Quarterly Guild Report: Fall 2017

State guilds continue the trend of being the gatekeepers of knowledge, and the vanguards of positive changes in spirits legislation. A number of states’ guilds took part in the two DC Fly-In events this summer to rally support for FET reduction, and several state guilds are also facing down regressive legislative efforts, and individual state tax increases. We thank every participant in the Guild Update for helping to share news and information that we can all benefit from.

Colorado

Colorado Distillers Guild

The Colorado Distillers Guild is ripping through another beautiful and successful summer. We are on the verge of launching our Colorado Distillers Trail highlighting our ~50 guild member distilleries across the state. Initially we will produce a map and interactive website followed by events and promotions throughout 2018.

We have also been active on the national level attending the ACSA DC fly-in during July; including a day with other guild leaders building strategy for the ACSA state guild committee over the next 8 months leading into the convention in Pittsburgh in March; as well as a day walking the Capitol advocating for FET reduction.

Back in Colorado we are finishing hosting the ACSA master classes which included a meet and greet with our Executive Director Margie Lerman and a number of board members. We are also busy preparing for festival session which includes Dstill in September followed by Whiskey Summit, Whiskey X and our annual meeting during the Breckenridge Craft Spirits Festival.

Hope we see you in Colorado soon!

P.T. Wood
President, Colorado Distillers
Guild Vice President, ACSA
Chair, ACSA State Guild Committee
Wood’s High Mountain Distillery, LLC

 

Connecticut

Connecticut Spirits Guild

The CT Spirits Trail and Guild is pleased to announce that two additional distilleries are coming on board: Central CT Distillers, the makers of award-winning Peel Liqueurs, and SoNo 1420 who is initially launching their products this Fall.

Unfortunately the CT State Legislature is wrestling with difficult budget challenges and our efforts to widen some state tasting room laws have been paused until the larger budget bills have been resolved. Our prime goal has been and will continue to be able to sell a cocktail in our tasting rooms, but we have a list of other items that we hope to be able to include in our vision and ultimately receive approval.

Our Trail members continue to work with our colleagues within the USBG-CT chapter on events and other efforts to promote our brands, restaurant/bars, and the many talented mixologists that work within them. The CT chapter has a new President, who is doing a great job of synergizing with us and the wholesalers within the state to promote all aspects of the local industry.

As part of our Spirits Trail efforts, we offer a prize drawing for everyone that visits all of our distilleries. So, we recently conducted our first bi-annual drawing and delighted a Trail fan who was the winner of a product from each distillery. Cheers to our winner!

Tom Dubay
Hartford Flavor Company
President, CT Spirits Guild/Trail

 

Delaware

Delaware Wineries Association

2017 has been a tough year for distilleries in Delaware, so far. The Delaware General Assembly, which is in session from January-June, passed a $0.15 per bottle increase in tax of distilled spirits, along with increased beer and wine taxes, in an effort to balance a budget deficit. Partisan fighting on the budget meant that very little in the way of other legislative efforts were addressed. Distilleries, along with wineries and breweries, are still pursuing efforts to expand sales to Farmers Markets, allow direct shipping, allow all DE craft beverage producers to serve other DE made craft products for on-site consumption, and create a statewide way-finding system. All of these are in development but they will not be available for legislative action until 2018.

Mike Rasmussen
“Still Charmer”
Painted Stave Distilling
(302) 983-1269

 

Maine

Maine Distiller’s Guild

The Maine Distiller’s Guild, MeDG, welcomes a new member this summer, Sebago Lake Distilling, bringing membership to 15. The guild also welcomes our new Vice President, Jordan Milne of Hardshore Distilling Company located in Portland, ME. The first half of 2017 has been productive for the MeDG, guild President Ian Michaud, of Liquid Riot Bottling Company, and member committees are making headway on all projects:

The MeDG website, www.MaineDistillersGuild.org, with printable distillery trail map continues to be a popular way for consumers to learn about Maine distilleries. The online map links to member websites and includes Google information and pictures.

Members met as a guild with BABLO, the liquor control and licensing division for the state of Maine. Members were able to ask specific questions and discuss potential plans.

The MeDG has partnered with Maine Spirits, the exclusive wholesale distributor for spirits in the state of Maine. Maine made spirits and distilleries now have a dedicated section on their website, www.mainespirits.com. With Maine Spirits assistance the MeDG is rolling out a campaign to consumers, bars and restaurants to choose locally made spirits. The slogan “Make Mine from Maine” will soon be seen throughout the state.

The MeDG sought to showcase member spirits at events in Maine. The first will be in partnership with Portland’s spectacular food and drink celebration in October called Harvest on the Harbor,
www.harvestontheharbor.com. The second will take place in November in Bangor Maine at the Maine Harvest Festival which celebrates the bounty from farms across the state, www.maineharvestfestival.com. The MeDG has added an Allied Membership level to the guild membership for those people/companies that don’t hold a DSP but do have interest in Maine distilling. Allied Members can keep abreast of the fast changing and growing industry in Maine.

With an eye to 2018, the MeDG will be looking to other states for guidance and perspective with new legislation and lobbying efforts looking to ease the burden on distilleries. The guild will work to draft legislation following the examples of other states that enjoy a move favorable business climate for distilleries.

Maine Distiller’s Guild Officers
President — Ian Michaud, Liquid Riot Bottling Company
Vice President — Jordan Milne, Hardshore Distilling Company
Secretary — Jeff Johnson, Stroudwater Distillery
Treasurers — Keith and Constance Bodine, Sweetgrass Winery & Distillery

Keith and Constance Bodine
Sweetgrass Farm Winery & Distillery

 

Maryland

Maryland Distillers Guild

The Maryland Distillers Guild continues to grow, now boasting 20 distillery members, 7 startups, and 8 affiliated trade members. The Guild has hosted two successful events to promote the industry, which allowed distillers to sample their products, sell bottles, and showcase them in cocktails. Soon to launch are distillery trails in three regions of the state (Frederick, Baltimore and Eastern Shore) which will highlight the regional distiller growth to tourists far and wide.

Jamie Windon
Owner/Co-Founder | Lyon Distilling Co.

 

Montana

Montana Distillers Guild

The Currently Montana has 14 guild members with 19 licensed distilleries.

Montana Distillers are working their way through the busy tourist season of Montana. Our annual guild meeting will be held in Butte America October 1-2, 2017. Our Guild supports the movement to reduce the current FET (Federal Excise Tax Reform) and will have presence in Washington D.C.

With Montana Craft Distilleries growing, reducing the FET would allow for the current outlay in taxes to be used to hire additional employees as well as expanding current manufacturing facilities in the state. This would have a long reaching impact across Montana, reaching into the agricultural fields. During Montana’s recent legislative session, the Guild pushed for parity with Montana Brewer’s Tap Rooms, allowing Distillery Tasting Rooms to close at 9pm instead of 8pm. Initially the bill passed the House favorably but did not make it out of the Senate floor as written.

The Guild will look to revisit the hour change as well as additional avenues for parity with breweries, wineries and cider houses in Montana.

For the Guild itself, membership updates will be discussed at the annual meeting. Specifically, membership dues, Montana distillery trail, website, voting on new leadership and the next legislative session for 2018. All Montana Distilleries are welcome.

Jim Harris
Bozeman Spirits Distillery

 

New York

New York State Distillers Guild

The New York State Distillers Guild is ecstatic to announce that as of July we ended our search for an executive director. Jennifer Smith will aid us in bring our association and the NYS distilling industry even greater heights.

Having cut her teeth working in restaurants and bars, Jenn had a decade-long stint focusing on marketing and strategic growth in the publishing and financial services industries before bringing it all together at Astor Wines & Spirits in NYC, where for 6 years she was Marketing Director and GM of the culinary center. In 2014, she left Astor to develop her own successful consultancy in culinary marketing and events. Jenn is BAR 5-Day certified and teaches recreational cocktail classes at Astor Center.

September 11th launches the first-ever New York Craft Beverage Week, a large-scale promotional effort driven by Governor Cuomo in partnership with the New York State Restaurant Association, the New York City Hospitality Alliance, and New York’s distilled spirit producers, as well as our brewer, cider maker and vintner colleagues. Activities include an emphasis throughout the state on New York-made craft beverages and cocktails on restaurant menus, point-of-sale materials and promotions, paired dinners, bar takeovers, and a trade and media tasting Tuesday, September 12th, at the historic Pier A venue in NYC’s Battery Park.

Current New York State Distillers Guild Membership Statistics
70% of NYS distillers are members of NYSDG
NYSLA Distilling licenses: 135
NYSDG Members: 95

Cheers!

Cory Muscato
Lockhouse Distillery – Buffalo, NY
President – New York State Distillers Guild

North Carolina

Distillers Association of North Carolina

The Distillers Association of North Carolina (DANC) had a very successful legislative session in 2017.

DANC spearheaded the legislative effort behind the “Brunch Bill” which not only created Sunday morning retail alcohol sales in North Carolina but also liberalized many rules governing distillery operations. Changes included:

  1. Allowing distilleries to sell 5 bottles per year per person from the distillery.
  2. The creation of a lifetime special event permit allowing distilleries to take part in trade shows, conventions, fundraisers etc. without applying for an expensive permit.

Unfortunately, a provision allowing NC distillers to take advantage of Direct to Consumer shipping in states that allow it was defeated at the last minute under the misguided notion that it would help prevent underage drinking. The fight is not over. There may be a court challenge to the very idea that a state can prevent a company from engaging in legal activity in another state. Stay tuned.

The above legislative changes combined with 77 licenses granted, over 50 distilleries in operation, and over 40 of those being members of DANC, North Carolina has become a hotbed of distilling activity.

Much of the legislative accomplishment can be traced back to the shrewd decision by DANC members to voluntarily provide 2% of in-distillery sales back to DANC in order to engage in political activity.

Scott Maitland
President — Distillers Association of North Carolina

 

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Distillers Guild

For the first half of the 2017 year, the PA Distillers Guild has organized and activated various sub committees. The Legislative, Tourism, Agricultural, Education and Safety, and ACSA Planning. Each committee has discussed and begun the planning processes of short term as well as 10 year goals within the respective committees. We have also been able to deliver statistical sales information to our membership by working with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) to identify the top retail accounts by spirits category. With this information, we have provided critical information to allow our membership to focus their sales efforts with the goal of sustainability within their home marketplace.

At another meeting, the Department Heads of PLCB Category Management spent an hour with our membership for Q&A and help support our membership by explaining route to market within the control state, as well as specialty shelf initiatives programs featuring “Made in PA” products. With 82 licensed distilleries currently in the state, we have an immensely burgeoning industry in our ever-growing state.

In addition, our guild leadership has been able to fight off some lobby attacks to our current idyllic craft distilling laws, and activated our membership and supply chain partners to respond in a manner that was able to protect our current direct distribution abilities. This fall we plan to have our first “drive in” to the state capital to meet with legislators. We have much more to do within our state, and look forward to increased membership as well as participation both now and years to come.

Rob Cassell

 

Texas

Texas Distilled Spirits Association

In February 2017, Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) re-introduced S. 236, the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act. The bill includes a reduction in the Federal Excise Tax (FET) from $13.50 to $2.70 for the first 100,000 proof gallons of spirits, an 80% reduction in the FET for craft producers.

Texas distillers were a part of two “fly-ins” to lobby congressional members on the hill this summer.

Dan Garrison of Garrison Brothers Distillery was one of more than 45 distilled spirits producers from across the country who gathered in Washington, D.C. June 20-21 for the Distilled Spirits Council’s eighth annual Public Policy Conference. Distillers participated in more than 100 Congressional visits with their home state legislators to urge lowering the punitively high federal excise tax rate on spirits such as whiskey, vodka, rum and other distilled spirits products, and discuss other issues of importance to the sector.

Garrison met with Congressman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and 15 other Texas delegation members to urge support for the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act, which would lower the federal excise tax for spirits, beer and wine producers of all sizes for the first time since the Civil War. The legislation currently has 45 sponsors in the U.S. Senate and 226 in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“As a small business owner, it is hard to get away from the distillery but this opportunity to talk to elected officials from Texas was vital to the growth of our industry,” said Garrison. “HR 747 will bring much needed tax reform to the alcohol industry and allow me to invest more in my distillery and my community. It is my hope the Texas Legislature will someday join the effort to support small businesses and remove the archaic Texas regulations that stifle our growth and put Texas-based distilleries at an competitive disadvantage with those in other states ”

The conference featured a series of legislative, regulatory and state breakout sessions on key federal and state issues impacting the distilling industry. Conference speakers included: Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA); Administrator of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bur

eau John Manfreda; and Ed Henry, chief national correspondent for the Fox News Channel. The conference also featured an evening “Meet Your Distillers” reception where members of Congress and their staff sampled their home state spirits products.

In July, Texas distillers headed back to DC with the American Craft Spirits Association to continue to advocate for tax parity with our sister industries.

Members of the Texas Guild, Revolution Spirits, Devil’s River Whiskey, Still Austin Whiskey, Hill Country Distillery, Treaty Oak Distillery and Witherspoon Distillery, met with and educated the Texas congressional delegation. They also hosted a fundraiser for Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX.

Carrie Simmons
Executive Director
Texas Distilled Spirits Association

Utah

Distillers Guild of Utah

The Distillers Guild of Utah currently has 8 members. Utah now has 14 DSPs with at least 3 new distillery projects underway. The guild is almost ready to release and distribute our “Distillery Adventure Map” to encourage folks to visit our distilleries.

Ethan S. Miller
Head Distiller
Dented Brick Distillery

 

Virginia

Virginia Distillers Association

The The Virginia Distillers Association just celebrated our one-year marker from when we became formalized (June 2016). Since then, much progress has been made. We now have 22 Virginia DSP Members, and 17 Associate Members (suppliers) — and growing! In addition to generating revenue for the association, our Associate Membership Program has helped us acquire many in-kind services (from financial management/filing our taxes, legal counsel, website development, video editing, event partnerships and more).

Earlier this year we successfully passed legislation that now allows Virginia DSPs to sell bottles at licensed festivals and events. We believe this stride was a direct result of the industry unifying to support the development of the Virginia Distillers Association. Much of the work we’ve done over the past year has been focused on building professional relationships with our legislators and members of state government. In the next few weeks we will be surveying our membership on regulatory priorities and formalizing our legislative agenda for the 2018 General Assembly session. In tandem, we will be meeting with our representatives at their district offices, as well as inviting them out to our distilleries to advance support.

In addition, we’ve been advocating at the federal level along with DISCUS and ACSA for the CBMTRA. During their fly-ins we met with our federal representatives; and we’ve extended invites to these federal representatives to visit our distilleries and have a more personalized discussion about how the proposed tax reform will impact our constituency.

We believe in a comprehensive approach to both legislative and promotional efforts for our industry; as the promotional efforts can often build credibility for legislative initiatives. Several of our recent promotional initiatives include:

Virtual Virginia Spirits Trail on VirginiaSpirits.org

Thanks to a grant supported by the Virginia Tourism Corporation and matching crowd-sourced funds from our membership, we were able to launch several impressive upgrades to our website (and prior to our Phase 2 upgrades all work on VirginiaSpirits.org was done in-kind by our Associate Member Mountain High Media). One of the more compelling upgrades to the website is our Virtual Virginia Spirits Trail which helps travelers plan their adventures to our distilleries.

In addition to using the Virtual Virginia Spirits Trail to help you locate our distilleries, the Virtual Trail also includes:

  • A filter for finding regional restaurants and bars that are supportive and actively pouring Virginia distilled spirits.
  • A filter for locating Virginia’s 365 Virginia ABC stores.
  • A filter for Virginia’s cultural attractions and outdoor activities. Examples include historical sights, popular hiking trails and more.
  • Each filter can be sorted by region!
Meet Virginia Makers Video Series on YouTube

The Virginia Distillers Association recently launched a mini-series on YouTube called Meet Virginia Makers; featuring 22 individual stories of our industry’s most compelling spirits producers. Each distiller shares stories of enthusiasm for their individual businesses and the Commonwealth. Please visit our website for more information on the Meet Virginia Makers mini-series.

Virginia Spirits Month

“September is Virginia Spirits Month,” as proclaimed by Governor Terry McAuliffe, and incorporates state-wide promotional efforts to expand the awareness of the Virginia distilled spirits industry. Visit our website to access a quick promotional video on September Virginia Spirits Month; which discusses:

  • FREE Virginia is for Lovers trucker hat as your gift with purchase of any bottle of Virginia spirits at select ABC stores
  • Special events all across the Commonwealth, such as Fall Cocktail seminars, bottling workshops at our distilleries, and complimentary tastings at Virginia ABC stores. In addition, we’re hosting several large-scale consumer events, including:
    • 2nd Annual Virginia Craft Showcase in Roanoke, Virginia, September 16, 2017
    • The Virginia Spirits Festival in Washington, D.C., September 30, 2017
  • Regional restaurants and bars participation in the campaign by pouring and promoting Virginia spirits cocktails.
Virginia Spirits Cocktail Database on VirginiaSpirits.org

We recently launched an online cocktail recipe database on VirginiaSpirits.org. Submissions for all cocktail recipes are made by bartenders, mixologists, Virginia distillers and consumer enthusiasts. Visitors to the cocktail database can search for recipes by: Classic Cocktails, Virginia Spirits Type, Theme.

Amy Ciarametaro
Executive Director
Virginia Distillers Association

Washington

Washington Distillers Guild

It’s been an active season for the Washington Distillers Guild.

State Legislatures worked through three special sessions to fund public schools and create a budget. Despite the focus being on those two items, the WDG was successful in getting the following important legislation passed:

  • ESB 5834: The ability to store bonded and non-bonded spirits in a warehouse where we can store and handle bonded bulk spirits and bottled spirits, as well as storing tax-paid spirits not in bond.
  • SB 5589: We passed a bill giving small improvement to our sampling privileges. We can now include in our samples, mixers with alcohol of the distiller’s own production. Before this bill, we could only include 
    non-alcoholic mixers, water, and ice. These samples can be sold, but the total amount of samples per person per day is still limited to 2 ounces.

The WDG’s bill (ESSB 5145), which was suggested by the WA State LCB and would have allowed distilleries to have the same private label privileges as the state’s wineries, breweries, and cideries, became tangled in a political fight between the legislature and Costco and so failed to pass. Though private labels have been produced for the past 4 years since privatization, the legislature feels there was no law allowing them to do so, and wants the LCB to enforce the current law, rather than change the law to meet current practices. We expect to see legal challenges from Costco, and the big box stores who are currently selling private labels.

In other news:

  • The Washington Distillery Trail is now in development, with
    Phase I scheduled to go live by the end of the quarter.
  • The WDG is actively seeking an Executive Director and is negotiating terms with a very good candidate.
  • Our 5th annual PROOF Washington event was our biggest and best yet, showcasing 40 local and out-of-state distilleries, 18 restaurants, 10 vendors, and 850 customers. Distillers were able to sell bottles directly from their tasting tables, with total sales hitting over $32K. Thirty percent of the funds received go to the WDG to fund legislative and marketing efforts.
Jason Parker
Co-Founder/President
Copperworks Distilling Co.

 

Is your state guild missing?

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to reach a national audience of craft distillers and suppliers! Share your latest victories, recruit supporters, request suggestions to solve your latest challenges, and inspire fellow guilds. Email brian@artisanspiritmag.com to get involved!

 

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