To elevate and advocate for the community of craft spirits producers.
From the Desk of Margie A.S. Lehrman,
Chief Executive Officer
Dear Friends in Our Industry:
I’m frustrated. Allow me to rant for just a bit. What’s the subject: CORDS.
If I had a magic wand, I’d make a uniform cord to fit all mobile phones, laptops, tablets and whatever other small device I might wish to charge. I completely understand why brands might wish to have their own power cord or hardware to allow stuff to pass from one device to the next. But, come on now. Does Apple really need to switch out its power cord between iterations of the iPhone? And why do I suddenly need a dongle to connect my new laptop to my headphones? Yes—I realize there is something called Bluetooth, but I like the cool purple earbuds I currently own that connected just fine to my old computer. The U.S. landed a four-pound helicopter on Mars. Surely someone can relieve my discontent and solve my cord dilemma by building a universal cord? Does it exist? I feel compelled to hold onto my box of cords (whereby I’m a tad befuddled what they marry to) because some day I just might need one to connect my hardware. Moreover, the thought of all those cords being tossed into a landfill is troubling. I know we have many bigger issues to solve but thanks for listening.
You’ll need to reach for your power cord to keep your device fueled to attend our VIRTUAL Public Policy Conference with details to register below. Similarly, check out the wide variety of webinars where we connect you to highly knowledgeable presenters in a wide array of topics. In contrast, our 2021 Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show will be live and in person this December—it’s not too early to think about which members of your team you will connect to that meeting.
ACSA values our connections to allow your businesses to prosper. We worked with a coalition to help SBA promulgate guidance for administering the Restaurant Revitalization Fund and supported a letter to the Biden Administration to remove tariffs on distilled spirits. We continue to work with state guilds to help advance DtC legislation.
For those in our industry who need new connections, check out the excerpt from CRAFT SPIRITS magazine, which focuses on exports.
Many distilleries will connect with revised marketing copy gained from the esteemed judges notes during our Judging of Craft Spirits Competition, which closed this week. Even if you submitted products there, you’ll want to enter your whiskeys into the Heartland Whiskey Competition, which opens tomorrow.
Let ACSA serve as your personal, universal power cord—providing the energy and strength you need to be highly successful.
Until next time, be well and be safe,
Join Us in May for Our Virtual Public Policy Conference
The ACSA and DISCUS Virtual Public Policy Conference is just around the corner, and we’re eager to learn and share from one another while celebrating this industry on May 25-26, 2021.
During the conference, craft distillers and suppliers will participate in virtual congressional visits with home state legislators to discuss the extreme hardships craft distilleries are facing due to the impacts of COVID-19.
The conference will also include a panel of representatives from the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) that will cover implementation of the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act; avoiding the need for resubmission of COLAs and formulas; trade practice enforcement; rulemaking: past and future; educational programs; and future TTB priorities. The panel will include: Mary Ryan (administrator), Dave Wulf (deputy administrator), Lis Kann (external affairs/COS), Carrie May (field ops), Emily Streett (HQ ops), Dan Riordan (permitting and taxation), Anthony Gledhill (counsel), Susan Evans (industry and state outreach), Tom Hogue (congressional and public affairs), and Jill Murphy (strategic planning and program evaluation).
Again this year, the conference is happening virtually—so you will be able to join from your distillery, office, or wherever works best for you.
We hope you will be able to join us to advocate on behalf of the distilled spirits industry. The deadline to register is Tuesday, May 11.
SBA to Open Applications for Restaurant Revitalization Fund
$28.6 Billion Program Includes Help for Craft Distillers
ACSA knows the pandemic shuttered tasting rooms throughout the United States. ACSA also recognizes the pandemic wreaked havoc on the bottom line revenues for craft spirits producers. As a result, ACSA worked with its industry coalition to ensure that tasting rooms were included in the latest round of stimulus funding via the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF).
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is administering this fund and will soon begin accepting applications for a $28.6 billion government program which will provide funding to help distilleries and other eligible businesses keep their doors open.
A pilot registration period kicked off in April and general registration will open Monday, May 3. In a webinar, SBA’s Patrick Kelley urged eligible businesses to review the sample application and program guide well in advance of registration. He said it is important to register early to send a strong message to Congress and the Biden Administration that $28.6 billion is probably not enough for the fund. “It’s time to practice and get your questions answered,” said Kelley. “Kind of like an open book test. You should go in there that day and nothing should surprise you and you should do it minute one that we go live.”
Also in a webinar, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said RRF was the first bill he brought to the floor as majority leader in the Senate, and he vowed to seek additional funding if needed. “If the funds run low for this program, we’re going to fight to get more money,” says Schumer.
Applicants will be able to apply via SBA’s website, through point-of-sale vendors or by telephone, although Kelley cautioned that applications via telephone may take longer to process.
To be eligible, distilleries must provide documentation with their application that on-site sales to the public comprised at least 33% of gross receipts in 2019. For businesses who opened in 2020 or that have not yet opened, the applicant’s original business model should have contemplated at least 33% of gross receipts in on-site sales to the public. Kelley made clear that the sale of hand sanitizer from the tasting room (or distillery) would be included in gross revenue receipts, as would t-shirts, and any other merchandise sold from the tasting room.
This program will provide distilleries and other eligible businesses with funding equal to their pandemic-related revenue loss up to $10 million per business and no more than $5 million per physical location. Recipients are not required to repay the funding as long as funds are used for eligible uses no later than March 11, 2023.
ACSA and other industry partners continue to work with the SBA to arrive at a solution for those distilleries who operate in states with tasting room limitations.
For assistance preparing your application, you can access the following:
ACSA is working with state distilling guild leaders across the country to assist them in state-level efforts to advance the reform of direct-to-consumer (DtC) shipping for craft distilleries. Each week ACSA leads a DtC committee to plot strategy to advance craft distiller interests in consumer shipping. Shipping issues have developed in another area as well. The new Congress is looking closely at the postal service to determine what changes will be needed for it to survive into the future. A number of commenters and members of Congress have advocated for repealing any restrictions on the USPS shipping alcohol.
In May, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) will introduce the USPS Shipping Equity Act. The bill would provide the U.S. Postal Service with the authority to ship beer, wine and alcoholic beverages directly from licensed producers and retailers to legal consumers. Under current law, as we know, the Postal Service is prevented from shipping alcoholic goods. Private shippers such as FedEx and UPS are the only means for wineries, breweries and other producers to have their goods delivered directly to American consumers. If passed into law, the Postal Service could also be utilized.
This is an important step for equity for craft distillers, but also an important move forward in DtC shipping of spirits. The legislation was introduced in the last Congress, but with the new Administration, it is believed that reforms to the USPS could be coming. Many groups see this is as an opportunity for the USPS, as well, to increase revenue.
ACSA will be supporting the bill and working with Rep. Speier to advance the issue through the House.
Also as part of our DtC strategy, ACSA is harnessing the power of One Click Politics, a leading advocacy technology, to help effect change at the state level. By licensing this software and working more closely with state distilling guilds, we hope to convince more state legislators to enable distilleries to ship directly to consumers.
ACSA also recently unveiled a DtC campaign which includes a collection of resources for state distilling guilds and distilleries to advocate for DtC changes. It also includes a postcard to send to legislators, model guidelines necessary for elements of a model DtC bill, talking points and FAQ about DtC. Click here to access the assets.
ACSA, Organizations Send Letter to Biden Administration Urging Removal of Tariffs
Eighty-eight U.S. and European organizations (including the American Craft Spirits Association) representing a wide range of industries impacted by retaliatory tariffs sent a letter this week to President Joseph R. Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen urging the permanent removal of tariffs on sectors unrelated to the ongoing Trans-Atlantic trade disputes.
The organizations, which range from agricultural products to consumer goods, opened the letter by stating their appreciation for the U.S. and EU’s four-month suspension of tariffs imposed in connection to the World Trade Organization (WTO) disputes concerning civil aircraft subsidies.
Register for ACSA’s Annual Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show
ACSA is thrilled to return to in-person events later this year with our annual Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show. The convention is scheduled for Dec. 4-6, 2021, in Louisville, Kentucky.
Register today to join fellow producers and other industry experts to network, learn, and toast our incomparable, vibrant industry in Derby City. ACSA is planning a stellar conference that will showcase our LEGACY and demonstrate our GRIT. Over two and half days, you will gain from tailored educational content from top professionals and be given opportunities to mix and mingle with suppliers and friends in our craft spirits community.
As the health and safety of our attendees will continue to be our main priority, expect a release of COVID-19 precautions shortly.
All prior attendee and exhibitor registration fees from the July 2021 event will automatically roll over and be applied to the December dates. If you need to check registration status or have any immediate questions, please contact Teresa McDaniel at (502) 807-4249 and/or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that the following early bird rates are available now until June 30!
Member Attendee Registration
Member Attendee: $595
Additional Member Attendees (1-5): $395 per person
Additional Member Attendees (6+): $100 per person
Members must be logged in to access member registration link.
Additional Non-Member Attendees (1-5): $425 per person
Additional Non-Member Attendees (6+): $120 per person
If you register as a voting member, you’ll receive discounts on convention registration and competition fees, free webinars (including our archives), and more. Sign-up here to join ACSA’s craft spirits community!
Remote judging for ACSA’s 2021 Judging of Craft Spirits Competition closed this week. Special thanks to all of our judges; the team at Bloomington, Indiana-based Cardinal Spirits, led by Jeff Wuslich, for generously building and shipping kits to judges; and Heinz Glas for sponsoring the competition. An especially warm thanks to the Judging Chair, Maggie Campbell and Chief Steward, Colton Weinstein. Stay tuned for updates and details on when we will announce the medalists.
Heartland Whiskey Competition Returns in May
ACSA is proud to announce that registration for the third biennial Heartland Whiskey Competition will open on May 1. The competition is generously sponsored by state corn marketing associations, and it is open to craft whiskeys from all 50 states that incorporate corn in their mash bill. Top mixologists, brand ambassadors and whiskey aficionados will judge the competition. Starting in May, visit americancraftspirits.org to enter by July 14—with a spirits delivery deadline of July 18.
Scam Alert: OMUFA Invoices
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) alerted ACSA this week that it has received reports of a third party issuing “invoices” via email for the Over-The-Counter Monograph User Fee Program (OMUFA). In a statement on its website, FDA today noted that it “has not yet issued invoices to individual companies for fiscal year (FY) 2021 facility fees under the Over-the-Counter Monograph Drug User Fee Program (OMUFA). Prior to the due date for the FY 2021 OMUFA facility fee (May 10, 2021), we understand that some firms have received invoices from at least one third party billing company. These invoices are not from FDA and are not required for payment. If you pay directly with FDA per the instructions in the March 26, 2021, FRN, FDA does not charge handling fees or additional service fees. If you have questions, please email CDERCollections@fda.hhs.gov or call 301-796-7900.”
If you received or receive a suspicious message, we recommend blocking the sender and you may also report the message to your internet service provider.
With hundreds of members in all 50 states, ACSA has earned recognition in both the domestic and global marketplace, received validation from our industry peers, and achieved legislative success, with FET reform, and more recently, with stimulus relief. We have come a long way in our short history and have accomplished much working together.
The craft spirits community is mourning the loss of Gable Erenzo, who died this week in his sleep. Gable was the owner of Gardiner Liquid Mercantile in New York and the former chief distiller at Tuthilltown Spirits Distillery, which he helped develop with his father, Ralph.
We at ACSA are deeply saddened by the loss of such a dynamic soul and universally beloved member of the craft spirits community and express our heartfelt condolences to Gable’s family and friends.
Craft Spirits Classroom: Quenching Your Thirst for Knowledge
Sign Up Now for Upcoming Webinars
Webinar: Distilling with Heirloom Corn
When: May 6 at 3 p.m. EDT
What: A panel of whiskey-making icons update us on their latest experiments with heirloom corn varietals and detail how craft distillers can achieve a wide range of flavor profiles and push the boundaries of the entire whiskey category.
Who: Alan Bishop (Spirits of French Lick), Gary Hinegardner (Wood Hat Spirits), Keith Meyer (Pinckney Bend Distillery) and Lisa Wicker (Widow Jane Distillery)
How much: Free to ACSA members, $59 for non-members
Webinar: Facebook Advertising for Craft Distillers
When: May 27 at 3 p.m. EDT
What: In this webinar, Kim Nguyen, Director of Marketing at Speakeasy Company, will focus on the basic, but impactful Facebook advertising strategies for craft distilleries. You will walk away with a greater understanding of how to successfully set up your advertising campaigns that will allow you to reach your ideal audience in the most cost-effective way, while staying compliant with Facebook’s regulations on alcohol advertising.
Who: Kim Nguyen of Speakeasy
How much: Free to ACSA members, $59 for non-members
Be sure your co-workers are set up as sub-accounts so they can also take advantage of online member benefits, including complimentary webinars. Click here to learn how to add additional users from your distillery or email email@example.com.
Advice for Distillers Interested in Exporting Craft Spirits
Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from an article in the May issue of CRAFT SPIRITS magazine.
Expanding into new markets beyond the U.S. may at first seem like a daunting endeavor to craft distillers. But with the right guidance and insurance, exporting craft spirits can help grow your business. To get a better sense of what aspiring exporters should consider, we recently checked in with Ursula Wegrzynowicz, broker account manager for the Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM), a U.S. federal government agency with the mission of supporting U.S.-based jobs by facilitating U.S. exports. EXIM helps companies of all sizes compete for global sales by offering financing solutions including export credit insurance to protect sellers from nonpayment by international buyers and working capital guarantees to help small businesses improve liquidity and cash flow. Sonat Birnecker Hart of Chicago-based KOVAL Distillery, which is a client of EXIM, also offered her advice.
ACSA: In a nutshell, why should distilleries that are interested in exporting their products turn to EXIM?
Ursula Wegrzynowicz of EXIM: Distilleries should turn to EXIM when exporting so that they can offer competitive terms to foreign distributors, much like they would to domestic distributors. EXIM is here to take the worry about collecting payment from halfway around the world out of the equation. Distilleries need to consider that 95% of the world’s consumers live outside the U.S. borders, so why limit sales to just the U.S.? EXIM can also assist distillers with accessing vital working capital, so that no international order needs to be turned downed or delayed in filling, because of a lack of access to working capital. There is a whole world out there ready to try your spirits!
How can a distillery know if it’s ready to start exporting and what are the first steps to that process?
Wegrzynowicz: Distilleries should turn to their local U.S. Commercial Service (USCS) office, which is part of the Department of Commerce. The role of USCS is to assist U.S.-based companies find qualified international distributors. That involves researching which countries currently import the spirits sold by the U.S. distillery and then digging in and finding a distributor match. USCS can also prepare the U.S. distillery with knowledge about how to do business in any given foreign market.
Sonat Birnecker Hart of KOVAL Distillery
What are the regulatory requirements for bringing the product into the country?
Sonat Birnecker Hart of KOVAL Distillery: It is always important to check to see what the label requirements are for every country, and even province. For example, in Canada there are different label requirements for different provinces. In Europe there are many different regulations to consider for liquor labels.
If your product is classified as organic in the U.S., how do you classify it as organic in another country? Will that classification provide you a competitive edge?
Birnecker Hart: Even if products are classified organic in the U.S., it does not mean that they will be classified organic abroad. Sometimes there are strange regulations that render organic products un-organic, such as if a country requires a completely unbroken chain of organic certified logistics as well as retail. In Germany, for example, a liquor store cannot sell organic products unless they have a certified organic storage in their store for organic products. If they buy and sell organic products without their own organic-certified storage, they will get fined and the products will not be considered organic. Since there are very few retail venues in Germany with such a certification, it does not benefit an American organic brand to claim organic status as there will be very few retail accounts through which to sell the brand. With this in mind, it is probably best to concentrate on other halo designations such as single barrel, bottled in bond, etc., [rather] than organic, depending on the market at hand.
How familiar should you be with the customs and culture of the country?
Birnecker Hart: It is always important to learn about the business environment, customs, and culture of a country in which one wants to build a brand. It will always help.
How do you properly label your spirits so there are no issues with customs clearance?
Birnecker Hart: It is important to do all of the research and not just rely on hearsay when it comes to regulations and requirements.
Wegrzynowicz: USCS can provide assistance on these topics and many more. In addition, most states also have resources to provide assistance—in some cases even financial—to support a distilleries’ plunge into the international arena.
Any advice on which particular markets might be best to try at first?
Wegrzynowicz: To be successful in any market, it takes research and planning. U.S. distilleries should rely on the local, state and federal agencies like the USCS to understand where the best opportunities are for their specific product. Then the distillery can implement a successful, strategic export business development plan versus reacting to orders that may be coming in through a website. Of course, those e-commerce leads are great indications of market interest, but it’s important to do your homework and understand the costs of doing business in any market, so sales are profitable.
Birnecker Hart: Other factors to consider when deciding on markets abroad also include whether one has a particular language ability or cultural/business understanding that could give one an advantage.
At what point should a distillery that is interested in exporting reach out to EXIM?
Wegrzynowicz: Anytime a U.S. distillery has an inquiry from a foreign distributor, they should be reaching out to EXIM to talk about how we can assist. We always prefer to speak with a company early on in the sales process. First we can quickly advise whether the country the U.S. distillery is considering selling to is one that is viable for us to support (see Country Limitation Schedule at exim.gov/tools-for-exporters/country-limitation-schedule). If EXIM is not open for business in that country, probably best for the U.S. distillery to get payment up front—assuming there are no sanctions against selling to that country. If we are open for business, then we can quickly help the U.S. distillery determine if this is a creditworthy prospective customer. If so, we can take the next steps to get coverage in place. The U.S. distillery will know the costs up front, which helps as many of our customers build in the cost of EXIM insurance into the product cost (on average from 0.5%-1%).
What are some other considerations that prospective exporters should be thinking about?
Wegrzynowicz: U.S. distillers that are getting into the international marketplace, much like other businesses, need to ensure their service providers—their attorneys, accountants, freight forwarders—have international experience. All of these outside advisors are staying updated on developments in their particular specialties and it is so important for U.S. distillers, who are undoubtedly stretched, to rely on those advisors to stay a step ahead and problem solve when those challenges arise.
Birnecker Hart: Yet there is no substitute for doing one’s own homework and making sure that one understands the different ways of doing business in a particular country as there is never only one way.
Join ACSA for Craft Spirits Live, our Instagram Live show. In each episode, a leading craft spirits producer invites us into their distillery for 30 minutes of engaging conversation and a virtual tour—as well as an opportunity to answer all of your burning questions.
The American Craft Spirits Association proudly presents the May 2021 issue of CRAFT SPIRITS magazine. In our cover story, distillers around the nation weigh in on their adventures with heirloom corn. As our editor in chief writes, “Many, perhaps most, of you don’t work with heirloom corn (or even make whiskey, for that matter), but the piece is about all of you. That’s because craft spirits, regardless of what fermentable substrate you use, is an heirloom industry.”
Want to get your products and services noticed? Be a part of upcoming issues of CRAFT SPIRITS magazine, the all-digital, bi-monthly publication of the American Craft Spirits Association! Check out our 2021 media kit to see what’s in store.