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:
I was somewhat startled when I recently witnessed at least 20 freighters anchored outside the port of Norfolk, Virginia. Each was carrying hundreds of containers. A few months later, I observed the same phenomenon, 17 cargo ships stretching from just outside Annapolis, Maryland, to the port of Baltimore. On the West Coast, media suggests an even more dire situation, with a record number of anchored vessels from Oakland to L.A. It’s little wonder our manufacturing sector is experiencing supply chain disruption: I think your glass, closures, or cardboard might be sitting on one of those vessels.
Why aren’t supplies reaching your businesses? Increased consumer demand, labor shortages and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic are among some of the reasons offered. Take our quick, one-question survey and tell us where you feel the most impact.
ACSA will continue to serve you with the programs you’ve come to expect, despite the twists and turns we encounter as we deliver. If you haven’t yet registered, it’s not too late to join your industry family at our upcoming Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show. Scroll down to see a conversation with our keynote speaker, Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and Dogfish Head Distilling Co.
We’ll be at the convention center in Louisville, Kentucky, with lots of room to spread out to remain safe during the pandemic. With more than 40 hours of education offered, consider rewarding your staff by inviting them to participate. Besides, do you really want to miss our Repeal Day celebration featuring Zella May, with one of our prominent distillers rocking out?
In addition, you’ll want to know about ACSA’s comments to the United States Trade Representative on barriers to entry in foreign markets, and our appeal to Congress to refill the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.
Although the pandemic has touched each of us, ACSA will continue to move forward, deliver and avoid “being at anchor.”
Here’s to an organization that gives you what you need, when you need it!
Time is Running Out to Register for Our Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show
ACSA’s 8th Annual Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show is fast approaching, and we can’t wait to see you in-person Dec. 4-6 in Louisville, Kentucky! Get ready to join fellow producers and other industry experts to network, learn and toast our incomparable, vibrant industry in Derby City. Exhibitor registration closes on Nov. 1, and attendee registration closes on Nov. 21.
Click below to register, and scroll down to learn about additional events and to read a Q&A with Sam Calagione, who will be delivering our keynote address.
To keep our industry healthy and safe, we will soon distribute our health protocols for this event.
Additional Non-Member Attendees (1-5): $625 per person
Additional Non-Member Attendees (6+): $120 per person
If you register as a voting member, you’ll receive discounts on convention registration, pre-convention classes and competition fees; free webinars (including our archives); and more. Sign-up here to join ACSA’s craft spirits community!
Register now to select prime placement, before it disappears. Our new virtual floor plan allows you to choose the best space available to meet your needs. Explore booth options with an interactive walkthrough of the trade show floor by clicking the link below.
If you need to check registration status or have any immediate questions, please contact Teresa McDaniel at (502) 807-4249 and/or email@example.com.
Room Block Extended: Book Your Stay at Our Host Hotel
The Galt House is right around the corner from the Kentucky International Convention Center, where we will gather this December to network, learn and toast our vibrant industry at ACSA’s 8th Annual Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show! The room rate is $189 per night and the room block will be open until November 15.
Make your reservations today by clicking the link below (use code: 021821ACS) or calling (502) 589-5200. ACSA does not use third parties to reserve hotel rooms.
Looking to truly make the most of your experience at our convention? We are proud to offer several pre-convention classes focused on sensory, safety and start-ups; a distillery tour; a course on common faults, led by Ashley Barnes of The Spirits Group; and a fundraiser for the ACSA PAC.
Please note that we have postponed our Virtual Convention Education Program. Previously scheduled for Nov. 3-4, the virtual event will be rescheduled for sometime in the first quarter of 2022. We will provide updates on a new date for this program in the future, and we apologize to everyone who was looking forward to the virtual event next week.
Q&A with Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and Dogfish Head Distilling Co.
Delaware-based Dogfish Head is a nationally known and respected company, but according to founder Sam Calagione, its success in brewing, distilling, innkeeping and more wouldn’t be possible without first focusing on its local market. That’s just part of the message Calagione will deliver in his keynote address—Off-Centered Brand Building from Zero to 102 Proof—at ACSA’s Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show on Dec. 5 in Louisville, Kentucky.
In a recent conversation with senior editor Jon Page, Calagione previewed his address, shared insight on Dogfish Head’s growth, and revealed his most cathartic form of COVID-19 stress relief.
ACSA: You have really become quite the prolific author. Your latest, “The Dogfish Head Book: 26 Years of Off-Centered Adventures,” with co-authors Mariah Calagione and Andrew C. Greeley, is out now. For somebody in the craft distilling world, which of your books would you recommend to read first and what makes it a good read?
Sam Calagione: I would actually say this most recent book about Dogfish would be the best read for small distillers or distillers in general, and that’s actually why I’m gifting this book to all the attendees at the convention. It will be in their gift bags. It’s got a good chunk of content that chronologically tells the story of each of the off-centered, culinary-inspired distilled spirits that we’ve released, including full proof whiskeys, gins and rums, and also our long history with cocktails at our Chesapeake & Maine restaurant, which was nominated by the James Beard Foundation for Outstanding Bar Program. And then that led to our work of releasing canned cocktails.
Also, the book itself is really kind of designed for a look at growing a small, high-end brand, especially one that’s not located in one of the major metro markets. We were able to start as the smallest commercial brewery in America, and if not the smallest craft distillery, one of the smallest craft distilleries. We fabricated a pot still that we built ourselves out of scrap metal and welded together kegs to start our distillery 20 years ago. So it literally tells sort of a scrappy startup story of our evolution as a craft brand, not just in beer and spirits, but with our hotels, our restaurants, our collaborations with companies like New Balance and Woolrich and Patagonia, to the Grateful Dead. I think all of that stuff would be very useful to the average craft distiller in terms of scale.
You started dabbling with spirits back in 2002 and then expanded operations beyond Delaware in 2015. At what point did you really get serious about it?
Basically for 13 years it was a labor of love R&D project, very small scale, focused on selling in our own state distribution and in our own properties. And then around 2013 or 2014, we started seeing more guests entering our properties looking for craft cocktails in addition to craft beer and I was like, alright, I think we’ve got the right recipes and concepts. Let’s build a bigger distillery and start adding concentric states of distribution throughout the Mid-Atlantic and see where it goes from there.
For a distillery or brewery owner that’s looking to expand their business by adding beer or spirits, what advice do you offer them?
If you’re just getting into business and planning to invest capital, the goal is to figure out how small you can be to be successful instead of trying to figure out how big you can be to be successful. My recommendation is to build the most brand-centric, live experience of the liquid. In every state that it’s allowed, focus your initial efforts as a distillery around going as deep as possible with storytelling and brand immersion at your distillery. If you’re allowed to sell by the drink and do tours at your distillery, that’s the base, the best basic building block for brand amplification. It starts at home and your own facility. If you do it well there and create excitement, then you’ll get opportunities in three-tier distribution.
Out of your spirits and canned cocktails, what are you most enjoying now?
Full proof, I would say our Let’s Get Lost American Single Malt Whiskey. It just got a 92 score in Whiskey Advocate about four months ago and it’s my favorite [for], you know, sitting by a campfire. Or I’ll put it in a stemless wine glass and go for a hike in the woods and drink this while listening to a favorite album of mine on my ear phones. As for canned cocktails, I am drinking the heck out of our Blueberry Shrub Vodka Soda. It’s blended with a touch of balsamic vinegar for a bright tart kick. I’m proud to say it won best in show at the L.A. Spirits Awards.
Hiking with a whiskey named Let’s Get Lost raises the question: Have you actually gotten lost?
No, no. God bless modern phones. But I usually go on a route that I know where I’m going. Dogfish helped to underwrite these bike paths throughout coastal Delaware that connect our hotel to our locations in Rehoboth and Lewes. So I take a little stemless glass of whiskey on one of those bike paths and go for the length of a Bon Iver album or a Miles Davis album and just turn around halfway through the album and not think about how many miles it was. Going for an album-length walk with a glass of whiskey has been a big COVID stress reliever for me.
And I mentioned our Blueberry Shrub Vodka Soda, where we use this balsamic vinegar in the recipe that we originally built for a mignonette sauce for oysters at one of our restaurants. Even our culinary recipes in our restaurants can influence our cocktail recipes. I’m looking forward to sharing that story from the stage as part of the keynote, as well.
Beyond what you’ve already mentioned about starting small, can you hint at anything else you plan to cover in your keynote?
I’ll talk a little bit about the holy trinity of being hyper-focused on world-class quality, world-class consistency and world-class points of differentiation. There’s so many SKUs in the marketplace right now that unless you’re hitting on all three of those cylinders, I don’t think it’s worth expanding your distribution outside of your own state or your tasting room. Because then you’re really doing a disservice to the community of craft distillers if your products are inconsistent or erratic in quality, or they’re just samey, derivative products of something that’s a bestseller out there. That’s not doing any of us a service.
What does Dogfish Head look like 26 years from now?
Well, that’s an existential question. I would say we’re going to keep putting the ‘mental’ in experimental and the ‘where’ in Delaware. Probably by then at least our canned cocktails will be in all 50 states. I’m guessing we’ll have had to build yet another bigger distillery and a bigger barrel room by then. But not thinking so much about physical scale, I hope we still stand for experimentation. And I hope we still stand for a brand that celebrates the sweet spot between culinary inspiration for our liquid recipes and just world-class quality and distinction. Not being the fast follower model, which is a valid business model, but taking the risks of being more of the pioneering model than the fast follower model. That’s how, in 26 years, I’ll feel like we stayed true to our brand tenants.
Want to see Sam Calagione deliver his keynote address at our upcoming convention and vendor trade show? Click here to register.
Survey: Supply Chain Disruptions
Increased consumer demand, labor shortages and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic are wreaking havoc on the supply chain. Please take our quick, one-question survey and tell us where you feel the most impact.
This month, ACSA filed comments with the United States Trade Representative, sharing specific examples of barriers to entry in foreign markets. Chief among those barriers is bottle sizes. For example, the EU has not extended the privilege to spirits exported into their member countries the use of a common standard bottle size or an agreement by export markets to accept the U.S.-approved standards of fill. Other barriers identified included inconsistencies in labeling, age statements and use of botanical ingredients.
Also this month, ACSA joined a group of trade associations, winemakers and restaurant suppliers who are calling on Congress to refill the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF). Along with these counterparts, ACSA signed on to a letter sent to Congressional leadership by the Independent Restaurant Coalition. These organizations, representing many of the five million workers restaurants support through the supply chain, cautioned members of Congress about the cataclysmic effects allowing restaurants and bars to close would have on their businesses.
The first round of applications for the Spirits Training Entrepreneurship Program for Underrepresented Professionals (STEPUP) Foundation closed in early October, and the first interns and host distilleries will be announced at ACSA’s 8th Annual Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show in December.
Judging Concludes for Craft Spirits Packaging Awards
This month, judging concluded for the second annual Craft Spirits Packaging Awards. Thanks to everyone who entered, and we look forward to announcing the medalists and best in show honoree at ACSA’s Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show this December. All medalists will also be featured in the January issue of CRAFT SPIRITS magazine.
Thanks to the Glass Packaging Institute
for Sponsoring the Craft Spirits Packaging Awards
Follow us on Instagram for Craft Spirits Live
Join ACSA for Craft Spirits Live, our Instagram Live show highlighting producers of craft spirits.
In the latest issue of CRAFT SPIRITS magazine, we explore how craft distillers are embracing local ingredients to make vodkas that are anything but neutral; investigate a shortage of cans threatening the growth of ready-to-drink cocktail programs; check in with cocktail bars and restaurants as they navigate uncertainty; 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 are launching 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 2021 media kit to see what’s in store.