Colton Weinstein is the head distiller of Corsair Distillery in Nashville and one of the new members of ACSA’s Board of Directors. Weinstein has been active for many years with our spirits competition and most recently, as chair of the Safety Committee. We caught up with him to talk about the year ahead and Corsair’s expansion.
As a newly elected board member, what are your top priorities for the coming year?
Weinstein: I came in wanting to focus on two main points: making FET reduction permanent, and building the ACSA safety program to be the best resource in our industry. Once we have a bit of breathing room on FET, it will be time to double down and make OSHA jealous of us.
As the chair of the Safety Committee, what are some resources or events that ACSA members can look forward to in the near future?
The Safety Committee has taken a three-pronged approach to building our safety program. Behind the scenes we are working on a guiding document that will outline for our members what a good safety program looks like, the steps required to build such a program, and how to train and implement the safety protocols necessary to a well-functioning facility. In the meantime, we have been hosting safety webinars covering a wide range of topics, including insurance audits, grain handling (both on a physical and microbial level) and boiler safety. We are also in the final stages of creating a set of ‘toolbox talks’ which will serve as quick guides (slides) covering important topics in an easily digestible format. We are always looking for help on the committee, so anyone committed to safety should feel free to reach out and volunteer!
What was your reaction to the recent news that the House Ways and Means Committee approved legislation extending the reduced Federal Excise Tax for craft distillers to December 21, 2020?
Why wasn’t it made permanent? But seriously, everyday we can extend the reduction is a huge boom for our industry and distilling community. That was my immediate reaction, followed by an uneasiness that with this extension the momentum and energy behind the lobbying effort to make FET reduction permanent will slow, and we cannot let that happen.
Last year Corsair announced a major expansion. How is the progress going and what can people expect at the new space?
As everyone who has started a distillery, gone through an expansion or just tried to build something in general knows, everything is going on time, under budget and without hiccups!
While we’ve gone through a few expansions before, this new space will be quite a step up from what we’re used to, with a capacity well beyond what we’ve ever had before. We’ve got boilers I could stand straight up in, a cooling tower the length of an Olympic pool, and of course the pretty stuff like a 40-foot copper column still. We haven’t fully fleshed out the tour and guest side of the venture yet, but with Nashville growing at the rate that it is, and the tourism scene blowing up here, we are definitely going to need something more than your average walk through and look.
For you, what are the biggest challenges and/or most exciting aspects of the expansion?
For me the challenge has been wrapping my head around the sheer scale of things. At our current scale, it’s a lot easier to implement a MacGyver style fix if something isn’t working quite as it’s supposed to. At the new facility that won’t be so easy, so ensuring everything is engineered to fit together and work the way we want it to from the start is key. On the plus side, every time a new piece of equipment comes in it feels like it’s my birthday all over again. So far I’ve had about 15 birthdays this year alone!
You’re one of the hosts of the Still Talking podcast, which started more than a year ago. What have been some of the most interesting or surprising things that you’ve learned since starting that project?
Oh no, who spilled the beans about my secret life?! The podcast has been great, and the best part has been the response from Listener. The energy and participation we get from fans is beyond what we ever imagined. Going in the idea was to start recording the conversations we were already having amongst ourselves about the industry. We had no clue whether people would be interested or not, but the response was almost immediate and overwhelmingly positive. It has given us a chance to start a conversation beyond our circle and learn how other people around the industry are operating and what their perspectives on all the nuances of the job are. Mostly it has taught me that it’s not just us, the whole industry has a pretty good sense of humor.
Are there any upcoming products coming from Corsair that you’re excited about?
Corsair celebrated its 11th anniversary this year. For the past decade we took the approach of more SKUs and the crazier the better; we had a lot of home runs over the years, but also a pretty big wall of shame. The past year we’ve been dialing it back a bit, focusing on a few core products and really honing in on them from a quality perspective. That’s not to say we’ve taken a full 180, and once the new facility comes online we’ll get right back at it.