstownbourbon.com
The Barrel Mill
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Fermentis is an agile and expanding company, dedicated to fermented beverages. It is a unit of Lesaffre Group, global key player in yeast for over 160 years. Our roots are strong while having an audacious spirit. As things happen during the fermentation … our goal is to discover them in terms of taste, flavor and pleasure. fermentis.com/en/
FIVE x 5 Solutions
FIVE x 5 Solutions believes that dis tillery software should scale with you. We’re more than a service provider: we’re a committed partner in your distillery’s success and take pride in providing the most complete solution for your growing operation. We take your business as seriously as you do. Fx5solutions.com
Glencairn Crystal is a leading manufac turer of bespoke crystal and glass. For over three decades, this family busi ness, based in Scotland, has gained an international reputation for fine crystal and glassware. Best known for the creation of the Glencairn Glass, the official glass for whisky. glencairn.co.uk
Harvest Hosts connects over 225,000 self-contained RVers to a network of thousands of small businesses (hosts). Hosts simply offer RVers a one-night stay on their property, and, in return, RVers patronize the business while spending the night. Our program is a cost-free opportunity and 100% of the money spent onsite goes straight to the Host. harvesthosts.com
Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits
The leader in supplying fermentation products and services to the distilled spirits industry, we specialize in the research, development, produc tion, and marketing of yeast, yeast nutrients, enzymes, and bacteria.
Malkin Law focuses on serving the needs of the alcohol beverage industry. We regularly assist with licensing, review of industry specific agreements, trade practices and navigating state laws. Malkin Law is also honored to be Legal Counsel for ACSA. malkinlawfirm.com
At MGP, every step of creating a pre mium distilled bourbon, whiskey, rye, gin and vodka is guided by a passion bordering on obsession. We tirelessly collaborate with our partners, regard less of size, to develop and consistently produce the exact flavor profile that’s right for their brand. And for their discerning consumers. mgpingredients.com/distilled-spirits
The nation’s premier educational distill ery, bringing together specialists from every facet of the industry to provide education, training and professional services to start-ups and existing companies. Moonshine University is housed next door to sister company Flavorman, an international custom beverage development company.
The Steric Systems PureSmooth pro cess is a method of “polishing” distilled spirits to reduce alcohol burn, open up and balance flavors, and improve mouth feel. It works on both aged and unaged spirits. stericsystems.com
Supercap has been producing closures for spirits since 1999. We are present in the United States with a great sales network with partners and agents, thus being able to help and advise you in the choice of the best stopper for your spirits. supercap.it
Tapì is an international group special izing in the design and production of miniature packaging design mas terpieces. Our closures are based on cutting-edge functionality and technology, with an exclusive style that elegantly showcases each product. tapigroup.com
Thousand Oaks Barrel Co. Thousand Oak Barrel Co. manufac tures barrels to age and serve your spirits. All products offer a variety of options for customizing and branding with your personalized design. 1000oaksbarrel.com
Berlin Packaging, the only Hybrid Pack aging Supplier® of plastic, glass and metal containers & closures, supplies billions of items annually, along with package design, financing, consulting, warehousing and logistics services. We bring together the best of manufactur ing, distribution & income-adding ser vice providers. berlinpackaging.com
Blue & Co., LLC
Blue & Co., LLC is an independent accounting and advisory firm with more than 50 years in operation. Our public accounting expertise includes the prac tice areas of assurance, tax compliance and consulting, healthcare consulting, benefit plan services, valuation and liti gation support, and business services. blueandco.com
Briess Malt & Ingredients Co.
Since 1876, we’ve been supplying the highest quality malts in the industry. We’ve distinguished ourselves by developing the most extensive line of specialty malts made by any malting company in the world. We provide everything from malts to pure malt ex tracts, brewers flakes and filtering aids. briess.com
As the craft distilling industry grows, BSG Distilling has been focused on supplying distillers with the best ingre dients from around the world. Today, the craft distilling market trusts BSG Distilling to deliver the finest ingre dients at competitive prices, without sacrificing customer service. bsgdistilling.com
Independent Stave Co.
We’ve been in this industry for over 100 years, during which time we’ve learned a thing or two about what makes a great barrel to age great spirits. Part nering with distillers, we think outside the box to develop new products that push your vision forward. iscbarrels.com
ISTS makes workplaces safer, employ ees ready and compliance uncompli cated. ISTS has extensive experience working with the spirits industry, so our programs are totally customized to address your site. istsky.com
Kason Corporation is the industryleading global spent grain process ing equipment manufacturer that distilleries can count on for efficiency, cost savings and reducing waste and disposal costs. kason.com
Lafitte Cork and Capsule
Lafitte Cork and Capsule is setting new standards for premium, high performance bar top closures. Lafitte employs the technical expertise ac cumulated over 100 years in business to guarantee the perfect closure for your brand. lafitte-usa.com
S PECIFIC brewing distilling
Park Street delivers productiv ity-enhancing and cost-saving back-office solutions, advisory services, working capital, com pliance management, export solution, integrated accounting and human resources manage ment solutions. parkstreet.com
Saverglass provides for premium and super-premium spirits, still & sparkling wines and craft beers. Recognized for its innovation, its glass-making expertise and the quality of its glass, products and designs, Saverglass is the partner of choice. saverglass.com
Soderstrom Architects’ Ferar
Wine & Spirits Studio has been involved in the design and master planning of more than 70 wineries and distilleries. Our studio was founded with a passion for design that con veys the special sense of place inherent in the site. sdra.com
Sovos ShipCompliant has been the leader in automated alcohol beverage compliance tools for more than 15 years, providing a full suite of cloudbased solutions to distilleries, wineries, breweries, cideries, importers, distributors and retailers.
Specific Mechanical Systems
Since 1984, Specific Mechani cal Systems has handcrafted brewing and distilling systems for the craft beer and spirits industries, in addition to sup plying various industries with complex processing equip ment.
Signature Spirits, a division of Ultra Pure, is the leading independent supplier of bulk spirits in the U.S. and has the largest selection of alcohols stocked across its nine warehouses. We supply approximately 1,000 distill eries and brand owners with virtually every type of alcohol. ultrapure-usa.com
Whalen Insurance is a second-gen eration insurance agency owned and operated by Peter Whalen. He started a program for craft breweries in the mid 1980s and expanded to craft distilleries almost 10 years ago. It provides all property and liability coverages needed to safely operate a distillery. whaleninsurance.com
Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America
The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) is the national trade association representing the wholesale tier of the wine and spirits industry. It is dedicated to advancing the interests and independence of wholesale distributors and brokers of wine and spirits. wswa.org
WV Great Barrel Co. The best-performing whiskey barrel on the market, precision built in the heart of Appalachia. Infrared toast and controlled char standard on every barrel. wvgbc.com/The American Craft Spirits Association would like to thank all of our annual sponsors and our key supporters of education. We are grateful for all of your support throughout the year. Cheers!
In celebration of the distillery’s 40th anniversary this year, Alameda, California-based St. George Spirits announced the release of an extraordinarily limited-edition bottling of its Single Malt Whiskey. This singular spirit is a true collector’s item for connoisseurs of American single malt. Bottled at 96 proof and limited to 1982 bottles (to honor the year the distillery was founded), this one-of-a-kind bottling is the most remarkable whiskey St. George has ever ushered into the world.
“Our 40th Anniversary Edition Single Malt Whiskey represents the cumulative experience of 40 years of boundary-pushing distillation, as well as our decades-long love affair with making single malt,” says master distiller Lance Winters.
To create this one-time-only release, head distiller/blender Dave Smith sampled 600-plus casks from the whiskey library, ultimately selecting just 14 to create the whiskey that went into the bottle. Sourced from barrels that range from four years old to one of the earliest casks St. George laid down, it speaks to the distillery’s past, present, and future.
Eight Oaks Farm Distillery of New Tripoli, Pennsylvania, released a new batch of their popular Bottledin-Bond Bourbon, Veterans Cut.
The distillery crafts this 100-proof bourbon to honor the service of all Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines. Their selfless service and sacrifices will never be forgotten.
This bourbon is double-distilled and aged to perfection in handselected American white oak barrels. It has balanced notes of vanilla and honey, a touch of smoke, and a slightly peaty finish with hints of spice and dried cherry.
Proceeds of every bottle go to the Northwestern Lehigh Veterans Memorial.
Minneapolis-based Tattersall Distilling announced the launch of Toasted Coconut Aquavit Warm and complex with a tropical hint, this 80-proof spirit takes Tattersall’s Aquavit and rests it on toasted coconut for an unexpected twist on the classic. It is best enjoyed with pineapple or lime cocktails or as a substitute for rum in tropical drinks.
San Antonio-based Maverick Distilling is releasing its limited-edition Samuel Maverick Private Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey, a grain-to-glass, 90-proof whiskey produced completely in-house. Private Reserve is distilled in small batches using select Texas-grown corn, rye, and barley and aged on-site in the vaults below the distillery in the historic Lockwood National Bank building located steps from the Alamo.
Following the success of their inaugural release, George Dickel and Leopold Bros. are excited to announce the return of the 100-proof George Dickel x Leopold Bros Collaboration Blend. By returning to the same liquid as the initial release, the brands are continuing their commitment to produce quality, authentic whisky. This awardwinning whisky blends Denver-based Leopold Bros.’ celebrated Three Chamber Rye with George Dickel’s column still rye produced at Cascade Hol low Distilling Co. in Tullahoma, Tennessee.
Talnua Distillery of Arvada, Colorado, is excited to an nounce its 100-proof 2022 Commemorative Bottle Release for the Colorado Parks & Wildlife 125th Anniversary. This special release, in collaboration with CP&W, represents Talnua’s heartfelt gratitude and ap preciation to the organiza tion on the 125th anniver sary of the first state agency created to conserve wildlife in Colorado. Like CP&W, the distillery’s symbol is the state animal of Colorado, the Bighorn Ram, and in the spirit of the state and its generosity, Talnua will be committing to a fundraising goal of $12,500.
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Indianapolis-based Mom Water announced the launch of its first limited edition flavor, Cranberry Lime, named Carol. Only in town for the holidays this year, the 4.5% Carol is now on shelves in 4-packs through the end of the year, or while supplies last. Like all Mom Water ready-to-drink cocktails, Carol contains zero carbonation.
The Boston Beer Co., makers of Samuel Adams, Truly Hard Seltzer, Twisted Tea, Angry Orchard and Dogfish Head, announces the launch of Loma Vista Tequila Soda (5.5% ABV), a spirits-based, ready-to drink (RTD) beverage made from premium tequila blanco, real lime juice, carbonated water and natural flavors.
Boston-based GrandTen Distilling is releasing its eighth batch of North County Straight Apple Brandy, which sources apples from orchards across New England. Each yearly release of this 80-proof brandy is made from a single season of select apples from New England orchards that have been crushed (skins and all), double distilled in copper pot stills, and aged in oak barrels for four years. With a scent of vanilla and dry cider notes, this version of the smooth, lightly oaked spirit combines flavors of crisp McIntosh apples with a slightly peppery finish of rye whiskey.
J. Carver Distillery of Waconia, Minnesota, announced the first release of J. Carver 7 Year Bourbon. This 94.2-proof whiskey offers the unique flavors of Minnesota grains with the complexity of a carefully crafted, wellaged whiskey. It offers intriguing and complex flavors of baked pear, caramel, brown sugar, dried orange peel, cocoa, oak, vanilla, and baking spice notes with a long, soft and smooth finish.
Jeptha Creed Distillery of Shelbyville, Kentucky, released Red, White & Blue Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey on Veterans Day. This is a very special release for the distillery, not only because it shares an anniversary with Veterans Day, but because of all of the military members that have visited Jeptha Creed and signed the barrels this special bourbon came from.
Brandywine Branch Distillers, the Elverson, Pennsylvania-based makers of Revivalist Botanical Gin and Resurgent Whiskey, is introducing a new line of botanical whiskeys. The new line will launch with two expressions: sarsaparilla with cherry bark and licorice root; and coffee bean with chicory root. Unlike many other whiskeys that contain sugar and other natural flavors, Resurgent is infused, not flavored, using only the finest botanicals.
Hye, Texas-based Garrison Brothers Distillery has released the 2022 Cowboy Bourbon, its most esteemed and coveted expression. This year, Cowboy started with a selection of 8 and 9-year-old barrels. These coveted 25-gallon barrels matured through nearly a decade of searing Texas heat. The 2022 Cowboy clocks in at a whopping 134.8 proof.
of Franklin, Massachusetts, is adding to its portfolio with the launch of a limited-edition American Straight Bourbon Whiskey just in time for the holidays. The 88-proof spirit is slowly distilled in small batches from the finest corn, wheat and rye. Aged in charred, American white-oak barrels, this bourbon is well balanced, allowing the earthy grains to shine and giving way to a sweet, soft finish.
Cure: New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix ’Em
Author: Neal Bodenheimer and Em ily Timberlake
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams Release Date: Oct. 25
From the foremost figure on the New Orleans’ drinking scene and the owner of renowned bar Cure, this is a cocktail book that cele brates the vibrant city. New Orleans is known for its spirit(s)-driven festivities. The authors tell the city’s story through 100 cocktails, each chosen to represent New Orleans’ past, present, and future. It is a love letter to New Orleans and the cast of characters that have had a hand in making the city so singular.
Imbibing for Introverts
Author: Jeff Cioletti
Publisher: Skyhorse Release Date: Nov. 22
As a professional drinks writer and editor who travels solo a lot for a living, Jeff Cioletti (editor-in-chief of this magazine) has learned a thing or two about going to bars alone. “Imbibing for Introverts” combines the social survival tactics taught in guides like “The Introvert’s Way” with the appreciation for thoughtful drinking found in travelogues like “Around the World in 80 Cocktails.”
The book begins in readers’ most comfortable setting—their own homes—before taking them out on the town, to bars across the country and, finally, overseas. Each chapter features drink recommendations and cocktail recipes that relate to the particular setting, so if desired, you could also partake without the annoyance and sometimes anxietyridden task of leaving the house.
The Unofficial Hogwarts Cocktail Book
Author: Bertha Barmann
Publisher: Ulysses Press Release Date: Oct. 25
Shake up some magical libations, creative cocktails and spellbinding drinks inspired by the wonderful world of Harry Potter. What bet ter way to celebrate your love of Hogwarts and its host of beloved characters than by bringing out your potions cauldron (or cocktail shaker) and mixing up a host of spectacu lar cocktails? Raise a toast in true wizarding world style with cocktails including: Golden Poptail Balls, Headmaster’s Lemon Drop, Mad-Eye Lychee Martini, Tea Leaf-Reading Earl Grey Cocktail, Boozy Knicker bocker Glory, Christmas Party Punch and many more. With 50 delicious drink recipes and spellbinding, fullcolor photographs, any fan of the boy who lived is sure to be stupefied.
Cheers to Today:
365 Cocktails Because Every Day Is a Holiday
Author: Chris Vola
Publisher: Countryman Press Release Date: Oct. 25
Your favorite holiday obviously requires a libation, but what about today? Now you can shake up your cocktail routine to celebrate every day of the year, from Absurdity Day (November 20) and Africa Day (May 25) to Women’s Day (August 9) and Zoo Lovers Day (April 8). These recipes for timeless classics, twists on familiar favorites, and creative concoctions commemo rate historical events, international peoples, beloved foods, pop-culture icons, oddball occasions, and more.
Festive Cocktails & Canapes
Publisher: Ryland Peters & Small Release Date: Oct. 11
The holidays are indeed the most wonderful time of the year, but they can also be stressful when hosting and catering for a crowd. As family and friends come together to eat, drink and be merry, let this collec tion of drinks and dishes guide you through advent right up to the new year. You’ll find everything you need to host a group, with recipes for everything from an elegant New Years Eve soirée to a light Christ mas morning brunch. Cocktails encompass everything from the Snowball to the Mimosa, with more unusual recipes to make your drinks very merry indeed.
Midcentury Cocktails: History, Lore, and Recipes from America’s Atomic Age
Author: Cecelia Tichi
Publisher: NYU Press Release Date: Nov. 1
The third installment in Cecelia Tichi’s tour of the cocktails enjoyed in various historical eras, “Midcen tury Cocktails” brings a time of limitless possibilities to life though the cocktails created, named and consumed. For many, this was America at its best–innovation, style, and the freedom to enjoy oneself–and the spirit of this time is reflected in the whimsical cocktails that rose to prominence: tiki drinks, Moscow Mules, Sea Breezes, Pina Coladas, Pink Squirrels and Sloe Gin Fizzes.
Pour Me Another: 250 Ways to Find Your Favorite Drink
Author: J.M. Hirsch
Publisher: Voracious Release Date: Oct.4
Choose your own cocktail adven ture: Use the drinks you already love to explore a world of delicious new spirits, combinations, and flavors. You know what you like to drink—but what’s next? Expert mixologist and James Beard Awardwinning editorial director of Milk Street J.M. Hirsch has the answer in Pour Me Another, where every recipe helps you choose your next drink. No matter your taste or liquor of choice, Pour Me Another guides you to a new world of drinks you’ll love. It’s an essential handbook for cocktail lovers and home mixolo gists everywhere.
Modern Classic Cocktails: 60+
Stories and Recipes from the New Golden Age in Drinks
Author: Robert Simonson
Publisher: Ten Speed Press Release Date: Oct. 4
What elevates a modern cocktail into the echelon of a modern classic? A host of reasons, all delineated by Simonson in these pages. But, above all, a modern classic cocktail must be popular. People have to order it, not just during its initial heyday, but for years afterward. Tommy’s Mar garita, invented in the 1990s, is still beloved, and the Porn Star Martini is the most popular cocktail in the United Kingdom, 20 years after its creation. This book includes more than 60 easy-to-make drinks that all earned their stripes as modern classics years ago. Sprinkled among them are also a handful of critics’ choices, potential classics that have the goods to become popular go-to cocktails in the future.
DIAGEO ACQUIRES BALCONES DISTILLING, CAMPARI GROUP BUYS WILDERNESS
Over the span of a few days in late October and early November, a pair of internationally known companies announced the acquisitions of popular distilleries.
On Oct. 31, the Italian spirits company Campari Group announced its plans to buy Danville, Kentucky-based Wilderness Trail Distillery in a deal valued at $600 million. Two days later, Diageo announced it has acquired Waco, Texas-based Balcones Distill ing. Financial details of the Balcones deal were not disclosed.
After the acquisition, Balcones—which was a founding member of the American Craft Spirits Association—converted its ACSA membership to the alumni level. Distillery manager Thomas Mote, who was an ACSA board member, is now an ex-officio member and his seat in the central region will remain vacant until an election in 2023.
“It’s early days and very much business as usual at the moment,” Mote said in early No vember. “We are really pleased to have found a partner that shares our excitement about the American single malt category. The team is really excited and energized about this next stage of our journey with Diageo.”
Founded in 2008, Balcones has a diverse portfolio of award-winning super premium and above whiskies, including Texas “1” American Single Malt, Lineage American Single Malt and Baby Blue Corn Whisky. Balcones embraces Texas’ intense heat as well as its temperature fluctuations to create whiskies with differentiated flavors. The team also leverages distinctive high quality, and often locally sourced, original ingredients,
including Texas-grown malted barley and roasted blue corn, to produce a range of highly decorated whiskies.
“Balcones started with an idea driven by an innovative spirit and passion to create something original and authentic in the heart of Texas,” said Greg Allen, chairman of Bal cones. “Now, we couldn’t be prouder to have created these award-winning American single malt and Texas whiskies, but also to have helped initiate an exciting new era of whisk(e) y in Texas. We are thrilled that Diageo shares our belief in its potential and we look forward to seeing Diageo bring Balcones’ incredible whiskies to more consumers.”
While Diageo is bolstering its footprint in the American single malt category, Campari Group, which purchased the Wild Turkey brand and distillery in 2009, strengthens its focus on bourbon with the acquisition of Wilderness Trail. The company will initially purchase 70% interest of Wilderness Trail and purchase the remaining interest in 2031.
Founded in 2012 by Dr. Pat Heist and Shane Baker, Wilderness Trail’s portfolio includes bourbon and rye whiskeys. Baker says Cam pari was a good choice for a partner because the companies align on cultural values. Baker adds that he and Heist will continue to be intimately involved with the brand.
“We remain owners in the brand, active in the operations and within our community,” says Baker. “We will continue to do everything we have been doing and our focus is on grow ing the brand and bringing more awareness to it on a global basis. We also want to take every chance we get to highlight how wonder
WIDOW JANE ANNOUNCES DEPARTURE OF LISA WICKER
In late October, Brooklyn, New York-based Widow Jane announced that master distiller Lisa Wicker will leave the company in Novem ber and return to Kentucky full time.
“After five incredible years at Widow Jane, I am excited to return home to Kentucky for a new challenge,” says Wicker. “In the last few years we have made some amazing whiskey that has gained international recognition, established ourselves as a leader in the art of whiskey blending, and nurtured a talented team of distillers and blenders. I am proud of the smart and capable team who will lead Widow Jane into the future and grateful for my time there.”
Leading Widow Jane going forward will be
Michele Clark, director of operations; Sienna Jevremov, head distiller; and Jacob Melinger, head of hospitality.
“We’d like to thank Lisa for all the extraordi nary work she has done in distilling, blending, leading, and educating,” says Widow Jane president Robert Furniss Roe. “It has been a privilege to work closely with her and watch her also assemble such a talented team that represents Widow Jane’s next generation. We look forward to the dynamism this team will surely bring to Widow Jane Distillery as we enter our second decade.”
Widow Jane is part of Samson & Surrey, which was acquired by Heaven Hill Brands in February.
ful of a community Danville is.”
Baker also notes that the partnership should make Wilderness Trail Distillery prod ucts easier to find.
“The only changes our fans can expect is being able to find it a lot more easily as our partnership brings expanded distribution to Wilderness Trail, and that was the goal, as well as growing the brand around the world.”
MAGGIE’S FARM TO OPEN NEW PRODUCTION DISTILLERY
Allegheny Distilling, the producer of Mag gie’s Farm Rum and Personal Day Vodka Hard Seltzer, has announced plans to open a new 22,0000-square-foot production distillery in Upper Saint Clair, Pennsylvania, approximately 10 miles southwest of the company’s original distillery in Pittsburgh’s Strip District neighborhood.
The acquisition of a former wig distribution warehouse on McLaughlin Run Road followed a recent unanimous zoning approval by both the Upper Saint Clair Township’s Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors for the manufacturing of distilled spirits
“After a stressful few years of uncertainty awaiting a government decision on a fixed tax rate on distilled spirits production, fol lowed by the pandemic, and a number of losses competing against developers in this commercial real estate market, I couldn’t be more excited to finally announce this huge win for our company and employees,” says Tim Russell, founder and head distiller of Maggie’s Farm Rum.
The company has been in the fortunate posi tion to recognize and meet exponential demand for its packaged spirits, self-funding multiple ex pansions. Having maxed out the 3,000-squarefoot space and 1,000-liter still in the current distillery, recent growth has been costly. Supply chain shortages changed the buying of individual pallets of sugar cane and bottles to buying truckloads, all while rents for secondary storage of these materials also increased.
“I saw the importance of ownership and investing in ourselves to preserve our future,” says Russell. “Our customers’ continued support through one of the toughest small business climates in history gave me the confidence to take a much bigger step on a property than planned and build out a stateof-the-art distillery in a space that should support our growth for many more years.”
The facility’s two floors will be renovated to support a new custom designed 3,000-liter copper pot still, more than 12,000 gallons of fermentation capacity, and barrel storage. This will help meet growing demand for Maggie’s Farm rums which are currently being distributed in 10 states across the U.S. Included in the expansion is a new 40-can-per-minute
bar and kitchen is also being planned.
“I’m also very happy that we were able to find great banking partners that stuck by us and committed to financing this project. It was important to me to retain the same own ership structure of friends since our founding without the need of outside investment.”
MONTANYA DISTILLERS LAUNCHES DISTILLERY EXPANSION AND ELEVATES CONVERSATION ABOUT VITALISM
Montanya Distillers officially fired up a substantial expansion of its rum distillery in Crested Butte, Colorado. The new and more sustainable distillery increases capacity up to 10 times its past production threshold.
During the expansion process, Montanya founder and owner Karen Hoskin realized when spirits companies talk about sustain ability, the implication is that an established way of doing things is worth sustaining. For women, people of color and environmentalists, there isn’t much history worth celebrating or sustaining in the alcohol beverage industry.
Historically, women didn’t own and oper ate spirits companies; spirits makers didn’t dedicate themselves to energy efficiency; farm harvesters weren’t treated well (think la borers and sugar cane); mass tasting events didn’t demand proper handling of waste, and salespeople weren’t talking about modera tion and wellness. So the question is, what is being sustained?
Over the past decade, sustainability became a hip practice for businesses. As sustainability gained popularity, standards dwindled and
messaging became more important than prac tice. Montanya’s leadership asked themselves: “What are we sustaining and why? Is this what we want to bring into the future?” On their path toward becoming a profoundly purposedriven business, they repeatedly upended and overhauled almost every established system. “I couldn’t escape the sense that there was more to do, a higher bar to clear. I wanted a revolu tion,” says Hoskin.
When Montanya set out to change prevail ing systems, they looked beyond sustainabil ity and found vitality. Their leadership calls this “vitalism,” which takes their team a signifi cant step beyond sustainability. It describes their approach to changing the culture of the spirits industry and improving an environment that was problematic for many years. This was especially true for Montanya when it launched 14 years ago as a woman-owned brand dedi cated to environmental and social responsibil ity. “We aren’t perfect and never have been, but we continue working toward remaking the alcohol beverage foundation from the ground up,” says Hoskin.
Montanya’s newly-launched distillery expansion (August 2022) radically rethought systems in all operations. A new tasting room (January 2022) evolved its business model and employment practices in Crested Butte, a seasonal ski town. According to Hoskin, “Montanya stabilized staff turnover and employee scarcity and implemented many improved daily practices: from how we source glass to how we biodigest waste, from how we pay our employees to how we chill fermenta tions, from how we capture and recirculate water to how we print our labels and recycle plastic film. We believe our approach is the future of the spirits industry.”
Vitalism is a deeper interpretation of sus tainability than what is common in the alcohol beverage industry. It is a radical overhaul of an outdated system that Montanya wants to con tinue to challenge. The staff practice vitalism in every aspect of the business, while training colleagues in the industry to do the same.
To learn more, check out the Montanya Impact Report 2021, visit MontanyaRum.com or reach out to Montanya directly.
LA CROSSE DISTILLING PARTNERS WITH GREEN BAY PACKERS
La Crosse Distilling Co. of La Crosse, Wisconsin, announced a three-year partnership with the Green Bay Packers. The partnership is multifaceted and includes product availability at Lambeau Field.
Nick Weber, CEO and founder of the company states, “as a Wisconsin-based company and a lifelong fan of the Green Bay Packers, this partnership signifies a deep sense of pride for me. Lambeau Field is a sports mecca, we are humbled and honored to make our spirits available to fans and visitors alike.”
“We’re proud to partner with La Crosse Distilling Co.,” said Craig Benzel, Packers vice president of sales and business development. “Their Wisconsin roots, high-quality products and commitment to sustainability make them an ideal match for the Packers. We’re look ing forward to serving their spirits at Lambeau Field.”
La Crosse Distilling Co. is a craft distillery producing premium organic spirits with grains and ingredients sourced directly from family farmers within the great agricultural state of Wisconsin.
The family-owned distillery has launched multiple award-winning brands in their short history including Fieldnotes Vodka and Gin, Downtown Toodeloo Rock and Rye Whiskey, Robber’s Straight Rye Whiskey and their latest offering, Heady Bella Coffee Whiskey.
La Crosse Distilling Co. has approached the world of distilling with an eco-conscious mindset striving to operate within sustain able production practices. Their facility is powered by geothermal energy leveraging the Mississippi River as a renewable energy source. In addition to sourcing grains and other raw materials lo cally, they then send the processed grains back to the farm where they are utilized for livestock feed, fertilizer for the fields, and compost to build rich soil for future crops.
TAHOE BLUE VODKA EXPANDS DISTRIBUTION, UNVEILS NEW BOTTLE DESIGN
Tahoe Spirits Inc. of South Lake Tahoe, California, announces Tahoe Blue Vodka rapid expansion and distri bution in the western U.S. along with the introduction of a new bottle design.
The award-winning vodka is accelerating growth with expansion into Southern California. Consumers in San Diego and Los Angeles are the first to see Tahoe Blue Vodka appear on shelves in Ralphs supermar kets and BevMo!. The company also has plans for further expansion into western states.
Tahoe Blue Vodka is crafted from pure, pristine Tahoe water—the water source that makes Lake Tahoe possible. A three-vodka blend of grapes, corn and sugarcane creates a smooth and clean finish. The vodka is certified 100% gluten-free.
The company is also introducing a colorful new bottle design that stands out on shelves and reflects the natural beauty of Lake Tahoe, the company’s commitment to preservation efforts and the equities of the lake’s outdoor lifestyle.
“We are excited to see demand for Tahoe Blue Vodka continue to soar as we enter new markets,” said Matt Levitt, founder and CEO, Tahoe Blue Vodka. “We are thankful to our loyal and new fans, our retail partners, and Republic National Distributing Co. (RNDC). Together, they are our winning formula to help us achieve our goal of selling 200,000-plus cases by 2025, putting the brand in an elite group with the country’s fastest growing vodka brands.”
Tahoe Spirits believes it will outpace vodka category growth by more than 40% in 2022 and the com pany has averaged around 40% year-over-year sales growth the last few years. Since 2019 the company has generated 300% compound growth.
Earlier this year, Tahoe Spirits partnered with RNDC to accelerate sales, share growth, and market expansion in the Western U.S. The new partnership can potentially open more than 30,000 new accounts including bars, restaurants, liquor and grocery stores.
Tahoe Blue founder and CEO Matt Levitt has been a lifelong entrepreneur. He grew up in Maryland but was always intrigued by the West Coast. Armed with an undergrad business degree, a strong entrepre neurial spirit, and a thirst for adventure, he drove his blue Ford Econoline van named Bertha to California for a couple of weeks.
On the last scheduled day of his West Coast trip, he arrived at Lake Tahoe. Amazed by the brilliant blue color of the lake, it was love at first sight. Levitt wanted to capture the beauty of Lake Tahoe and thought to create a Tahoe-themed vodka that is as pure, clean and fresh as the lake itself. Thus, Tahoe Blue Vodka was born.
BARRELL CRAFT SPIRITS APPOINTS
SAM SORSA AS CFO
Barrell Craft Spirits (BCS) of Louisville, Kentucky, has hired Sam Sorsa as its new CFO. In this role, Sorsa will be responsible for all BCS financial and strategic plan ning and oversight.
A 20-year veteran of the financial and beverage alcohol industries, Sorsa most recently served as CFO for Dant Crossing and Log Still Distillery where he oversaw planning, implementing, managing and controlling for all financial activities. He also spent 16 years at Brown Forman in various domestic and international senior finan cial roles successfully leading, directing and administering activities across various regions in North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia.
“We’re extremely excited for Sam to join our team in Louisville,” said Barrell Craft Spirits founder Joe Beatrice. “His wealth of deep and successful industry experience makes him an incredibly valuable addition to our team and the future growth of the company.”
Sam earned his executive MBA from Bellarmine University in Louisville and is a graduate of the University of Kentucky in Lexington with a B.A. in international eco nomics and foreign languages (German). He replaces Jacob Goldstein who worked alongside Beatrice since day one, putting his heart and soul into launching Barrell Craft Spirits from an idea to the vibrant, strong business it is today. His contribu tions were essential to the company’s growth and success.
DRIFTLESS GLEN AND PARTNERS DONATE OVER $25,000 TO CANCER RESEARCH
Donations from Baraboo, Wisconsin-based Driftless Glen Distillery’s Pink Bourbon Campaign this October totaled $25,350.
The distillery released a limited-edition pink-label bourbon in Octo ber for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This was a joint effort to help raise awareness and funds for a cause near and dear to many hearts. Three dollars from each pink bottle of bourbon sold went directly to local cancer research. Each distributor selected a local cancer center to receive the funds.
Proceeds from the bottles sold at the distillery in Baraboo went to the UW Carbone Cancer Center (specifically the Breast Cancer Research Greatest Need Fund), while proceeds from bottles sold else where around the state and country went to the distributors’ choice of foundations. A complete list of the cancer centers where the funds went and more information is available on their website.
Driftless Glen sends its heartfelt thanks to those who participated in this year’s pink bourbon campaign. The company is proud to make these great donations to local cancer research.
Driftless Glen Distillery is an award-winning craft distillery located at the edge of the Driftless Area. In addition to bourbon and rye whiskey, it has a full range of products that include brandy, vodka and gin.
BRIGHTEN YOUR CORNERBY LEW BRYSON
My father’s favorite hymn was “Brighten The Corner Where You Are.” It’s an old classic of American Protestantism that sounds great pounded out on an upright piano.
The hymn is about doing the job that’s in front of you, and making a difference one per son at a time, and not being stymied because you can’t save the whole world. The first verse nails it.
Do not wait until some deed of greatness you may do.
Do not wait to shed your light afar.
To the many duties ever near you now be true;
Brighten the corner where you are!
My father worked hard for his family, his friends and his local church. He let other people worry about the big picture stuff. He believed that if you did what you could to make things better around you, it would en courage others to do so, and eventually make a better world.
Are you making your corner bright? Be cause there are a lot of ways to do that, and some are harder than others.
Just for now, let’s say that you’re on top of diversity, equity and inclusion. I hope you’re paying your workforce fairly, and offering ben efits (or have a plan in place to get there as soon as practical). Community involvement, industry cooperation: you’re in it. You’re keep ing your nose clean on taxes and regulations. And of course, you’re making the very best, interesting and innovative products you can.
These are all good things! But while you’re taking care of the people in your house … maybe the house itself needs some work.
I’m talking about the physical side of doing good. Specifically, what are you doing about your water use, your effluent stream, your packaging waste, and especially now, your
energy use? If these are things you’ve put off, it’s time to put them on.
The first step is finding a champion for them on your team. I can almost guarantee that someone who’s already working for you is eager to get to work on this, and it’s a great opportunity for someone to take a leadership position. If you don’t have one, or if everyone is already full up on hours and you’ve got no slack, strongly consider hiring someone who can add that to their portfolio.
What are they going to do? Energy prices make that area a high priority. Get the lowhanging fruit first: turn off what doesn’t have to be on—some inexpensive timers on nonessential lights and appliances (switch out all non-LED bulbs), programmable thermostats for the office—insulate walls and windows, check for any leaks. I mean, if you haven’t already done this, make the time. Once you start, you’ll see savings everywhere.
Now move on to more process-oriented ways to cut back on water use in cooling and cleaning, and energy for mashing and brew ing. Where to start? Well, you’re probably sick of hearing from me about craft brewing, but once again; they’re like your older siblings here. They’ve already done a lot of this, and there are resources online from various brew ing schools and associations. It’s free; scoop up the smarts.
Saving money on the distilling side of the business has been done too, by the legacy distillers and the educators, so again, check with schools and business associations. The Scotch Whisky Association has some pointers on their website. They have also encouraged their members to get involved with local water stewardship organizations: groups like river keepers, Sierra Club, fishing conservation groups, and local water and sewer authorities. It’s better to make allies ahead of time than soothe enemies.
If you’re planning an expansion, that’s the best time to plan for efficient energy and water use! (The next best time, of course, is right now.) Plan and build for as efficient a plant as you can afford, work the returns into the planning, and see if there are tax benefits available. You’ll save money and do good for years down the road.
Then manage your waste stream from production: spent grain, carbon dioxide, yeast, distillation waste. As always, see what other people are doing, see what are considered best practices, look for innovative new ideas. You don’t have to do everything right away, but you can start small, now.
What else? Packaging waste is a coopera tive venture. Work with your suppliers to encourage them to use less bulk and more recyclable material in their packaging. I’m doing this at my little level too, so if any of you are sending samples to writers? Re-use boxes, skip the fancy packaging and trinkets, go digital on the information, and stop using plastic padding.
Finally, consider your closures. I did a column on the sustainability of modern cork closures a while back, dig it out!
Get started on this next week. Do not wait until some deed of greatness you may do; Brighten The Corner Where You Are!
In memory of Lew Bryson II: 1929-2010. ■
Lew Bryson has been writing about beer and spirits full-time since 1995. He is the author of “Tasting Whiskey” and “Whiskey Master Class.”
REGISTER NOW FOR OUR 10TH ANNIVERSARY DISTILLERS’ CONVENTION AND VENDOR TRADE SHOW
We’re thrilled to announce that registration is open for our 10th Anniversary Distillers’ Conven tion and Vendor Trade Show this February 10-12 in Portland, Oregon.
We listened to your ideas and feedback and truly plan to make this show live up to its theme: Better with Age. Among other improvements, we have revamped the layout of the expo hall and education will be only 100 steps from the trade show floor!
Whether you need a pick-me-up, fresh ideas to distribute your product, a technical boost, or simply want to reward your team while also benefiting your business, we’ve got it all covered! As we celebrate 10 years of ACSA, you’ll enjoy new social and networking events with opportuni ties to meet new and old friends.
Focusing on three programming areas—technical/distilling, business essentials, and sales & marketing—our cutting-edge education sessions offer attendees the opportunity to learn from some of the most experienced and prestigious professionals in the industry.
Visit americancraftspirits.org/programs/convention/ to register and see the schedule. And if you’ve already registered, check back often to see updates on topics and speakers, including updates on pre-convention education and tour opportunities.
AMERICA’S SPIRITS PRODUCERS RETURN (VIRTUALLY) TO CAPITOL HILL TO ADVOCATE FOR
In September, more than 200 distillers from nearly every U.S. state connected virtually with federal lawmakers and regulators during the spirits industry’s annual Public Policy Conference, jointly hosted by the American Craft Spirits As sociation and the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS)
“This is the opportunity to share the impor tance of your business, how you matter in the communities in which you live, and highlight the jobs you create,” said ACSA CEO Margie A.S. Lehrman at the start of the Public Policy Confer ence, noting that those jobs go well beyond the spirits industry itself and into allied industries like agriculture and hospitality.
Throughout the course of more than 120 virtu
TOP FEDERAL PRIORITIES
al meetings with lawmakers, craft spirits produc ers addressed issues important to the distilled spirits sector, including two major priorities:
The Distilled Spirits Industry’s Positive Economic Impact: Participants in the virtual Capitol Hill climb highlighted the benefits that spirits producers provide for the U.S. economy. The more than 2,300 distilleries nationwide contribute to the vibrancy of the manufacturing, hospitality, tourism and agriculture industries. The economic activities of exporting, importing, and sale and distribution within the U.S. support about 1.7 million jobs. U.S. distilled spirits exports alone totaled $1.6 billion last year and distillers paid nearly $6.9 billion in FET.
The United States Postal Service (USPS) Shipping Equity Act (H.R. 3287/S. 1663): If passed, the bill would enable the USPS to ship beverage alcohol products where direct-toconsumer (DtC) shipping is permissible by law. DtC shipping serves as an important complement to the traditional three-tier system of beverage alcohol distribution and providing the DtC option through the Postal Service, where allowed, sup ports consumer choice and small distilleries. The bill also provides for regulations that will allow USPS to safely deliver beverage alcohol to adult consumers with the appropriate ID checks and verifications in place to prevent underage access. Additionally, enacting the USPS Shipping Equity Act could generate an estimated $190 million an nually for the USPS.
PLEASE UPDATE YOUR ACSA CONTACT INFORMATION
As we move into our 10th an niversary year, we continue to work diligently on your behalf to advocate, educate and con nect you to others in our craft spirits community. In the coming weeks, we will be sending a gift as a small token of appreciation for being part of this special community and for your support. However, you will only receive this special and exclusive treat if you update your company and contact name, mailing address and mobile phone number.
To ensure that you stay informed and on top of emerging issues and receive our informa tion and materials in a timely and efficient manner, we ask that you please take a minute to go to this link to update your contact information Please be sure to update your information by Nov. 30 to receive this premium gift.
ACSA HOSTS FIRE PREVENTION AND PROTECTION CLASS
On Aug. 31, ACSA hosted a fire prevention and protection class at Watershed Distillery in Columbus, Ohio. The class was funded by the United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administra tion’s (OSHA) Susan Harwood Training Grant program, which provides training and educa tion programs for employers and workers on the recognition, avoidance, and prevention of safety and health hazards in their workplaces.
The seven-hour class was developed and presented by Industrial Safety & Training Services. Topics covered in the class included combustible dust; housekeeping; hot work operations; flammable liquids and gases; flammable liquid and chemical storage; equip ment and machinery; hazard recognition and identification; electrical hazards; OSHA, NEC and NFPA guidelines; and emergency action plans, among other safety topics. The course was tailored specifically to beverage alcohol production at a craft scale.
Course attendees came from Ohio, Michi gan, Tennessee, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, New York, and Washington, D.C. All materials developed through the grant will be avail able for free on the OSHA website as well as
ACSA’s website. This was ACSA’s pilot year in the grant, and ACSA hopes to expand the grant program over additional grant cycles to
ACSA MEMBERS SUPPORT PROPOSED
ADDITION OF AMERICAN SINGLE MALT WHISKY TO TTB’S STANDARDS OF IDENTITY
In response to a call for comments from the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) on its proposal to add American Single Malt Whisky to the standards of iden tity for distilled spirits, ACSA CEO Margie A.S. Lehrman wrote that the association overwhelmingly supports the proposal.
“We view this effort to add American Single Malt to the Standards of Identity as helpful to the community of craft spirits producers,” Lehrman wrote. “We recognize and fully sup port the efforts of the American Single Malt Whiskey Commission to listen and learn from its members, many of whom are also members
COME JAM WITH US IN PORTLAND, OREGON
Do you play a musical instrument? Are you planning to attend ACSA’s 10th Annual Distillers’ Convention & Vendor Trade Show in Portland, Oregon, Feb. 10-12? If you answered yes to both, then we’d love for you to join your fellow musically inclined craft spirits producers for an informal acoustic jam session. You don’t need to be a virtuoso, you just need to own an acoustic instrument and love to improvise with it. And if you don’t play an instrument, but can carry a tune, we’d love to have you sing with the group. If you’re interested, contact membership@ americancraftspirits.org and indicate which instrument you plan to bring or if you’d like to sign up as a vocalist.
There’s no need to be intimidated. It’ll be a low-key, largely impromptu affair whose only goal is fun!
of ACSA, to aid in shaping this added Stan dard of Identity. When surveyed, our members also overwhelmingly supported the addition of American Single Malt, as proposed by TTB, to the Standards of Identity.”
GOING BIG IN BERLIN
Bar Convent Berlin returned to in-person events in 2021, but this year’s event, held October 10-12 in the German capital’s main exhibition center, was a return to its full, pre-pandemic strength, with a dramatically expanded number of exhibit halls, exhibitors and visitors. As far as spirits cat egories go, gin was a major attraction, but there was plenty of love to go around for whiskey, rum, agave spirits, liqueurs, brandy, genever and other specialty segments opportunity
DRINKS TO SAVOR FROM ACSA MEMBERS
This is a savory cocktail from Wonderbird Spirits that’s perfect for the holidays. If you take the time to make your own sweet potato syrup the results will please you and your guests. But if you’d prefer to have it delivered to your doorstep, the distillery recommends ordering from El Guapo.
1 1/2 ounces Wonderbird No. 61
1/2 ounce manzanilla or fino sherry
1/2 ounce sweet potato syrup
4 dashes Angostura Bitters
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a coupe or martini glass. Garnish with an orange peel.
Sweet Potato Syrup Ingredients
1 large sweet potato
2 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 cups water
2 teaspoons cinnamon or 1 cinnamon stick
1 whole star anise
2 whole clove
Sweet Potato Syrup Directions
Cube the sweet potato and place on a baking sheet that has been treated with oil, butter or non-stick spray to prevent sticking. You can also use parchment paper if available. Place into an oven preheated to 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Add all ingredients to a sauce pan and simmer until all the sugar is dissolved. As the mixture simmers, take a fork and lightly press the sweet potatoes to break them up a touch. Once the sugar is dissolved, cut the mixture to the lowest setting for 10-15 minutes then kill the heat. Allow the syrup to steep for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour. Take a fine strainer and strain the solids off of the syrup. Refrigerate and keep for up to two weeks.
Holiday Bees Knees
This is a simple riff on a classic gin cocktail from Wonderbird Spirits in Taylor, Mississippi. Balanced and approachable, this cocktail melds beautifully with Wonderbird’s citrus and floral aspects. The addition of the chamomile tea to the honey syrup gives depth to the build and plays well with the red clover in our gin. Finished with Angostura bitters, the Holiday Bees Knees has just enough warmth to play well throughout the holidays.
2 ounces Wonderbird No. 61
1/2 ounce chamomile honey syrup
1/2 ounce lemon juice
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Combine all ingredients into a mixing glass with ice. Shake and double strain into a coupe or martini glass. Garnish with a lemon peel studded with whole clove.
Chamomile Honey Syrup Ingredients
2 chamomile tea bags
1 cup water
2 cups honey
Chamomile Honey Syrup Directions
Take your favorite chamomile tea and add two bags to hot water and allow to steep. Once the tea is made, add to a sauce pan and incorporate honey. Cool and store in the fridge for up to three weeks.
Pair of Aces
With equal parts rye, bourbon and vermouth, this cocktail from Saratoga, Wyoming-based Brush Creek Distillery is not only spirit-forward but perfectly balanced. The spice from the straight rye whiskey and the sweetness from the bourbon makes a perfect pair.
3/4 ounce Brush Creek Rye Whiskey
3/4 ounce Brush Creek Bourbon
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
2 teaspoons Benedictine liqueur
4 dashes aromatic bitters
1 lemon twist
Add the rye whiskey, bourbon, sweet vermouth, Benedictine and bitters into a mixing glass filled with ice, and stir until well-chilled. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice and garnish with a lemon twist.
Nothing warms winter’s colder nights like a warm mug, but according to KOVAL Distillery, this toddy is anything but standard. Cranberry Gin is the star of the show, balancing spice and bitter citrus peel with the liqueur’s sweeter botanical elements for a piping hot libation you won’t want to put down.
1 1/2 ounces KOVAL Cranberry Gin
1/2 ounce KOVAL Ginger Liqueur
1/4 ounce lemon juice
1/4 ounce simple syrup
1 star anise pod
1 cinnamon stick
1 lemon peel
Preheat a mug with very hot water. Once preheated, dump out the water and add all ingredients plus spices to the preheated mug. Top with boiling water, and express a lemon peel over the drink, resting it on the glass.
In honor of those who embrace adventure and search for the untamed. This cocktail brings together Brush Creek Distillery’s favorite flavors, bourbon and beef with a side of pork. Brush Creek Bourbon is the hero, but has a savory balance from the amaro and bone broth. If you like a deep rich cocktail that puts you squarely around a campfire on the ranch, this is the one.
2 ounces Brush Creek Bourbon
3/4 ounce amaro
3 dashes black walnut bitters
1/2 teaspoon bone broth
1 baby back rib bone.
Add bourbon, amaro and bitters ice to a mixing glass filled with ice, and stir until wellchilled. Add the broth and strain into a coupe or rocks glass. Garnish with a rib bone and leave a little meat for an extra treat.
Cranberry Gin Spritz
The Cranberry Gin Spritz is a classic from Chicago’s KOVAL Distillery. In a pinch, one can make a slimmed-down version of this hit cocktail by simply adding KOVAL Granberry Gin Liqueur to your favorite club soda, seltzer or Champagne for a New Years Eve party pleaser.
Ingredients 2 ounces KOVAL Cranberry Gin 1/4 ounce lime juice 4 ounces soda water 1 sprig of rosemary 1/2 orange wheel
Directions Build all ingredients in a wine glass, garnish with rosemary and orange 1/2 wheel.
Navigating the ‘Non-Premise’BY KATE BERNOT
When the pandemic hit Pennsylvania in early 2020, many of the state’s resi dents were dismayed to find themselves totally cut off from the typical retail outlets for spirits. Health officials closed on-premise outlets like cocktail bars as well as state-run liquor stores, which in Pennsylvania are the only off-premise retail ers of distilled spirits.
Thirsty and frustrated, those residents did what all of us would do: They Googled.
“People were searching online for ‘where to buy alcohol in Pennsylvania,’ and we’d come up in those results,” says Tim Russell, founder and head distiller of Maggie’s Farm Rum in
Pittsburgh. “It was a whole new customer base that never would have heard of us if we didn’t have that ability to sell online.”
Thanks to Pennsylvania’s limited distillery license permissions, Maggie’s Farm Rum had for years already operated an online store where Pennsylvanians could order its prod ucts. But the pandemic was like gasoline on that fire. At the peak of online orders, Russell and his staff were fulfilling 200 per day via the mail or direct delivery from the distillery to people’s houses. That’s since quieted down, but today, even with 10 states of wholesale distribution, 10-15% of the distillery’s sales still come from bottles sold directly from the tast ing room or online. One employee typically
spends a few hours per day fulfilling, packing and shipping web orders.
Even as public health restrictions have eased, online alcohol sales are here to stay. Whether direct-to-consumer (DtC), through alcohol marketplaces like Drizly or Minibar Delivery, or from retailers’ websites, drinkers expect to be able to purchase their favorite spirits online, just like they would a sweatshirt or paper towels.
According to beverage alcohol research firm IWSR, among 16 key global markets, the U.S. has the highest proportion of online buyers (54%) who made their first purchase during the pandemic. Wine has been the primary benefi ciary, because it can be shipped to vastly more
states than spirits can. But even so, Rabobank analyst Bourcard Nesin noted during an Avalara webinar earlier this year that 3.1% of all offpremise spirits sales come through e-commerce. Brandy Rand, chief operating officer, Americas, for IWSR, forecasted in 2020 that spirits will represent 39% of U.S. e-commerce alcohol sales by 2024, with wine at 44%, beer at 12%, and ready-to-drink products including hard seltzer and canned cocktails at 5%. “E-commerce has clearly become ingrained for many consum ers, cementing its place as the third sales channel for beverage-alcohol purchases,” says Guy Wolfe, Strategic Insights Manager for IWSR Drinks Market Analysis.
Welcome to the new future for alcohol sales. Some have called it “other-premise,” or “third-premise,” while others have dubbed it “non-premise.” Whatever you call it, is is where Americans are increasingly shopping for their favorite spirits, especially premium brands that they can’t easily find at their local liquor store. And to shoppers, it’s not always clear—nor does it necessarily matter—whether they’re buying directly from the manufacturer, a retailer or via a marketplace. But to small distilleries and their wholesale and retail
partners, the devil is in these details.
Channels Within Channels DtC online sales are what most distilleries would consider the holy grail: high-margin transactions that cut out the middleman and allow distilleries to deliver their spe cialty spirits directly to consumers. However, these sales are elusive. According to Sovos ShipCompliant, only Alaska, Arizona, Washington D.C., Kentucky, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota and (with many limitations) Rhode Island allow for direct-to-consumer shipping of spirits from out of state. compared with 47 states that allow this for wine. Some states includ ing Pennsylvania, as Maggie’s Farm Rum illustrates, allow for certain in-state DtC shipping of spirits. (The American Craft Spirits Association maintains an online hub of resources regarding DtC considerations.)
Another non-premise channel is the alcohol marketplace. These websites are not actually retailers or wholesalers, but merely act as the technological framework to facilitate orders from individual customers through existing re tailers. When a shopper purchases a bottle of
“Just like onpremise and off-premise, non-premise has its associated costs. If you’re opening a new market and want to start distributing in the neighboring state, it’s going to cost you money. The same is true for e-commerce.”
— Matt McGinnis of Big Thirst
Matt McGinnis of Big Thirst
whiskey from Drizly, for instance, Drizly routes that order through a licensed liquor store in the customer’s area, which then handles fulfill ment and delivery. These orders, therefore, still go through the three-tier system, and a small distillery wouldn’t necessarily have visibility into them. Those marketplaces, too, tend to be dominated by the largest spirits brands, who can pay to advertise on their featured carousels or who sell enough volume to wind up on the site’s trending lists.
A third non-premise channel are whitelabel e-commerce sites facilitated by a company that routes and manages those orders through retailers in various states. Austin-based Big Thirst is one such company. For a fee, it creates online stores as part of a distillery’s website so that—from the custom er’s perspective—it looks just like a shopper is ordering directly from the distillery. But that order is actually routed through the three-tier system and customer support is provided by Big Thirst. It doesn’t provide the distillery the same margins as DtC sales would, but the
sale feels seamless to consumers: They found a product and ordered it from the distillery’s website, and it subsequently showed up on their doorstep.
These subchannels have their pros and cons for the distillery and the consumer. IWSR notes that older consumers tend to use traditional e-commerce websites, ordering either through a retailer or online special ist and waiting for delivery in a few days or weeks. These shoppers tend to seek out good prices for brands they already know. Younger legal drinking-age consumers, however, tend to prefer newer app-based delivery services or marketplaces that promise on-demand fulfill ment. They don’t mind splurging for quicker, same-day delivery and tend to be looking for more niche, interesting brands.
Some small distilleries, including Ironclad Distillery in Newport News, Virginia, partici pate in a mix of these online channels.
“It’s one more arrow in the quiver,” Ironclad’s partner and president Stephen King says of their online sales, which have included DtC
as well as a partnership with Big Thirst. The distillery also sells its bourbon and whiskey through distributors in six states plus D.C. “From my point of view, it’s not having all your eggs in one basket when you have a lot of op portunities with different outlets.”
The Push/Pull In Online Sales
Online sales of alcohol are expected to continue growing in the U.S. and globally. But that doesn’t mean they’re without their critics, or that they’re guaranteed to be a foolproof sales channel.
In particular, state-by-state efforts to expand DtC shipping of spirits are often met with resistance from both wholesalers and public health watchdogs. In particular, the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers Association of America (WSWA) has firmly taken a stance against DtC shipping of any type of alcohol, stating that “DtC alcohol shipping causes widespread and well-known enforcement, public health, and public safety issues all in the name of ‘consumer convenience’ that already exists.” If
that wasn’t clear enough, the group’s website continues: “DtC cannot coexist with a safe and healthy alcohol marketplace.” Instead, WSWA says consumers who want the convenience of alcohol shipped to their door can choose to or der through licensed retailers or marketplaces that work within the three-tier system.
There are logistics and compliance to worry about, too, regardless of how a distillery is selling its products online. Marketplaces and external fulfillment companies will generally take on some of this role, but for distilleries shipping directly to consumers, the burden falls to them to make sure they’re in good standing with state and federal laws regard ing licensing, age checks, prevention of sales to minors, and accurate tax payments. That’s a lot of time for an employee or owner to spend on compliance, to say nothing of the effort of actually filling and shipping orders.
“Compliance is the reason most craft pro ducers do not ship. There’s so much paper work, so much you need to make sure you’re aware of,” says Kim Bard, co-founder of The Bard Distillery in Graham, Kentucky. Today, her distillery uses a third-party e-commerce partner that facilitates and ships orders, but in the past The Bard’s employees did those tasks themselves. “Because we’re rural, we don’t get shipping services on certain days of the week. It was really a nightmare. I wanted to be seeing customers and distilling and bot tling, but it took over what we were doing. We turned into a shipping company.”
Regardless of how a distillery chooses to enter e-commerce, it’s important to set budgets like a business would with any other sales channel. Costs might include website design, fees associated with a third-party e-commerce partner, new packaging, labor to track and fulfill orders and more.
“Just like on-premise and off-premise, nonpremise has its associated costs,” says Matt McGinnis, founder and CEO of Big Thirst. “If you’re opening a new market and want to start distributing in the neighboring state, it’s going to cost you money. The same is true for e-commerce.”
The Sales/Awareness Seesaw
Simply having the capability to make online
sales won’t do much for the average small distillery’s bottom line. Like setting up a lemonade stand on a dead-end street, poten tial customers won’t find you unless you’re marketing to new and existing fans. This is where budgeting and planning for market ing and advertising is probably necessary for most small distilleries. “Getting your website up and running for e-commerce is one thing. Getting people to actually go to it and buy something is another,” McGinnis says. “It’s not enough to just ‘build it and they will come.’ That just doesn’t happen.”
Just how quickly it takes for online sales to become a real revenue driver can vary from distillery to distillery, and for some, ecommerce never becomes a significant source
Simply having the capability to make online sales won’t do much for the average small distillery’s bottom line. Like setting up a lemonade stand on a dead-end street, potential customers won’t find you unless you’re marketing to new and existing fans.
of sales. The question then is whether the associated costs justify the time and money spent keeping those sales running.
“We branched into online liquor sales because we believed all the hype. When people ask me about it, I caution them that it’s as much a marketing play as it is an income play,” says Colin Keegan, founder of Santa Fe Spirits in Santa Fe, New Mexico. “It’s not a real revenue generator for us yet.” Still, Keegan— who sells Santa Fe spirits online through the three-tier system—is waiting out the uncer tainty, hoping sales pick up and/or that DTC shipping becomes legal in more states.
Craft producers who perform the best in online sales tend to be those with one or more of the following factors: highly specialized and unique products that customers can’t find in general retail; a licensing agreement with another entity, such as a sports team or musician, that essentially supplies the market ing; a strong, existing fan base of customers who have already visited the distillery; and a willingness to spend money on marketing and advertising.
The Bard, which estimates 30% of its sales happen online, dabbles in all four. It was a special bourbon that the distillery produced for late musician John Prine’s You Got Gold tribute events in October that really took its sales over the top: Online, it sold out of the 6,000 bottles it produced within just a few weeks. Former Chicago Bears quarter back Jay Cutler got his hands on a bottle and posted a video about it to his social media page—totally unsolicited. Bard says it was a godsend to have online sales open
to capture the new interest coming to the distillery from external fans.
Even without the hype generated by the John Prine bourbon, The Bard has found online sales to be robust. Many come from people who have visited the distillery but don’t want to lug a bottle home in their suit case, or from people who see the distillery’s paid social media ads and cocktail recipe
posts and want the instant gratification of ordering it in the moment, not waiting until they see it on shelves.
“We do a lot of social media posting about cocktails and always say: ‘Remember you can order this online.’ I know that does turn into revenue and orders,” Bard says. “We’re all that way now; we see something and order it as soon as we see it, because we can.” ■
“E-commerce has clearly become ingrained for many consumers, cementing its place as the third sales channel for beverage-alcohol purchases.”
—Guy Wolfe of IWSR Drinks Market Analysis
“I wanted to be seeing the customers and distilling and bottling, but it took over what we were doing. We turned into a shipping company.”
—Kim Bard of The Bard Distillery
A Fruitful Alsatian Adventure
Eau de vie distillers in Alsace have diversified into other spirits categories, but they’ve remained true to their heritage and are introducing traditional fruit brandies to a new generation.& PHOTOS BY JEFF CIOLETTI STORY
hisky is our future,” Florence Toranelli tells me as we stroll past hundreds of barrels holding single malts at varying degrees of maturation.
Geographically, that sentiment could be echoed just about anywhere. What’s most striking, however, is that Toranelli works in the heart of French eau de vie country at a distillery which, for the first four decades of its existence, focused primarily on fruit bran dies and liqueurs. It wasn’t until 2000 that Distillerie G. Miclo, in the compact Alsatian commune of Lapoutroie, expanded into gin and whisky.
“Now we have two seasons for distillation,” says Toranelli, who manages the tasting room, retail and tourism development for the distill ery. “In summer and autumn we make brandy because we need fresh fruit to make it and in winter and spring we make whisky and gin.”
It’s a common scenario in France’s Alsace region, known for many generations as an epicenter of European eau de vie produc tion. Modern tastes and market realities have prompted distilleries to embrace spirits not traditionally associated with the region while still maintaining a firm grip on a regional bran dy-making heritage that’s spanned centuries.
Distillerie Lehmann, located in the shadow of Kronenbourg’s flagship brewery about a mile and a half outside of Obernai’s picturepostcard medieval downtown, started producing eau de vie from the local bounty in 1850. Like Miclo, it started distilling whisky in 2000, with its first bottling seven years later. Now in its fifth generation of family owner ship—with the sixth already working at the distillery—production is about an even, 50-50 split between whisky (mostly single malt) and traditional fruit brandies. Cherries, wild raspberries, plums and Williams pears are just a few of the fruits that Distillerie Lehmann turns into spirits. It also makes the regional, Gewurztraminer-based grape pomace brandy, Marc d’Alsace, Alsace’s only appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC/protected appella tion) for a spirit.
Tastes may have changed over the decades, but distilleries like Lehmann have remained eau de vie producers at heart.
“That’s actually a core part of our work, to present eau de vie in a way that it doesn’t rest in the traditional, to make it more reachable to the generation today,” says Jeri Littlefair, export and marketing director at Distillerie Lehmann. “The majority of the people buying are still generations from before who are used to drinking eau de vie.”
Expanding eau de vie’s role in the drinking rituals of younger consumers has been one of the distillery’s core marketing tasks of late, whether it’s through Instagram Stories, events or direct bartender outreach.
“We’re installing eaux de vie in cocktails, we’re working with a lot of bartenders in Lyon, in Paris,” Littlefair says. “That is one of the main ways that we are reaching the younger generation and showing them that eau de vie can be a very powerful ingredient in cocktails.”
That’s been a key tactic for Miclo as well. When the distill ery hosted its 60th anniversary party late last summer, it invited mixologists to concoct recipes with its framboise sauvage (wild raspberry) eau de vie.
Consumers of all generations with a casual interest in local history have the opportunity to learn a great deal more about the region’s distilling heritage less than a mile from Miclo at Musee des Eaux de Vie, a vast collection of antique equipment, vintage pack aging, 19th and early-20th century marketing artifacts and more in central Lapoutroie.
Among the major attractions are an array of alembic stills, one that’s nearly 200 years old; 300 unopened bottles of spirits of mul tiple categories, as well as about 1,000, mostly pre-1960 miniatures; antique citrus peelers, one dating back to 1870; a “goat’s foot” ladder designed to facilitate cherry pick ing; stoneware tanks; and sundry long-retired siphons, bottle wash ers, glassware, and measurement
apparatus. (If you read the recap of my trip to the Netherlands and Belgium from about a year ago, you’ll know that I’m a sucker for a good booz-eum and would happily bunk out in one for days at a time).
The museum, which opened in 1986 inside the stables of an old coaching inn built more than 150 years earlier, is the pet project of distiller René de Miscault. The site also houses a tasting room and retail shop featuring House René de Miscault liqueurs, absinthe and, of course, eaux de vie produced at the more-than-160-year-old Distillerie Paul Devoille—which Miscault has owned since the ’80s—about 60 miles away in Fougerolles. Rene’s son, Hugues de Miscault, serves as the distiillery’s general manager.
“We sell more and more liqueurs, as [it seemed] young people weren’t drinking strong spirits any more,” says Marie-Béatrice Bickel, export manager for the distillery and René de Miscault’s daughter.
The company’s liqueur portfo lio includes products made from some of the same fruits that form the bases of many of its eaux de vie—Williams pear, Mirabelle and raspberry, for instance—as well as creamy, confectionery concoctions that involve pistachios, caramel, chocolate and even speculoos. It also produces its own version of the bitter Alsatian spirit, L’Amer, which locals traditionally have mixed with beer.
Despite the shift outside the category in recent decades, cur rent consumption trends do make room for a bit of an eau de vie
Alsatian Road Trip
Here’s a quick snapshot of my itinerary through Alsace’s eau de vie industry.
Located in Obernai, about 17 miles southwest of Strasbourg, Distillerie Lehmann has been producing fruit brandies since 1850. Eaux de vie now represent about half of the distillery’s output, with whisky making up the other half. You’ll find most of the Alsatian fruit greatest hits here—Williams pear, raspberry, cherry, plum and the like—but you’ll also find some rarities like bilberry, holly berry and ginger.
Musee Des Eaux de Vie
About 40 miles southwest of Obernai and 15 miles northwest of Colmar is the charming town of Lapoutroie, which houses France’s greatest shrine to the local spirit. There’s enough antique distilling eye-candy on display to keep visitors occupied for the better part of an afternoon. Best part is you can take a break every so often to sample eaux de vie, liqueurs and absinthe in the House René de Miscault tasting room.
Distillerie G. Miclo
Also in Lapoutroie, Miclo’s spacious tasting room and retail shop are reason enough for a visit. In the distillery itself, there’s something for everyone, with single malts aging in oak barrels and brandies resting in stainless steel tanks. Eau de vie may be clear, but it’s hardly unaged. At Miclo, the brandies spend anywhere from two to five years in stainless before they’re bottled. Miclo’s one of the larger producers in the area, also running a shop and tasting room on the main pedestrian street in Riquewihr about five miles away.
Distillerie Jos. Nusbaumer
About 25 miles north of Lapoutroie, nestled amongst rolling hills and vast woodlands in the rustic commune of Steige, Distillerie Jos. Nusbaumer features a retail shop and tasting room that evokes an ornate 18th- or 19th-century parlor. The distillery itself is a bit younger, dating back to 1947. Nusbaumer complements its eau de vie portfolio with fruit and cream liqueurs, as well as gin and aquavit. (A stack of fresh cut logs on the side of the road gave me a bit of a David Lynch vibe as I pulled into Steige.)
About 17 miles southeast of Steige, lies Ribeauville, one of those quintessential cobblestoned villages with narrow streets and alleyways (I felt like I was breaking the law by driving on what seemed like a pedestrian-only promenade of cafés and boutiques, even though it was perfectly legal and necessary). Tucked away on one of those paths—al most easy enough to miss—is Distillerie Mette, a 60-yearold producer that offers a formidable bottle list. The bound book of selections features eaux de vie from all of the usual fruits, as well as an extensive array of liqueurs.
“That’s actually a core part of our work, to present eau de vie in a way that it doesn’t rest in the traditional, to make it more reachable to the generation today.”
—Jeri Littlefair of Distillerie Lehmann
Stainless steel tanks may be the most common method for aging eau de vie these days, but a handful of distilleries—including Lehmann and René de Miscault/Paul Devoille, retain the traditional vessels for a portion of their output. On the Lehmann distillery tour in particular, the dame-jeanne—a large, bulbous glass bottle often housed inside a wooden basket or surrounded by straw—is a prominent sight. There are a few retired ones on display at Miscault’s Musee des Eaux de Vie, while its dis tillery proper in Fougerolles still uses around 1,200 of them. Modern stainless vessels are completely sealed off against any possible oxidation. However, some air gets through in a dame-jeanne, influ encing the flavor profile.
resurgence in its historic homeland.
“Today more and more younger people are drinking strong spirits and are interested in their origins,” Bickel observes. “People [overall] drink less and less, but they’re more curious about what they’re drinking.”
Gens Y and Z also tend to be sticklers for sustainable sourcing, as well as eating and drinking local—values that align closely with Alsatian eau de vie distilling.
“We get the fruit from the people who live near the distillery, let’s say a [radius] of about 20 kilometers,” says Distillerie Lehmann’s Littlefair. “For us, it’s not only to support the locals, but it determines the quality of the fruit because we get small quantities of fruit
and that allows us to really check each fruit to see if they’re ready to be fermented.”
There’s also far less waste that way, she says.
“If they grow, say [Williams pear], instead of throwing it away or not using it, they’re giving it to us,” Littlefair explains. “If the fruits are not being used, they could sell the land because they don’t see any use. We’re the last buyers from these little local [fruit growers]. We want to keep their land the way it is.”
But, as most distillers in Alsace know, preserving and reigniting traditions is about playing the long game.
“It’s a long process,” Littlefair concedes, “to change people’s mentality.” ■This page: Distillerie Lehmann
Top: Exterior of Distillerie Miclo’s shop and tasting room
Bottom left: Miclo’s stills
Bottom right: Inside Miclo’s shop and tasting room
Headframe Spirits shines bright in a city with a rich mining history.BY JON PAGE
When they look back on a decade of distilling, Headframe Spirits cofounders John and Courtney McKee can find countless reasons to feel proud about their business. Started after John lost a job dominated by travel, the distillery was almost an immediate success story after opening its doors in Butte, Montana, on leap day in 2012. Headframe also produces its own line of continuous-flow stills, lauded for their efficiency. And the company is among a handful of distilleries that are Certified B Corporations.
But when asked what makes them the most proud about a decade of Headframe, both John and Courtney start the conversation around the impact they’ve had in their community.
“All communities are good at looking back at where they came from, but some can have difficulties looking forward at what they can become,” says John, Headframe’s CTO. “Being a business that is constantly look ing forward, we’ve been able to act as an example that others have been able to follow in our small town.”
“To live in a place that so celebrates where it came from—to be able to help shift that focus from what’s back there to what’s up here—has been an incredibly big deal,” adds Courtney, Headframe’s CEO.
The distillery is located in Butte’s uptown inside of a 100-year-old building that origi nally housed a Buick dealership. (They also have operations on the outskirts of town in a former machine shop at the Kelley Mine.) In recent years, more businesses have flocked to the area, with some of them reimagining old buildings, as well. And among other charitable deeds, Headframe has donated more than $350,000 to local organizations.
On a personal level, Courtney is proud that Headframe’s tasting room is a welcom ing space. It’s the kind of place where a couple might meet and, exactly one year
later, get engaged (which really happened at Headframe). It’s also a place worthy of celebrations for birthdays and weddings, and even for mourning. “People come in after a funeral and use our space to celebrate a life and mourn a loss,” says Courtney. “There’s so much more to being part of a community than just hanging up a shingle and saying, ‘We’re here.’ It’s intimate and meaningful for other people in a way that I didn’t understand before we opened. I’m grateful for every single one of those things, every single family story [in which] we’re a minor character.”
She’s equally proud of the men and women who make up Headframe’s workforce, which is about 30 strong. John says “she shines at understanding people and teams … which is not my skill.” Courtney is glad that she can help them thrive within the company and the community. “I think it’s the impact—not that I create—it’s the impact that I get to orches trate that these guys get to make,” she says. Headframe’s spirit of goodwill extends well beyond Butte. Courtney is a former board member of the American Craft Spirits Association and she has been co-chairing the association’s education committee for six years. Headframe is also a participat ing distillery in Good Deeds Spirits, a group of distilleries creating collaborative spirits releases with the goal of raising money to benefit important industry causes. In 2021, Headframe was the host site for the group’s first release of Good Deeds Malt Whiskey, with proceeds benefiting ACSA’s STEPUP Foundation.
Even though there’s a profit to be made on producing stills, John is quick to point out that some people might see this as helping Headframe’s competition. He sees it differ ently. “No matter how great of a mountainman hermit you are, someone still made your ax blade,” says John. “This industry can’t grow and thrive unless we encourage and help each
other to find the best that we can in our busi nesses. To be in the industry as a distillery and an equipment provider I don’t think of it as helping competition, but rather as working together as the tide that lifts all ships.”
As for Headframe’s own spirits, Orphan Girl Bourbon Cream Liqueur is the flagship, and Kelley American Single Malt Whiskey is a fa vorite of both John and Courtney (Headframe is a founding member of the American Single Malt Whiskey Commission). The distillery unveiled a new look to its labels (includ ing a revamped website) as part of its 10th anniversary celebration. The spirits’ names are now more prominent, and there’s a subtle but clever nod to the shape of the distillery’s building atop the label. The celebration was somewhat subdued because of covid, and Headframe fans can likely expect an even big ger party when the next leap day rolls around in 2024.
Unfortunately, Courtney is currently un able to truly enjoy Headframe’s spirits due to a case of long covid. She tested positive in October of 2020 and lost her senses of smell and taste for a few days. “What’s come back is not the same,” she says. “Most food and drink does not work for me anymore. Things taste poisonous, they taste rancid.” That makes for difficulty when traveling to new places, being with unfamiliar people, and go ing to eat where she doesn’t control the menu. “It also means that Headframe has released products that I’ve never tasted, which means we’ve put work out into the world that I don’t know if I’m proud of. That’s a really strange place to be as a business owner.”
She is taking part in a few projects that are researching the physical and emotional impacts of long covid, and is putting extra faith in her team members to ensure that Headframe’s products adhere to the same standards they would if she could taste them.
That will, of course, only continue to make
the company stronger. And by the time Headframe celebrates another 10 years— roughly three leap years from now—those employees might be in charge.
“When we think about exit strategy, we think about how [to] build a model where our employees can take over the company and the company can continue to run in a way that continues to create value for this place in the world,” says Courtney. “I have no interest in our brands or labels getting produced somewhere else. … So in 10 years I want to still be here, but I don’t know that it’s still gonna be mine, and that’s definitely not something I feel sad about. That’s something I feel incredibly excited about and that’s what I’m working toward.” ■
“There’s so much more to being part of a community than just hanging up a shingle and saying, ‘We’re here.’ It’s intimate and meaningful for other people in a way that I didn’t understand before we opened. I’m grateful for every single one of those things, every single family story [in which] we’re a minor character.”
—Courtney McKee of Headframe SpiritsJohn and Courtney McKee
Great Expectations in the Great Lakes StateBY JOHN HOLL
Michigan is a state that appreci ates industry and ingenuity.
A state that understands automation and celebrates labor and hard work. It fosters businesses that know how to bootstrap and foster local pride. It also knows how to relax and accept nature’s reward after all that hard work.
Taking all that into consideration, it is easy to see why Michigan has embraced craft dis tilleries. As the industry has grown it has been celebrated for its flavor and determination.
“Michigan is at the tipping point, poised to be one of the national leaders in craft spirits,” says Richard Anderson, the cofounder and partner in the family-owned Iron Fish Distillery in Thompsonville. The nearly 90 distilleries in the state “showcase a wide range of styles and innovation in the practice of craft distilling.”
It helps that the state government has been willing to support distillers in not only opening
a business but helping it grow. Craft distillers say that the state legislature has been work ing for nearly 15 years to make changes to state laws that help the small producers.
Kent Rabish formed Grand Traverse Distillery in 2005 and began distilling two years later. At the time “100% of our spirits had to be sold through distribution [with] no direct sales to customers,” he says. “Shortly after this they allowed craft distill ers to have multiple tasting rooms. We have five at this time.”
The state’s high tax rate is also headed towards some relief with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signing a bill last summer that will reduce taxes on spirits for which more than 40% of the mash bill features Michigan-grown agriculture. That is slated to take effect on January 1, 2023.
Craft distilling in Michigan also received a lift by the robust craft beer industry. With national brands like Bell’s, New Holland and Founders operating in the state, residents were already accustomed to drinking local and are proud to support local businesses.
“There is an openness to pushing boundar ies around the craft side of things as well as an established market for small, communityfocused operations,” says Robert Klaty, master distiller and owner of Tenacity Craft which operates a brewery and distillery. “Being close to corn and barley production is great too as it has allowed us to use local corn and malt in many of our mashes and get to meet farmers and maltsters.”
In the story of Michigan spirits, location matters too.
When he was working on the business plan for Valentine Distilling Co., Rifino Valentine, the company president, looked to the city of Detroit because of its proud manufacturing history as well as the farmlands which boast rich agricultural diversity.
The goal “was to create a manufacturing base that produced value-added products from our agriculture industry,” he says. “Instead of raising a crop of corn for cattle feed, a robust distilling industry would offer higher economic value for that crop of corn.”
Valentine, who launched the second craft distillery in the state, said he looked at distill ing in the same way the automotive giants came to rule the cities.
“I looked at this as a manufacturing busi ness, bringing manufacturing back to the U.S., Michigan, and Detroit, as we all know at the time we had lost a lot of the manufacturing base,” he said.
Manufacturing is not only important for the tax base and the jobs it creates, it’s important for the entire supply chain, including agricul ture, he says.
Pointing to that tradition of manufactur ing also helps create a bond with fellow residents, says J.P. Jerome, PhD of the Detroit City Distillery.
“Detroiters and Michiganders are a very proud and loyal people, and they will support those that support them,” he says.
While the Motor City might be best known
“Michigan is at the tipping point, poised to be one of the national leaders in craft spirits.”
—Richard Anderson of Iron Fish Distillery
by outsiders thanks to the Ford Motor Co. and Motown Records, inside the state residents know where to flock for fun and are fiercely proud of their farmlands.
Distillers are quick to point out that Michigan is the second most agricultural diverse state in the country.
“One of the reasons for us to come to Michigan is its rich history and geogra phy,” says Scott Anderson, founder of The Honorable Distillery in Marquette. “Only a handful of states in the U.S. can claim a
border on one of the Great Lakes.”
The Honorable Distillery is located in the Upper Peninsula (UP) an area now known for its recreation and vacation vibes.
“The men and women who settled in the area had to be tough to survive the harsh working conditions as well as the inhospitable winters,” says Anderson of The Honorable Distillery. “It is because of this spirit and ad venturous nature that it made sense for us to embark on our own journey in this area.”
In conversation after conversation with
distillers, they are eager to point out the best way to experience Michigan spirits is to spend a good amount of time in the state, traveling around.
“Our distilling industry is as diverse as the state itself, leading to different focuses but generally an attempt to highlight the incred ible natural resources in our state, from its incredible water supply via the Great Lakes to its robust agricultural industry,” says Steve Vander Pol, the co-owner of Eastern Kille Distillery in Grand Rapids.
He is currently building a new distillery and tasting room on 16 wooded acres both to offer a serene experience for customers and highlight the importance of location and natu ral elements in the whiskey-making process.”
Royal Oak-based Motor City Gas Whiskey is Michigan’s only organic farm distillery and owner Rich Lockwood says being on a farm and growing a large portion of the organic heirloom grain used in the spirits has helped drinkers from near and far better connect with the contents of the bottle.
Even with diverse agriculture, local
“Our distilling industry is as diverse as the state itself, leading to different focuses but generally an attempt to highlight the incredible natural resources in our state, from its incredible water supply via the Great Lakes to its robust agricultural industry.”
—Steve Vander Pol of Eastern Kille DistilleryValentine Distilling Co. Tonya and Rich Lockwood of Motor City Gas Whiskey
support, and growing interest from the rest of the country, there are still challenges for Michigan, but those, like everything else the state has faced will be met head on.
“I am extremely proud of the innovative products that my own distillery has pro duced,” says Jon O’Connor of Long Road Distillers in Grand Rapids, “and I am thrilled to
have other distillers around the state, who are also committed to crafting unique spirits, with integrity and a focus on quality.”
AN APP FOR ABC RULES
A Q&A with Ryan Malkin, founder of the new app Set The Bar.
This past summer, Ryan Malkin launched Set The Bar, a mobile app that provides easyto-understand alcohol beverage industry trade practice rules and regulations in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Malkin—who is the principal attorney at Malkin Law and legal counsel to the American Craft Spirits Association—answered a few questions about the app and shared some insight about how members of the distilled spirits community can use it.
CRAFT SPIRITS: When did you first start thinking about creating this app and what kinds of challenges did you face along the way?
Ryan Malkin: I started thinking about this app several years ago. Each time our team researched and prepared a 50-state survey of laws for a client, and I sent over Word docu ments, I always thought, there has to be a more efficient way to access this information. In speaking with the field teams, I understood they were on their phones and rarely at a desk or computer, so accessing Word documents, or even a text-heavy website, was not helpful.
Set The Bar is not geared toward the legal teams, though they can use it, but rather the people in the field who are on-the-go and want easily accessible information.
Some of the challenges were finding the right developer to bring the idea to life as well as saving the capital to launch the app. The regulations by state change regularly, so there will be constant updating to ensure the information is current as well as updating and changing the quizzes to keep members engaged and constantly learning.
What’s your elevator pitch to potential subscribers if you only have about a minute to tell them about the app?
Set The Bar is the first mobile app that gives you easy-to-understand access to alcohol beverage rules and regulations in all 50 states and D.C., right at your fingertips, 24/7.
Whom do you see as ideal users of the app? Marketers? Distillers? Distributors? Distillers looking to expand into other states where they may not have a strong understanding of local regulations?
The simple answer is all of the above. Distillers, distributors, agencies and re ally any professional who needs access to the basic marketing rules in any state will benefit from using Set The Bar. We have distillers who want to get a better under standing of rules in other states where they are not currently selling and agencies
who access the information on behalf of their clients, saving the client time and money.
What kind of reception have you had so far from users?
The reception has been great so far. Some users have asked us to add DISCUS Code details to the industry terms, which we plan to do so it’s more comprehensive. We want to make sure users are getting what they need from Set The Bar.
Can you give us some case study examples of how it might be useful to different types of users?
One example is the activation and marketing agency, Ayatana XP. Its clients include dis tilled spirits brands with sales and marketing activations all over the country. Part of the agency’s responsibility is sorting out where certain activities can be done, and Set The Bar allows them to easily confirm whether, say, tastings are legal in certain states, ultimately saving them a lot of time. Kristen Hannah, founder of Ayatana XP says “navigating alcohol beverage laws can be daunting, even for industry veterans like myself. Our team has really taken advantage of Set The Bar, and everything it has to offer. Whether we’re planning an event, hosting a staff training, executing an activation, or a local on-premise initiative for our clients, it’s so much easier to have what’s compliant in that state at our fingertips. Set The Bar is very intuitive, it’s saving us time, it’s helping us avoid penalties and fees and ultimately saving our clients’ money. It’s been a great investment that’s already paid itself back.”
Tell us about the color-coding system you established for the app.
We borrowed the same coding system that TTB uses. TTB trade practices are categorized as red, yellow or green light activities. Just as it sounds, red light activities are prohibited,
Set The Bar is the first mobile app that gives you easy-tounderstand access to alcohol beverage rules and regulations in all 50 states and D.C., right at your fingertips, 24/7.Ryan Malkin
yellow light activities require thoughtful con sideration and caution before proceeding, and green light activities are permissible (unless used for impermissible purposes).
And it also features a quiz? Yes, and there are two great reasons for the quiz. First, a user can test their knowledge of basic alcohol beverage laws. Second, if a company has its team members using the app, the company can require the quiz, and we can provide all of the results to see where the gaps in knowledge are. We can even work with a company to modify the questions to focus on certain topics.
Keeping tabs on all 50 states and D.C. seems like a monumental task! How do you stay on top of it all?
Because our team is so involved in the indus try, it’s just part of the day-to-day operations. It’s definitely a lot of work, but we love this industry and want to make this a valuable as set to everyone at a reasonable cost.
What would you say to someone who might be skeptical of the subscription price and says they can navigate compliance issues on their own?
Certainly, the rules are out there. However, it can be time-consuming to find the right rules and for a layperson to understand them. For instance, it can take an hour per state for just one topic, say tastings, to find the rules, then multiply that by 50 states and do that same math for all of the 10-plus categories we have on Set The Bar. Thinking about it like that and you understand the immense value of Set The
Bar. Plus, Set The Bar takes the guesswork out of researching these rules and relays the rules in an easy-to-understand way. If you consider how many hours it would take to compile all of this information, you’d realize what a great resource Set The Bar truly is.
Is there anything else you’d want people to know about the app?
We understand craft distillers may have lim ited budgets and not need all 50 states that the app offers, so we offer a reduced rate for ACSA members. Just use the code “ACSA” and you will receive 50% off Set The Bar until the end of 2022! Just remember, Set The Bar is not legal advice and should not replace legal counsel. ■
BLAZING A DIGITAL TRAIL
This fall, the Colorado Distillers Guild (CDG) launched an app to promote the Colorado Spirits Trail. The trail was founded in 2018 as a paper map to showcase the state’s many distilleries. The new digital app is an updated evolution of the original map, with new features to excite visiting spirits drink ers. Meagan Miller (Talnua Distillery, CDG president), Lee Wood (Wood’s High Mountain Distillery, CDG treasurer), and Kelsey Bigelow (Ironton Distillery, CDG communications director) joined forces to answer a few ques tions about the new app.
CRAFT SPIRITS: What can you tell us about the process that led up to the app? Colorado Distillers Guild: The pandemic led to our tasting rooms in Colorado being almost inaccessible to consumers, so the Colorado Spirits Trail really took a hit in terms of prog ress. With so many people now used to using their phones for access to retailers, menus and experiences, we started pondering how we could adapt the trail in this post-covid era. We wanted something that allowed consum ers to view the app wherever they were and find craft spirits near them.
Colorado boasts the second-oldest spirits trail, but maintaining it and publicizing it is difficult. We received a grant from the Colorado Tourism Office (CTO) called Restart Industry Associations Program, which gave us 75 hours of a marketing professional’s time and $10,000 worth of content. Through the grant, and the terrific help of our marketing liaison, we were able to get to a launch point. The app was developed by Daruma Tech in partnership with the Guild.
What kinds of challenges did you have along the way?
Colorado has a long history when it comes to craft spirits and a large number of distilleries, yet our guild has no paid employees. Part of the challenge was for our crew of volunteer board members and committee members to balance their time between their own
businesses and the trail. The app design took time to implement and fine tune.
The trail had been quiet for almost two years. When it was time to relaunch it as the app, we knew we’d need to push it on social media and in the press. Rebuilding the aware ness of the trail with consumers and even with our guild members will take time.
Are there certain requirements that a distillery must have in order to be on the app?
In order to be included, a distillery must pay their dues to the Colorado Distillers Guild and want to participate in the app. It’s not a re quirement to participate in the app, however. Some distilleries don’t have tasting rooms to visit, so there are fewer distilleries on the app than are a part of our guild membership.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of an app vs. a paper map?
The advantage to having an app versus a paper map is that we can see the return on in vestment using data collected through the app on the backend. The paper map has great nos talgia and inherent value to the trailblazer, but
The paper map has great nostalgia and inherent value to the trailblazer, but once the map is out of the tasting room doors, we have no way to track how many distilleries have actually been visited along the way, or patterns to watch.Members of the Colorado Distillers Guild discuss their new app for the Colorado Spirits Trail. Kelsey Bigelow Lee Wood Meagan Miller
once the map is out of the tasting room doors, we have no way to track how many distilleries have actually been visited along the way, or patterns to watch. We want to make sure dis tilleries outside of the Front Range are getting as much love as those within it. With the app, we’ll be able to monitor where people are visit ing and then promote the areas less traveled to encourage traffic to those areas. We’re also able to share more current information about distilleries in the app, such as upcoming events or releases. Distilleries can also add in deals and discounts to the app. We can also reach out to consumers that are using the app more regularly with emails and reminders.
Plus, the users benefit from being able to track their visits, favorite products, comment on their experiences and generally build com munity with other users.
Is the paper map officially going away? And if so, in what ways are distilleries driving attention towards the app?
We have no plans to print a map for the time being, but we can definitely see there being a great opportunity to sell printed maps as another stream of income for our guild and as a souvenir for our trailblazers. How much a dis tillery wants to promote the app is up to them. They can put up signage or share on social.
How are you describing it to people who don’t know about it? Assuming I just walked into your distillery, what would you tell me about it and how it works?
It’s very simple! The app can be download ed for both iPhones and Android. Once it’s downloaded, create your free account and then you can find distilleries near you! Once you try a distillery’s products, you can virtually stamp your app and be entered to win prizes.
Let’s talk about deals and prizes. What are some of the most interesting ones, and there’s a grand prize?
We will have fun swag along your journey as a trailblazer—t-shirts, glassware, etc.—but the real prize is that for every five distilleries you check in at, we’ll give you an additional entry into the grand prize drawing. This year, our friends at Surf Hotel Buena Vista will be donating a two-night stay for two (exceptions apply)! Also included are two private tours of two of our staple Colorado distilleries in the Buena Vista area (Wood’s High Mountain Distillery and Deerhammer Distillery). We’re also working with some restaurants in the area to make sure our trail blazer winners are eating some good grub along the way.
What advice do you have for other states, cities or regions that are considering building a spirits trail app?
The grant from CTO was key to the success of launching the app. They provided technical support and funding to get it off the ground. The challenge is in having adequate resources to promote the trail app to users and to communicate the details to the participat ing distillery staff. The good news is that the CDG has received a follow-on grant from CTO to address the promotion and marketing of the app. Phase two should start right after the first of the year and will help us spread the word and accelerate our ability to bring this community of craft spirits fans into our member tasting rooms.
When you step back and think about where this started with a paper map and where it is now as an app, how proud are you of this?
Even with the support of the CTO, this was a big undertaking. It took a substantial effort of the CDG board and trail committee to bring it to life. We’re really proud that we were able to get it down and create a product that really supports the members and helps further the mission of the CDG to build the craft distilling industry in Colorado. ■
REACHING THE BAR
Tips and strategies for engaging and working with bartendersBY ERIKA RIETZ
According to Nielsen data, the chief driving factor in 80% of liquor purchases, whether a cocktail at a bar or a bottle in a retail space, is a bartender’s recommendation.
For a craft brand, or any brand, really, being able to harness that kind of advocacy is crucial. But the question, of course, is how: How do you reach bartenders, mixologists and beverage directors with your story and your brand?
We tapped a few experts to share their best tips for engaging with bartenders.
Have a story and know how to tell it. “Sure, you can have a commercial on TV, but a bartender is the lifeblood of your story, right? If you can’t transmit that story to someone to retell that story to the consumer, there’s no pathway to success,” says James Zinkand, founder of Misguided Spirits in New York City. According to Zinkand, it’s vital to actually know your story, be true to what it is about, understand why your brand exists in the market and articulate your brand with passion and authenticity.
Determine which communities make sense for your brand.
“You’re not going to market to every bartender. You need to figure out which communities you want to reach and what makes sense for your brand message,” says Lindsey Johnson of Lush Life Productions, a media and events company that focuses on hospitality worker and bartender advocacy. She works with multiple spirits brands, helping them to share their stories and connect with bartenders and consumers. She says, if, for example, you’re producing a craft vodka in Pittsburgh, you can certainly start with your hometown audience, but it’s important to look at your market even more granularly. “Are we talking to craft cocktail bartenders? Are we talking to nightclub bartenders? And from there, we can build out other demographics and identities that make sense. Is your brand owned by a person in the LGBTQ community, and do you want to support members in that com munity? Awesome. Let’s do that,” she says. Harnessing who you are as a brand and
connecting with like-minded establishments and bartenders is critical for engagement.
Put in the time, and always follow up. “It takes a lot of sweat equity—putting your butt in a barstool—to really understand what the bar is, where they are positioned, who works there and what they do,” says Zinkand. Dropping off samples, he stresses, just isn’t enough. Get to know the bartenders, develop genuine relationships and “actually care about the person behind the bar,” he says.
Gina Holman, founding partner, distiller and operations manager at J. Carver Distillery in Waconia, Minnesota, also emphasizes the importance of consistently following up with bartenders. “If I’m looking at my Excel spreadsheet and here are the 50 accounts that I wanted to get in, and now I’m in those 50 accounts, I can’t just pat myself on the back; I need to follow up and see what I can continue to do for them.” Expect to invest time—not just in the beginning—to continue to build your relationships and further your brand’s reach.
Ensure your business strategy and products align with the bar or restaurant (and don’t be discouraged if they don’t).
“If an $8 cocktail makes sense for a bar program, maybe you can work with that,” says Holman. But you must do the research to ensure that your products are a good fit. “Does the cocktail price align with the food? Is it a high-end restaurant and does it demand a high-end cocktail program? Is the dollar amount aligned with what the customer is going to expect, and can ev erybody meet that expectation so that the customer leaves feeling really good about something they’ve experienced?” Further, she says being familiar with the ways bartenders and beverage directors present cocktails, from the ice program to the glass ware, and determining if that works with your brand’s presentation, is also important; all of this calibration will make conversa tions with bartenders much smoother.
“I really listen to bartenders first and foremost. Then, we ask the question, does J. Carver and our craft spirits align with their bar program and overall program strategy?” she says.
Don’t be discouraged if the answer is no: “Proclaim it and move on,” she says.
Find fun and supportive ways to engage. “It’s great to talk about cocktails with bartenders, but at the end of the day, that’s a very small part of their lives, right?” says Johnson. Find ways to interact with bartend ers that build community. “It’s about honor ing people and meeting them where they are instead of saying, ‘You need to spend four hours at our distillery.’”
Zinkand agrees: “We actually host a Bartender’s Big Day Out. We’ve gone to the Belmont to show them how to gamble on horses, and they get to meet the jockeys. But also, we are building this community with all of these people that are part of the industry.”
He also insists that it is important to support bartenders’ careers; in fact, he arranged a day out that included styling for headshots and resumé services for the attendees.
Of course, interactions with bartenders can be spirits-related, but Johnson says the tenor should be idea-sharing, rather than a oneway download of your brand’s products. For instance, she helped develop a residency pro gram in Oaxaca, Mexico, with Convite Mezcal, where two bartenders are invited to stay for a week to learn about mezcal production while also sharing their cocktail techniques with other bartenders.
Utilize bartenders’ unique skills and compensate them for their time. “Develop strategic business relationships with bartenders who really bring your brand to life in a way that feels authentic and true to you,” says Johnson. “Instead of looking at bartenders as people to market to, you should be looking at them as folks you want to work with. And when we say ‘work with,’ that always means you should be paying them.” She suggests inviting mixologists to bartend at your events or paying them to develop cocktails for your brand; find ways to employ their skills and compensate them for their expertise.
Don’t be negative.
“I would say the number one mistake that smaller craft brands very often make is going out and saying negative things about other brands to bartenders,” says Johnson. “It turns people off.” Be proud of what you do, she says, but always frame your success in the positive aspects of your brand, rather than the negative ones of others.
“The biggest mistake, however, is the way
folks sometimes speak to bartenders. I will get reports one or twice a week from bartend ers saying that someone from a brand was disrespectful.” Oftentimes the culprits are smaller craft brands, and she points out that it is primarily a training issue. She suggests that if your staff is visiting bars to connect with bartenders, ensure that they have proper training and truly understand how important those interactions are. “The last thing you want to do is turn off a bar in a town nearby, and find that nobody in that town will carry you. It’s going to be an uphill battle.”
Developing any relationship takes time, and the ones you create with bartenders are no different. From initial points of contact to a bartender incorporating your bottles behind the bar will not happen overnight. Expect the process to take a few years (doing everything well, Johnson ballparks about three years to see a significant change in how your product is getting used). “It takes time, creativity, an ability to break through and real human con nection,” she says. ■
“I would say the number one mistake that smaller craft brands very often make is going out and saying negative things about other brands to bartenders. It turns people off.”
—Lindsey Johnson of Lush Life Productions
Pack Expo International, as you’d surmise from its name, is known worldwide as a showcase of packaging machinery and solutions for mul tiple vertical industries, including, in no small part, beverage. But over the years, it’s become as much of a one-stop shop for material handling equipment, as well. Here’s a glimpse of what was available for that side of the business at the expo’s most recent Chicago addition in late October.
Reusable plastic pallets have gained quite a following in recent years and their Pack Expo presence has only grown. This year, at least a quarter of one of the exhibit halls was
dedicated to the products.
Craemer demo’d its new American Standard CR4-5, 48-inch x 40-inch plastic pallet, available in black and blue or gray and blue, weighing 52 pounds and offering cus tomized printing and numbering on request. …. The Endur US8 is Cabka’s 48x40 offer ing, with shock-absorbing design in corner blocks and on the edges of the deck, as well as a static load capacity of 14,100 pounds. Its broad runners make it ideal for roller convey ors. … Schoeller Albert’s 1200mm x 100mm (roughly 48x40 inches) BaYoPal is designed for use in harsh environments, sporting a re inforced corner structure and perforated top deck with a rib-web structure. The company
says the design provides maximum rigidity without the need for metal reinforcement. Its individual load capacity is 1,200 kilograms (2,645 pounds). … Decade Products dis played its RacX pallets, whose picture-frame bottom with runners on all four sides enables space-saving racking storage above the floor. When loaded pallets are stacked, the bottom pallet can handle the full static load. It’s got a static load capacity of 25,000 pounds.
THE TIES THAT BIND
There also have been some greener alterna tives for pallet wraps, eschewing the tradi tional disposable plastic straps and stretch films for far less waste-generating methods. Enter the Green Spider from Techcycle Technology Inc., a line of reusable pallet wraps that that company says can be reused thousands of times. Each wrap is designed to take an individual 45 seconds to install and 40 minutes to remove and store. … Similarly, Display Supply & Lighting Inc. offers the Velcro brand LogiStrap, a reusable strap to secure products in warehouses and
production facilities. The LogiStrap promises easy application, with no tools required. … That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for in novation with traditional disposable plastic pallet straps. Take the ErgoStrap (the center and right-most images below), for example. It is a wheeled device whose patented chain lance shoots out a plastic strap like a fishing rod casts a line, and quickly wraps it around the load by feeding it under the slats in the pallet and feeds it back to the operator. The operator then just needs to take the strap and fit the sealing head and the strap is automati cally tensioned and welded together. The Pack Expo demo was quite the traffic stopper.
ORDER A LIFT
Now that all of your bottles and cans are packed, stacked and wrapped on a pallet, it’s time to move them. The compact CombiLift Combi-CB is designed to increase productiv ity, improve safety and help increase storage capacity. The multidirectional counterbalance forklift truck promises maneuverability ideal for moving palletized case loads. It’s available
with a range of load capacities from 5,000 to 9,000 pounds. … Meanwhile, Myoung Shin Industry Co.’s electric fork lift is ergonomi cally designed for maximum operator comfort in repetitive work processes. It features au tomatic height adjustment using level control electronics that maintain a constant working height to eliminate the need for bending. ■
According to a study from IWSR Drinks Market Analysis, spirit-based ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails will overtake hard seltzer by volume in 2025. Overall, the RTD category will increase by an additional $11.6 billion over the next five years, according to IWSR. Across all markets tracked in the study, spirit-based RTDs—especially those made with vodka—held 45% category volume share in 2021 and are driving the lion’s share of innovation.
Quench your thirst for knowledge in ACSA’s Craft Spirits Classroom. For more information or to register, visit our website at https://americancraftspirits.org/education/webinars.