Quarterly U.S. Guild Report: Fall 2015

This fall brings another round of updates from state guilds around the country. We have several new states contributing to the conversation, and new developments from some of last quarter’s contributors. In addition, we have a companion piece highlighting the hard work Michigan has taken to promote craft distilling in the state. We would also like to thank all of the passionate guild presidents, directors, and members who have taken the time to share their message with the industry.

California

California Artisanal Distillers Guild

Well, AB1233, the CA direct to consumer bill we were working on earlier in the year, has been put on hold for the time being. The reasons are varied, but as with any piece of legislation it ultimately comes down to timing and political climate. In the meantime there is good news for us in the Golden State as we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Assembly members Marc Levine and Adam Gray were able to pull together several sectors of the industry to agree on bill AB1295, which will allow not only restricted direct to consumer sales, but would also establish a special Craft Distiller’s License that would allow further privileges, as well.

The CADG is very optimistic that this bill will move forward and that by 2016 we will finally be in a position to compete on an equal footing with our colleagues in other states across the country who already enjoy these privileges. Exciting times indeed.

Within the CADG remit we also aim to enhance consumer awareness of local products and craft distilling in general, and to do this we recently formed an Events group within the guild, whose focus will be to help us achieve this goal. They recently helped to bring together over 27 members of the CADG at the Craft Spirits Carnival which was held in San Francisco in August, and was a very successful showcase for California products.

We also started a Regulations group that is looking to help bridge communications between our members and the CA ABC. We’re grateful to already have a great relationship with the CA ABC, and with both the formation of this group and AB1295 in the pipeline, we look forward to being able to support each other mutually as our industry grows.

Timo Marshall
President, CADG
Cat Herder, Spirit Works Distillery
For more information find us at www.CADSP.org

 

Colorado

Colorado Distillers Guild

Summer in Colorado means everyone is super busy including the Guild. Right now we are continuing to work with our LED, State AG office and Legislator to clarify a reinterpretation of the law that will require DSP’s who self-distribute to acquire a wholesale permit at an additional $1050.00 per year. We have also just wrapped up our economic impact study and plan to share the results with our members at our fall meeting in Breckenridge this October 23-24. This is the same weekend as the Breckenridge Spirits Festival and the Still on the Hill grand tasting, one of the best events of the year!

Looking forward we will be increasing our efforts with the Colorado Tourism Office, expanding our marketing efforts, and raising the exposure of the Colorado distilling industry in general. Our plans include a handful of very exciting opportunities that could give Colorado Distillers ongoing international exposure (You’ll have to wait for details!). Recently I met with Metro State University in Denver about expanding their hospitality program to include a degree in distillation.

For now the cocktails are cold, the sun is warm and Colorado craft distillers continue to produce some of the finest spirits in the world!

Cheers,
P.T. Wood
Alchemist /President CDG
Wood’s High Mountain Distillery
pt@woodsdistillery.com

 

Florida

Florida Distillers Guild

Florida has experienced unprecedented growth in the past 18 months. In December of 2013, there were only eight licensed distilleries in Florida. By the middle of 2015, 18 new distilleries had acquired their DSPs. There are now some 25 distilleries operating in the Sunshine State. Many more are in startup mode. The reason for the growth is simple: artisans and entrepreneurs are hedging their bets that Florida will continue to improve the business climate for distillers to operate.

In 2013, the Florida Distillers Guild was formed to unite existing distillers and create a strong voice to change prohibition-era laws to mirror those in other leading states such as CO, NY, OR and WA. At that time, distillers were prohibited from selling any bottles to customers on-site.

Guild members and its lobbying firm began the process of opening up the Florida market to craft distilleries.

It was immediately understood that that some powerful interests would oppose major change to existing laws, and a legislative battle ensued. Towards the end of that legislative session, a compromise was reached and Florida craft distillers would be allowed to make limited sales from their gift shops. It was a modest but important victory: the right to sell two bottles, per person, per year for off-premise consumption.

In early 2015, a pro-freedom Florida legislator filed ambitious legislation, asking for unlimited bottle sales from distilleries while other Florida legislators filed separate legislation increasing the number of bottles that could be sold for off-premise consumption. In the end, we achieved another victory: two bottles, per brand, per person, per year and the right to place signage on Florida highways.

Despite this remarkable progress, the Florida Distillers Guild does not operate as effectively as we originally hoped. Due to geographic reasons and that we all work 24/7 to make our businesses profitable, it’s difficult for us to get together regularly.

Nonetheless, it is our hope in the coming year that we can accomplish three important goals:

  1. Establish the 1st Annual Florida Craft Spirits Festival to promote Florida’s Craft Spirits Producers and their products to the general public.
  2. Work with VisitFLORIDA (state tourism agency) to encourage visitation to distilleries who offer tours and operate tasting rooms.
  3. Help support HR 2520 (Distillery Innovation and Excise Tax Reform Act) to lower Federal Excise Taxes on the first 100,00 gallons for distilled spirits producers.

We are excited about the future. The Sunshine State is the nation’s second largest consumer of distilled spirits. Given our state’s remarkable agricultural resources and robust tourism, Florida could become one of the nation’s leading producers of craft spirits.

Philip McDaniel
Past President, Florida Distillers Guild
Philip@staugustinedistillery.com

 

Maine

Maine Distiller’s Guild

A group of eight Maine distillers met at Sweetgrass Farm Winery & Distillery in Union, Maine to form the Maine Distillers Guild (MDG), with a purpose to join together to focus on marketing, legislative actions, and the industry needs of distilleries in Maine. A plan was established for members to work on the formation of an organization into a 501(C), set up member communication through Facebook or group website, and strategize on marketing.

Distilleries discussed their immediate concerns such as direct shipping, state liquor laws around back bar infusions, transportation of all spirits to central warehouse even if spirits are to be sold at the distillery, and a need for better communication and support from BABLO – Maine Liquor Control.

Since this initial meeting the Maine Distiller’s Guild has come together putting legislation before the state legislature on rules around pouring and elimination of the need to pass product sold at the distillery through the state warehouse. The MDG also responded to an initiative by BABLO to penalize distilleries when their products are out-of-stock at the state warehouse. Although none of our work towards these issues has been passed or accepted, we continue to educate our state representatives and BABLO officials.

Keith and Constance Bodine
Sweetgrass Farm Winery & Distillery

 

Maryland

Maryland Distillers Guild

The Maryland Distillers Guild was formed in March 2015 to represent the seven operating distilleries and those in-planning. In these first few months, we have hired an executive director, and formed several committees to develop law changes, encourage the growth of needed agricultural sources, and create events to promote the industry. The Guild was active during Maryland’s 2015 legislative session and is planning major revisions to law in 2016. We currently have 18 members and anticipate great industry growth over the next year.

Jaime Windon
Lyon Distilling Co.
President, Maryland Distillers Guild

 

Massachusetts

Massachusetts Distillers Alliance

Mass. distilleries have banded together in order to bolster the craft spirits industry.

We are proud to announce the formation of the Massachusetts Distillers Alliance: an organization of craft producers who have joined together in order to open lines of communication between distillers, foster a sense of community in the local spirits industry, educate the public, and serve as a collective voice in government affairs with regard to craft distilling.

Founding distilleries include:

  • 20 Paces Distillery (Dover)
  • AstraLuna Brands (Medfield)
  • Berkshire Mountain Distillers (Sheffield)
  • Boston Harbor Distillery (Dorchester)
  • Bradford Distillery (Hingham)
  • Bully Boy Distillers (Roxbury)
  • Damnation Alley Distillery (Belmont)
  • Dirty Water Distillery (Plymouth)
  • GrandTen Distilling (South Boston)
  • Privateer Rum (Ipswich)
  • Ryan & Wood Distilleries (Gloucester)
  • South Hollow Spirits (Truro)
  • Turkey Shore Distilleries (Ipswich)
  • Triple Eight Distillery (Nantucket)

The formation process for the guild began in 2014, with its official incorporation and the formation of a board of directors in spring and early summer of 2015. The Massachusetts Distillers Alliance is currently headed by Matt Nuernberger (President), Bob Ryan (Vice President) & Dave Roberts (Secretary). With the first official meeting taking place in late summer 2015, the Mass. Distillers Alliance will be hitting the ground running, forming initiatives to facilitate materials sourcing and cooperation between small producers.

Maggie Campbell
Head Distiller
Privateer Rum

 

Michigan

Michigan Craft Distillers Association

The Michigan Craft Distillers Association (MiCraftSpirits.org) was formed in 2014 to organize the growing number of spirit producers in the state and to serve as a united voice on legislative, promotional and business levels. Today, Michigan distilleries are actively producing award-winning vodka, rum, gin, whiskey and other unique spirits.

Currently, Michigan is one of the leaders by number of craft distilleries. With nearly 40 statewide, the potential impact of this rapidly-growing industry could contribute upwards of $400 million to the state’s economy.

UPCOMING MICHIGAN CRAFT SPIRITS EVENTS

American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition
Sept. 26-January 17, 2015 /// Grand Rapids Public Museum /// grpm.org
This exhibit explores America’s most colorful and complex constitutional hiccup, spanning from the inception of the temperance movement, through the Roaring ’20s, to the unprecedented repeal of the constitutional amendment.
Interactive elements and immersive environments bring to life the sights, sounds and experiences of the time period. Visitors have the chance to take a quiz to find out if they are a “wet” or a “dry,” learn the Charleston in a recreated speakeasy and play the role of a federal Prohibition agent chasing rumrunners in a custom-built video game.
At the end of the exhibition, visitors will explore the legacy of Prohibition in today’s regulatory landscape. Displays show why and how laws differ from state to state, and how the idea of drinking responsibly evolved.

GR Cocktail Week
Nov. 11-22, 2015 /// Experiencegr.com/cocktails
Bringing attention to the wealth of spirited bartenders and award-winning distilleries in Michigan, this inaugural 12-day celebration is presented by Experience Grand Rapids (creators of GR Restaurant Week and Cold Brews-Hot Eats). Participating restaurants feature locally-distilled spirits in their “Cocktail of the Week” which is paired with a special appetizer or small plate. Special events, including intimate cocktail dinners, are also planned. The complete schedule of events, as well as restaurant cocktail and small plate menus, is posted on the Cocktail Week website, above.

Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival
November 19-21, 2015 /// DeVos Place /// GRWineFestival.com
Michigan craft spirits have been part of the festival since it was first held in 2008, but in recent years—with a growing interest in the art and science of cocktails—the focus has been amplified. Distilleries are now featured alongside international wines, beers and ciders in this event which draws 18,000 people annually. In addition to sampling, a variety of free workshops and seminars are hosted, led by industry professionals and food and beverage experts. This year, the 8th annual event will be bigger and better than ever before—with an expanded footprint into the main exhibition hall.

Dianna Stampfler, CTA
Dianna@PromoteMichigan.com
(269) 330-4228
www.PromoteMichigan.com

 

Montana

Montana Distillers Guild

After our victories in the 2015 Legislative Session (see previous Guild report), the Montana Distillers Guild is focused on administrative rule creation to address the implementation of those new laws. Working closely with Department personnel and industry partners, we look forward to full implementation of new delivery allowances in the new year.

In addition to policy growth, the Guild will embrace membership growth, with new distilleries moving towards production. Our Guild representatives will continue to reach out to new members of our industry to highlight the benefits of membership.

We are excited about partnering with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development to elevate the distilling industry alongside our manufacturing partners of breweries and wineries, and look forward to developing opportunities for this burgeoning field in conjunction with agriculture and tourism interests.

Jennifer L. Hensley
Government Affairs Liaison

 

New Mexico

New Mexico Distillers Guild

The New Mexico Distillers Guild (NMDG) is looking forward to an active fall season building public awareness of craft spirits in New Mexico and gaining political support. Our executive committee now meets monthly by conference call and plans are to have quarterly “added value” general membership meetings. Once general business is conducted the idea is to make the most of our members’ time and travel by hosting tastings with politicians and key suppliers, distributors and accounts, or having technical meetings to help with operational issues faced by our members.

The first event is scheduled for September. In October we hope to have all members attend New Mexico Brew Fest 6 which is now growing into a showcase event for all NM craft beverage alcohol producers. Our goal is to raise awareness and build support for our legislative initiatives which include reintroduction of our retail reciprocity bill in the 2016 session, and looking ahead to 2017 when we hope to tackle state excise tax parity.

Dr. Greg McAllister
Algodones Distillery, NMDG Sec’y/Treas. 505.301.9992
greg@algodonesdistillery.com

 

New York

New York State Distillers Guild

With the support of a grant administered through TasteNY and Empire State Development, the New York State Distillers Guild is focused on building and executing a consumer and industry facing website that will build awareness of NY’s spirits and drive visitor traffic to our distilleries. This is particularly timely, as many of us are currently expanding our visitor offerings to take advantage of new privileges to sell spirits by the glass. In the next legislative session we will be working to continue to dismantle barriers to market access for all of our state’s distilleries.

Nicole Austin
Oak View Spirits
Kings County Distillery
New York State Distillers Guild
American Craft Spirits Association

 

Texas

Texas Distilled Spirits Association

Members of the Texas Distilled Spirits Association (TDSA) had the opportunity for the second straight year to help throw the signature party at the Texas Package Stores Association Convention in San Antonio on July 26th. The Package Stores Association was established over 60 years ago, organized to protect the interests of package stores, or liquor stores, in Texas, just as TDSA protects the interests of distillers in our state. Folks from all over the alcoholic beverage community gathered together during what appeared to be one of the largest industry gatherings in Texas. Manufacturers from the beer, wine, and distilled spirits arena had the opportunity to be in front of liquor store owners and employees, as well as distributors and wholesalers. The state agency that oversees our industry, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, was also in attendance. Being as Texas is a three-tier state, as is much of the United States, having the opportunity to have so many individuals from the different tiers in the same room at one time is golden, not just for business, but for relationship building opportunities from industry to industry.

Answer this question: “Why does your Association exist?”

For TDSA, we focus on four areas: Governmental Affairs, Regulatory Influence, Education/Outreach, and Marketing. TDSA has the passionate goal, as do many other guilds and associations across the country, of setting out to change the industry for the better through our lobbying efforts at the Texas Capitol. No matter how great of an argument or story you have to tell about your business or industry, you cannot go at it alone.

Texas is a competitive state, with a rich history in providing a business friendly environment. There are multiple associations and groups that represent distributors and wholesalers, manufacturers, retailers, and other special interests within our industry. Many have been around for multiple decades and have established a solid foundation. They all have their lobbying efforts and goals too, in which they are tirelessly working to protect and better their businesses.

TDSA has been spending countless hours on relationships, building long-lasting partnerships across the industry, even if we disagree on issues. It all goes back to the saying, “If you want someone to help you, it helps if they know/like you first.” Considering TDSA was established in 2012, it is imperative to us that we build our relationships and maintain an open line of communication. And this doesn’t just include those who deal directly with distilled spirits, but also the beer and wine manufacturers and wholesalers, as well. There is a lot of work to do and policy to learn in our industry, and it starts by getting to know and working together with those who have been around longer than us.

Scott T. Stewart
Executive Director & Governmental Affairs
Texas Distilled Spirits Association

 

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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