Fellow ACSA members and industry colleagues,
Several months have passed since we convened in Denver for our inaugural conference, and during this time we’ve made tremendous progress in our mission to protect and promote American craft spirits. It would be impossible to list every individual accomplishment, but I do want to highlight several transformational initiatives that have established a strong foundation for the future.
- Identity… Following the robust conversation at our Denver conference, we adopted more inclusive membership eligibility criteria. Most notably, we recognized that independent spirits producers who craft high quality products through methods other than distillation, e.g. by aging and blending whiskey in an innovative manner, are an integral part of our community. Soon after that, we changed our name to the American Craft Spirits Association in order to reflect this newly gained perspective. Concurrently, we increased the volume limit for membership eligibility from 100,000 to 750,000 proof gallons removed from bond. In relative terms, this new upper limit to define “craft” is still quite small compared to the one in place for our craft brewing colleagues, but it does provide some room for our individual businesses to grow. Make no mistake, we are and will always be a trade association of independent DSP holders; we simply chose to embrace all forms of craft spirits innovation, and we eliminated the need for our peers to choose between ACSA membership and financial viability.
- Integrity… When our board of directors met for the first time in Denver, we established a standing ethics committee whose first order of business would be to draft a code of conduct that all ACSA members would one day adopt. Last month, the committee presented a draft to the board, and we approved it unanimously as a condition of future ACSA membership. Starting next month, all members who either join or renew their membership will agree to abide by the ACSA code of ethics – an extraordinary development at a time when the public’s faith in spirits producers has been shaken by media reports and legal proceedings. Crucially, our attention will now turn to education and compliance, not enforcement – we believe that most ethics violations will result from inexperience, not malevolence.
- Impact… ACSA is already the largest trade association of independent spirits producers anywhere in the world, with over 200 members in 36 states. The size and breadth of our membership allows us to speak with authority, and we have done so on issues that range from defeating the FDA’s misguided “spent grain” proposal to advocating for fair tax treatment vis-a-vis our craft brewing colleagues. We have also leveraged our collective strength to earn a voice – one that represents all of our members – within major industry associations including DISCUS and WSWA. And of course, the media have taken note and now regularly come to us for industry insights.
- Community… Preparations are well underway for our February 14-16 conference in Austin, TX, and we expect it to be the largest gathering of craft spirits producers in history. The program will focus heavily on education, with content tracks ranging from sales and distribution to production and safety. There will also be ample opportunity for debate, as you would expect from an association that is member owned and industry driven. Please make every effort to join us in Austin – it’s a golden opportunity to shape the future of our association, and to spend time with old and new friends who share our optimism about the future of craft spirits in America.
On behalf of the ACSA board of directors, and our dedicated staff, I thank you for your membership and support.
All the best,
ACSA Board of Directors, President