The Monthly Mash: August 2020

The Monthly Mash

Volume 5.8

Member-Owned, Industry-Driven

ACSA Mission:
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 Craft Spirits Industry:

“I needed to hear that today. It’s been a really tough week for my small business. I’m really hurting. Thank you. I think you were sent to give me hope.”

Needless to say, I was somewhat blown away by the commentary of the proprietor of a breakfast nook on the Maryland Eastern Shore.

My husband and I had read a Yelp review for this hidden gem in Rock Hall, Maryland. It did not disappoint. A scrumptious breakfast, attentive waitstaff, and authentically charming atmosphere held us captive. I was saddened when I learned the proprietor’s woeful tale: Her commercial grade dishwasher was being reclaimed by the corporate lessor because she had not bought enough dish detergent over the past few months. Crazy, right? She isn’t buying the soap because of the need to use paper products during the pandemic coupled with a severe loss of business due to a significant downturn in restaurant business. Fewer people equals fewer dishes. So, pull the dishwasher? Really?

The overwhelming feeling that we are all hurting, regardless of what small business we are operating, struck me like a tidal wave. That feeling was balanced by the business owner’s authentic gratitude for my expression of enjoyment and delight in her operations. I did not realize how far my own appreciation would go towards providing a bit of sunshine in her otherwise state of malaise.

ACSA, like you, is not immune from small business woes. Our annual convention, initially scheduled for March and then August, only then to be replaced by a virtual summit, suffered a financial hardship. That single event allows us to keep membership dues at a minimum so you, our small business members, can be a part of our larger craft spirits community. Your notes, emails, texts and renewal of memberships demonstrate your appreciation for your trade group. And, THAT goes a long way toward providing the inspiration for us to keep fighting for you, particularly during these overall times of unease.

This month we show you lots of ways we are continuing that advocacy on your behalf: Arranging the virtual summit so you could interact with Senator Wyden on our Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (CBMTRA), learn during hours of education, engage you with our suppliers and toast to just being together; creating a virtual public policy conference so we can help highlight how fundamental the CBMTRA is to our longevity; evaluating the state of our industry in our annual Craft Spirits Data Project; innovating on our spirits competition; working to find a common sense solution to a modern day distribution problem; and bringing together your leadership to advance business interests for craft distillers. We are there for you.

Take the time today to thank someone—you never know just how far that might go to keeping their spirit alive.

Stay safe and be well,


ACSA Announces STEP UP Diversity Internship Program

During the Town Hall at the Craft Spirits Virtual Summit earlier this month, ACSA officially announced the launch of the Diversity Internship Program through the Spirits Training Entrepreneurship Program for Underrepresented Professionals (STEPUP) Foundation.

ACSA created the program because we recognize a lack of diversity in the alcoholic beverage sector. We also recognize that a diverse workplace contributes to higher performance, innovation, creativity and overall growth for DSPs. Because the pipeline to recruit qualified candidates is narrow—as the underrepresented communities may lack knowledge or training to access this beverage sector—ACSA wants to augment talent through establishment of the STEPUP Foundation to create and execute a fully funded internship program.

STEPUP will facilitate workplace diversity in the spirits industry through training and job exposure for those of different races, genders, disabilities and sexual orientations, eager and interested in working in the spirits sector. The program will create an access point to learn about all facets of owning and operating a distillery. This will be offered annually to a minimum of two candidates, through a formal application process, with selection by a committee of the Foundation. The organization will set a standard and cultivate a candidate pool from which these will be awarded. STEPUP and more broadly, ACSA, will also help with job placement to assist the candidates after the conclusion of the internship period.

The Internship program will cover a comprehensive training curriculum, including segments in Production, Compliance, Marketing, Sales, Hospitality and Business Management.

The STEPUP Foundation is establishing an Advisory Board, consisting of seven members, with a diverse blend of talent pulled from the ACSA Board of Directors, the beverage alcohol community and the communities served by this board. The Advisory Board will be instrumental in the STEPUP Foundation’s mission, enabling it to fully plan, fund and execute a work-apprenticeship program in the craft spirits industry.

Craft Spirits Virtual Summit Brings Hundreds Together Across the Country

Craft Distillers and Industry Allies Joined Virtually for 2 Days of Education, Networking an Online Trade Show and Games
Nearly 500 craft spirits producers and industry suppliers gathered from the comfort of their own homes, offices and, of course, distilleries for ACSA’s first-ever Craft Spirits Virtual Summit: A New Journey, August 11-12. While we were sad that the pandemic kept us from greeting everyone in person, it was wonderful to connect with our dynamic industry in the virtual world. We want to extend an extra special thanks to our Education Sponsor: Total Wine & More.

After a keynote address on Tuesday by Joth Ricci of Dutch Bros Coffee, ACSA President Becky Harris (Catoctin Creek Distilling Co.) announced the launch of the STEPUP Foundation, the internship program that aims to build a more diverse and inclusive craft spirits industry. (Read more above).

Joth Ricci delivers his virtual keynote.

During a Town Hall on Wednesday, ACSA Board Member and DtC Committee Chair Dan Farber (Osocalis Distillery) updated attendees on the push for allowing direct-to-consumer shipping. Farber released ACSA’s vision and mission statement on this initiative:

Consumers can freely choose the relationship experience they prefer with our companies and the products we produce.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) talks permanent FET relief
To grow small business by allowing consumers to safely and responsibly purchase spirits from any distillery by the method they choose.

Also during Wednesday’s Town Hall, we heard an address from Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), our lead Senate sponsor on S.362, the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (CBMTRA) which would make FET relief permanent for craft distilleries, among other alcoholic beverages. The Senate bill—including its counterpart in the House—has widespread bi-partisan support. In a Q&A with ACSA past presidents Mark Shilling and Tom Mooney, Wyden explained why the bill has not been brought to the floor for a vote.

“In the U.S. Senate … it only takes one Senator to throw sand in the gears, to block everything procedurally and we don’t have every Senator. We have a fabulous showing [but] we don’t have every showing,” said Wyden. “You need two things. You need to build support with the leadership and then you need individual senators to go to the leaders and say, ‘This is important to me. I’ve just been home for a month talking to folks, they’re really hurting. I need you to put this into the bill.'”

Wyden said he will continue the fight to make FET relief permanent.

“We will continue to push as hard as possible for permanence,” he said. “I’m going to roll up my sleeves and work to get it done.”

Wyden urged producers of craft spirits to reach out to their legislators to continue to ask support for the bill.

ACSA President Becky Harris (Catoctin Creek Distilling Co.) introduces the STEPUP Foundation.

“Walk away from this knowing that to have this many sponsors of a major piece of legislation doesn’t happen by osmosis. It happens because you built it. You went legislator to legislator and you went to meetings. That is a monumental achievement. There are people who have tried to build that kind of support in decades and we managed to do it in two years.”

The summit spanned two days and included a wide array of educational presentations and a virtual exhibit hall. Thank you again to everyone who attended, presented and participated in this virtual gathering of the craft spirits community.

ACSA Board Member and Chair of the DtC Committee Dan Farber (Osocalis Distillery) updates attendees on the push for direct-to-consumer shipping.

Park Street’s Emily Pennington presents an education session on industry sales trends.

We concluded the summit with a trivia session with our own Jeff Cioletti. Congratulations to our grand prize winner, Amber Pollock of Backwards Distilling Co., who won free registration and two nights hotel at the next ACSA Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show, which will take place in Louisville, Kentucky, July 25-27, 2021. We also extend our congratulations to second-place winner John Fetzner of Cart/Horse Distilling, winning a free registration to the Louisville convention, and third-place winner Colleen Moore of Dalkita Architecture & Construction, securing one free night at the host hotel in Louisville.

The Journey Continues:

Revisit Education Session Recordings

If you missed some of our virtual summit sessions, now’s your chance to catch up. Our presentation recordings are available for you to access at your leisure.

Please note, you can only access the recordings when logged in to the ACSA website, with the email address you used when you registered for the Craft Spirits Virtual Summit. If you did not attend the Summit and would like to access the recordings, there is a fee to access the material. If you have trouble accessing the recordings, please contact

Special Thanks to Total Wine & More, Education Sponsor of the Craft Spirits Virtual Summit

Total Wine & More is the country‘s largest independent retailer of fine wine and spirits. The company started in 1991 when brothers David and Robert Trone opened a small store in Delaware. Today, Total Wine & More operates 211 superstores across 25 states and continues to grow.

And Thank You to All of the Exhibitors at the Virtual Trade Show:

ACSA Announces New Dates for 2021 Distillers Convention & Vendor Trade Show in Louisville: July 25-27, 2021

During the Craft Spirits Virtual Summit earlier this month, ACSA officially announced new dates for the 2021 Distillers Convention & Vendor Trade Show. The Convention will now take place July 25-27 at the Kentucky International Convention Center in Louisville, KY. We hope you can join us as we return to in-person events! Attendee and exhibitor registration will open soon, so watch this space!

DEADLINE IN 24 HOURS! Calling All Craft Spirits Producers to Take the Craft Spirits Data Project Survey

Attention all owners/operators or team members of a distilled spirits plant: Tuesday, September 1, is the last day to participate in the survey for the Craft Spirits Data Project.

ACSA is aware that many DSPs have experienced prolonged power outages due to recent storms and, as a result, we have extended the deadline for completing the Craft Spirits Data Project Survey. Please complete your survey no later than TOMORROW, Tuesday, September 1. If someone else within your distillery is better qualified to answer, please alert him or her right away. And, as a reminder, all responses will be kept confidential with reporting in the aggregate.

Since the Craft Spirits Data Project (CSDP) first launched in 2016, we (together with Park Street and the IWSR) have demonstrated substantial growth in terms of sheer numbers of DSPs, and volume and value in the craft spirits industry. That information has been critically important to educate the U.S. Congress on the impact of your small business on jobs, among other items.

This year, survey results are even more vital as we continue to fight for relief, in the form of a continued (or permanent) FET reduction and additional economic stimulus, as we know many of your tasting rooms have been compelled to close.

Fifteen minutes of your time today could make a substantial difference in years to come. Please help us understand the state of our industry.

Public Policy Conference is Just 2 Weeks Away! Register Now!

The 2020 DISCUS/ACSA Public Policy Conference that typically takes place in Washington, D.C. each year will take place virtually September 15-16, and registration is now open. Note: registration closes Tuesday, September 8.

This conference provides industry executives with the opportunity to engage directly with lawmakers in the nation’s capital and advocate for issues vital to the industry. Given the unprecedented challenges affecting the country, there is no more important time for our voice to be heard in Washington, D.C.

Though we’ll be virtual, we intend to offer the same opportunities that you have come to expect from this conference each year—to learn and share from one another and celebrate this great industry. Please stay tuned for more details.

…But Before the Public Policy Conference, Join Us for a Day of Action on September 9

The craft alcohol coalition, including the American Craft Spirits Association, is calling for a Day of Action on September 9 to advocate in Congress for our Federal Excise Tax (FET) relief. This is in addition to the ACSA/DISCUS Public Policy Conference that will take place the following week.

We will be calling on each one of you to contact your Senators and Representative to ask them to consider inclusion of the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (H.R. 1175/S. 362) in the next appropriate legislative package. It is critical that we get this bill passed as soon as possible, so we have certainty of this much-needed appropriate tax rate. Time is running out and Congress must act before December 31, 2020 to avoid a large excise tax increase for all of our small businesses.

ACSA will be back in touch with the membership as this day approaches, but please mark your calendars for September 9 to take action for our tax bill. Continued excise tax relief is NOT a done deal until Congress acts. Your voice is the encouragement that is needed.

Deadline Extended: Join & Get Rewarded

As distillers continue to operate during a difficult time of uncertainty, new and lapsed ACSA members are receiving a 15-month membership for the price of 12 months. This offer will expire on Sept. 30.

Follow us on Instagram for Craft Spirits Live

Join ACSA for Craft Spirits Live, our new 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.
September 2: Meagan & Patrick Miller, Talnua Distillery
September 9: Thomas Mote, Balcones Distilling
September 16: No Craft Spirits Live Due to Public Policy Conference
September 23: TBA
September 30: Alex Castle, Old Dominick Distillery
Not sure how Instagram Live works? Click here to learn more.

Craft Spirits Classroom:

Save the Dates for These

Upcoming Webinars!

We’re excited to announce that ACSA’s Fall Webinar Season kicks off on September 24, featuring the first of a robust series of online education sessions and lively panel discussions. Mark your calendars now for the first three:

Thursday, September 24, 3-4 pm ET

Sensory Techniques: Detecting Off-Flavors with Robert Piggot of Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits
A distilled spirits is composed of 99% water and ethanol. The remaining 1% is composed of congeners, including higher alcohols, aldehydes, lactones, esters, etc, which give the spirits their signature flavor notes and impact their aromatic profiles. Amid the large family of congeners / components, our presenter, Robert Piggot of Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits, has chosen some of them to get an overview of what can happen during the process of production and how some congeners’ components can become off-notes. We will review the process of synthesis of these congeners, how we can manage them and how we can avoid or increase their production.

Thursday, October 1, 3-4 pm ET:

Promoting Diversity & Inclusion Across the Craft Spirits Community
Join our panel of industry leaders as we continue the conversation about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the craft spirits business. Our panelists represent a wide variety of backgrounds and roles in the spirits community. Karen Hoskin, founder and owner of Montanya Distillers will serve as the panel’s moderator.

Thursday, October 8, 3-4 pm ET:

New Frontiers in Gin
Want to know where the gin market is headed? Tune in to our panel of boundary-pushing craft distillers who are exploring an almost unlimited array of flavor profiles within this classic category.

Each webinar is $39 for members and $59 for non-members. Registration opens this week, so stay tuned!

Access Our Archive of Complimentary COVID-19 Webinars
In case you missed them, all of our COVID-19 webinars are complimentary and available to download. Please note that some of the webinars may have some suggestions that are outdated as the guidance around hand sanitizer has rapidly changed. Please review the newest FDA and TTB guidance to ensure you are following the prescribed protocol.

Read the Latest Issue of Craft Spirits Magazine

In case you missed it, the latest issue of Craft Spirits magazine arrived this month. Here are a few of the highlights from this issue.

Cover Story: Let’s Be Direct

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted a number of states to relax—at least temporarily—their restrictions on direct-to-consumer sales and shipping for distilleries. Could this possibly be the tipping point on an issue that’s central to the future of the craft spirits business?

Best of the Best

We spotlight the Best-of-Class and Best-of-Show medalists in ACSA’s 2020 Judging of Craft Spirits.

Member Profile: Cedar Ridge Distillery

Iowa’s renowned producer has barrels and barrels that are ready for primetime.

Distilling Destinations: Seattle

A Seattle local details how distilleries are coping with the pandemic and what the craft spirits scene may look like once things (slowly) get back to normal.

Welcome Newest Voting, Affiliate and Candidate Members!
ACSA extends a warm welcome to a few of our newest members and sponsors:

©2024 American Craft Spirits Association; All Rights Reserved. Member Owned, Industry Driven.

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