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:
Did you display legacy and grit and attend the American Craft Spirits Association’s 8th Annual Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show earlier this month? If so, here’s your quiz: Have you found your purple potholder? Have you thought about the takeaways from the convention? Was it the new friend or mentor who entered your life? Or the educational nugget that changed the way you operate in the distillery or your place of business? Better yet, have you established a new business relationship with someone you met in the exhibit hall? Did the experience re-energize and motivate you to keep plugging away? And, have you heard the echo of the fundamental question and simple answer: WHO ARE WE? WE ARE CRAFT!
If you missed the convention, please note that the energy and excitement was unmatched. So was the education, networking and opportunity to re-engage and feel the growth of our craft spirits movement. Don’t despair if you were unable to attend, but read on to share the experience.
As we continue to tiptoe into a normal state of affairs and attempt to develop new routines, here’s looking forward to 2022. If the past 652 days have taught us anything, it is a constant reminder that some things are actually out of our control despite our best intentions and planning. The more important lesson, however, is that we can overcome almost any obstacle when we support each other. ACSA, the only national trade group dedicated to the small business interests of the craft spirits industry, promises that we will always work together to provide tools and support you need.
Wishing you a peaceful and healthy 2022. Happy Holidays!
A Toast to ACSA’s 8th Annual Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show
After more than a year of being apart, and nearly 34 months since our last in-person convention, the American Craft Spirits Association was thrilled to host its 8th Annual Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show Dec. 4-6 in Louisville, Kentucky. Just under 1,200 members of the craft spirits community gathered in Derby City to network, learn and toast our vibrant industry.
Attendees strengthened their knowledge with an exceptional educational program; mingled with nearly 150 of the industry’s top suppliers; met the inaugural interns, distillers and mentors for Spirits Training Entrepreneurship Program for Underrepresented Professionals (STEPUP) Foundation; heard a keynote address from Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and Dogfish Head Distilling Co.; tasted some of the nation’s finest craft spirits; and celebrated with medalists from recent ACSA competitions as well as industry icons. Here is a recap of the event.
Our TTB colleague and friend of the industry, Susan Evans, who retires at the end of the month with a long, distinguished government service career. Congrats, Susan!
The education program included dozens of presentations from industry experts designed for everyone from seasoned distillers to novices. Tracks included business leadership; distillery fundamentals; distribution; innovation; legal and compliance; sales, marketing and business; sensory; and technical. The well-rounded program was selected by the education committee, in large part, through our call for presentations process. Presenters included distilling members of ACSA, as well as TTB leadership, suppliers, and consultants from legal, marketing and safety organizations.
Before the convention, additional educational opportunities were available as separate ticketed events, including a sensory course at Moonshine University and distillery start-up 101 courses. Another session during the convention, led by Ashley Barnes of The Spirits Group, focused on common faults when tasting spirits.
Vendor Trade Show
The vendor trade show officially opened with a ribbon cutting by Andrew Donovan of Stoll Keenon Ogden PLLC, a local law firm who provided pro bono services to help ACSA with regulatory compliance.. The opening coincided with a holiday party and sweater contest sponsored by Amoretti. During the trade show, attendees explored the latest innovations in equipment, packaging, ingredients and merchandising, as well as services such as architecture, legal, e-commerce, banking, insurance, safety management and operational consulting. The exhibit hall also featured a book market and authors pavilion and a live stage where CRAFT SPIRITS magazine editors conducted interviews for the crowd and The Craft Spirits Podcast.
Yakntoro “Yaki” Udoumoh
STEPUP Foundation Inaugural Class
During the convention, ACSA and the STEPUP Foundation, a nascent non-profit spearheaded by ACSA to promote diversity within the spirits industry, proudly announced their 2022 inaugural class of interns, mentors and participating distilleries. The first interns are Yakntoro “Yaki” Udoumoh, a Maryland native and Howard University alum who is currently a bartender at the revered Columbia Room in Washington, D.C.; and Erin Lee, a Canadian transplant to Brooklyn and certified tea sommelier who will transition into the distilling industry from a career in fashion.
The STEPUP mentors are Chris Underwood, a STEPUP board member, CEO of Young’s Market Company (a subsidiary of Young’s Holdings), and chairman of the board of the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America; and Sailor Guevara, who in addition to writing, creating content, and podcasting, is also the acting founder & CEO of Guevara Spirits based out of Stuart, Florida.
And the inaugural class of participating distilleries includes Cascade Hollow Distilling Co. of Tullahoma, Tennessee; Eight Oaks Farm Distillery of New Tripoli, Pennsylvania; and Westward Whiskey of Portland, Oregon.
The 2022 participating distributor is Republic National Distributing Co.
ACSA also hosted a town hall to update members on recent and upcoming efforts related to membership, education, state guilds, direct-to-consumer (DtC) shipping of craft spirits and more. ACSA also announced that it is officially changing its mailing address from Kentucky to Virginia. The new address is: P.O Box 470, Oakton, VA 22124. In an effort to use the platforms members most use daily, ACSA is also starting a private Facebook group for voting members only (open to all employees of member DSPs). The group will be an environment to not only ask questions without judgement, but to provide input and feedback to colleagues based upon members’ experiences and best practices. If you would like to be added to the group, please send an email to email@example.com.
More Networking Opportunities
Before and throughout the convention, attendees had numerous opportunities to network with peers and industry leaders. First-time attendees, roughly 1/3 of those attending the convention, could meet ACSA leadership, including members of the board and past presidents, at a coffee klatch. Those who registered in advance experienced an all-day distillery tour featuring tours at Jeptha Creed Distillery, Castle & Key Distillery, Wilderness Trail Distillery and Starlight Distillery. Members of ACSA’s PAC were invited to attend a reception with Sen. Mitch McConnell and Mike Berry, Secretary of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet. A big shout out to host distilleries and special guests.
All attendees could enjoy a Repeal Day Celebration (sponsored by Speakeasy Co.) on the 88th anniversary of the Repeal of Prohibition. Entertainment for the celebration included local rock and roll band Zella May, with lead singer Dr. Patrick Heist, co-owner and chief scientific officer at Wilderness Trail Distillery and Ferm Solutions, Inc.
The Spirits Soiree was also bookended by a happy hour and sips of spirits that were entered into ACSA’s Judging of Craft Spirits.
On the final evening of the convention, ACSA hosted a dinner and awards banquet to honor recent medalists from competitions and luminaries in the craft spirits industry. The dinner and awards banquet was sponsored by Republic National Distributing Co., and wine was sponsored by Huber Winery & Starlight Distillery.
During the banquet, attendees learned about Good Deeds Spirits, a collective of distillers who created Good Deeds Malt Whiskey, a limited-release blend of whiskey from nine craft spirits producers. Distillers from the group poured samples of the whiskey, of which 100% of the proceeds will benefit ACSA’s STEPUP Foundation. Click here to purchase.
ACSA also honored operations administrator Teresa McDaniel, who is retiring at the end of 2021, having helped build the ACSA membership to now over 700 small businesses strong.
Craft Spirits Packaging Awards and Recognition for ACSA’s 2021 American Craft Spirits Awards
Later, CRAFT SPIRITS magazine, ACSA’s official, bi-monthly digital publication, presented the Second Annual Craft Spirits Packaging Awards, sponsored by the Glass Packaging Institute (GPI).
Editor in chief Jeff Cioletti announced the medalists, and GPI president Scott DeFife announced the Best in Show honoree, Hall of Fame Vodka from Scottsdale, Arizona-based Hall of Fame Spirits, for its baseball bat-shaped bottle. The bottle was designed by Jerry “Bubba” Draper, the founder of Hall of Fame Spirits, and the bottle is supplied by Rockwood Glass.
Following the Craft Spirits Packaging Awards, ACSA board member Colton Weinstein of Corsair Artisan Distillery honored the previously announced medalists of ACSA’s 2021 Judging of Craft Spirits and Heartland Whiskey Competition. Heather Greene, CEO of Milam & Greene Whiskey Distillery, shared her thoughts on the distillery earning Best in Show and Best of Whiskey for its Port Finished Rye.
Gable Erenzo Spirit of Community Award
To close the banquet, ACSA honored Mark Shilling, founder of Revolution Spirits and partner at Big Thirst—as well as a past president of ACSA and current chair of the association’s government affairs committee—with the inaugural Gable Erenzo Spirit of Community Award, which recognizes the generosity of spirit, resilience, and resourcefulness to advance the interests of our small business entrepreneurs. It is given for an extraordinary commitment of time, working selflessly through weekdays, nights, and weekends. And, it is given to someone who puts the needs of the association and our business community before any personal aims.
This new award was named for someone who embodied all of those attributes, whom the craft spirits community lost far too soon. Gable Erenzo was the co-founder (along with his father Ralph, and Brian Lee) of Tuthilltown Spirits and he later founded Gardiner Liquid Mercantile in Gardiner, N.Y. Gable passed away suddenly in April. He was known throughout the industry as someone who wouldn’t hesitate to help his craft spirits peers.
Gable’s close friend, Nicole Austin, general manager/distiller at Cascade Hollow Distilling Co. and former ACSA board member, offered a heartfelt tribute to Gable during the ceremony.
“[Gable] had this ability to make anybody feel like his best friend,” Austin said. “I’m 100% convinced that I was one of his closest friends—I think there were thousands of us out there.… It was really not that long ago that I felt like a total outsider and was not at all sure that I belonged here, I was not at all sure that I could do this. And the first time that I walked into one of these conferences, Gable just immediately made me feel welcome.”
Ralph Erenzo honored his late son’s legacy by presenting Shilling with the award. Ralph and Shilling were both key players in the long government affairs effort that ultimately led to passage of permanent federal excise tax (FET) relief late last year. Shilling’s commitment was especially critical after the initial, temporary FET reduction that passed in late 2017 and was set to expire on December 31, 2019, and then during the one-year extension period, with temporary relief set to expire on December 31, 2020. “Because of this two-year sunset, [Shilling] was pressed to exert an enormous effort, which he did on his personal time,” Erenzo said. “And three days before the original approval was to expire and you would go back to your original FET tax level, it was passed into permanency.”
Shilling offered his own tribute to Gable Erenzo upon receiving the award.
“Gable Erenzo was larger than life and had an amazing impact on everyone he met, and inspired us all to be better in all that we do,” Shilling said. “Receiving this award is not just an honor but an inspiration to continue his legacy. To receive it from Ralph, my friend and mentor for many years, makes it that much more humbling and special.”
ACSA asked attendees to make someone’s holiday shine a little brighter this season by donating toys or purchasing ornaments for the Christmas trees inside the exhibit hall. We raised more than $500 and donated two fully decorated Christmas trees, a host of gifts, and a menorah to a local charity, Maryhurst.
Tornado Relief for Western Kentucky
Not long after the convention, we were saddened to hear about the tornado outbreak that devastated parts of western Kentucky. ACSA sends our thoughts and best wishes to everyone affected by the natural disaster. We offered two full registrations for our next convention (and an hour of one-on-one time with an officer from our board of directors) for The Kentucky Bourbon Benefit auction. Organized by The Kentucky Distillers’ Association, the Bourbon Crusaders and Fred Minnick, the six-day auction of rare bottles, private barrel selections and more raised over $3 million to help ease suffering and restore hope for residents of Western Kentucky whose communities were ravaged by the tornado outbreak.
Special Thanks to Our Convention Sponsors
Sponsor of Spirits Soiree: Dinner & Awards Banquet
Sponsor of Spirits Soiree: Wine for Dinner & Awards Banquet
Sponsor of Commemorative Craft Spirits Yearbook
Sponsor of Repeal Day Party
Sponsor of Exhibit Hall Holiday Party
Sponsor of Convention T-shirts
Sponsor of Tote Bags
Sponsor of Badge Wallets
Sponsor of Roaming Photo Booth
Sponsor of Mobile Charging Station
Sponsor of Entertainment
See You in New Orleans!
We’re excited to reunite for ACSA’s 9th Annual Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show in New Orleans in July of 2022. Please stay tuned for updates.
Craft Spirits Data Project
Craft Producer Distillery Growth, Export Growth,
and Volume Growth Among Key Highlights
Earlier this month, the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) and Park Street presented highlights from the 2021 Craft Spirits Data Project (the Project) at the Annual Craft Spirits Economic Briefing, held in tandem with ACSA’s Annual Distillers’ Convention & Vendor Trade Show. The Craft Spirits Data Project, which was first introduced in 2016, is a first-of-its-kind research initiative that aims to provide a solid and reliable fact base for evaluating performance and trends in the U.S. craft spirits industry.
The ongoing Project, which seeks to quantify the number, size, and impact of craft spirits producers in the U.S., is an effort led by ACSA and Park Street with collaboration from key industry groups including the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) and the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association (NABCA).
Key findings and highlights revealed during the briefing include the following:
The U.S. craft spirits market volume reached more than 12m 9-liter cases in retail sales in 2020, growing at an annual rate of 7.3%. In value terms, the market reached $6.7 billion in sales, growing at an annual rate of 9.8%. U.S. craft spirits market share of total U.S. spirits reached 4.7% in volume and 7.1% in value in 2020, up from 2.2% in volume and 3% in value in 2015 and 4.6% in volume and 6.9% in value in 2019.
The number of active craft distillers in the U.S. grew by 1.1% over the last year to 2,290 as of August 2021. Active craft distillers are defined as licensed U.S. distilled spirits producers that removed 750,000 proof gallons (or 394,317 9L cases) or less from bond, market themselves as craft, are not openly controlled by a large supplier, and have no proven violation of the ACSA Code of Ethics.
Fueled by FET permanence, the U.S. craft spirits industry invested $759 million in their own businesses, an increase of more than $61 million from 2019. A landmark victory for the industry in 2020, The Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (CBMTRA), reduced the Federal Excise Tax on distilled spirits from $13.50 to $2.70 per proof gallon for the first 100,000 proof gallons removed from bond annually.
Distillery and tasting room sales make up 47.7% of all sales for small craft distilleries (an increase year on year), while out-of-state sales make up 70.9% for larger craft distilleries. Direct sales at the distillery are important for all craft distillers but especially important for small craft producers (between 0 and 10,000 proof gallons removed from bond annually). Out-of-state business is particularly important for large producers (between 100,001 and 750,000 proof gallons removed from bond annually).
Some states are “craftier” than others, with California, New York, Washington, Texas, and Pennsylvania leading the pack. Pennsylvania is now the 5th most concentrated state in terms of craft distilling, passing Colorado, which has historically been in the top five. Geographically, the market remains concentrated. The top five states by number of craft distilleries—CA (190), NY (180), WA (135), TX (135) & PA (117, up from 109 in 2020)—make up 33% of the U.S. craft distiller universe, and the next five states—CO (107), MI (88), NC (80), OR (77), and OH (73)—comprise an additional 18.6% of the market. The remaining states represent 48.4% of the market.
We need you! The American Craft Spirits Association was recently contacted by the U.S. Government Accounting Office (GAO) to provide input on the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF), as ACSA fought to include your tasting rooms under that program. If you benefited from the RRF, please help us by answering a quick, two-question survey.
On Oct.13, 2021, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that, effective Dec. 31, 2021, it is withdrawing its temporary guidance related to the manufacture of hand sanitizer and denatured alcohol for use in hand sanitizer. FDA’s announcement states that firms must cease production of products manufactured under FDA’s guidance by December 31, 2021, and must cease distribution of hand sanitizer products that were prepared under FDA’s temporary guidance by March 31, 2022.
Due to the withdrawal of FDA’s temporary guidance, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) will not renew the authorizations provided in TTB G 2020-1D beyond December 31, 2021. Industry members therefore must cease production under this TTB guidance by December 31, 2021. By December 31, 2021, beverage distilled spirits plants (DSPs) must remove from their bonded premises any alcohol intended for industrial use and alcohol fuel plants (AFPs) must remove from their bonded premises any alcohol intended for non-fuel use. However, industry members may continue to distribute hand sanitizer produced under TTB’s guidance through March 31, 2022, consistent with FDA’s announcement.
ACSA CEO Margie A.S. Lehrman, ACSA Board President Becky Harris of Catoctin Creek, and Jordan Cotton of Washington, D.C.’s Cotton & Reed head to Capitol Hill to present U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) with the Craft Spirits Champion Award, for his work in making permanent federal excise tax relief a reality for distilleries. Also featured is Chris Arneson, Senate Finance staff. .
In the most recent episode of The Craft Spirits Podcast, Johhny Jeffery (Bently Heritage), and John McKee (Headframe Spirits), discuss Good Deeds Malt Whiskey, a blend from nine craft whiskey producers, with 100% of proceeds benefiting ACSA’s STEPUP Foundation.
The latest issue of CRAFT SPIRITS magazine is here, and it included stories on ingredients off the beaten track, a preview of ACSA’s upcoming Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show, a roundup of fall trade shows, a close look at distilleries in Massachusetts, a profile on Julio’s Liquors and much more!
CRAFT SPIRITS magazine and the American Craft Spirits Association are excited to introduce premium reader experiences with the launch of the V.I.P. Lounge.
While the digital-only magazine will continue to be available at no charge for regular subscribers, we launched the V.I.P. Lounge to further support our cutting-edge features, business insights and entrepreneurial advice from and for the craft spirits community. For a modest fee, participants can now unlock value-added bonuses, like early access to magazine issues and a set of CRAFT SPIRITS-branded Glencairn glasses.
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 new media kit, freshly updated for 2022, to see what’s in store.