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 Industry:
Just spray the perfume.
Okay … I know this directive won’t literally apply to everyone in our trade, and we’ve got lots of really important things happening, but wait one second, please. It is indeed relevant. What am I talking about?
I work from my home office, which is not unlike many during the pandemic. My family household members go to their respective jobs, engaging with others during the day. My interaction with others is limited to square boxes on my computer screen or connections via cell phone towers or written words via text or email. It is me and me alone each day.
Back to scented fragrance. Before the coronavirus, when handshakes or an occasional hug of greeting was the norm, I would never think of leaving my home without a fresh spritz of perfume or cologne. Fragrance has always piqued my interest and brought a sense of joy. Whether it was a mossy log or fungi in the forest or lilies of the valley in a shaded woodland, or believe it or not, a skunk’s n-Butyl mercaptan, I never neglected the chance to stop, take notice and proverbially “smell the roses.”
Somehow, this past year, I lost my way. My infrequent ventures to the outside world halted my sense of curiosity and stunted my dedication to self-care and doing those things that bring me the most joy. Despite seemingly having more time in my day, my seclusion has me working longer hours. Less personal interaction with friends and family has translated to lots more work without the hearty play.
Today I looked at my bevy of fragrance bottles, now untouched for almost a year. I was struck by the realization that I alone am worth that which brings me happiness. I sincerely questioned why I failed to use a product that routinely elevates my mood. And, with that awareness, I recommitted to just spray the perfume.
What are you missing in your life? What can you do today to further your own sense of happiness, personally or professionally? Is it anticipating a medal from our ACSA spirits competition or renewal of curiosity with a bevy of webinars to get those brain cells flowing? Is it joining your state to advocate for getting your products directly to your customers or becoming more active in your state guild? Is it drafting a note to your U.S. representative to share your story of why H.R. 1035 is important to your distillery? Is it joining one of the many ACSA committees to share your talents? Is it registering for and looking forward to a holiday celebration at our convention in Louisville?
ACSA wants our community members to remain strong. It encourages you to stay engaged and take all the steps to maximize your business acumen. Don’t forget self-care as it has a way of increasing our physical and cognitive performance. If you are working even harder, don’t forget to balance it with doing those things that restore you and provide a balance.
Here’s to a renewed commitment to becoming our best self.
ACSA Unveils DtC Campaign During State Guilds Roundtable
On Wednesday, ACSA unveiled assets for a direct to consumer (DtC) shipping campaign during a roundtable for state distilling guilds via Zoom. ACSA’s state guilds committee co-chairs P.T. Wood (Wood’s High Mountain Distillery in Salida, Colorado) and Gina Holman (J. Carver Distillery in Waconia, Minnesota) welcomed distillers from across the nation to hear updates on DtC and upcoming legislation to benefit distilleries.
Dan Farber—ACSA board member, chair of ACSA’s DtC committee and founder and distiller of Osocalis Distillery in Soquel, California—provided an update on ACSA’s efforts to pave the way for DtC shipping. Our goal is to modernize state laws and regulations to achieve parity with wine (which can ship in 46 states). While DtC laws vary from state to state, Farber noted that distillers nationwide can benefit from changes in a single state. “If I’m granted the right to ship to consumers in my state, de facto you are granted the right,” said Farber. “So by California opening up to DtC, that opens up the largest single market in the U.S. for every distiller in the U.S.”
Farber then shared details on a collection of resources for guilds and distilleries to advocate for DtC changes, including a postcard to send to legislators, model guidelines necessary for elements of a model DtC bill, talking points and FAQs about DtC. Click here to access the assets.
ACSA’s public policy advisor Jim Hyland of the Pennsylvania Avenue Group also provided a Congressional update. He urged everyone to call their state legislators and ask them to support H.R. 1035 (the Fairness for Craft Beverage Producers Act). The act, which was introduced by Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA), would provide parity for tasting rooms and distilleries with respect to SBA loans and the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) borrowing. You can learn more about the bipartisan bill below. Hyland also spoke about the Restaurants Act, which could provide $25 billion in grants for restaurants and tasting rooms. This act is included in the larger budget bill that is likely to be signed by the president soon.
Wood—ACSA’s vice president—reminded attendees about the importance of working as one. “One thing to impress is the importance of ACSA and the relationship we have with the guilds and getting things done,” said Wood. “I think that really stood out in getting the FET passed initially as temporary but ultimately getting it permanent. That was a lot of hard work between ACSA and state guilds that made that happen. Together we have a very strong and important voice and our folks in Washington want to hear from us.”
This month, U.S. Representative Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) introduced the Fairness for Craft Beverage Producers Act (H.R. 1035), a bill to provide parity for tasting rooms and distilleries with respect to SBA loans and the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) borrowing. The bill already has bipartisan co-sponsorship.The American Craft Spirits Association is urging its members and state guilds to contact their Representatives and encourage co-sponsorship of this important bill.
As background, the Second Draw PPP Loan program was authorized as part of the bipartisan COVID-19 relief deal signed into law in December 2020. The program increases the maximum loan amount from 2.5 times monthly payroll costs to 3.5 times for small businesses in the hospitality industry such as restaurants and bars that have faced the greatest impacts of the pandemic. Additionally, the SBA will make principal and interest payments for five additional months for businesses in food service and hospitality for a total of eight months for those with a 7(a) SBA loan. The payments are capped at $9,000 a month. As we all know, our tasting rooms function much like a bar, and just like bars and restaurants, we have been hit hard with closures and restrictions on customers.
ACSA is supporting the bill, and with enough support and co-sponsors in Congress, Rep. Wexton hopes to pass it soon.
Please call your representative in Congress and ask them to co-sponsor H.R. 1035.
Register Now Before Pricing Increases for ACSA’s Judging of Craft Spirits
Just like permanent FET reform, we want you to keep money in your pocket so you can reinvest in your small business. Save $25 per spirit entry fee on the general registration fee to put towards agriculture, manufacturing, packaging, advertising, employment and more. Invest in your brand by setting it apart from others in your category. And, in the process, invest in ACSA, the trade group that continues to represent your small business interests.
General registration fees are in effect until Feb. 28. The late-riser fee will apply from March 1 until registration closes on March 12. All spirits must be received by March 17, 2021. The competition is open to all producers of craft spirits in the United States. Due to COVID-19 we will not be accepting international entries in this year’s competition.
Register your spirits by Sunday, February 28th before pricing increases!
ACSA Announces New Dates for Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show
The U.S. has yet to reach herd immunity against the novel coronavirus and it is unlikely to do so before early fall. To ensure the health and safety of all registrants for ACSA’s Annual Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show, ACSA is moving its convention from the summer dates of July 25-27 in Louisville, Kentucky. It will now take place December 4-6, 2021.
All prior exhibitor and attendee registration fees will automatically roll over and apply to the new dates. We will contact each registrant with additional options, however, should conflicts in the December schedule prevent participation. Registration and hotel bookings will open in the coming weeks. If you have any immediate questions, please contact Teresa McDaniel at (502) 807-4249 and/or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your understanding and continued support as we pivot once again. We look forward to gathering to network, learn and celebrate our industry’s grit, determination and drive.
Survey Results: What are the most important issues facing craft spirits?
Now that federal excise tax (FET) relief is permanent for spirits producers, the American Craft Spirits Association asked craft distilleries and industry allies to rank the most important issues of the day. In the survey, respondents could rank each option from 1 (least important) to 5 (most important). Direct to consumer (DtC) shipping ranked highest with a score of 4.5, with 69% of respondents telling us it is the most important issue of the day. Representation of the craft spirits industry on Capitol Hill, representation of the craft spirits industry with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), and state-specific issues tied for second with average scores of 3.7.
Craft Spirits Classroom: Quenching Your Thirst for Knowledge
Sign Up Now for March Webinars
Webinar: HR Considerations & Keeping
Your Team Safe During Covid
When: March 11 at 3 p.m. Eastern, 2 p.m. Central, 1 p.m. Mountain, Noon Pacific
What: This webinar will equip you with practical take-aways and best practices for HR considerations and keeping your team safe in this time of Covid.
Who: Ingrid Wetzell, HR Director at Bently Heritage and Araceli Ceballos, Senior HR Business Partner at Bently Heritage
Cost: Complimentary to ACSA members; $59 for non-members
When: March 31 at 3 p.m. Eastern, 2 p.m. Central, 1 p.m. Mountain, Noon Pacific
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: Gary Hinegardner (Wood Hat Spirits), Tara Steffens & Keith Meyer (Pinckney Bend Distillery), Lisa Wicker (Widow Jane Distillery).
Cost: Complimentary to ACSA members; $59 for non-members
Be sure your co-workers are setup 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.
Sneak Peek: An Oral History of FET Relief
Craft spirits producers celebrated a hard-fought victory at the end of 2020 when federal excise tax (FET) relief was made permanent. That victory, however, was more than a decade in the making. In the upcoming March issue of CRAFT SPIRITS magazine, some of the key players in pushing for FET relief recalled the struggles and highlights from their journey. Here is a small excerpt from this upcoming oral history on FET relief.
Nicole Austin (general manager and distiller at Cascade Hollow Distilling Co. in Tullahoma, Tennessee, and former co-chair of ACSA’s legislative affairs committee): So much of the early years was spent, for all of us, just learning how passing a law works and learning that the “Schoolhouse Rock!” video that you watched was not at all accurate.
Mark Shilling (ACSA past president, chair of ACSA’s government affairs committee, founder of Revolution Spirits, and partner in Big Thirst Consulting): I think I remember saying way back in the beginning that my expectations were that it would take 10 years. Now, that was completely made up at the time. It just seemed like, based on my previous experience, that getting anything done in Congress would take a long time and require a lot of education and build up.
Austin: It’s a little like when you’re hiking a mountain. You think you see the top of it and you get there and you realize that was a false peak and 75% of the mountain is still in front of you.
Shilling: If you’re planning to push an issue in Congress, don’t expect anything to happen over night. Plan well; build a large coalition; include as broad a variety of stakeholders as possible; and be prepared to work your ass off and don’t give up. I think the lesson here is perseverance.
Melkon Khosrovian (co-founder and spirits maker at Greenbar Distillery in Los Angeles): I honestly thought that we’d get a bill introduced and turned into law in two years. There were similar laws for breweries and wineries, so I thought that we’d get there on simple equivalency and opportunity for a young industry following in the footsteps of those two types of alcohol makers.
Ted Huber (master distiller at Starlight Distillery in Starlight, Indiana): I thought [Congress] would look at the beer industry and the wineries and say, “Look at the microbreweries, how they’ve done. Imagine if we had distilleries like the microbreweries or the wineries.”
Ralph Erenzo (co-founder of Tuthilltown Spirits Distillery in Gardiner, New York): Part of the problem was that the legislators really didn’t comprehend what we were talking about in the beginning. They kept referring to us as brewers.
Huber: I think a lot of people thought distilleries were factories. That’s the image that they had in their minds.
Austin: Early on, most of our time lobbying was spent explaining to people that distillers are not the same as brewers.
Huber: I had a couple of conversations with key senators and they were like, “Well you know that brewery over there, they went into that part of town and took that building over and put their brewery there and everybody started flocking there. Now you can’t park three blocks from there. All the stores, all those blighted buildings now have something. And the first thing that went there was a brewery.”
We would say, “That’s what distilleries are going to do.”
Read the complete oral history in the March issue of CRAFT SPIRITS magazine, arriving in your inbox on Tuesday, March 2.
Follow us on Instagram for Craft Spirits Live
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.
March 3rd: Jordan Cotton and John Hayes, Cotton & Reed Distillery
Wigle Whiskey co-founder Meredith Meyer Grelli talks Punxsutawney Phil & the distillery’s collaboration with the Groundhog Club on Phil’s Shadow Maple Finished Rye Whiskey, as well as Wigle’s sister cidery Threadbare’s Phil’s Burrow Rum Raisin Cider.
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.