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:
Good leadership is an art. It is hard. It requires attention to a myriad of details to keep all members engaged, motivated, positive in light of adversity, trustworthy, creative and productive.This is no small feat when, if you’re like me, you wear multiple hats at any given time. And, leaders aren’t just at the top, but should be nurtured at every segment within your business entity.
ACSA was created by and for craft distillers to lend a hand. ACSA is being led by individuals who care to make a difference and advance our industry. Why? ACSA wants to facilitate your success and make your role just a tad easier.
Here is a pivotal question: Are you dedicated to your business and our craft spirits community? Moreover, do you have what it takes to serve your industry as a member of the ACSA Board of Directors? Virtually all industries progress through the workings of groups, comprised of individuals with differing backgrounds, skills and experiences. Policy decisions made at a board level have potential for long-term industry impact. Do you want to sit on the sidelines or be a part of the process? If you have a volunteer spirit (no pun intended), NOW is your time to consider running for the ACSA Board of Directors. Details for self-nomination can be found below.
As for how ACSA can assist you, have you thought about “feeding your team” with new ideas, innovative techniques or practical business practices? If so, have you registered for our upcoming webinars and annual convention? Our convention keynote speaker, Joth Ricci, president of Dutch Bros Coffee, will share his secrets to leading teams to create national brands that sparkle. If you’re up at night pondering whether you’re operating with your best return on investment, engage with our suppliers at our trade show to determine what is best for you. We make it easy by allowing you to experience multiple suppliers under one roof.
We know some folks need a bit more of a tutorial in a more intimate setting. Others might need additional fuel to boost spirits quality. For that reason, we’ve customized pre-convention classes covering all the fundamentals of opening and operating a distillery for the newer members within our community to more established members who want to hone in on tasting biases. Don’t miss these opportunities for highly sought-after mentorship. It’s like hiring a private consultant for your business at a fraction of the cost.
Craft Spirits magazine should be considered your go-to resource. Check out some of our latest stories below. As the subscription is digital, you can easily share with all members of your business.
Finally, for those members who are reading this newsletter, are you doing your part to help ACSA? We rely on member feedback to help ACSA form and execute a visionary and strategic plan. If we don’t know what’s on your mind, our leadership may be flawed. Help us, please, by completing the member survey with a link found below.
Leadership, at any level, can provide purpose and meaning to our lives. Here’s to fulfilling our potential.
ACSA Announces Call for Nominations
ACSA announces its Call for Nominations, open to all qualified DSP members of ACSA to fill five positions on its Board of Directors.
The successful candidates will help lead the Association, one that is dedicated to elevating and advocating for the community of craft spirits producers.
The successful candidates will replace the following outgoing members whose terms will expire:
Colin Keegan, Santa Fe Spirits; Courtney McKee, Headframe Spirits; Chris Montana, Du Nord Craft Spirits [Central/Mountain Region]; Jake Holshue, Old Trestle Distillery [Pacific Region]; and James Montero, Dogfish Head Distilling [East Region]. All elected will serve on the ACSA Board of Directors for three years, with staggered yearly terms, for the 15-person board (plus ex officio members). Positions are open across the country in each of the three regions.
Interested parties should contact Election Chair, Renee Bemis, Driftless Glen, at email@example.com. You may self-nominate or be suggested by another member of our craft spirits community. Renee will contact you for additional information, so please supply relevant contact information.
We have extended the deadline for our membership survey to Feb. 14, and one lucky winner will receive a free registration for yourself or a colleague to our 7th Annual Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show in Portland, Oregon. To qualify, you must be an ACSA member, and please leave your name and email address at the end of the survey.
Whether you are in the early concept stage or running an established distillery, you won’t want to miss the keynote address from Joth Ricci at ACSA’s Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show on March 30 in Portland, Oregon.
As the president of Dutch Bros Coffee, Ricci guides a brand that is the nation’s largest privately-held drive-thru beverage company, with more than 365 locations in seven western states. He is a consumer product and beverage industry veteran with nearly 30 years of experience encompassing sales, marketing and executive management over a range of companies, including Stumptown Coffee Roasters. Over the last 20 years, Ricci has had a front seat to the growth of the craft spirits, craft beer, wine, coffee and kombucha brands that have emerged from Portland and the state of Oregon.
We checked in with him recently to see what he’s drinking besides coffee and ask how his address will benefit craft distillers.
First, we have to ask: How do you take your coffee? Joth Ricci: Black. It’s the best way to appreciate the varietal and flavors of the bean and origin.
We saw that you said this in a podcast: “I’m a beverage guy. I don’t know that I’m necessarily a coffee guy. I think coffee is one of the things that I do.” So when you’re not drinking coffee, what are your favorite drinks? Ha! I like a great glass of Oregon pinot Noir, a good cold pilsner, high-end whiskey and, yes, some water for hydration! Seriously, I try many different beverages to see what is on the market and who is doing interesting things.
How is growing Dutch Bros similar to growing a distillery or spirits brand?
All brands start with similar principles: a positioning, a consumer and marketplace. Then how each brand breaks down its consumer base and channels will vary by category segment. Understanding your customer and developing your brand is the key to any business. So it’s actually very similar and understanding the nuances of a category brings it all together.
Are there other parallels that you see between the coffee and spirits industries?
I think coffee is very similar to spirits. Highly competitive, various price categories, a story of source and flavor to differentiate product type, and some brands can scale where others have a smaller niche to serve a market.
Can you give us a short preview of your keynote? How will it benefit distillers?
Sure, the keynote will focus on the cross section of the consumer and brand development and how important it is to be disciplined in your execution of both. While it sounds simple, I have seen so many brands—big and small—skip steps through the journey and ultimately result in a business that doesn’t meet the founders’ expectations. Given the competitive and regulated nature of the distilling business, discipline is critical!
What makes Portland (and Oregon) such a great place to run a beverage company?
People are cool … this is a great place to live … and we have great water! Can’t wait to see you in March!
Why should people attend New Distillery Start-Up 101?
Jake Holshue: There are more than a few reasons why someone should attend this session. First, we are making this available for new-to-the-industry folks to help them get the absolute BEST information on all the things it takes to open a distillery. Secondly, we are hoping that established distillers will send some of their new hires to give them a really good crash course in the business of distilling.
Courtney McKee: Just because an individual wants to open a distillery doesn’t mean they’ve got expertise in all aspects of the business and operational considerations. It’s a great primer to help folks interested in opening distilleries understand many of the areas where expertise is critical in opening a successful distillery. The classes are taught by experts in each of the subject areas, meaning attendees will get face time with people who can be true assets moving forward. For new hires at existing distilleries, it’s a great introduction to all the aspects of running a successful distillery. Folks in any department will get information relevant to their work and to the work—and complexity—their peers deal with.
Amber Pollock: Quality 101 education of this caliber is rare to find and in my experience impossible to find at this price! Plus, you have several days of convention afterwards to debrief and ask all the questions you didn’t think of during class. It will be an experience you can’t find anywhere else!
What can attendees expect to take away from that session?
AP: The goal of this session is to give attendees a broad understanding of the many facets of running a distilling business. We will go as in-depth as possible on each topic while still covering the breadth of material needed to touch on each area of importance to attendees. Attendees will leave with a variety of recommendations on further reading and resources to help them dig into topics deeper as they continue in the industry. CM: The session will be a firehose of information. Folks will walk away with some high-order overviews, handouts from each of the presenters, the notes they take and some great new relationships both with the presenters and with their classmates as well. We see it as an opportunity for ongoing dialogues and assistance with the presenters, peers and ACSA’s membership. It takes a village to raise a child and to successfully launch a business.
JH: The most important thing we hope to give the attendees is a solid list of network contacts that can help them get to where they want to be—whether it’s a vendor with a specific specialty or a person that can point them in the right direction.
What was the motivation behind including Start-Up Distillery 101 this year?
AP: The motivation was to ensure than all aspiring industry members have access with top notch education. We tried to remove as many barriers to this education as possible to help more people elevate their knowledge.
JH: We have often been told that one of the deficits of our education programming is we provide such high-level info, that we miss the newcomers to our industry. We want to change that and make sure everyone, regardless of background or industry experience, has opportunities to come and learn with us.
CM: We know that the better each of us does, the better we all do together. Assisting new entrants with identifying potential blind spots, tools to help solve for those, and folks who can help them along the way, is the best way we know to ensure that new distillery owners are building businesses with strong foundations, which will become healthy peers in our industry. We’re excited to help everyone feel setup for success.
Could you give us a quick outline of how the course is going to be structured and what topics will be covered?
CM: The class is all day Saturday and Sunday morning. Saturday we’ll cover Business & Financial considerations in the morning including Insurance, Exit Strategies, Cash Flow, and Policies, to name a few. Then we turn the rest of the day’s attention to Production & Safety. We’ll discuss everything from selecting a site, raw materials and equipment to safety, including preventing accidents, OSHA compliance and how to develop a Safety Program. We’ll dig into some chemistry and recipe development and touch in on TTB compliance as well. We close Saturday with a cocktail reception including our speakers so attendees can get a little extra time with those they might want to hear more from. Saturday’s a big day.
Sunday we devote the morning to sales & marketing. We’ll talk about packaging and branding, revenue generation decision making, sales Plans vs. marketing plans, working with distributors and leveraging relationships. By noon Sunday, our goal is to help open attendees to a scope of new questions and to have some of those questions answered as well.
How did you decide on the topics that would be covered?
AP: We developed the content based on the experience of multiple industry players who have been through the start-up process and lived to tell the tale.
CM: The Education Committee got together and outlined all of the content we wished we’d been introduced to when we were getting started. We’re a broad and diverse group and we all shared our input to build something really well rounded, and impactful, for attendees.
JH: Specifically to my section (Production and Safety) I chose topics that I wished I would have known on my first day in the industry.
Is there anything else you’d like to touch on about the pre-convention program?
JH: It’s going to be an intense crash course, with a ton of follow-up materials provided. The speakers and info are world class, and would be a great place to start if you were just getting into this industry.
CM: We have an incredible group of speakers lined up. These are some of the most experienced, intelligent and generous industry experts out there.
Amber, Courtney and Jake offer a few more words on the Start-Up Distillery 101 Master Class in the following video:
Here’s how to register for the pre-Convention Master Classes…
New Distillery Start-Up 101
In the beginning stages of planning your distillery? This overview will cover the basics of the industry including finding a lender, creating a business plan, selecting your site, equipment and material; safety and compliance; and sales and marketing. View the schedule here.
$200 (members) & $350 (non-members)
Tasting and Sensory Class
This one-day course will start by examining the tasting biases that affect our judgments, and will also cover how to use tasting and sensory practices to ensure quality control and how to use barrels to target specific flavor development. The course also will explore different varieties and flavors of malt. View the schedule here.
Give your brand a boost by becoming a sponsor for ACSA’s 7th Annual Distillers’ Convention & Vendor Trade Show March 29-31 in Portland, Oregon. ACSA seeks support from those who support our mission: to elevate and advocate for the community of craft spirits producers. This will be our largest gathering where hundreds will enjoy unparalleled networking and learning opportunities.
A limited number of sponsorship opportunities, designed to maximize your marketing exposure, are still available. To learn more, contact Teresa McDaniel at 502.807.4249 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to pour at Bar Convent Brooklyn?
ACSA is hosting a craft spirits pavilion at Bar Convent Brooklyn (BCB), and we are inviting our members to participate in this leading bar and beverage trade show.
At BCB on June 9-10, bar and beverage professionals network with peers and learn about new trends, techniques and products in the domestic and international markets. Attendees can also attend demonstrations, keynote addresses, and panel discussions with leading industry experts. Exhibitors at BCB Brooklyn are carefully curated to feature primarily premium craft spirits brands.
Are you interested in joining ACSA? Here are the details.
ACSA will again build out nine areas within our craft spirits pavilion that will be offered to participating members for a reduced fee of $2,300. To be eligible to showcase your products, you must be an ACSA member in good standing at the time of the event and meet state distribution requirements to present your product in the state of New York. You also must attend the event to conduct the tasting and interact with trade. If you would like to participate, you must complete this form no later than tonight at midnight. Payment is due to ACSA by Wednesday, February 19th.
If there are more than nine distilleries who wish to be placed in our craft spirits pavilion, we will use a random lottery system. Of course, you must comply with all our qualifications, including agreement that you, as the distiller or principal within your distillery, will attend.
CRAFT SPIRITS CLASSROOM:
Quenching Your Thirst for Knowledge
Honey: From Bee to the Bottle
Honey’s use in the spirits industry is growing as distillers realize the value of using honey in two key ways: as a primary fermentation substrate and as a sweetener/flavor. This presentation will provide an overview of how honey gets from the bee to the distillery, and go over the technical requirements of using honey in a variety of distilled spirits.
About Your Presenter, Keith Seiz (Ingredient Marketing, National Honey Board)
For the last 20 years, Keith has been immersed in the food and beverage industries, first as a journalist covering commercial bakery trends and today as an ingredient marketing expert for the National Honey Board. In his current role, Keith spends most of his year traveling the country talking to distillers, brewers, bakers and food manufacturers about how to make better products with honey. It’s his passion, and one that has him working with companies ranging from craft distillers to global food brands
When: Wednesday, Feb. 26, 3-4 p.m. Eastern
Where: Online Webinar
Who: Keith Seiz (Ingredient Marketing, National Honey Board)
Ultra Pure is the No. 1 U.S.-based bulk alcohol supplier, sourcing consistent, high-quality bulk ethanol and high proof spirits for varying uses and industries. These products include grain neutral spirits, organic alcohol, aged bourbon, unaged whiskey, vodka, rum, non-GMO sugar cane alcohol and all specialty denatured alcohols. President Niels van der Kloot has 10 years’ experience in the ethanol industry and was directly responsible for implementing the trading platform that has led to Ultra Pure becoming the largest independent buyer and seller of aged bourbons and whiskies in the U.S. We recently caught up with him to talk about Ultra Pure’s offerings and the year ahead.
What key trends do you see for the year ahead as it relates to spirits bases?
Niels van der Kloot: In 2020 we see continued strength in the bulk bourbon and whiskey markets both domestically and internationally. Grain neutral spirits that our customers use to produce vodka, gin and other liqueurs experienced a very successful 2019 and we see that trend continuing this year, as well. There has been a great amount of buzz and hype surrounding RTD’s both with spirit bases as well as malt/sugar brew bases. Getting these products into a can and out into the market quickly this year is something a lot of our customers have been asking us about.
Overall in craft spirits, what trends do you see in the year ahead and beyond?
Bourbon and U.S. whiskeys are definitely here to stay with consumers continuing to seek out premium brands with compelling flavor profiles and stories. Also, with the additional capacity that has come online, as well as the availability of aged product, it will allow more of our domestic and international customers to compete, as well. We are encouraged by the continued growth of spirits such as vodka and gin with a large increase in neutral spirit volume. Ultra Pure has the largest selection of neutral alcohols in the United States, so we can fit everyone’s unique need.
What are some of your spirits bases that are currently best selling and what are some that you expect to see on the rise? Domestically produced grain neutral spirit produced from corn continues to be the largest volume driver given that vodka continues to be the largest spirits category. Bourbon and different U.S. whiskey (wheat, rye for example) has now become a staple product for Ultra Pure that we supply to hundreds of our customers. In terms of an upcoming spirit base, we would say that different specialty neutral spirits such as sugar cane and wheat have gained in popularity as well as our three gin bases that customers can use to formulate themselves.
What advice do you give a startup distiller or brand owner that is considering working with spirits bases?
The spirit bases that we supply our customers really act as a blank canvas for our customers to truly create their own brand. Obviously, trying to do something unique to stand out from the other brands is key, whether that is through package, bottle and label design, but most importantly that the spirit in the bottle is compelling and tells a unique and Interesting story. We like to say that the packaging gets you your first sale, but people will come back for more if the juice tastes great and is priced well!
Are there any new products or projects that you’re excited about in the year ahead?
We have been working with some partners to introduce bulk Japanese whiskey and Japanese gin, which is quite exciting. Japanese whiskey is extremely difficult to source correctly, and given our long-standing supply relationships in that country, we will be introducing some options this year for our customers to be able to purchase in tote quantities. We also continue to increase our distribution footprint and this year we will be opening a bulk storage terminal in Houston and will also expand our Pacific Northwest terminal to better service our customers there.
From Craft Spirits Magazine
A Winning Combination
With the Super Bowl fast approaching, we take a look at craft spirits brands that are finding their way into stadiums and arenas around the country. Some brands are taking it a step farther and partnering with NASCAR.
There comes a point in the life of every business when it needs help to grow and help new customers walk through the doors. This may not mean a fancy public relations firm, or a big media buy, but rather reaching out to a local convention and visitor’s bureau (CVB) or tourism board for help.