The Monthly Mash: August 2021

The Monthly Mash

Volume 6.8

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 the Craft Spirits Community:

A singular motivating factor threads my work history: passion. Whether I was attempting to engage senior citizens to understand and discuss U.S. foreign policy or seeking justice for someone harmed by the carelessness of others or advocating for FET parity within our small business community, the association’s mission was and is fundamental to my career satisfaction. A second characteristic compelling joy in my job is working with energetic, smart, engaged volunteers. ACSA has that in spades as evidenced by the myriad of offerings.

To begin, I’m beyond happy to now serve (along with a stellar board) a new nonprofit, the Spirits Training Entrepreneurship Program for Underrepresented Professionals, DBA, STEPUP Foundation, which was born from the American Craft Spirits Association’s (ACSA) strategic plan. Years ago, the ACSA board realized we can and should play an active role in helping to diversify our craft spirits industry. Interestingly, earlier this month, a young, Latina woman approached me inquiring, “Wow … you have such a cool industry. How does someone like me get involved?” The short answer is the STEPUP Foundation, which is being launched today. Check out the program to learn more and see how you might participate in this historic initiative.

Our Craft Sprits Data Project economic study is another critical program which needs your input. If you haven’t yet done so, PLEASE complete the survey which (if your data is at hand) should take less than 10 minutes to complete. Recognizing August is a tough month to focus, we’re making this your September “back-to-school” assignment and are extending the deadline to allow you more time to complete.

Speaking of amazing volunteers, it took a cadre to produce ACSA’s Judging of American Craft Spirits. A big shout-out to all who helped make this annual pillar an enormous success. And an even bigger shout-out to those American craft distillers who submitted their spirits and took home a medal. Twelve spirits shone bright enough to take home a gold. But, kudos to all who medaled. If you held back on participating, it’s not too late to enter your spirits in our upcoming Craft Spirits Packaging Awards.

A big thank you to everyone who participated in our poll to determine which factors cause you the greatest pain and limit your ability to be competitive in the marketplace. ACSA responded to TTB on your behalf with a letter addressing anti-competitive measures.

Our Q3 and Q4 remains packed with activities. Keep your curiosity and learning flourishing by taking part in a webinar, listening to our podcasts, reading CRAFT SPIRITS magazine, or coming to Louisville during our annual convention.

I’m lucky. It’s easy to like my job when I’m uplifted daily by a mission to elevate and advocate for you—our craft spirits community. I’m doubly blessed with the addition of the new nonprofit, STEPUP Foundation, to help diversify our industry. Finally, it’s no secret how I feel about our volunteers—a sense of pride and privilege for being able to work in cohort to accomplish our quest to make things even better.



ACSA Launches STEPUP Foundation

Initiative Aims to Foster and Promote Diversity in Craft Spirits Industry

After more than 18 months of planning, the American Craft Spirits Association is proud to launch the Spirits Training Entrepreneurship Program for Underrepresented Professionals (STEPUP Foundation), a diversity initiative that aims to provide underserved and underrepresented individuals with training, encouragement, and opportunities to enter the craft spirits community through a comprehensive year long, immersive internship program. ACSA has long recognized a lack of diversity in the alcoholic beverage industry and has been working behind the scenes for some time now to develop a comprehensive program aimed at increasing talent through facilitation of workplace diversity. STEPUP will engage diverse applicants with an interest in the beverage sector and help those of different races, color, national origins, genders and sexual orientations to acquire the skills and experience they need to succeed in the industry.

Together with an Advisory Board, the Board of Directors has created an immersive internship program for underrepresented individuals in the alcoholic beverage industry. Margie A.S. Lehrman (CEO, ACSA) will serve as the organization’s president, working together with Secretary Rebecca Harris (Head Distiller and Co-founder, Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. and President, ACSA) and Treasurer Julie Kinch (CEO/Founder, JK Leadership Advisors, LLC). They are joined by a seasoned Board of Directors, including Chris Montana, CEO and Head Distiller, Du Nord Social Spirits, Chris Underwood, CEO, Young’s Holdings, David Cid, Rum Master, Bacardi, and Ingrid Wetzell, HR Director, Bently Enterprises. These critical liaisons will help identify potential partners, secure financial resources, and develop training materials to ensure the program’s success.

The STEPUP internship program will be primarily funded through Cornerstone Partners and other major donors. Diageo North America will serve as the first Cornerstone Partner and has made a $1.2 million commitment over three years. In addition, the company will also hold a seat at the STEPUP Advisory Board. Donor contributions, of any size, will also be welcome from anyone supporting the mission to open up and embrace diversity in the distilling community. STEPUP has also received significant financial commitments from Young’s Holdings, as well as contributions from other leaders in craft distilling, including Leopold Bros. and Smooth Ambler Spirits.

STEPUP Foundation participants will be guided through every facet of operating a distillery, with the added bonus of an immersive internship opportunity with a wholesaler. Interns will experience hands-on training and job exposure to several facets of the alcoholic beverage industry, including distillation production and safety, sales and marketing, business and finance, tasting rooms operations, and distribution. In an effort to remove any financial impediments that may limit applicants, the internship will also include a stipend, travel expenses, and room and board. In its inaugural year, the STEPUP Foundation will run two candidates through the program with the expectation to run another six interns in its second year and ten or more interns in year three and beyond.

URGENT: Please Complete the Craft Spirits Data Project Survey

The American Craft Spirits Association, along with our hand-picked partner, Park Street, urgently need your feedback via the Craft Spirits Data Project Survey.

Now in its sixth year, the Craft Spirits Data Project is the chief economic data study for craft spirits producers—but we cannot do it without you. We need your help to provide hard data on what really happened to the craft spirits industry in 2020 during a tremendous year of change. This survey is shorter than years past, and your feedback is vital to our mission to elevate and advocate for the community of craft spirits producers.

Please do not delay—take the survey with an extended deadline to mid-September.

ACSA Announces 2021 Judging of Craft Spirits Medalists

ACSA last week announced the medalists from its 8th Annual Judging of Craft Spirits via a livestream awards ceremony. Medalists were hand-selected among a pool just shy of 550 entrants.

During the event, ACSA proudly bestowed the evening’s ultimate honor, the Best of Show award, to Milam & Greene Whiskey Distillery in Blanco, Texas, for its Port Finished Rye. Dan Garrison from Garrison Bros Distillery served as the evening’s emcee, providing remarks to the online audience. The stream also featured welcome remarks from Margie A.S. Lehrman, ACSA’s CEO, and Maggie Campbell, ACSA’s Judging Committee Chair, who gave a warm welcome with an optimistic toast to the future of the industry.

This year, entries were submitted from 42 states across the country in seven main categories: whiskey, gin, rum, vodka & grain spirits, brandy, distilled specialty spirits, and ready to drink (RTD). In addition to a Best of Show and the Best in Class distinctions, the judging panel awarded 12 gold, 228 silver, and 242 bronze medals.

The 2021 Best in Class distinctions, the highest honor in each of the seven judging categories, were awarded to a mix of both established, award-winning distilleries and younger newcomers. These winning distilleries will be presented with hand-carved barrelheads courtesy of Thousand Oaks Barrel Co, and all medal recipients will receive custom medals generously provided by Apholos.

ACSA would like to thank its competition sponsors, which include Glencairn, Heinz-Glas, and Top Shelf Logistics.

Best in Class Winners in Each Category Included:

  • Whiskey: Port Finished Rye, Milam & Greene Whiskey Distillery (TX)
  • Gin: 28 Mile Gin, 28 Mile Distilling Co. (IL)
  • Rum: Navy Strength Rum, Star Union Spirits (IL)
  • Vodka & Grain Spirits: San Luis Valley Potato Vodka, Wood’s High Mountain Distillery (CO)
  • Brandy: Pear Brandy XO Edition, Peach Street Distillers (CO)
  • Distilled Specialty Spirits: Carlino Bro’s Bootleggers Edition Barrel Finish, 3 Hundred Days Distilling (CO)
  • RTD: Copperwing House Calls Wilderness Downtown, Copperwing Distillery (MN)

Do your spirits packages have a gold medal-winning appearance?

If you produce craft spirits with a creative label, eye-catching design or innovative package, you have one month to enter the second annual Craft Spirits Packaging Awards. Sponsored by the Glass Packaging Institute, the competition is open to all producers of craft spirits. Medalists will be announced at ACSA’s Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show this December and will be featured in the January 2022 issue of CRAFT SPIRITS magazine.

Entries will be judged by an independent panel of industry and design experts in the following categories:

  • Best Brandy Packaging
  • Best Gin Packaging
  • Best Ready-to-Drink
  • Best Rum Packaging
  • Best Specialty Spirits Packaging
  • Best Vodka & Grain Packaging
  • Best Whiskey Packaging
  • Best Portfolio (Recognizing outstanding packaging across a range of products three or more products. Must be entered separately from individual entries.)
  • Best in Show
ACSA Members: $40 per entry; $100 per portfolio entry
Non-members: $55 per entry; $140 per portfolio entry

Please note that no physical samples are required for entry (some winning entries may be asked to ship samples for photography). Packaging companies and/or designers may enter on behalf of craft spirits producers. Awards will be given to the distillery and credit will be given to the company/designer in CRAFT SPIRITS magazine.

Thanks to the Glass Packaging Institute

for Sponsoring the Craft Spirits Packaging Awards

Heartland Whiskey Competition Medalists to be Announced in Early September

Judging has completed for the biennial Heartland Whiskey Competition, and we are excited to share that the medalists will be announced in early September.

This competition is generously sponsored by the following state corn association marketing boards. ACSA extends very special thanks to all for their support.

  • Colorado Corn Administrative Committee
  • Illinois Corn Marketing Board
  • Indiana Corn Marketing Council
  • Iowa Corn Promotion Board
  • Kansas Corn Commission
  • Kentucky Corn Promotion Council
  • Ohio Corn Marketing Program
  • The Corn Marketing Program Of Michigan
  • Minnesota Corn Research & Promotion Council
  • Missouri Corn Merchandising Council
  • Nebraska Corn Growers Association
  • New York Corn & Soybean Growers Association
  • Corn Growers Association of North Carolina
  • North Dakota Corn Council
  • Texas Corn Producers
  • Wisconsin Corn Promotion Board
  • Tennessee Corn Promotion Council

Register Now for our 8th Annual Distillers Convention and Vendor Trade Show

Our 8th Annual Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show is nearly three months away, and we are excited to see you in Louisville, Kentucky! We 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. Start planning your experience now by perusing the convention schedule, exploring our pre-convention classes, and booking your stay at the Galt House, our host hotel.

Member Attendee Registration
General Admission (July 3-Nov. 21)

Member Attendee: $625

Additional Member Attendees (1-5): $425 per person
Additional Member Attendees (6+): $100 per person
Members must be logged in to access member registration link.

Non-Member Attendee Registration
General Admission (July 3-Nov. 21)

Non-Member Attendee: $825

Additional Non-Member Attendees (1-5): $625 per person
Additional Non-Member Attendees (6+): $120 per person

If you register as a voting member, you’ll receive discounts on convention registration, pre-convention classes and competition fees; free webinars (including our archives); and more. Sign-up here to join ACSA’s craft spirits community!

Attention Exhibitors: See Our Virtual Floor Plan

Register now to select prime placement, before it disappears. Our new virtual floor plan allows you to choose the best space available to meet your needs. Explore booth options with an interactive walkthrough of the trade show floor by clicking the link below.

Exhibitor Registration
General Admission (July 3-Nov. 21)

10×10 Single Booth: $2,099

20×10 Double Booth: $3,450

If you need to check registration status or have any immediate questions, please contact Teresa McDaniel at (502) 807-4249 and/or

Craft Spirits TV: Bar Convent Brooklyn

Craft Spirits TV: Bar Convent Brooklyn 2021

After COVID-19 forced the cancellation of last year’s Bar Convent Brooklyn, the U.S. version of Europe’s biggest trade fair for the bar industry returned this week to Brooklyn Expo Center. ACSA once again hosted a pavilion featuring member distilleries from across the country. Participating distilleries this year included Backwards Distilling Co. (Casper, Wyoming), Distillery 291 (Colorado Springs, Colorado), Martin Ryan Distilling Co./Aria Gin (Portland, Oregon), New York Distilling Co. (Brooklyn, New York), Round Turn Distilling/Bimini Gin (Biddeford, Maine), Wiggly Bridge Distillery (York, Maine) and Wigle Whiskey (Pittsburgh).
Watch the latest episode of Craft Spirits TV, where you can see what each distillery was pouring at our pavilion.

ACSA Submits Comments On Economic Competition in the Spirits Industry

On behalf of its members and American craft spirits producers, ACSA this August submitted comments to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) about economic competition in the spirits industry.
In July, President Joe Biden issued an executive order on promoting competition in the American economy, which included a section on beverage alcohol. Pursuant to the order, TTB issued a request for information to solicit input regarding the current market structure and conditions of competition in the American markets for beer, wine, and spirits, including an assessment of any threats to competition and barriers to new entrants.

In late July and early August, ACSA asked American craft spirits producers to take a short survey about the most important issues facing them as it relates to competition in the American economy.

Market access was, unsurprisingly, the primary issue. In our survey, most producers considered this issue to be of the highest importance (ranking 5 out of 5) in their ability to enter a market. Four key areas were identified:

  • The business incompatibility of small spirits brands and the wholesale distribution system.
  • Lack of distributor options (10 companies have more than 74% of the market with the top 3 alone having more than a 55% market share).
  • Control states give limited or no access to small producers.
  • State franchise laws lock producers to a distributor regardless of the sales performance of that distributor.
Additional important issues included lack of parity between beer, wine and spirits; common business practices employed by large producers making for an uneven playing field in the wholesale and retail tiers; and federal (TTB) regulation.

In a letter to Amy Greenberg, TTB’s director of the Regulations and Rulings Division, ACSA CEO Margie A.S. Lehrman noted that small distilleries deserve parity with the nation’s small wine producers. “Small wineries work with partners across the three-tiers selling directly, self distributing, and working with distribution partners. With these practices they have grown the wine sector from a few hundred wineries 50 years ago to tens of thousands today. Small distilleries, which also heavily support the agriculture, hospitality, and tourism industries, need similar access to markets and the tools to help them get back on their feet and thrive in the modern three-tier system.”

Calling All Suppliers: Be Part of Our
Upcoming CRAFT SPIRITS Yearbook
This winter, ACSA’s annual CRAFT SPIRITS Yearbook will include a buyer’s guide listing all of the suppliers to the craft spirits industry. We want all suppliers to the craft spirits industry to be a part of this printed publication. If you haven’t already, please complete this form to be included in this free listing.

If you are interested in purchasing an enhanced, premium listing with greater visibility, please contact Ashley Guillermo at

Q&A with Katelyn Edelson of 3×3

3×3 is a data-driven shopper engagement partner for brands and retailers in the beer, wine and spirits industry. The company offers a blend of data and marketing to deliver optimal new shoppers—and proven ways to keep them coming back. 3×3 has built a proprietary database of $20+ billion in transaction data through partnership with independent liquor retailers nationwide. We recently caught up with Katelyn Edelson, marketing and content director, to learn more about 3×3 and its offerings to craft spirits producers. Edelson leads creative and marketing efforts at 3×3, where she applies a decade of digital marketing, creative advertising and content building experience to the alcohol industry.

ACSA: How did 3×3 come about, and what are the origins of the name?

Katelyn Edelson: 3×3 launched in 2018 with the mission to bring valuable data to the beverage alcohol industry in a digestible and actionable way. Our name refers to the industry’s three tiers and the last three feet of the customer journey, and it speaks to what we do: distill data that helps liquor brands, distributors and independent retailers understand and sell to their ideal customers.

Where do you get your data?

Our data comes from $20-plus billion in transactions of 12-plus million shoppers at 1,400-plus independent package and chain liquor stores across the U.S. To help brands get deeper insights, we run models with this proprietary data that append attributes and identify buying behaviors. We’re working on new models, too, that will layer on taste and flavor preferences—this will really unlock a new level of audience understanding (and targeting!) for brands.

3×3 helps independent retailers and brands, right? How do the services you offer differ between retailers and craft spirits producers?

Yes! Independent retailers have different needs than beer, wine and spirits brands, but the solution for both boils down to understanding customers.

Our proprietary data gives us a clear and precise view of the market at any given moment, which is key for craft spirits producers and other brands. We offer data-informed snapshots and deeper ongoing analyses that take raw information and turn it into useful insights for brands. Most brands rely on 3×3 to support product launches, market expansion, distribution growth and other foundational business.

For retailers, our offerings focus more on pinpointing, engaging and learning from shoppers. We pair targeted digital advertising with direct messaging and data reports to create a holistic, concierge-level engine for their marketing.

What type of a craft distillery would be a good fit to work with 3×3, or is it a one-size-fits-all approach? And what sort of commitment of time and energy does a craft brand need to put forth to see results?

Data is scalable, which means size and reach aren’t necessarily determining factors for us. Craft distillers who recognize that their aspirational target might not yet be their actual target, who have a clear goal for market expansion but lack the executional tools, who have an appreciation for flexible and strategic growth marketing will thrive with 3×3.

Our analysis subscriptions make it really easy for a distiller to get regular reports on what’s happening in the market (whether national, regional or hyperlocal).

There is always a commitment when you’re talking about strengthening your business. Our reports are insightful and informative, but a brand has to decide what to do with the information.

A distiller can work with us to expand distribution or run a digital marketing campaign. Or, they can make adjustments to other marketing and merchandising programs on their own, based on what they learn. Craft brands that take time to dig in, understand and apply the insights we provide will get the most out of our analysis offerings.

Are you able to offer any services to craft spirits producers in control states?

Our services can be used by craft spirits producers in any state. In control states, we can primarily help producers understand who their real shopper is and use that intelligence to improve owned media—like their websites or organic social channels. With a strong and targeted message, an organic (that is, not sponsored) social strategy can influence the right shoppers and set these producers apart from others in their categories.

What do you see as some of the next big trends in the independent channel and/or within craft spirits?

Cocktails still reign, and I’d expect that to continue for a while. That’s great for craft spirits producers in general, but especially if you can tell the story of your product through that lens. Rather than selling bourbon in a bottle, talk about your spirit as the heart of an Old Fashioned.

Similarly, this summer saw a lot of big brands release “mixable” spirits, designed for cocktails. Find a craft way to embrace that trend that lets you innovate and experiment.

Gifting is another huge one we’re tracking heading into October/November/December. A lot of people will be sending gifts—whether DtC from a distillery (where legal) or through retailers local to the recipient. Build messaging and merchandise around gifting your spirits. And, if you are selling DtC, make sure that your site is set up for gift cards and gift orders. I’d even suggest building a search ad campaign around the gifting concept to reach people looking to make orders.

Sign Up Now for Upcoming Webinars

When: Wednesday, Sept. 8, 3 p.m. ET
What: The U.S. Small Business Administration is revising the COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program for small businesses in continuing need of COVID-19 relief. SBA representatives will provide an important update on the new rules and answer your questions about how your business can benefit from the changes
Who: Anna Maria Lucas (SBA)
How much: Complimentary to all

When: Monday, Sept. 13 at 3 p.m. EST
What: The ingredients of a quality contract are as essential as the ingredients of a perfect spirit. Drafting detailed contracts is critical to the success of a distiller’s business. During this webinar, Husch Blackwell Alcohol and Beverage partners Adena Santiago and James Mathis will cover the general requirements of a contract and the types of contracts specific to distillers, including distribution, intellectual property, NDAs, purchases, and leases. Adena and James will also highlight several important industry-specific issues that distillers need to be aware of when drafting a contract, ranging from tied-house laws and bartering to three-tiered structures.
Who: Adena Santiago and James W. Mathis of Husch Blackwell)
How much: Free to ACSA members; $59 for non-members

When: Friday, Sept. 17 at 11 a.m. ET
What: Leading bottle closure suppliers will detail many of the artistic flourishes and special effects that are jazzing up closures and allowing craft spirits producers to put their own creative spin on their caps and toppers. It’s just one of many ways that distillers can differentiate their products on the shelves.
Who: Radi Necheva (Herti US), Teodora Racheva (Guala Closures Group) and Chris Lancksweert (Bostocap)
How much: Complimentary to all

Special thanks to the following sponsors for this webinar!

Manage Your Sub-Accounts
Be sure your co-workers are set up as sub-accounts so they can also take advantage of online member benefits, including complimentary webinars. If you need assistance, email

Follow us on Instagram for Craft Spirits Live
Join ACSA for Craft Spirits Live, our Instagram Live show highlighting producers of craft spirits.

Listen to the Latest Episodes of The Craft Spirits Podcast

Produced by ACSA and CRAFT SPIRITS magazine, The Craft Spirits Podcast is a bimonthly program featuring in-depth conversations with distillers and craft spirits visionaries. Our latest guests include Chris Montana and Maria Kustritz of Du Nord Craft Spirits and Ashby Marshall of Spirit Works Distillery.

From the Pages of CRAFT SPIRITS Magazine

Read the Latest Issue of CRAFT SPIRITS Magazine
In the latest issue of CRAFT SPIRITS magazine, we profile craft liqueur producers who are tuning in to the evolving tastes of consumers. This issue also includes stories on sustainability, light whiskey and much more! Be on the lookout for our September issue next week.

Download the CRAFT SPIRITS Magazine Media Kit
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.

Share Your Story With CRAFT SPIRITS Magazine
If you’re not already sending news and updates about product releases and general happenings at your distillery, please add to your mailing list.

Welcome Newest Members!
ACSA extends a warm welcome to a few of our newest members and sponsors:
Find out more about becoming a member here.

Did You Know?
  • The TTB has issued 3,886 DSPs! Find the full list here.
  • Don’t miss these upcoming drink holidays:
Sept. 1: National Bourbon Heritage Month
Sept. 10: International Canned Cocktail Day
Sept. 13: National Cachaça Day
Sept. 15: National Crème de Menthe Day
Sept. 20: National Rum Punch Day

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

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