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 Community:
I don’t know about you, but the coronavirus has spurred me to be much more introspective. Normally I run at 100 miles per hour (except when I’m meditating), with lots of energy engaged in getting things done. I’m like the high-speed variable on my Vitamix blender, with my mind swirling even in the middle of the night, agitating to move on to that next activity.
2020 has forced me to turn that dial, maintaining a much slower, yet deliberative speed, with increased thought on how to change things up—how to keep them interesting and productive at a time that is less than business as usual.
As a part of that process, I often reflect on ACSA’s DNA. What sets us apart from other industry groups? What is at the heart and soul of our being? What is our ethos? If I asked individual members of the ACSA Board of Directors that same question, would there be a similarity in response? If I posed that question to you, right now, how might you respond? How does ACSA keep pace with our rapidly changing environment?
At our core, ACSA’s mission is TO ELEVATE AND ADVOCATE FOR THE COMMUNITY OF CRAFT SPIRITS PRODUCERS. Work of this past month, and for that matter this past year, illustrates how we do just that.
If you were unable to join us earlier this month, you’ll want to read below to see how ACSA gathered our best advocates to educate Congress on the crucial need for continued FET relief. If you aren’t yet familiar with ACSA’s gift of knowledge for all members, understand that ACSA appreciates your struggle and is wanting to help you succeed. Take advantage of this free education. Just as we continuously try to set ourself apart, we know you do, too, and are offering you the opportunity to highlight your brand through a newly released packaging awards program. Be introduced to our upcoming webinars and become familiar with one of our newly elected board members, Gina Holmann from J. Carver Distillery in the heartlands of the U.S. Become familiar with how ACSA has developed programs and initiatives to better serve you—our community.
At the end of the day, ACSA’s 501(c)(6) tax status isn’t what makes us different. Being registered as the only national trade group singularly working to advance the needs of small business—craft spirits producers and those who support us—throughout the United States, is only a part of our story. ACSA’s spirit and drive is fueled by our values: integrity, innovation, community and independence. While the year of 2020 continues to challenge, beyond any one hurdle we thought we’d need to surmount, it is our very values that provide the guiding principles and beliefs to carry us through. And, I have every confidence that we will survive this, albeit in a yet-to-be determined form, holding each other tight and working together to innovate, provide a sense of purpose and fairness within our community, that is tethered by our passion for what we do.
Be well, be kind, and stay safe,
Spirits Producers from 45 States Virtually Scale Capitol Hill During Public Policy Conference
In a year full of pivots, the latest was the transition to a virtual event for the annual American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) and Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) Public Policy Conference, which was held Sept. 15-16. A record number of attendees virtually converged on the nation’s capital to advocate for the industry’s greatest priorities. More than 300 distillers, trading partners and industry allies from 45 states logged in at a time when it’s more critical than ever that the spirits industry’s voices be heard on Capitol Hill.
During nearly 200 virtual meetings with Senators and House members from both sides of the aisle, representing nearly all U.S. states, spirits producers urged support for the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (CBMTRA) HR 1175 in the House and S.362 in the Senate. Additionally, attendees called for the end of trade tariffs that have been severely impacting U.S. spirits exports and asked legislators to weigh in with their concerns about a flawed proposal under review at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to change the definition of moderate drinking for men in the U.S. Dietary Guidelines (DGA).
(ACSA CEO Margie A.S. Lehrman delivering opening remarks.)
The temporary reduction of the federal excise tax (FET) is set to expire on December 31, 2020, if Congress takes no further action. Initial temporary FET relief became law on January 1, 2018, when the federal tax was reduced from $13.50 to $2.70 per proof gallon on the first 100,000 gallons. The reduction passed as part of the broader Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017 and was originally set to expire on December 31, 2019. Following the continuous efforts of ACSA and DISCUS, Congress last December passed a one-year extension on the reduced tax rate, which will expire three months from now. The spirits industry’s main objective is to make the $2.70-per-gallon rate permanent, by convincing Congress to pass the bi-partisan CBMTRA. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) introduced the Senate version, S.362, which has the support of 74 Senators at last count. Representatives Ron Kind (D-WI) and Mike Kelly (R-WI) are behind the House version, HR 1175, and have also gained the support of three-quarters of the House.
(Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) speaks during the virtual conference.)
(Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) delivered a recorded message for the conference.)
To keep the momentum of the conference going, please continue to contact your Senators and Representatives and urge them to support permanent FET relief and an end to trade tariffs. Additionally, demand that they work to prevent the proposed change to the definition of moderation in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
ACSA and DISCUS would like to extend a special thanks to ByQuest, FIVE x 5 Solutions, Glencairn Crystal and the Wine and Spirits Shippers Association for sponsoring the Public Policy Conference.
Webinars Now FREE for ACSA Members
ACSA realizes many small businesses and craft distilleries are struggling to operate during these uncertain times. As part of our mission to elevate and advocate for the community of craft spirits producers, we are making all webinars, including our archives, available to members at no cost. Our thoughtfully curated presentations feature industry experts who distill their knowledge into engaging educational offerings.
Deadline TODAY: Become a Member & Receive an Extra Three Months Free
Join our efforts to shape the industry and take advantage of this limited time offer of 15 months of membership for the price of 12 months. Don’t wait because this offer will expire tonight at midnight. If you’re on the fence and still undecided on the benefits of joining ACSA, please contact us at email@example.com. We’d love to hear from you.
Announcing the Inaugural Craft Spirits Packaging Awards
CRAFT SPIRITS magazine and the American Craft Spirits Association want to celebrate excellence and creativity in the design of craft spirits labels and packaging with our inaugural Craft Spirits Packaging Awards.
We’re looking for the top concepts in each of the major spirits categories: Best Brandy Packaging, Best Gin Packaging, Best Rum Packaging, Best Ready-to-Drink Cocktail Packaging, Best Vodka Packaging, Best Whiskey Packaging and Best Specialty Spirit Packaging (for everything else that doesn’t fit into one of the previously mentioned categories). We’ll also be presenting a series of special awards, such as Best Non-Traditional Package, a Reader’s Choice Award (which you’ll all get to vote on) and, of course, the grand prize: Best in Show. We will also be awarding Best Portfolio Packaging, which takes into account packaging design across an entire portfolio—especially if there’s a dynamic theme that cuts across that portfolio’s design. If you choose to enter the competition for the Portfolio Award, you are still allowed to enter any individual products from your portfolio into their appropriate categories.
We are assembling an expert panel of judges, who all will be 100% independent of ACSA and the distilleries entering the competition.
Keep in mind that the Craft Spirits Packaging Awards is a separate competition from ACSA’s annual Judging of Craft Spirits and will require a separate entry fee. The Judging of Craft Spirits is still happening. Like just about everything that has happened in 2020, it is being postponed and reimagined to ensure the safety of our events staff and judges. Registration will open soon for that competition, which will now take place in the spring of 2021. Stay tuned for more information.
The advantage of conducting a competition based entirely on packaging aesthetics is that no shipping is required. High-resolution photographs of the front and back of your bottles and cans, submitted electronically, will be sufficient. You’re certainly welcome to send the physical package, but please know that is not required, nor will it enhance your odds of scoring an award. Our best advice to you is to not spend any money on shipping and handling!
Entry fees are fairly modest. The cost is $40 per product entered for ACSA members and $55 per product entered for non-members. Entries for the Best Portfolio Packaging award will be $100 for ACSA members and $140 for non-members. Deadline for entry is November 10, and we will email a call for entries in the coming days.
We will showcase all award recipients in the December 2020 issue of CRAFT SPIRITS magazine (It’ll be the cover story). We also plan to host a virtual awards ceremony—similar to the one ACSA presented for the 2020 Judging of Craft Spirits honorees shortly before publication of the December issue. Sponsorship opportunities are available for the Craft Spirits Packaging Awards. Please reach out to media sales consultant Ashley Guillermo if you’re interested in sponsoring at firstname.lastname@example.org.
STAY TUNED FOR 2021 JUDGING OF CRAFT SPIRITS CALL FOR ENTRIES…
The ACSA Judging of American Craft Spirits Competition is alive and well! But, like everything this year, it will be postponed and reimagined to ensure the safety of our events staff and judges. Registration will open soon for that spirits competition to take place in the spring of 2021. More details to follow.
ACSA’s 2021 Distillers Convention & Vendor Trade Show is scheduled for July 25-27 at the Kentucky International Convention Center in Louisville, Kentucky. We hope you can join us as we return to in-person events! Attendee and exhibitor registration will open soon, so watch this space!
Q&A: Gina Holman of J. Carver Distillery
A founding partner, distiller and manager at J. Carver Distillery in Waconia, Minnesota, Gina Holman was recently elected to the American Craft Spirits Association’s Board of Directors, serving the Central/Mountain Region. We recently checked in with her to discuss upcoming initiatives for ACSA and J. Carver.
ACSA: As a newly elected board member, what are your top priorities for the coming year?
Gina Holman: I am grateful for the opportunity and honored to serve the members of the American Craft Spirits Association. My top priorities are to focus efforts with our State Guild Committee leadership across the country to educate and persuade our elected officials in Congress to permanently reduce FET this year. Our state guild members are a vital voice to communicate the data that shows the FET reduction in 2019 allowed craft distillers to add new jobs, improvements and upgrades made to tasting and cocktail rooms that bolstered local tourism, benefiting small business and restaurants, while others invested in equipment to expand capacity which improved economic growth in other industries in our communities. COVID-19 has changed the landscape for so many including our craft spirits industry. ACSA members and craft distillers have proven our industry has grit, determination and a unified voice to get FET reduced permanently so our industry can continue to grow during these challenging times. I will stay informed on the proposed changes to Dietary Guidelines. I am passionate about education and look forward to working with the Education Committee and Convention Committee and can’t wait to discuss the relevant topics that interest you which are affecting our fast-changing industry. I ask you to encourage fellow distillers to join ACSA and I look forward to the day when we can raise a glass together in Louisville, Kentucky, in July 2021.
Can you tell us a little more about the importance of ACSA working with state guilds?
I have been honored to be ACSA Guild Committee Co-Chair with P.T. Wood this past year, working with state guild leaders to make many phone calls, which secured a hard-fought, one-year extension of our reduced FET last December 2019. Just two weeks ago, I was thrilled to see many of the same state guild leaders who wanted to make a difference for our craft spirits industry and made it a priority to actively participate in the virtual ACSA-DISCUS Public Policy Conference. The virtual fly-in was an incredible opportunity for state guild leadership to be briefed on the importance of the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act, while encouraging distillers to discuss with their elected officials and staff members other public policies affecting our industry in our own individual states.
We have much work left to do this year. It’s more important now than ever for us to share our unique distillery stories and I’m grateful to ACSA for supporting our members and inviting them to participate on the Craft Spirits Live segment and to receive invaluable information with the free ACSA Webinars. These programs have been instrumental for members to learn and share their successes and challenges. ACSA is connecting our member-driven industry so we can learn from each other, continue to innovate, encourage, and share ideas. When questions arise, the ability to ask straightforward questions on how to get started in this industry is the most important step.
Before J. Carver, you had a lot of experience in hospitality. What’s it been like for you in the pandemic to shift away from “normal” interactions with consumers? And in what unique ways is J. Carver engaging consumers during these times?
Our J. Carver Distillery & Cocktail Room was founded by an experienced group and has built a culture around collaboration, fun and hospitality. We were always around each weekend at the distillery in our cocktail & tasting room welcoming guests, pouring samples of our grain-to-glass spirits, and creating craft cocktails. Our distillery is located in the farming heart of Carver County, Minnesota, and we work directly with our local wineries and breweries to promote tourism in our area, which benefited everyone including our local restaurants and small business.
At the beginning of the year, everything looked like it was on track to be a banner year. But the pandemic was a direct hit to our hospitality industry. We have temporarily closed our tasting room since March. In an effort to support local, our team regrouped and redirected our energy by collaborating with and helping promote other locally owned small businesses. We worked with our distributor and a number of local retailers and created cocktail kits with easy-to-follow recipes using our J. Carver spirits and cocktail mixes crafted by other small companies in Minnesota. These kits were made for the at-home bartender to enjoy in the comfort of their home while still supporting small family-owned businesses.
I’ve continued to create short videos inviting and encouraging our followers to stop by their neighborhood restaurants in and around the Twin Cities known for incredible and creative cuisine and unique craft cocktails based on locally-sourced ingredients and encourage them to enjoy a specialty J. Carver cocktail on the patio or invite them to dine in or order takeout from the restaurant. Our neighborhood family-owned restaurants have been hit hard so we are trying to do everything we can to support them. I’m also using all the advancements with technology and teaching a number of cocktail classes virtually. The virtual cocktail classes have been an incredible way for us to tell our story and reach new people across the state who want to learn about J. Carver Distillery.
Are there any new products coming soon from J. Carver that you are particularly excited about?
Indeed. J. Carver has spent six years exploring and celebrating the bounty of Minnesota grains, fruits and botanicals and has forged community relationships with farmers and barrels coopers from right down the road. J. Carver is proud to be putting Minnesota-barreled spirits on the map with our award-winning line of bourbons, ryes, and wheat whiskeys, brandies, barrel gin, specialty liqueurs, and now, we are proud to announce the launch of two different whiskies distilled from a single malt. With all the challenges over the past six months, our J. Carver Distillery team continues to be optimistic. It’s an exciting time to be a craft distillery in the United States as we enter into this emerging single malt category. Stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks just in time for gift-giving during the holidays.
Any additional advice or words of wisdom for your peers in the distilling community as we navigate these uncharted waters?
These have definitely been challenging times. Everyone should be congratulated on adjusting and moving forward and listening to each other’s concerns during these difficult times. The advice I give is to set some realistic goals over the next few months for you and your team and follow through. Our craft distilling industry is made up of passionate people who love to connect with others in our communities and related industries. Hold on tight to that passion and reach out to a fellow colleague if you have questions or need advice. Learn something new in your business every day. Continue to do what you do because you love it, not because you think it is going to give you financial reward, fame or glory. Do it because it fulfills you and then give yourself the opportunity to be challenged and grow. Allow yourself to show up differently and bring innovative and creative ideas to light for your family, business and community. We have the opportunity to share what we have learned and pour our passion and knowledge into a future generation of craft distillers so they can learn, grow and prosper in our communities for decades to come.
Follow us on Instagram for Craft Spirits Live
Join ACSA for Craft Spirits Live, our new 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.
October 7th: Taka Amano, American Shochu Co.
October 14th: Kim and Tom Bard, The Bard Distillery
ACSA’s fall webinar season is back and we are thrilled to announce that all webinars, past and present, are now complimentary for ACSA members! Please join us next week for the following webinar:
New Frontiers in Gin
When: Thursday, October 8, 3-4 pm ET
What: Want to know where the gin market is headed? Tune in to our panel of boundary-pushing craft distillers who are exploring an almost unlimited array of flavor profiles within this classic category.
Who: ACSA’s Jeff Cioletti will moderate a panel including Abby Titcomb of 3 Floyds Distilling Co., Jason Parker of Copperworks Distilling Co. and Lance Winters of St. George Spirits
Cost: Each webinar is free for members and $59 for non-members.
Access Our Archive of Complimentary COVID-19 Webinars
In case you missed them, all of our COVID-19 webinars are complimentary and available to download. Please note that some of the webinars may have some suggestions that are outdated as the guidance around hand sanitizer has rapidly changed. Please review the newest FDA and TTB guidance to ensure you are following the prescribed protocol.
Help Us Better Understand How Our Industry Responded to Community Needs
In March, our industry quickly adapted to providing help to our communities in the form of producing hand sanitizer to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Please take 10 minutes to complete this survey, which is being conducted by Hampden-Sydney College. Results are collected in the aggregate and will not be released individually. Key points from the survey will be shared upon completion of the study.
Read the September Issue of CRAFT SPIRITS Magazine
The American Craft Spirits Association proudly presents the September issue of CRAFT SPIRITS magazine. In our cover story, we shine a light on the endless possibilities within the gin category. For a spirit that, for centuries, has been so tied to stylistic orthodoxy and tradition, gin offers a tremendous amount of elbow room for distillers to get experimental. And, as an industry, they’ve barely scratched the surface.