To elevate and advocate for the community of craft spirits producers.
From the Desk of Margie A.S. Lehrman, Executive Director
Earlier this month, while Punxsutawney Phil dawdled before he announced we’d “enjoy” six more weeks of cold, your ACSA team dove deep into its hot events. There are many.
ACSA elections are coming up. What sets us apart from other businesses in the alcohol beverage sphere is our composition: ACSA is a the only national community of Distilled Spirit Plant owners, operators, distillers, and/or team members who lead its own group, effectively serving as ambassadors of our industry. Board members play a powerful role in making decisions that ultimately shape the future of craft spirits. If you have a voluntary spirit and a sense of “giving back,” read on to see how you can serve on the ACSA Board of Directors. The deadline for nominees is fast approaching.
Hot off the press is our survey for the annual economic data study, the Craft Spirits Data Project. Knowing the results will assist ACSA in the battle to make permanent the reduced Federal Excise Tax, we call on ALL DSPs to complete the survey. New questions on how you will reinvest your tax savings will provide critical information, pivotal to educate Congress. Act now!
Bringing together our community is what we do best. Ample opportunities abound in ACSA’s Craft Spirits Classroom and our 5 th Annual Convention and Vendor Trade show. It’s not too late to participate in each. Perhaps you might even use the savings in the FET to reinvest in your own education? Consider being inspired by Fawn Weaver, an internationally known lifestyle blogger, celebrated author, and all around amazing speaker who knows a thing or two about our industry. And, come to the PENNSYLVANIA TOAST, a complimentary consumer event for all convention registered attendees.
If you’re traveling to warmer weather, don’t miss the guide on Florida distilleries. There are ample opportunities to warm your inner soul in one of the approximately 50 craft distilleries across the state.
The ACSA judging of American craft spirits is impossible without dedicated volunteers. Learn about two of ACSA’s stalwarts and what trends they are seeing.
Although the groundhog saw its shadow, ACSA sees a HOT time ahead. Come join us!
Deadline Extended: Last Call for Board of Directors Nominations
There’s still time to submit your nominations to fill six positions on the the ASCA Board of Directors, open to all qualified DSP members of ACSA. T he successful candidates will help govern the association, one that is dedicated to elevating and advocating for the community of craft spirits producers. Together, leading an organization that is built by and for craft spirits producers, we can change the face of the industry.
The successful candidates will replace the following outgoing members whose three-year term will expire: Dan Farber, Osocalis Distillery; John Jeffery, Bently Heritage [Pacific Region]; Mike Blaum, Blaum Brothers Distilling Company [Central/Mountain Region]; Maggie Campbell, Privateer Rum; Tom Jensen, New Liberty Distillery [East Region]. In addition, there is one vacancy to be filled. All elected will serve on the ACSA Board of Directors for three years, with staggered yearly terms, for the 15-person board (plus ex officio members).
Interested parties should contact Election Chair, Renee Bemis, Driftless Glen , located in Wisconsin, at firstname.lastname@example.org . You may self-nominate or be suggested by another member of our craft spirits community. Renee will contact you for additional information so please supply relevant contact information.
Nominations must be received no later than Tuesday, February 27th. You will have the opportunity to address the membership with a statement of your candidacy on Tuesday morning, March 6 th , during ACSA’s national convention. National elections will take place in mid-March with successful candidates announced in early April.
Benefits of serving as a volunteer leader include:
Having an opportunity to enhance the value of ACSA and the craft spirits community
Accessing up-to-date information about the challenges facing the alcohol industry
Exchanging ideas and perspectives with other DSPs
Desired attributes for ideal candidates include:
Being committed and aligned with ACSA as a DSP voting member in good standing
Possessing relevant expertise in the disciplines of organizational management. Examples include, but are not limited to: marketing, fundraising, guild or chapter relations, finance, lobbying, export, and strategic supplier alliances
Committing to participate in 3-4 board meetings a year via teleconference and 1-2 in-person meetings. ACSA board members are asked to provide leadership support to legislative affairs, membership, education, convention, judging of craft spirits, and, special events and/or campaigns
Demonstrating positive leadership attributes, including but not limited to emotional intelligence, ability to work collaboratively and engage in appropriate debate and discussion when needed
Being a visionary and strategic thinker as ACSA enhances membership services and benefits
Ms. Lehrman Goes to Washington
Oftentimes, in the press of business at hand, we forget to thank those who make our world a better place. In the case of key sponsors and cosponsors of the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act, this was not so. On February 5 th and 6 th, your executive director, on your behalf, joined her industry colleagues to visit and extend warm gratitude to Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), and Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO). The Senators, together with their key staff, truly understand the importance of the reduction of the FET to your businesses. Encouraged by their dedication to find the right vehicle to reauthorize the reduction in the FET, your job is not done. Additional meetings on Capitol Hill are being set as we continue our efforts. PLEASE continue to share your stories on how the tax reduction impacts your distillery. Complete the poll below, talk to your guilds, email us your stories. ACSA is creating a central database to warehouse the effect of the FET reduction to the craft spirits industry. ACSA’s legislative affairs committee will continue the work to make the reduction permanent.
Your Input Needed: 2018 Craft Spirits Data Project Survey
It’s time once again for the Craft Spirits Data Project to query you on the economics of the industry. The Craft Spirits Data Project, which ACSA conducts in conjunction with Park Street and the IWSR, provides the industry’s most detailed picture of the size, scope, growth trajectory and economic contributions of the craft distilling industry. This information will be critical as we continue our fight to keep the reduction in the Federal Excise Tax. We invite you to follow this link and spend a few minutes answering the survey.
ACSA Board Members Host Texas Meet & Greet
ASCA President Mark Shilling and Board member Dan Garrison (Garrison Brothers Distillery) engaged with nearly 30 Texas distillery owner/operators at Tolbert’s Chili Parlor in Grapevine, Texas (known for its extensive bourbon list) last month for the first of a series of ASCA regional meet & greets.
Mark and Dan explained the lengthy, but rewarding, behind-the-scenes actions that led to successful passage of the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act and the resulting reduced taxation burden for craft distillers. Since the tax break is set to expire after just two years, they discussed the critical importance of keeping lawmakers aware of how craft distillers are reinvesting the tax savings into our businesses in the form of capital expenditures, new staff, higher quality products, increased grain usage and tourism promotion.
Additionally, they detailed the process behind this year’s Craft Spirits Data Project and made sure attendees understood their role in responding to surveys from ACSA and Park Street related to the survey (which is live now). That groundbreaking study already has demonstrated the strength and scope of the craft distilling industry and that we will become an even more formidable part of the spirits landscape in the future.
SPIRITED RESPONSE: MONTHLY POLL
Question 1 (of 2): What’s the No. 1 way the FET reduction will benefit you in 2018?
Mark your calendars for these key educational opportunities coming up in March and April. This month, we’re spotlighting two webinars, as well as some convention and pre-convention highlights you won’t want to miss in Pittsburgh.
CRAFT SPIRITS CLASSROOM: Quenching Your Thirst for Knowledge
TWO Upcoming Programs
The New Tastemakers: How to Use Sensory Perception to Increase Brand Enjoyment
Does your branding give the right flavor cues? We now know that flavor experience, and therefore brand enjoyment, is influenced by all of our senses—not just our taste buds. Join Cynthia Sterling, founder and creative director of Sterling Creativeworks , to learn how the latest research on sensory perception can help us design packaging and messaging that create authentic and memorable experiences for consumers and drive brand loyalty. As a branding specialist, Cynthia helps today’s smartest marketing minds build brands that capture attention, delight consumers & build brand loyalty. She is the author of the book Branding: Distilled, a comprehensive guide to packaging for craft spirits. After the webinar, we’ll save some time for Q & A.
When: March 28, 2018 3-4 PM EDT
Where: Online Webinar
Who: Cynthia Sterling, F ounder and Creative Director of Sterling Creativeworks
While internet advertising for distilleries may seem like the Wild West, there are regulations on what distillers can and can’t do. In addition, there are best practices that your company should use to avoid unwanted attention from regulators. This webinar, presented by attorney Corey Day, will help you determine if your distillery’s website and social media presence are complying with federal law. Corey is a member of the beer, wine, and distilling practice group at the Murphy, Campbell, Alliston & Quinn law firm, with a particular focus on the spirits industry. He also represents public entities and private clients in litigation matters. He is currently co-teaching Sacramento State University’s first course on brewing and distilling.
When: April 25, 3-4 PM EDT
Where: Online Webinar
Who: Corey Day, spirits industry attorney at Murphy, Campbell, Alliston & Quinn
The 2018 ACSA Distillers Convention & Vendor Trade Show kicks off in just two short weeks, March 5 and 6, 2018 (with pre-Convention events on March 3 and 4) at the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown hotel. There’s still time to register here . You won’t want to miss the 30-plus hours of educational programming, as well as these highlights and special events:
Town Hall Keynote Presentation: Fawn Weaver
We are pleased to welcome to the convention Fawn Weaver (pictured, right), a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, national speaker, TED talk presenter, and founder of the Nearest Green Foundation—an organization devoted to honoring Nathan “Nearest” Green, the first African-American master distiller on record in the U.S., the first master distiller for Jack Daniel’s, and the person who taught Jack Daniel the fine art of making Tennessee Whiskey. She’s also the founder of the Happy Wives Club, a community of nearly 1 million women in more than 110 countries. Ms. Weaver will officially kick off the convention on Monday, March 5.
The Pennsylvania Toast
ACSA has partnered with the Pennsylvania Distillers Guild to co-host a consumer tasting event, immediately following the close of Day 1 of the convention on Monday, March 5, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Heinz History Center, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, 1212 Smallman Street, Pittsburgh. The Pennsylvania Toast is FREE TO ALL REGISTERED CONVENTION ATTENDEES . Luckily, we timed our convention with the last stop on a nationwide tour: AMERICAN SPIRITS – THE RISE AND FALL OF PROHIBITION. Come learn more about our industry and witness the first comprehensive exhibit dedicated to bringing to life the story of Prohibition. Tickets are $59 in advance and $69 at the door. Register here. ( And, to our booth exhibitors, please e-mail your list of booth attendants to email@example.com and indicate whether you’re planning to attend the consumer event.)
Craft Spirits Judging Awards Dinner
Help us close our convention with an unparalleled night of fun. Be a part of our community to celebrate medalists from our annual Craft Spirits Competition and toast our 5th year as a trade group created and run by licensed craft spirits DSPs. Last fall a panel of spirits experts descended on Washington, D.C. to judge more than 500 entries across all major categories. Find out which ones made the cut and get to go home with gold, silver and bronze medals.
You’re going to want to get to Pittsburgh early for these pre-convention events, taking place over the two days prior to the official convention kickoff. On Saturday March 3 and Sunday March 4 , Scott and Colleen Moore, principals at Dalkita Architecture and Construction, will lead the workshop, “Making Sense of Plans and Blueprints: Building Your First Commercial Distillery.” The presenters will unveil the knowledge necessary to construct a safe and work-friendly distillery and provide practical advice on the concepts a distillery business owner must know. Attendance requires a separate registration fee. Register here
Why wait for a good thing? This year, we’re helping you get more from your convention experience. Upon arrival on March 4th, come visit us at preregistration beginning at 4 p.m. and enjoy a complimentary libation and snack while visiting the trade show floor PRIOR to the official opening. Avoid the crowds and spend more time with suppliers and friends in our industry .
Right about now, most people in the northern half of the United States probably have been dreaming of much warmer weather, especially since that pesky rodent Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow earlier this month—suggesting that winter’s here to stay, at least for a little while. So there’s no better time than the present to turn our attention to the Sunshine State and have a look at what’s happening on the Florida craft spirits front. We’ll start in the Panhandle and work our way south.
Unaged corn whiskey is the specialty of Peaden Brothers Distillery, operating out of the newly renovated 1945 Fox Theater in Crestview, northeast of Pensacola. In addition to an unadorned Fox 382 Special Edition Moonshine, the distillery crafts Strawberry Angel, Shock the Monkey banana-flavored corn whiskey, Blueberry Curve corn whiskey, among others. Head to the eastern coast to Amelia Island and you’ll discover, in the town of Fernandina Beach, Marlin & Barrel, maker of an eclectic line of vodkas, rums, liqueurs and gin. Not too far from there in Jacksonville, make a trip downtown to Manifest Distilling, whose offerings include an organic Gin and Rye whiskey, as well as a non-GMO Potato Vodka. This being Florida, there is, of course, a citrus version of Manifest’s vodka. To the immediate southeast, St. Augustine Distillery makes Florida Double Cask Bourbon, Pot Distilled Rum and New World Gin in the former home of an ice plant, built in 1907. Down near Daytona in the town of Holly Hill, Copper Bottom Craft Distillery brings Florida back to its spirited roots, distilling both Silver and Gold rums, as well as a vodka.
A trek through Florida very often means a requisite visit to “the Mouse,” so, while in Orlando, squeeze in a side trip to neighboring Winter Park and drop in on Winter Park Distilling Co.—whose founders say the local climate is perfect for aging bourbon and rum. That’s a theory worth testing!
Now, let’s jump back toward the Gulf Coast and see what’s happening on the western side of the peninsula. With a name like Florida CANE Distillery, you might be forgiven for thinking it’s primarily a rum distillery. But its flagship product is a vodka, made from South Florida sugar cane. Florida CANE, located in the heart of Tampa’s historic Ybor City, also produces gin and whiskey. St. Petersburg Distillery, in the city of the same name, does make a rum—in addition to gin, whiskey and vodka—marketed under the Old St. Pete brand (look for the smiling sun on the label). Meanwhile, Sarasota’s Drum Circle Distilling is all about rum, promising “a taste of paradise in every sip” of its Siesta Key Silver, Siesta Key Gold, Siesta Key Spiced, Siesta Key Toasted Coconut, Distiller’s Reserve Spiced and Beer Barrel Finished Spiced.
Back on the southern Atlantic coast, the aptly named Sandy Feet Rum Co. in Fort Lauderdale is also getting in on the molasses-based action and is expected to start offering tastes of its early barrel-aged batches quite soon. Sandy Feet’s products were produced in partnership with another Fort Lauderdale producer, South Florida Distillers, known for the Fwaygo rum brand, available in Handcrafted (silver), Single Barrel and Grilled Pineapple varieties. Miami and nightlife are practically synonymous, and the city has its share of small producers happy to keep the spirits flowing. Being based in such a tuneful city, it’s no surprise that Miami Club Rum ages its products with music. Then there’s the city’s Big Cypress Distillery, which seeks to capture the spirit of its backyard, the Florida Everglades, with Hell’s Bay Rum and Magic City Gin.
Let’s conclude the distillery tour with a hop off the mainland to Key West First Legal Rum Distillery/Chef Distilled, the brainchild of local chef and restaurateur Paul Menta. The distillery, once a Coca-Cola bottling plant, is a veritable museum to Key West’s rum-soaked past.
There’s a lot more ground to cover once the distilleries close for the day. It’s hard to do the entire state’s cocktail scene justice, but here are a few highlights from north to south. In Jacksonville, you can’t go wrong with the ironically named speakeasy-style bar, The Volstead, or the classically named Sidecar. In Orlando, after a long day of dealing with discourteous theme park line cutters, it’s fitting that there’s a bar called The Courtesy where you can decompress. And, in Tampa, who can argue with a place called Repeal 18 (and yes, it’s Prohibition-era-themed)? Deciding on where to sip in Miami can be quite the daunting task, but a good place to start would be the Broken Shaker in the Freehand Hotel or the much-more-inviting-than-it-sounds Employees Only.Heading to Key West? Explore Caroline’s Other Side for a truly Hemingway-esque experience.
Welcome Newest Voting and Affiliate Members!
ACSA extends a warm welcome to a few of our newest members:
This month, we asked Jeff Wuslich (pictured, right), co-founder and president of Bloomington, Indiana-based distillery Cardinal Spirits and Jason Lippa (pictured, below), president and founder of Five•5 Solutions (pronounced “five-by-five,” formerly known as Distillery Solutions) about data-driven decision making and other key issues that today’s craft spirits producers face.
Tell us about your company and your role there.
Jason Lippa: I’m the president & founder of Five•5 Solutions, recently rebranded after doing business as Distillery Solutions since 2010. Having retired from my roles as a distiller and the general manager of Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey, I’ve filled every role at Five•5 throughout our growth and into the present day. Fueled by my passion for the industry, I spend my days interfacing with our customers, overseeing all aspects of our company, leading talks and participating in educational seminars. We make it a priority to stay on top of the latest industry trends to ensure that we are the most complete and valuable software solution on the market. Around the office, I fill the role of lead cat-herder and am internationally ranked as a premier unicorn hunter. Our flagship product, Distill•5 (formerly Stillhouse) is a full-service production management system for craft distilleries.
Jeff Wuslich: I’m co-founder and president. Adam Quirk and I run the day-to-day operations of the distillery. Adam focuses on marketing, branding and distribution. I concentrate on production, our tasting room, and general operations. We started Cardinal Spirits about 3 years ago to increase connections between people. Spirits make it easier to talk to strangers, friends, and family alike. Discussing things over a drink is usually a great way to have difficult conversations and to celebrate big moments in life. To increase connections between people, you have to increase the ease of social communication. Spirits: the original Internet.
What are some trends you’ve noticed in the craft spirits industry?
JL: The biggest issues facing new distillers are understanding reporting responsibilities and staying compliant. For existing distilleries, we’re getting more requests for help with TTB audits and what agents look for when visiting. We’re also seeing increases in data-driven decision-making; distilleries are trying to hone in on their biggest successes through recipe refinement and maximizing profitability through process efficiencies.
JW: It’s exciting for me to see craft distilleries improving their quality—I hope that trend continues. I’ve worked in the back rooms of judging competitions since 2009 and it is amazing to see just how far our industry has come.
What are distillers looking for most in a technology solution?
JL: An intuitive, user-friendly platform with a record of excellence. A software that knows as much (if not more) about the industry than the user, so that they can be confident that it’s keeping the distillery compliant. They’re looking for a system that understands their needs and their business; a partner as much as a solution. In short, they’re looking for Distill•5.
What can we expect from you in the next year or two?
JW: We hope to expand distribution into the East Coast and a few key markets out West. We plan to continue and expand our key partnerships. And, we want to be more deeply involved in our community.
Did You Know?
The TTB has issued 2,595 DSPs! Find the full list here.
There are many modern developments that we owe to Prohibition-era speakeasies—and not just those ’20s-style passworded bars that are in every major city today. The speakeasy is often credited with bringing jazz music to the masses. Gangsters who owned the illicit establishments hired black musicians who recently had migrated to northern cities. They brought this new style of Southern-born music with them, providing entertainment for the speakeasy clientele. The illegal venues also helped level the social playing field for women. Previously it had been considered taboo for women to drink in public, but, during Prohibition, it had become commonplace, putting one tiny crack—recreationally, at least—in the glass ceiling.