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:
I like plants. Green house plants and bunches of cut flowers in all sorts of odd pots and vases adorn my home. Even as an undergrad, I’d pick dandelions (or supermarket arrangements) to add some color and life to my dorm. That tradition continued for my two daughters, having put aside a monthly “floral allowance” to brighten their cinder block residence halls.
Although I planted two amaryllis bulbs on the same day in early December, one is only now flourishing with bright red flowers shooting off of a single stem (one that is now about 24 inches tall). The other bulb, while producing two separate stems, is struggling to push growth beyond eight inches. While there are no flowers, it is demonstrating potential as two buds are slowly appearing. The process is fascinating. Why, with the same care and attention (bright sunshine and warmth), is one bulb sprouting up like a magic beanstalk, while the other looks as if it would rather hibernate and come out in the spring, or maybe not at all?
The two bulbs remind me of the past year. After months of fighting for permanent federal excise tax (FET) reform, the waning days of December hurled us a sweet victory—our very own bright bloom for the industry. Similarly, on the other side of that stem, was a rollback on an unfair, hurtful fee assessment for those making hand sanitizer. (A bright spot came when the fee was waived.)
The “not sure I want to come to life” plant reminds me of the year we’ve faced with the novel coronavirus. While there is progress, we’ve yet to see that gorgeous floral display of a brighter future. Trade and tariffs continue to plague our industry, conventions and in-person meetings are at the mercy of a vaccine and social distancing; tasting rooms are opened then closed; and the economy is being tested.
In the midst of these times, it can be easy to forget the enormous amount of work and effort spent to make permanent FET relief a reality. In the latest episode of The Craft Spirits Podcast, listen to some key memories from Mark Shilling on the long road to permanence. Looking ahead, register for our upcoming webinars on 2021 trends and yeast fermentation. Plus, meet some of the expert judges from our 8th Annual Judging of Craft Spirits and get to know more about Apholos, a supporter of ACSA.
I’m ready for more sunshine and warmth as January fades into our past. Here’s to ACSA’s continued commitment to provide the nutrients for our own blossoming craft spirits community.
Until next month, stay healthy and safe,
ACSA Praises HHS Action to Exempt Craft Distillers from Surprise Sanitizer Fees
After the surprise, end-of-year announcement that craft distillers that produced hand sanitizer in 2020 would have to pay $14,060, ACSA praised the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for crafting a long-term solution to exclude craft distilleries and other small producers from paying the onerous Food and Drug Administration (FDA) fees.
On the heels of ACSA discussions with HHS Chief of Staff Brian Harrison and senior HHS leadership, together with an intensive outreach campaign to congressional legislators and members of the media, HHS in early January withdrew the FDA’s scheduled fees. ACSA will be a key stakeholder as HHS and FDA review future processes. As such, these alarming and sudden payments will no longer be due on February 11, 2021.
Craft spirits producers will still be required to register with the FDA and follow the agency’s guidance for the duration of the period in which they continue to produce and sell sanitizer. But distilleries will benefit from an extensive grace period during which they can wind down their sanitizer-making activities, deplete sanitizer stock, and de-register their facilities.
At some point in the future, distilleries that elect to continue making sanitizer beyond the national emergency will be subject to fees, and ACSA will continue to actively consult with HHS and FDA to ensure the fair determination of those fees.
FDA Provides Policy for Testing of Purchased Alcohol in Hand Sanitizer
Also in January, for producers of hand sanitizer who procured alcohol from an outside source, the FDA issued a policy for testing of alcohol (ethanol) and isopropyl alcohol for methanol prior to using the ingredient in drugs, including hand sanitizer. In an email bulletin, FDA said it does not intend to take action against distilleries that manufacture hand sanitizer from alcohol they produce under the FDA’s temporary policies and have not tested each lot for methanol. If purchasing ethanol from an outside supplier, all manufacturers and compounders producing drugs containing ethanol must conduct the limit test for methanol. The policy also applies to any drug with alcohol as an ingredient, including hand sanitizer products, certain inhalation products, mouthwashes, cough and cold products, and many topical drug products.
ACSA, Dozens of Associations Urge U.S. and EU Leaders to Suspend Tariffs
ACSA joined 71 other U.S. and European associations representing a wide range of industries this month in sending a letter to President Joseph R. Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen urging the immediate suspension of tariffs on sectors unrelated to the ongoing Trans-Atlantic trade disputes.
The coalition stated that suspending tariffs will alleviate economic harms and help re-establish a cooperative Trans-Atlantic trading relationship.
“The COVID-19 pandemic and the necessary closures of non-essential businesses continue to affect the global economy, including our sectors which support millions of jobs on both sides of the Atlantic,” said the group of U.S. and EU associations. “The ongoing EU-U.S. trade disputes and additional tariffs, which continue to plague Trans-Atlantic trade, have made a bad situation worse. With the damages we have suffered last year and are still suffering, the current situation cannot be allowed to go on any longer.”
The groups stated, “We believe the immediate suspension of these tariffs is a necessary and fundamental action, which will provide an economic stimulus at a time when it is needed most.”
They concluded, “Our industries support a constructive and flourishing trade and economic relationship between the U.S. and EU. Removal of these tariffs will provide the positive momentum to reset the important bilateral relationship and cooperative efforts to address global economic challenges. In addition, a shared commitment to avoid new additional tariffs will create the necessary certainty and stability needed to grow the Trans-Atlantic economy.”
Survey: Most Important Issues Facing Craft Spirits
Now that FET relief is permanent, what do you see as the most important issues facing the craft spirits community? Please take our quick, one-question survey to voice your opinion.
What: Join us for one of the most popular webinars of the year! Executives from Nielsen and CGA will provide a numbers-driven analysis of the key, category-by-category spirits trends and a snapshot of where the market is now and where it’s headed—both off- and on-premise.
Who: Danelle Kosmal (vice president, NielsenIQ Beverage Alcohol Practice) and Max Heinemann (client manager, wine & spirits, Nielsen CGA)
Cost: Complimentary to ACSA members; $59 for non-members
Webinar: New Way to Sour Mash: Intentional Bacterial Inoculations for Distilled Spirits Fermentations
When: Feb. 18 at 3 p.m. EST
What: Yeast fermentation is the driving force behind alcohol creation and the production of spirits in our distilleries. They form the ethanol, as well as the complex flavors and aromas we have come to love. However, bacteria have always played a large role in this process as well, intentionally and unintentionally, historically and in modern distilleries. Our presenters have been investigating the idea of intentional bacterial inoculations, alongside standard yeast pitches, to create new and exciting flavor profiles and fermentations. These yeast-bacterial co-fermentations have shown a lot of promise as a new, highly controllable/reproducible method for sour mashing at the craft scale. In this webinar, Mitchell Codd, technical sales manager of Lallemand, will investigate the effects this has on the fermentation, as well as the resulting spirits’ profile and maybe some new and unique ways we can play with this new tool.
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Meet Some of the Judges for ACSA’s Judging of Craft Spirits
ACSA’s 8th Annual Judging of Craft Spirits is open for entries. Meet some of the judges who will be tasting spirits in the categories of Vodka/Grain, Gin, Brandy, Rum, Ready-to-Drink, Whiskey, and Specialty Spirits.
Monica Wolf is the founder and managing partner of The Spirits Group, a distilled spirits consulting firm, focused on whiskey-related business strategy and operations, quality control and distillery engineering. Monica specializes in strategic plan and pro forma development for whiskey brands and distilleries, sales forecasting and related barrel modeling, bulk whiskey sales and distillery/aging inventory valuations. She was previously with Wolf Consulting LLC, where she performed in-depth market research, including white papers on the state of the whiskey industry, development of pro formas, related barrel models and craft distillery business plans; brokered the sale of bulk whiskey; and assisted in craft distillery M&A work.
Wayne Curtis is the author of “And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails,” first published in 2006 and updated in 2018. He writes frequently about cocktails, spirits, travel, and history for many publications, and was spirits and cocktails columnist for The Atlantic magazine for eight years.
He is currently drinks columnist with The Daily Beast, Imbibe, and Garden & Gun. He was named Best Cocktail and Spirits Writer by the 2017 Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards. Wayne lives in New Orleans mostly, and Maine otherwise.
With more than four years of diversity and inclusion advocacy, plus 15 years of event planning experience, Samara Davis knows exactly what it takes to create unique, one-of-a-kind experiences for diverse audiences. Her work leaves your palate and your conscience wanting more, with a greater appreciation for bourbon and passion for inclusion, within the spirits industry! Samara founded Black Bourbon Society in 2016 upon realizing that there was a lack of diversity toward people of color within the bourbon community. She has partnered with and featured several brands including Woodford Reserve, Maker’s Mark and Four Roses. Samara has coordinated exclusive events and curated dinner pairings and private whiskey tastings in markets such as Atlanta, Los Angeles and Chicago.
David Dafoe is the founder and owner of Flavorman and has become one of the country’s foremost authorities on flavor. He began his career with Fries & Fries, now known as Givaudan. In 1989 he accepted a position with Brown-Forman Corporation in Louisville, Kentucky, to head up the product development of a new Jack Daniel’s Country Cocktails line. After five years with the company, Dave began Flavorman, previously named Pro-Liquitech, known as the “Beverage Architects.” Flavorman has grown from a consultation firm to an international, full-service custom product development and ingredient supply company.
General registration fees are in effect now 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.
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.
Feb. 3: Lorna Conrad, Corsair Distillery
Feb. 10: Dr. Sonat Birnecker Hart, KOVAL Distillery
Feb. 17: Mark Beres, Flying Leap Distillery
Feb. 24: Jeff Pennington and Carter Collins, Pennington Distilling Co.
Buenos Aires-based Apholos has been designing and manufacturing metal trims for the garment industry since 1919. In 1997, the company started its BRAND-ID division and expanded to a wider variety of industries, including beverages. We recently checked in with Diego Gneri, Apholos’ regional manager for North America, who has been with the company for 15 years.
ACSA: Apholos celebrated a 100-year anniversary two years ago. How does the fashion side of your history bolster the work you do for the beverage industry?
Diego Gneri: Apholos has been working with the fashion industry since it was founded, and that experience is definitely an asset. It has helped the company not only to create innovative products, but it has also helped it to really understand the importance of brand identity, and that became part of its DNA. We all know fashion is one of the most competitive and challenging industries. Quality and timing are of the essence. In the last couple of years we’ve seen how the wine and spirits industries accentuated similarities with fashion. Distillers and winemakers have realized they not only need to make great products, they also need to build brands. That’s part of our expertise and one of the main goals of the products we do.
Tell us a little more about all of the services you provide when it comes to beverages.
As previously mentioned, our main goal is to help companies build their brands but also help their products stand out. All of the products we do share those same goals. We are not a design agency, but we do work closely with them, as well as with creative and development teams to help them create the product they need. Some of our projects start from concepts which we help bring to life and some others are quite specific when they get to us. We’ve expanded our product lines and we are now able to offer not only metal products but also materials such as leather, wood, resin and more. Our product line goes from metal labels (which can be flexible or rigid), to stoppers (T-tops and screw caps), wirehoods, hanging charms and some other removable accessories which afterwards become keepsakes.
Are there any examples of small things that Apholos can do to make a product stand out?
We’ve seen the results that some clients got after adding a small medallion to their current packaging. It’s quite interesting to see how much value you add to a product with just a “simple coin.” Consumers definitely get the message and realize there’s something unique on that bottle that makes it stand out. Something that is telling them a story. We call this the hero element. That hero element may be a full-body sculpted metal label, a small medallion, a hanging charm or a heavy metal stopper. There are many ways to get the same result: stand out, get the consumer’s attention and make them want to pick up the bottle.
For someone who is considering working with you, what kind of lead time do you typically have to create products?
Lead times will vary depending on the complexity of the project and different factors such as the type of product, the chosen finish (we offer more than 100 plating finish alternatives), the quantities. As a rough reference, I would say that first orders may take between eight and 12 weeks. This starts from the moment we get the design’s approval and green light from the client. First orders take this long because we need to work on tooling first and then manufacture the pieces. Reorders are faster and they normally take six to eight weeks.
Has COVID-19 had any impact on your business? Are people pulling back on merchandise or are they buying more of it—especially in our industry—because they need to make more money from merchandise to make up for some of the COVID-related losses on-premise?
It definitely had. At the beginning of this pandemic everything came to a halt. Almost from one day to the other. I’m sure we all felt it. March and April were really uncertain times, but during the following months we were able to pick up from where we left with all the projects that had been pushed to the back burner. Our wine and spirits clients ended up buying more than ever instead of pulling back on merchandise. We ended up having record sales last year and, although it is still early to tell, this year seems to be heading in the same direction.
I don’t think there’s just one explanation to this but I do believe that our products help our clients to better compete and stand out at the point of sale. That definitely helps them to sell more of their products while giving them more tools to increase margins and compensate for the COVID-related losses you mentioned.
What do you see as some of the key trends in the future when it comes to spirits and/or spirits packaging?
I’m positive that wineries and distilleries will continue building brands and packaging will continue playing an important part of that process. Our challenge will be to keep up with the innovation pace while assuring the quality and service clients need. From a product perspective, I believe that clients will continue moving away from traditional packaging elements and will explore new alternatives. The last months I’ve noticed more and more interest in keepsake elements such as neckers and hanging charms decorations with a second use that, for example, can afterwards become a key chain. Metal stoppers are not as expensive as they used to be and there are now many clients switching from standard toppers to 100% metal customized ones.
I believe it is important for everyone to know that concepts such as luxury, customization and differentiation are real and becoming more affordable every day. There used to be a misconception as small companies would think they should wait to be bigger to get something custom or different. At the same time bigger companies thought it would be too complicated for them to introduce something different and innovative. We’ve confirmed both ideas were wrong, as we have clients at both ends of the scope. Technologies and suppliers evolved. I’ve seen there’s always a solution for every company. Being unique is doable and makes a difference.
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 most-recent episodes include a conversation with Amber Pollock of Backwards Distilling Co. and a discussion on the history of FET relief with Mark Shilling.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to rethink nearly every aspect of our daily lives and business operations, sales and marketing budgets are certainly not immune. In order to see how distilleries across the nation have adjusted in 2020, we sought out advice from a panel of sales and marketing experts in the craft spirits industry.
Distilling Destinations: Straight Up in Southern California
The greater San Diego area is known for its vibrant culinary scene that draws from multiple influences, as well as a thriving craft beer scene—generally regarded as one of the top in the nation. The small, but growing number of distilleries in the area say both of those industries are to thank when it came to helping craft spirits gain a toehold in the market.
Watch the Latest Episode of Craft Spirits TV
Will Drucker of Vermont’s Appalachian Gap Distillery discusses the distillery’s pursuit of Climate Neutral Certification.
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.