S & B Farms Distillery 

By: Gerald Dlubala

Some distilleries begin with a vision or dream that ultimately comes to fruition after years of systematic, careful research and planning. Some get their start by currently employed, industry-trained distillery professionals that feel they have something unique and personal to offer the distilled spirits world. However, few business plans begin with a strategy that includes jumping in with both feet without prior distilling knowledge. Yet for owners Sara and Brian Winkleman of S & B Farms Distillery in Bancroft, Iowa, this was the chosen path to an award-winning, sought-after line of spirits that continue to impress even the most discerning of bourbon and whiskey drinkers.

  The path to distilling started with a simple request from a friend to use Winkleman’s Iowa-grown corn, raised in the rich, nutrient-rich soil widely known to produce exceptional quality crops, to create a quality moonshine. Sara became intrigued as she watched the process of turning their family farm’s corn into moonshine at a Georgia distillery and never looked back. The distilling process piqued her interest, transformed into a fascination and finally resulted in a full-blown infatuation that flared up in her like the burner on a moonshiner’s still. She was hooked, and although her background in cosmetology and her family’s farming experiences hadn’t provided the expertise typically needed to jump into the distilling business, Winkleman would not be denied. She jumped in with both feet for what she described as a turn-and-burn learning experience that would culminate with an award-winning destination distillery that continues to grow and evolve.

  “It was not an easy path that I chose, that’s for sure,” said Winkleman. “I really was clueless about the industry, regulations and the whole nine yards. Mentors were critical, and I have to mention Mike Norman, who initially got us into the process, and Dwight Bearden, who helped us with the technical aspects. Our mentors were everything to us. We brought Mike Norman (yes, that Mike Norman) back to Iowa to teach us the most critical and crucial things we needed to know and fully understand. His experience and knowledge were an invaluable part of my passion and infatuation with distilling. At that point, my only way was forward. Having the ability to be taught and learn from a professional using a complete, hands-on approach was a blessing. We had immediate access to all the critical and hidden skills and trade secrets you can’t acquire from books or training videos, like recognizing the right textures and aromas. It can take some distillers years to learn these things without professional help or mentoring.”

  S & B Farms Distillery is 17 miles from the Winkleman family farm, where all the corn used in their distillery is still grown. The farm also has cattle, hogs, soybeans, peas and green beans for the nationally recognized Green Giant brand. The field corn is milled on-site weekly, providing the freshest ingredients to use in their spirits, with used mash returned to the farm for the cattle.

  “Our distillery, market and tasting room are about 17 miles from the farm,” said Winkleman. “The location was originally a dentist’s office with 13 small, divided rooms constructed of cinder block that we gutted and reconfigured into a distillery production area, tasting room and retail space. Our main and immediate focus at this point was production capability.”

  As daunting of a task as it all seemed, trying to accomplish it was admittedly overwhelming at times.

  “Networking was everything,” said Winkleman. “And truth be told, I had to walk away for a couple of weeks just to get some mental downtime and refocus. We had the distilling side of the business, but we also had to address the federally regulated side. And Iowa is a controlled state with a different set of rules than other areas. So again, networking played a major role in our success, this time with native distillers, so we could learn how to navigate Iowa’s regulations. We counted on many awesome people and had amazing support, creating a family atmosphere and team system.”

  S & B Farms Distillery officially opened in 2018, only a couple of short years after the initial spark of curiosity and twinkle in Sara’s eye. The first products offered to consumers included a spicy pineapple jalapeno moonshine named Field Fire, a bold-spiced savory spirit, and Private First Class, named in honor of Sara’s grandfather, Ray Baade, a World War II veteran and one of her biggest supporters along the distilling journey. There was also their Hog Wild Cinnamon, providing a fresh take on the beloved red-hot candies.

  “We never thought about growth potential at the start,” said Winkleman. “Honestly, I just concentrated on trying to hit that sweet spot across the board by producing something that we thought had a pleasing flavor and aroma but also appealed to the tastes and appreciation of consumers. It started great, with immediately positive feedback. We knew we had production where we wanted it to be, and then, of course, the pandemic hit and changed everything. So, like many distilleries, we pivoted to making sanitizers and secured the business of 15 Iowa counties, along with part of Iowa State University.”

  Ironically, this COVID-mandated pivot in their business led S & B Farms Distillery to win the 2020 Iowa Farm Bureau’s Renew Rural Iowa (RRI) Award while they grew their network of business contacts across the state.

  “Ironically, the whole COVID situation became a bit of a blessing for our business,” said Winkleman. “Our network grew through the sanitizer business. That growth led us to work with knowledgeable people that helped us develop and formulate a solid, workable business plan, find accessible funding, and source local, quality ingredients without the price-gouging that was going on with some suppliers. To this day, we maintain these awesome relationships to consistently review our business plans and change them to include things we never thought of initially, like how to bring our daughter into the business when the time comes.”

  The pandemic brought about a nationwide call to support local businesses when possible. That call to action, combined with the surge in consumers buying alcohol for home consumption, meant the demand for S & B Farms products increased while it cut spirits production to meet sanitizer demands. 

  “With the focus on local support, customers started purchasing more of our products for home use,” said Winkleman. “As that happened, our sales increased. In addition, our Sir Winston Peach Whiskey became wildly popular and was chosen by Casey’s to sell in their stores, further increasing visibility, sales and demand. As a result, we quickly outgrew our small production space and went through a 7,000-square-foot expansion in 2020. We added another still and four fermenters, essentially doubling our production capabilities. We blend, label and bottle on-premises in our controlled environment. I learned the hard way that the steam and humidity put off by the stills can affect proof, which has to be right on. One thing with me is that when I make a mistake, I will never make that again. It’s a learning experience and a teaching lesson.”

  If you, like I, were wondering how someone with little to no distilling knowledge or experience goes from deciding to make distilled spirits to an award-winning destination distillery within just a couple of years, Winkleman says it was a true turn-and-burn type process where a lot of things went in their favor once they started. With the help of friends and acquaintances and being the lucky winner of a government draw that helped small businesses get permitted, Winkleman’s business and licensing paperwork was immediately reviewed, deemed correct and accepted for approval. That meant that work could begin immediately instead of having the traditional, more extended wait period that usually occurs.

  “We were very blessed and fortunate to be able to open that quickly,” said Winkleman. “I don’t take that for granted. When I left Georgia, I jumped in with both feet to learn and digest all the needed information. There were many 16-hour days of research and learning, not just the process but what type of equipment we needed, how to locate and get that equipment and how to install it. Shop talk with my mentors was crucial and is still as important today as it was back then. It still happens regularly, and I’m truly grateful to have that knowledge base at my disposal.”

Products Reflect Personal Connections

  S & B Farms Distillery offers a range of products to please a wide range of palettes. S & B Farm’s Field Fire, Private First Class and Hog Wild accompany the Sir Winston line of spirits, named for their canine family member. Consumers will enjoy the easy-going, laid-back Sir Winston Wheat Whiskey, the classically flavored Sir Winston Bourbon with notes of vanilla, fresh oak and caramel and Sir Winston Peach or Apple for flavored spirit aficionados.

  As initially demonstrated by the release of Private First Class, Winkleman has always held great respect for military veterans. That respect and support continue with a non-profit she is starting called “Beyond The Still” to provide support and give back to veterans.

  “We bought an old house and property across from our distillery with a vision to transform it into a true veteran’s memorial park, honoring all military veterans within a large memorial area,” said Winkleman. “We estimate that it will take four to five years to complete. Additionally, we continue to offer Coming Home Bourbon, an annual special release that occurs every Veteran’s Day. As you can expect, it is very much in demand and sells out quickly.”

Priority on Flavor Leads to Awards

  Winkleman spends a lot of time on her recipes before handing them off to her husband, Brian, for distilling. She tells Beverage Master Magazine that it takes a lot of trial and error, with the ultimate goal of developing a taste that is both satisfying and remarkable in its palette-pleasing qualities. Until she hits on a flavor profile that she deems superior, she doesn’t settle. This way of coming up with her flavor profiles has been very successful, with S & B Farms Distillery winning numerous awards early-on, the latest being a gold medal for their Private First Class at the 2022 Las Vegas Spirits Awards.

Previous Awards and Recognition:

Private First Class – Spiced Spirit

•    2020 USA Spirits Ratings – Silver Medal

•    2019 North American Bourbon and Whiskey Competition – Bronze Medal

•    2019 Denver International Spirits Competition – Silver Medal

Sir Winston Bourbon

•    Sir Winston Bourbon Barrel Proof – 2021 North American Bourbon and Whiskey Competition – Silver Medal

•    Sir Winston Bourbon 93 Proof – 2021 John Barleycorn Award – Gold Medal

•    Sir Winston Barrel Proof – 2020 American Distilling Institute (ADI) Judging of Craft Spirits Awards – Silver Medal

•    Sir Winston Bourbon 93 Proof – 2020 Las Vegas Global Wine and Spirits Awards – Gold Medal

•    Sir Winston Barrel Proof – 2020 USA Ratings – Gold Medal

•    Sir Winston Bourbon 93 Proof – 2019 Great American International Spirits Competition – Bronze Medal

•    Sir Winston Barrel Proof – 2019 North American Bourbon and Whiskey Competition – Bronze Medal

Sir Winston Wheat Whiskey

•    2021 John Barleycorn Award – Silver Medal

•    2021 21st Annual Finger Lakes International Wine and Spirits Competition – Silver Medal

•    2021 North American Bourbon and Whiskey Competition – Bronze Medal

•    2021 Denver International Spirits Competition – Gold Medal

•    2020 USA Spirits Ratings – Bronze Medal

Sir Winston Peach

•    2022 Las Vegas Global Spirit Awards – Gold Medal

•    2021 21st Annual Finger Lakes International Wine and Spirits Competition – Silver Medal

•    2020 Denver International Spirits Competition – Silver Medal

•    2020 USA Spirits Ratings – Silver Medal

Hog Wild Cinnamon

•    2020 USA Spirits Ratings – Silver

•    2019 USA Spirits Ratings – Bronze

Field Fire – Spicy Pineapple Jalapeño Moonshine

•    2021 21st Annual Finger Lakes International Wine and Spirits Competition – Silver Medal

Looking Toward Expansion and

Possible Product Additions

  “Well, we’ve already maxed out our production capabilities and outgrown our latest 7,000-square-foot production expansion,” said Winkleman. “More expansion will come soon, although we haven’t detailed those plans yet. But it’s coming.”

  When asked if she would branch out into perhaps a gin or vodka, Winkleman hesitated a bit and said that currently, there really are no plans to pursue a vodka. But then a spark came through in our conversation that I expected accompanied a twinkle in her eye. “There is, though, perhaps an interest in a rum that’s been running through my mind.”

  And by now, I think we all know where that will lead.

For more information please contact…

 S & B Farms Distillery

212 E Ramsey St. Bancroft, IA 50517

Email:  sbrfarmsdistillery@gmail.com

Website:  https://sbfarmsdistillery.com

Fractional General Counsel: A Flexible Solution for Legal Services

By: Brian D. Kaider, Esq.

Every business has legal needs that require the assistance of an attorney. Like other small businesses, most breweries and distilleries do not have the resources or the need to hire a full-time, in-house general counsel. But, with the high cost of legal services, many owners only contact an attorney as a last resort.  A fractional general counsel arrangement offers a flexible solution.

What is a Fractional General Counsel?

  In broad terms, a corporate attorney can be an in-house counsel, which is a full-time employee with a salary and benefits, or an outside counsel, which is an independent contractor.  Outside counsel work under a variety of fee structures, such as an hourly rate, a flat fee, a retainer, or some combination thereof.  Flat fee arrangements are typically used for a specific, defined project, to be completed at an agreed upon price, often paid in advance.  Retainers are often a fee charged in advance by the attorney and held in an escrow account.  As the attorney completes work, fees are transferred from the escrow account to the attorney. In some cases, when the retainer drops to a certain level, the client is billed to replenish the funds. 

  A fractional general counsel is slightly different.  In this arrangement, the client pays a fixed fee for a certain amount of the attorney’s time, usually on a weekly or monthly basis.  What happens if the attorney works more or less than the allotted time can vary significantly, as discussed, below. 

Benefits of a Fractional General Counsel

  The benefit of a fractional general counsel versus a full-time in-house counsel is obviously a lower cost both in terms of salary and associated benefits.  But, it also has advantages over other forms of outside counsel.  Typically, the fees are lower than the attorney’s standard hourly rate.  More importantly, the arrangement gives the client a predictable cost it can include in its budget.  This certainty benefits the attorney, as well, particularly for solo practitioners and members of small law firms.  As legal workflow is often cyclical, the certainty of income associated with a fractional general counsel arrangement helps to balance slow periods in the practice.    

  Many small business owners only seek the advice of their attorneys when a situation is critical, because when working with an outside attorney on an hourly rate, they think about how much it will cost every time they pick up the phone. By contrast, when working with a fractional general counsel, a certain amount of the attorney’s time is already reserved to the client.  This results in a much more collaborative relationship, in which the attorney becomes an integral member of the team and has a deeper understanding of the business. Over time, the attorney develops institutional knowledge about the company that fosters better legal advice. 

Issues to Consider

  Despite the many benefits of a fractional general counsel arrangement, there are several issues that should be considered before taking the leap.  First, estimating how many hours of legal services per week/month are needed can be difficult and different attorneys handle overages and shortages of those hours in different ways.  Some will roll over unused hours to the following term.  That model is essentially an agreement for pre-paid legal services.  Others take the view that the agreement requires the attorney to allocate a certain number of hours to be available to the client during that month, so the fee is earned whether the hours are used or not. 

  If the attorney works more than the allocated hours, they are often billed at an agreed hourly rate.  Alternatively, there may be a built-in buffer of ten percent, for example.  So, if the contract is for 20 hours per month, the fee would cover 18-22 hours of legal services.  If fewer than 18 hours were used, they would roll over to the following month and if more than 22 hours were used, they would be billed at the attorney’s hourly rate.  It is also a good idea to build into the agreement a periodic review of usage to determine whether it makes sense to increase or decrease the estimated need.

  This raises another issue to consider when deciding whether a fractional general counsel arrangement is a good fit; they usually require a commitment to a minimum term, such as; 12 months, 6 months, or at least 3 months.  This is because the purpose of the arrangement is to promote an attorney-client relationship that fosters a deeper understanding of the business.  If the client’s goal is simply to lower the cost of legal services for a specific, short-term project, the better approach is to negotiate a flat fee with the attorney.  Typically, if a client terminates a fractional general counsel arrangement before the minimum term, the fee structure will revert to the attorney’s standard hourly billing rate, which will become immediately due. 

  Regarding the types of legal services they will likely need under the fractional general counsel agreement, the client should carefully consider the expertise and experience of the attorney or firm.  As the name suggests, a “general counsel” has broad knowledge of a wide variety of legal issues a business needs.  But, there will likely be gaps that have to be filled with other attorneys.  The agreement should be clear about the fractional general counsel’s role in managing these outside attorneys.  Because of this issue, it may seem that a large firm would be the best candidate for the role, because with more attorneys there are likely to be fewer gaps.  There is a risk, though, of losing one of the primary benefits of a fractional general counsel, which is having a single attorney with a deep understanding of the business.  The bigger the firm involved, the more likely the attorney in charge of the representation will be out-of-touch with the actual work being performed by other, usually junior, attorneys. 

Who Should Consider a Fractional General Counsel?

  When is the right time for a brewery or distillery to consider a fractional general counsel?  While most small businesses can benefit from these arrangements, there are two stages when they can be particularly useful; at start-up and before a planned growth.  At the earliest stages of the business, there are a wide variety of legal needs, including; formation of the entity, creating operating agreements and other contracts, obtaining licenses and permits, registering trademarks, negotiating a lease or land purchase, etc.  Having an attorney that can handle and/or manage all of these areas can alleviate stress and allow the owner to focus on the many other issues requiring attention.  For first-time owners, there will also be many questions along the way.  Having an attorney who is on the team allows those questions to be answered without having to worry about getting a bill every time they pick up the phone.

  An established brewery or distillery that is entering a growth phase presents many of the same types of issues.  They may need to restructure the company or negotiate new leases or land purchases.  Changes will need to be made to their licenses and permits, etc. 

  Does this mean that companies falling in between start-up and expansion are not right for a fractional general counsel?  Absolutely not.  This is the stage when the deep understanding coming from a long-term relationship can really shine.  An attorney who is familiar with the business can more accurately audit existing contracts to assess any legal exposure or where improvements can be made.  If the business has registered trademarks, routine monitoring should be undertaken to ensure they are not being infringed by other companies.  Internal regulatory compliance audits can identify vulnerabilities before action is taken by the government.  In other words, the fractional general counsel can focus on more in-depth legal issues for the business once it is outside the frenetic start-up stage.

Conclusion

  Eventually, some breweries and distilleries may need to hire a full-time in-house general counsel.  Most will never get that big.  But, having an attorney who is deeply familiar with the business and can handle most of the company’s legal needs is a tremendous benefit.  Traditionally, outside attorneys are hired on an hourly or flat fee basis.  But, the fractional general counsel arrangement offers several advantages, including, lower fees, predictability of legal costs, and development of institutional knowledge in the business.

  Brian Kaider is the principal of KaiderLaw, a law firm with extensive experience in the craft beverage industry. He has represented clients from the smallest of start-up breweries to Fortune 500 corporations in the navigation of regulatory requirements, drafting and negotiating contracts, prosecuting trademark and patent applications, and complex commercial litigation.

Start Your Brand Sooner

By: Kris Bohm, owner of Distillery Now Consulting

There is nearly a new beverage alcohol business opening every day in North America. Craft beer, wine and spirits are growing immensely in popularity and many people are entering the industry with hope to capitalize on this opportunity. Starting a new business and entering the beverage alcohol industry is challenging to do well and succeed at it. Many new entrants start by building a business that handles all aspects from manufacturing, branding, packaging, marketing, sales, and even distribution. For a new entrant to the business, learning all these aspects of business and succeeding at them is a huge challenge that requires a team of experts. There is an alternative way to get a new beverage alcohol business started without nearly as many challenges to overcome from day one. This alternative is called co packing. It is possible to work with a manufacturer who will make your product for you. By contracting out the production of your product you can focus on the two most critical aspects of a beverage business which is sales and marketing.

What is Co-packing

  Co-packing comes in many shapes and sizes. In essence a co-packer is a facility that produces beverages that offers services to manufacture products for other brands. Essentially you can contract a manufacturer to make your product for you. This can be beer, wine, distilled spirits, ready to drink cocktails or nearly anything else.

  Co-packers offer the opportunity to launch a brand for far less capital outlay than the common path which is building your own manufacturing facility. By removing the capital intensive aspects of manufacturing a product, the owners of a new product gain the freedom to focus on the marketing and sale of their product.

How Copacking Works

  If one would like to create a brand new product and bring it to market the copacker does the manufacturing for you. You can bring an idea for a product to a manufacturer and they will create the product for you. Let’s explore the process step by step you would take to bring a new brand of vodka to market through a co-packer.

•    The first step is to find a co-packer that is a good fit for you.

•    Search for companies that offer co packaging services as not all manufacturers co-pack.

•    Once you have found a company to work with, the next step is to find out the constraints of the copacker.

•    Copackers will have constraints on certain sizes and shapes of bottles, corks and labels that they can work with, understanding these constraints is essential to the design phase.

•    Determine what type of packaging will work with your co-packer.

•    Select packaging the works and fits for your brand and your copacker.

•    Design your brand, including logos, names and artwork.

•    Take a break and have a drink.

•    While you are stopping for a drink, now is a good time to consider the liquid in the bottle. You need to select what the product will taste like and where it will come from.

•    Select the sources and recipes for the liquid that will become your product.

•    Sign a contract with your co-packer and put the pieces together.

•    Have your copacker manufacture the product.

•    Launch your brand.

  Just like that you now have your very own brand new shiny brand of vodka and in most cases now have several pallets of vodka to sell. These steps all sound quite simple, but there are many layers of work underneath this list. Beneath every step there are decisions and details that are critical to the product. Let’s explore some of these key steps and how to best make those decisions.

  The liquid in the bottle is important but more important than the liquid is the brand itself. Putting in work to create a professional looking brand along with label artwork and selecting design elements are all crucial steps to creating a successful brand. Unless you have extensive experience in beverage branding and marketing the creation of a new brand is best handled by people who have experience in the industry. The look and feel of your new product is the biggest opportunity to get consumers to consider trying the product. If you take a minute and walk through your local liquor story you will likely find a few bottles that do not look professional or polished. These not so great looking products are often born out of someone starting a new product without any experience or professionals on their team with alcohol branding and design experience. Hiring a professional at this stage is a good investment to help your brand put its best foot forward. The next step is selecting the liquid that goes into your bottle. There is an abundance of distilleries that will sell spirits to you in bulk that can be packaged up into your own brand. Whether its Vodka, Gin, Rum or Whiskey, all types of spirits can be bought in bulk. Tasting a variety of bulk spirits and looking closely at cost is key to selecting your spirits.

  At this point you should have all the pieces designed and selected including the bottle, label, cork, case, spirits and brand. With this all lined out your copacker can go to work and produce your product.

  There are strong arguments that co-packing is the smart path to launch a brand and some folks will say that co-packing is not the best choice. Let’s compare and contrast the pros and cons of co-packing, as knowing the good and the bad can give you the knowledge needed to weigh your options and make the best choice possible.

The Case for Co-packing

  It takes extensive time and financial resources to launch a brand. Much of the resources needed to launch successfully must be committed to marketing and sales to get a brand into the market and onto store shelves. Co-packing allows new brands to conserve money, time and energy that would be put into manufacturing and direct that energy into sales and marketing. This approach affords a new entrant into beverage alcohol the chance to learn the nuances of the business with much less overhead. Mistakes are expensive to make and outsourcing the production work of a new brand ensures that you will make less mistakes when it comes to producing the product. The strong advantage of not producing the product is you do not have to carry the high overhead of funding a manufacturing facility.

The Case Against Co-packing

  Co-packing is expensive. If you are paying a company to manufacture your product, it will cost more per unit to produce a product than it would if you took the manufacturing process under your wing. Co-packers markup the cost of producing a product to cover their costs of overhead, labor and to turn a profit. Another argument against co-packing is control. When a co-packer is producing your product you will not have direct control over every aspect of the manufacturing process. It is easy to make mistakes that might not be made if the manufacturing is handled in house. A key step to mitigating this risk is working with your co-packer to define their quality control in the manufacturing process to protect against mistakes.

What Should a New Brand Do?

  It is not an easy question to answer what is the best way for each individual business to create and launch a new product. Many factors must be considered to make an informed decision. While co-packing is perfect for some it can be a bad fit for others. A consultant or person with extensive industry experience is the best way to make an informed decision on how to launch.

  Creating a new brand can be a challenging and also extremely rewarding business endeavor. Doing it the right way and finding success will make it that much more rewarding.

Tips for Taxed Business Owners in 2023

By: Raj Tulshan, Founder of Loan Mantra

If you’re worried about finances and retirement – and after facing inflation at a record 40 year high this year, who isn’t? – there is a little good news from the IRS. Due to soaring inflation, reported at 8.2% over the past year, the IRS has raised contribution limits on 401(k)s and IRAs for 2023. In fact, inflation is at its highest level since 401(k) annual indexing began, causing 7% to 11% increases for most 2023 contribution limits. These changes are intended to help offset the higher cost of living.

  For the coming year, the maximum amount that people can contribute to their 401(k) has risen to $22,500, a $2,000 increase. The annual 401(k) employee contribution limit typically goes up by smaller increments – usually around $500 at a time – but sky-high inflation has led to a more significant increase for 2023.

  The limit on total employer-plus-employee contributions will also increase significantly to $66,000 in 2023, up $5,000 from $61,000 in 2022. Again, these increases are usually made in smaller increments – typically $1,000 – but given the unusual state of our economy, it will increase five-fold for the coming year.

Max Out Contributions

  With the annual 401(k) contribution limit rising, many people might think they must take advantage of this increase but may worry that they can’t afford to contribute the maximum amount to their retirement accounts. Many financial experts would advise that your personal contributions depend on your individual goals, salary and financial situation. Employer matching can help. Often employers provide an incentive to encourage their employees to save for retirement by matching contributions (either in full or in part) up to a certain threshold.

  If you feel pressure to “keep up with the Joneses,” keep in mind that most people aren’t contributing the current (lower) maximum amount to their 401(k). A recent Vanguard report discovered that only 14% of people with Vanguard 401(k) accounts were contributing the maximum amount allowed in 2022. And more than half (58%) of those people were earning annual salaries of $150,000 or more at the time.

Boost IRA’s

  There is more good news for retirement accounts. In 2023, people can get an extra boost for their IRA savings. As income tax thresholds have risen, so have the income limits for IRA contributions. Like a 401(k), an IRA can be effective way to save tax-free money for retirement.

  The amount you can save into an IRA plan will increase from $6,000 to $6,500 next year – or $7,500 for people aged 50+. For people over age 50, or who have 15+ years of service for a 403(b) plan, you may be able to contribute significantly more than this – as much as $30,000 – through “catch-up” contributions.

  As a financial professional who has witnessed the ups and downs of the U.S. economy over the years, I offer the following advice:

Stay Calm – Although the current state of the economy – and record-high inflation – is worrisome, it’s wise to stay calm and focused on your long-term financial goals. Saving for retirement has never been a “quick fix.” People spend their entire adult lives working towards their retirement goals, and there will always be ebbs and flows to the economy over time. The best thing you can do in any economy is consistently save and invest, not making any sudden moves based on what the market is doing.

Focus on Slow Increases – Small increases to your contribution rate – even raising your contribution by 1% – can make a big difference in your retirement savings over time. What may feel like an insignificant amount right now can really add up over the next few decades.

Contribute Enough to Earn Your Employer’s Match – If your employer offers to match a percentage of your contributions, prioritize contributing enough to earn the full match. If you don’t take full advantage of the employee matching program, you’re essentially leaving “free money” behind.

Build Loyalty –  Employee wages, compensation and retirement savings matches are tax deductible as well.

Contribute Early and Consistently – Regardless of how much money you can contribute to retirement, it’s essential to start early and keep contributing consistently. It’s wise to start contributing to your retirement account as early as possible so your money can earn interest over time.

Strive to Invest 12% to 15% of Your Annual Salary Towards Retirement – If that seems unfeasible, try increasing your contributions slowly over time. For instance, if you’re currently investing 5% of your salary, aim to increase to 6% next year, and 7% the following year, and so on until you reach this target.

  Learn more about the contribution changes for 2023 by visiting Notice 2022-55 on IRS.gov and talk to a financial expert about your own financial goals and how to reach financial freedom for your retirement. In addition, there are a few more tips for taxed business owners.

Take Advantage of Business Tax Deductions

  There are options for business owners, too. Make sure your business is making the most out of the current tax deductions available to business owners and entrepreneurs. Tax deductions can greatly reduce a business owners tax liability, saving money. Many business owners are aware of the typical expenses that are eligible for tax credits like: Inventory, meals and entertainment, Office Supplies, Medical Insurance, Employee Wages and Advertising and marketing. But an often-overlooked expense is interest paid on business loans or lines of credit.

  A record number of businesses took out small business loans in the past 2 years. Small business loans that are issued through financial institutions, alternative lenders and online lending marketplaces or FinTechs like Loanmantra.com are financing options for small businesses and have deductible interest expenses. Loans issued through the Small Business Administration or SBA and guaranteed as part of the Infrastructure and Reinvestment Act also have interest that is deductible if the money is used strictly for legitimate business purposes.

Purchase Equipment Sooner Not Later

  End-of-year small business spending can save businesses money through tax benefits or year-end sales. For instance, in 2022, expenses on equipment or a depreciation of 100% of the purchase price can be taken. In 2023, taxpayers only receive 80% toward the purchase price of those same expenditures.

  In early 2023, car dealers who are looking to unload last year’s vehicle model will be more willing to discount vehicles from the previous year to make way for new inventory. The same may be true for technology and software subscriptions. Any way you look at it, there are many angles to come up with new ways to tackle taxes to provide some relief from tax time grief.

About the Author

  Neeraj (Raj) Tulshan is the Founder and Managing Member of Loan Mantra, a financial advisory firm with best-in-class and proprietary fintech, BLUE (“Borrower Lender Underwriting Environment”). Loan Mantra, Powered by BLUE, is next-level finance: a one-stop-shop for business borrowers to secure traditional, SBA or MCA financing from trusted lenders in a secure, collaborative, and transparent platform. Clients turn to Raj because they know he will always pick up the phone and offer unparalleled financial counsel in a remarkably human—even friendly—way.

About Loan Mantra

  Small business owners identify two obstacles to their success: access to capital and financial education. Loan Mantra removes these hurdles so business owners can spend more time actually building their business.

For more information visit their website…www.loanmantra.com

Make Your Product Stand Out in a Crowded Marketplace

Barrel Chest Beer & Wine Store – Roanoke, VA

By: Scott MacKenzie, Founder and CEO of Gaslight Studios

Walk into the local supermarket or liquor store and its beer and wine sections all have one thing in common – a diverse array of macro, micro and craft beers all competing for the customers’ attention.

  With all this visual noise, how can you ensure that your beer will stand out in a crowded and highly competitive marketplace? While product quality and taste are important, it is not always  a guarantee for success. Often, success comes from a combination of factors that are led by an impactful visual identity that connects with your target audience.

  Developing a successful brand is not simply designing an eye-catching label or logo. It requires the development of a powerful narrative that authentically connects with and motivates your existing and potential customers. What is your brand story? What promise are you making? What are your key attributes and fundamental pillars? What is your brand personality? Are you refined and sophisticated? Are you bold, edgy and sarcastic? Are you heartfelt, understanding and caring? Maybe you are a combination of all these traits.

  Brands aren’t born iconic, but they do need to be strategically and meticulously crafted and launched with intention so as to allow for the opportunity to become widely recognized and well-established. With this in mind, the first step in developing your brand is understanding who you are, what you stand for and what values you wish to convey. As you solidify these fundamental tenets, you also need to dive head-first into the world of your customer base. Who are you selling to and what are their wants, needs, preferences and expectations?

  Does this all sound overwhelming?  Fortunately, it doesn’t need to be. Whether you’re preparing to launch your first craft beer brand, opening a brewpub or taproom, or have been in the beverage business for years and decided now is the time for a thoughtful re-branding, it’s imperative that you do your due diligence to guarantee that the brand you cultivate is the correct brand for the market. And how do you do that?

Understand the Sandbox You’re Playing In

  Knowledge is power. Gather all available data on your marketplace, customer base, competition and if you’re an existing brand, your own history of successes and failures. What is your consumer looking for? What are your competitors providing? What is the market demanding and missing? Conducting extensive discovery and market research will allow you to make more informed and better decisions as you craft your own brand.  Nothing happens in a vacuum and ignoring external factors as you cultivate your own image is a recipe for failure.

Beware the Lure of Trends

  Trends come and go, so while you can ride the trend train in some of your marketing efforts, it’s best to ignore that tempting, low-hanging fruit as you develop your core identity.  If what is popular in the moment is fundamentally tied into the foundation of your brand, the minute those trends go out of fashion, your brand will feel old and outdated. Brands that last feel timeless.

Strike the Right Balance – Be Different – Feel Familiar

  Your brand needs to stand out from the crowd, but it should also feel like it belongs. Be new and fresh and different, but not to the point that it feels completely out of place. Strong brands differentiate themselves from the competition but also evoke a sense of familiarity and connectedness.

Don’t Try and Be Everything to Everyone

  Know who you are and connect with your target customer base where they live through a sense of shared values and common sensibilities. While you want to cast the widest net possible to maximize potential sales, you also need to drive in the appropriate lane and take the right route to get where you want to go.  Sometimes, trying to create a ubiquitous brand that is everything to everyone makes you nothing to no one.

Verbalize and Agree Upon Your Company Goals

  It is essential that you and your branding team are on the same page. Work together to ensure a mutual understanding of your short and long-term company goals. Do you want to always be a local or regional brand? Do you have lofty goals of national and international sales? Do you want to maintain an existing customer base while opening new markets? While this may not necessarily influence your brand narrative, it’s important to fully understand the factors that require consideration.

Set Brand Boundaries

  To guarantee that the brand remains consistent over time, it is important to develop strong brand guidelines that will ensure proper representation of the brand through the various channels of execution over the life of the brand, such as advertising, public relations, digital, signage, etc. If these brand boundaries are not firmly established, the brand can easily veer off course as you implement new campaigns and diversify your product offerings.

Remember

  Crafting a new brand takes the same level of care and attention to detail as making an award-winning double IPA. It also requires slight adjustments throughout the development process to ensure that the end result is what you want and need. So, assemble the right team, get crafting and never underestimate the power of a good tagline.

Embracing the Creative Niche of Craft Beer Cocktails

By: Alyssa L. Ochs

The basic concept of the cocktail revolves around mixing ingredients with traditional spirits, such as vodka, gin, whiskey and rum. However, craft beer can blend surprisingly well into cocktails, too – if you only have an open mind and give it a chance!

  Mixing beer with other ingredients is nothing new, but it has never caught on popularly in the brewing industry. This drink strategy is still attempted mainly by at-home mixologists looking to entertain guests at parties. But as an increasing number of breweries are now branching out to offer wine and cocktails for non-beer drinkers, there are excellent opportunities to add craft beer cocktails to the menu for an even greater diversity of choice.

What’s In Craft Beer Cocktails?

  Although you can use any kind of beer to make a cocktail, certain beer styles lend themselves better than others to mixing in creative ways. It is very common to see light, easily palatable beers, such as lagers and blonde ales, in beer cocktails because they are not overpowering and can easily take on the flavors of other ingredients. Dark and rich beers, namely stouts and porters, work well with cocktail recipes because of their inherent sweetness and full-bodied nature that pairs well with chocolate, coffee, caramel, berries and vanilla.

Some adventurous mixologists have found success mixing bright and hoppy IPAs with other ingredients to tame down a bold beer and make it more versatile for different palates. With a bit of mixing practice, certain cocktails, such as the Long Island iced tea, can work exceptionally well with an IPA or hoppy pale ale. Aside from the traditional beers that you’ll find at breweries, hard ciders are becoming especially popular in cocktails because of the sweet and tart flavors that work well with fruity mixers.

  Some of the most common ingredients that you’ll find mixed with craft beer to make cocktails are non-alcoholic beverages, such as lemonade, orange juice, sparkling soda and ginger beer. To give beer cocktails an extra kick, mixologists can use hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce, or to make them sweet, they can add a bit of simple syrup or fruit-based liquor, which also increases the overall alcohol content. Garnishes make craft beer cocktails festive and fun, so, depending on the flavor profile, you can top them off with a lemon wedge, orange slice, cherry or salted glass rim.

Beer Cocktail Recipe Ideas

  Within the realm of spirit-based cocktails are the tried-and-true favorites, such as the Manhattan, gimlet or martini. Even though craft beer cocktails aren’t quite as famous, there are still traditional recipes that are easy to make and familiar to recognize.

  For example, a summer shandy recipe may mix wheat beer, lemonade, a splash of sparkling soda and lemon garnish. If you prefer beer over Champagne, try a beermosa, a beer-centric version of the mimosa that mixes a lager with orange juice and has an orange slice for the garnish. Yet one of the most common beer cocktails you will see on brewery menus is the michelada, a tamer take on a traditional bloody mary. A michelada mixes a light Mexican lager beer with clamato or tomato juice, lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, soy sauce, Tajín seasoning and a lime wedge for garnish.

  Beyond these classic recipes, brewery bartenders can use their imaginations and get creative with mixing their own beer. Beer cocktails are ideal drinks for brunch because they’re light, fun and don’t take themselves too seriously. At your favorite local brewery, would you try a porter mixed with cold-brew iced coffee and a bit of cream? Or perhaps you might kick your weekend off with a peach-inspired beer cocktail that mixes an IPA with vodka, peach nectar and lime juice? Of course, these are just a few examples, but the sky is the limit with how you can alter your beer to create interesting combinations that excite the tastebuds and entice beer fans to walk into your tasting room.

The Appeal of Craft Beer Cocktails

  When local craft beer scenes started emerging all over the country in the 2000s and 2010s, brewers focused on making traditional beers well, with some experimentation thrown in to keep things interesting. But these days, some beer aficionados will tell you that the craft beer market is oversaturated and that too many breweries are producing similar products for any one of them to stand out as unique and be successful.

  In many places, breweries have become social gathering places, food destinations and event spaces just as much as they are beer providers. Consumers are always looking for the next big thing from their local breweries, whether it is a rotating schedule of events, versatile venues that welcome kids and dogs or expanded menus that cater to diverse tastes.

  This evolution of modern breweries creates opportunities for craft beer cocktails to emerge and brewpubs to stand out in the competition. These cocktails have a unique appeal because they can be lighter and more balanced than a standard pint of beer. When you mix beer with other ingredients, the result is often a more complex body, enhanced carbonation, less acidity and altered sweetness or bitterness, depending on the desired style. Beer-inspired cocktails also challenge brewers and consumers to rethink everything they thought they knew about the taste of beer and celebrate the changing seasons.

Breweries Giving Beer Cocktails a Try

  However, you still won’t find a list of craft beer cocktails on most breweries’ menus today. The trend has yet to catch on significantly, as these drinks remain niche and are only offered by the occasional brewery bartender with a cocktail background. Yet this only makes breweries with an open mind and spirit of experimentation stand out in the industry even more.

  Located in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, Brew Lab 101 is a family-friendly brewery and cidery with an extensive cocktail list. In addition to serving spirit cocktails, Brew Lab 101 also serves beer and cider cocktails. Examples are the A La Chelada, a Mexican lager paired with bloody mary mix, and Dill with Pickle Beer, a blend of a lager or blonde ale with pickle juice and served with a big slice of pickle.

  Dry Dock Brewing of Aurora, Colorado, introduced its Docktails line of drinks based on classic cocktails. The brewery’s first releases in this series were a beer-based strawberry basil daiquiri, cucumber margarita and paloma. Another Colorado brewery, Living the Dream Brewing Company, has released beer cocktails in cans to tap into this market. Living the Dream has produced beers replicating classic cocktails that people know and love, such as the old fashioned, Moscow mule, margarita and mojito. The Durango, Colorado-based Ska Brewing has offered a barrel-aged whiskey sour and raspberry julep on its menu to combine both beer and spirits – the best of both worlds.

  Meanwhile, some breweries have also become interested in distilling spirits and dabbled in both industries at the same time. This unique craft beverage model lends itself well to craft cocktail mixing and individual experimentation. Maplewood Brewing & Distilling in Chicago, Illinois, is an excellent example of this model and has developed beer-inspired spirits, such as the Fat Pug American Malt Whiskey, inspired by the brewery’s popular oatmeal stout. Other Chicago breweries, including Burnt City Brewing and Casa Humilde, have been leaning into the michelada-inspired cocktail and hard soda trends to test the waters of alternative beverages and meet the demands of customers who want greater variety.

  Proper Brewing Company in Salt Lake City, Utah and Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, New York are a couple of other breweries to keep an eye on if you are interested in what’s next for beer cocktails. In addition to breweries that produce their own in-house beer, trendy craft beer bars are also jumping on the beer cocktail trend. Vandaag in New York City, Jasper’s Corner Tap & Kitchen in San Francisco and The Tripel in Playa del Rey, California, are just a few examples of bars experimenting with beer mixology.

Integrating Beer Cocktails Into the Menu

  Indeed, some challenges are involved in creating beer cocktails and serving them at local breweries. To start, traditionalists may scoff at the very notion of mixing beer with anything else and reject the idea because it ruins the way beer was intended to be. Adding beer cocktails to a brewery’s menu showcases the mixology talents of the brewery team, but it can also require additional training for the staff. In these post-pandemic times, many breweries are still struggling to retain staff at all, and adding more work to their teams could put a considerable strain on more essential operations.

  Yet there are plenty of potential benefits to adding craft beer cocktails onto a brewery’s menu and seeing if this trend resonates with a loyal customer base. It may be worth offering discounted specials on beer cocktails on particular nights of the week to entice customers to try them. Seasonal-inspired beer cocktails featuring the flavors of pumpkin, apple and cranberry can be festive additions to a rotating menu lineup. Yet it’s essential to provide detailed descriptions of what is contained in each beer cocktail so that patrons understand exactly what they are and appreciate the flavor pairings. Mixing other ingredients with beer on tap is a great starting point for local breweries to try this trend, but there are also opportunities to branch out into pre-mixed, packaged beer cocktails for retail sale.

  It’s impossible to tell whether craft beer cocktails will catch on in the industry in a big way or whether pure, authentic beer will always be the preferred drink of choice in the end. But for now, it’s definitely a fun way to switch up your standard drink order at the local watering hole or get crafty with a few ingredients in your kitchen for a cozy night at home.

Uncovering the Hazards of Adulterated Tequila

Keeping Your Products Pure for Better Taste and Quality  

By: Alec and Ana Tesa

When it comes to distillation, quality and consistency are key components for a product that is worthy of consumer loyalty. Unfortunately, as the alcohol industry continues to grow, so do the possibilities of encountering counterfeit spirits or poor-quality imitations – particularly when discussing tequila. While it’s easy to overlook minor discrepancies in taste or color caused by adulteration during production, these small changes can add up quickly and adversely affect your business.

Quality Issues Associated with Tequila Production

  The production of tequila has been around for centuries, and it has long been celebrated as one of the most popular spirits consumed worldwide. However, with such a high level of popularity comes an increased demand for the product, which can lead to quality issues in its production. One major issue is the agave plant, the main ingredient used in tequila production.

  Many producers have resorted to using poor-quality, premature agave plants or adulterated mixtures in order to cut costs and boost their profit margins. This can result in substandard tequila that lacks flavor or consistency. Additionally, many producers take shortcuts during the distillation process, resulting in a spirit that is not up to standard quality requirements.

  Another issue surrounding tequila production is related to the fermentation process. Certain profiles of Tequila (Reposado and Anejo for the most part) must be aged in oak barrels before it can be sold on the market, but some producers may opt to use non-oak barrels or even plastic containers instead. This results in an inferior product with lower levels of flavor and complexity due to oxidation being prevented by non-oak containers. Moreover, improper fermentation processes can also create off flavors, aromas, and contamination from undesired microorganisms.

  Lastly, another quality concern regarding tequila production relates directly to labeling regulations and accuracy. In Mexico, and most other countries for that matter, there are strict labeling regulations when it comes to spirits like tequila.

For example, bottles must clearly state what type of agave was used and if any additives were added during production (e.g., sugar syrup). Moreover, labels must also display information about alcohol content and aging time for each product too.

  Without accurate labeling standards being enforced by lawmakers, it’s difficult for consumers to know exactly what they are purchasing – leading them vulnerable to unknowingly consuming low-quality products with inferior ingredients or distillation methods employed during production.

The Risks of Adulterated Tequila and its Impact on Future Sales

  Tequila, historically, has been known as a spirit made from blue agave and produced in Mexico. It is an iconic beverage that has become popular among many cocktail enthusiasts and drinkers. Unfortunately, over the years, there have been cases of adulterated tequila being produced and sold on the market. This type of tequila contains additives or substitutes that are not traditionally used in the production process and can result in a product that may taste different or have negative health consequences.

  Adulterated tequila is often created to cut costs and increase profit margins for producers. This can lead to dangerous consequences for unsuspecting consumers who buy what they think is pure tequila but isn’t. Some of these risks include potential allergic reactions caused by added preservatives or coloring agents and problems with alcohol content if the tequila does not contain all-natural ingredients. Furthermore, it is important to note that this type of alcohol can also lack flavor and complexity compared to traditional tequila due to its lower-quality ingredients.

  The impact of adulterated tequila on future sales could be significant if consumers become aware of its dangers. People looking for an authentic experience may be hesitant to purchase any product that could be an imitation or an inferior version of what they thought they were getting. In addition, retailers may decide not to carry certain brands if they suspect the tequila might be counterfeit or unsafe for their customers. As a result, producers who produce authentic tequila have a responsibility to ensure that their product is safe and meets regulatory standards in order to protect their brand’s integrity and consumer trust.

The Dangers of Spoiled Ingredients During Distillation

  When it comes to distilling alcohol, understanding how to handle spoiled ingredients is essential. Spoiled ingredients can not only affect the flavor of the end product but can also introduce bacteria into the process, leading to health and safety risks. To avoid these dangers, it is important that distillers always check the quality of their ingredients before they begin distilling. This means examining the color and smell of each ingredient, as well as checking for any visible signs of spoilage. If any ingredient is found to be spoiled, it should not be used in the process.

  In addition to examining each individual ingredient, it is important for distillers to take special care when sourcing their supplies. Ingredients should come from trusted sources with a good track record in terms of freshness and safety.

  It is also important that all ingredients are stored properly prior to use; refrigeration is often necessary for food-based ingredients like fruits and grains, while other materials such as alcohol must be stored away from light and heat sources.

  Regularly inspecting storage containers can help ensure that spoiled or contaminated materials are not inadvertently used during the distillation process.

Identifying Untrustworthy Suppliers in Tequila Production

  The importance of identifying untrustworthy suppliers in tequila production is paramount to the success and safety of your business. There are a few key steps to take when evaluating potential suppliers for tequila production.

  First, research the company’s history and track record. Take a look at how long they have been in business, their past experiences with customers, any complaints filed against them, and more.

  It is also important to look into the quality of the products and services they provide. Make sure to ask any questions you may have about how they produce their product, what process they use, how often they test it and what happens if there is an issue with the quality of their product.

  Look at the supplier’s financial stability as well. Make sure that they are able to meet all of your requirements for payment terms and that they can continue to provide quality supplies over time without going out of business or becoming unreliable. You should also ensure that you have access to their up-to-date contact information in case any issues arise during your transaction with them.

  Finally, make sure you thoroughly review any contracts or agreements you enter into with a supplier before signing them. This includes ensuring you understand all of the terms and conditions and verifying that everything written in the contract is accurate and legal. Doing this will help ensure that all parties involved are protected from any future misunderstandings or disputes.

  Overall, taking the time to identify untrustworthy suppliers in tequila production is essential for ensuring the success of your business’s operations moving forward.

Minimize Risk by Ensuring High-Grade Spirits Are Delivered to Consumers

  When it comes to the consumption of alcoholic beverages, safety is a priority. The risk associated with consuming low-grade spirits can be potentially dangerous and even fatal. That’s why ensuring that only high-grade spirits are delivered to consumers is important. Doing this can reduce the risk of adverse health effects from consuming these beverages.

  High-grade spirits are defined as those that have been produced under stringent quality control processes and contain higher levels of pure alcohol, such as vodka and other distilled liquors. These products must meet certain standards in order to be classified as “high grade,” which include passing through all necessary steps in the distillation process and passing tests for purity and alcohol content. Furthermore, they must also have a long shelf life in order to provide consumers with the highest quality product possible.

  The importance of ensuring that only high-grade spirits are delivered to consumers cannot be overstated – these products provide a higher level of safety and can also reduce the risk of intoxication due to their higher concentrations of alcohol. Furthermore, by providing consumers with high-grade spirits, they can enjoy the taste and quality associated with drinking them without any fear of health risks or potential intoxications due to low-grade impurities or chemicals in lower-quality products. This not only protects people from possible harm but helps them maintain a healthier lifestyle as well.

  Overall, minimizing risk by ensuring high-grade spirits are delivered to consumers is essential for protecting public health and safety both now and in the future. By taking this approach, we can help ensure that people remain safe when consuming alcoholic beverages while still being able to enjoy their favorite drinks with confidence, knowing that they are made from the highest quality ingredients available on the market today.

  Ultimately, all these factors together – quality assurance, reliable suppliers and attention to detail during distillation – ensure that customers receive only the best tequila available. If companies in the industry can focus on delivering high-grade spirits with safety and trustworthiness as their top priorities, they will be able to provide superior customer experiences while also safeguarding their bottom lines.

About Eleven20 Tequila

  Eleven20 Tequila is an award-winning tequila crafted with traditional distilling techniques and a passion for excellence. Founded by a husband and wife team, the brand uses only premium blue agave sourced from producers in the region. Through their commitment to quality, Eleven20 Tequila has become recognized as an innovator of flavor and aromas, with its signature blend being celebrated by mixologists and connoisseurs alike. With a culture rooted in respect for tradition, expertise, and craftsmanship, each bottle of Eleven20 Tequila is a testament to the highest standards of excellence.

The Growth of Northwest Portland’s Gin Distilleries    

By: Becky Garrison

On September 23, 2022, Aviation Gin celebrated the opening of the Aviation American Gin Distillery and Visitor Center.  Per their press release, “this state-of-the-art, nearly 33,000-square-foot facility features an intimate tasting room, exceptional draft cocktail bar and gift shop.” This facility has been in development since Diageo acquired Aviation American Gin with the Davos Brands portfolio in 2020.

  The spacious tasting room and well-stocked gift shop modeled after a 1960s-era airline terminal, with airplane-related artifacts, photographs and ad posters to give the space a distinctive Mad Men vibe. A life-size cutout of co-owner and actor Ryan Reynolds greets visitors, while video clips featuring Reynolds create a Hollywood-esque feel. In describing his new venture, Reynolds’ issued this statement: “If a grown-up theme park and a bartender fell in love and produced offspring, it would be this gin factory.”

  Educational tours allow visitors to fully immerse themselves into the Aviation experience through interactive experiences, such as connecting with the various botanicals used in making Aviation gin and a sneak peek at Reynolds’ office. This space doubles as an escape room, inviting guests to solve a series of puzzles and identify various “Easter eggs.” Fans of Deadpool and other Reynold’s flicks will find this exercise particularly amusing.

  When asked why they chose to build this distillery in the industrial section of Northwest Portland nicknamed “Slabtown,” distillery director Hollie Stephenson stated, “This specific space is in a great location, meets operational needs and provides us with a place to give the brand an official homebase. Portland is a vibrant city with a rich, unrivaled spirits and cocktail scene, and we’re so glad that we can provide consumers and Aviation fans with the opportunity to visit a space that is dedicated solely to Aviation American Gin, where they can sip and learn about how our premium, uniquely American-style gin is distilled.”

  Stephenson describes the company culture at Aviation Gin as lively, with a 25-member team of dedicated, hard-working, creative and kind people. “We work hard, support each other and of course, have fun,” she notes. At present, they bottle roughly 15,000 bottles per day. For the foreseeable future, they plan on focusing on the production of what Stephenson describes as a “unique American-style gin that is crafted with a blend of botanicals.”

  While the bulk of the mainstream media coverage surrounding this opening of Aviation Gin focused on the Hollywood-esque nature of the experience, the history behind this iconic brand was lost in this coverage. As reported in Northwest Travel & Life, when Christian Krogstad and his wife launched House Spirits Distillery in Portland, Oregon in 2004, he took the innovative streak he developed as a brewer to collaborate with bartender Ryan Magarian to produce a “new western gin” inspired by the Aviation Gin Cocktail. This gin’s original, balanced blend of botanicals included cardamom, coriander, French lavender, anise seed, sarsaparilla, juniper and two kinds of orange peel.

  With the introduction of this distillery into the neighborhood, visitors can now plan a self-guided walking tour of the area’s distilleries with Bull Run Distillery, Aria Gin and Freeland Spirits – all within easy walking distance and the last two distilleries known for their craft gins.

  Aria Gin is located south of Aviation at 2304 NW Savier Street. This company’s Aria Portland Dry Gin (45%ABV) offers a classic London gin experience, and the distillery offers tasting flights and specialty cocktails, along with the opportunity to purchase a range of bar accessories, mixers and other products for those desiring to try their hand at making craft gin cocktails at home. The pristine Bull Run water used to distill Bull Run Distillery’s gin speaks to this gin’s origins in the Pacific Northwest. In addition, they collaborate with other producers, such as Ken Wright Cellars in Carlton, Oregon, to create cask-finished gins. They produce Distiller’s Reserve Gins, limited edition releases with unique barrel finishes as well.

  Freeland Spirits, a women-owned distillery has a homey, welcoming feel. Founder Jill Kuehler found inspiration for her Meemaw Freeland garden gin in selecting the fresh Pacific Northwest botanicals. When possible, they source their botanicals from local producers, such as the woman-owned farm, Vibrant Family Farm. Also, they partnered with Wildwood Candle Co. to produce a candle with an aroma reminiscent of the botanicals used in making their gin. In addition to their gin (45%ABV), they distill a dry gin (57%ABV), a Navy-strength gin made with a high juniper content and a subtle herbaceousness. Also, they produce gin & tonic and French 75 canned cocktails. Tasting flights, mini cocktails and small snacks are available at their tasting room, along with distillery tours.

Other Portland Distilleries

That Produce Gin

 Following are other distilleries located in Portland that distill gin with their unique craft focus.

•   503 Distilling’s use of Oregon juniper, fresh-cut spruce tips, gardened rosemary and other herbs in their Circa 17 gin (43% ABV) speaks to the terroir of the Pacific Northwest.

•   The Aimsir Distilling Company, a husband and wife-owned distillery, features spirits like their Aitil House Gin (ABV 45%) that focus on local Pacific Northwest resources. Other local influences include their seasonal Rosé Gin distilled from Willamette Valley wines and their Holiday Gin made with mulling spices and barrel-aged in pinot noir barrels. 

•   New Deal Distillery offers three gins: New Deal Gin No. 1 (45% ABV), New Deal Old Tom Gin (45% ABV) and Portland Dry Gin 33 (46% ABV).

•   Shine Distillery & Grill features their Batch One Gin (45% ABV) and a very hibiscus-forward Pink Hibiscus Gin (42.5% ABV).

•   Stillweather Spirits offers an American Gin (45.4% ABV) described as  London Dry meets Pacific Northwest New World and a contemporary style West Coast Gin (42% ABV).

•   Wild Roots Spirits produces handcrafted gins in three varieties: London Dry Gin (46% ABV), Orange & Bergamot Gin (44% ABV) and Cucumber & Grapefruit (44% ABV).

Oregon Gins with a Portland Presence

  While JAZ Spirits is distilled in Albany, Oregon at Vivacity Spirits, a  woman-owned distillery, most of their business presence is in the Portland area, where founder Faith Dionne lives. Their JAZ Spirits Dry Gin (45%) and JAZ Spirits Old Tom Gin paint a picture of Oregon forests. The idea for Riverain Dry gin came from one of Dionnes favorite spots in Mount Hood National Forest on the upper Clackamas River. “Smooth basalt boulders, rippling snowmelt and a lush riverbank of cottonwoods and Douglas fir are the inspiration for the botanicals in our Dry Gin. We hand-forage sticky cottonwood buds and wind-fallen Douglas fir from that same riverain forest in late winter,” Dionne opines.

  Also, Pilot House Distilling’s distillery is based outside Portland in Astoria, Oregon. However, they have tasting rooms in Portland and Cannon Beach, where visitors can sample their ranges of spirits, including their variety of gins. Their current selections of gins include Painted Lady gin, a new American style. A barrel-aged version of the Painted Lady, which is aged in pinot noir barrels from the Willamette Valley, and a London dry-style gin. In creating the Painted Lady Gin, Lawrence Cary, the original founder of PHD, wanted to produce a gin that even gin-haters love. He began playing around with different recipes until he found the perfect one, Painted Lady. This gin contains hints of lavender, rose hips and chamomile, with a name that speaks to Astoria’s history. The name, Painted Lady, references butterflies, the beautifully bright painted houses and women of the night.

  While these distilleries’ tasting rooms are open to the general public without reservations, a PDX Distillery Row Passport enhances these visits by giving passport-holders exclusive promotions and prizes when visiting the participating distilleries. Of the distilleries featured in this article, Aria Gin, Freeland Spirits, New Deal Distillery and Wild Roots Spirits are part of this program.

Gain Consistency & Advantages With the Right Packaging Machinery

By: Gerald Dlubala

There are distinct advantages to packaging your craft beverages, with perhaps the most important aspect being that of reaching new customers and increasing your brand recognition. Packaging is a form of marketing, and by using your own filling and packaging machinery, a craft producer obtains autonomy over their brand and gets their product into the hands of consumers. But is owning your own equipment right for you?

Gaining Advantage: Pneumatic Scale Angelus

  “Purchasing canning machinery is a huge step,” said Mike Davis, product line and technology leader for Pneumatic Scale Angelus (PSA), part of BW Packaging Systems. PSA is a global industry leader with over 130 years of experience in craft packaging technology. “Because of the investment, you must partner with a machinery supplier that offers a system that complements your product mix, the formats you’re using and things like the necessary carbonation and temperature levels.”

  “It is an investment, but comparing the cost of purchasing versus working on a mobile canner or copackers schedule is just the start,” said Kyle Kelleher, seamer account executive. “Owning provides the canning operation when needed but adds additional advantages and opportunities, like expanded e-commerce and customer reach with more frequent and unique offerings. In addition, craft producers can themselves become copackers to help offset costs and keep the lines in use, or even partner with community organizations or local sports teams for fundraising or charitable collaborations.”

  “Most importantly, the brewer has total control over their beer, including variables like DO and carbonation levels, and package it at the optimal time rather than on someone else’s schedule,” said Connor McCaulley, account executive. “They can package smaller batches, test the market to find what sells and build networks and relationships with suppliers and distributors.”

The Right System for Your Needs

  “It really is important to start with the packaging function first when starting a brewery,” said Davis. “It provides the first impression consumers see on the shelves, and proper packaging will have your product consistently taste as good as it does in your taproom. In addition, craft beer is typically not pasteurized, so it’s critical to have a quality Cleaning-In-Place (CIP) system to keep all things clean that come in contact with your product.”

  PSA account executive Mark Saylor adds that adding any packaging equipment depends on the specific location’s variables. Producers should know the limitations of the available utility supply, the space required for the packaging machinery (mobile units or full stack) and the space allotments for additional supplies, finished goods and shipping needs.

  “At its most basic level, packaging is about your goals,” said McCaulley. “Is it to stay small and build upon small batch offerings? Is it distribution? Can the equipment and utility supply keep up or be upgraded to do so when needed? Can you expand raw material storage and finished goods areas? Do you have the personnel to devote to packaging without making yourself work 16-hour days? Does the machinery offer remote access capability? Compare overall designs. Applying the closure ASAP is important to ensure accuracy and consistency.”

  “And you need consistency,” said Saylor. “Product consistency can either build or lose customer base. Packaging systems must be versatile enough to adapt to the different tolerances in cans from different suppliers. Product mixes like beer, cider, kombucha and RTD (ready-to-drink) products present changeover needs, so look for systems like ours that offer minimal changeover times.”

  For smaller craft brewers, PSA offers their CB50 and CB100 inline canners with proprietary technology to perfectly fill up to 100 CPM (cans per minute) with little waste. Additional units like the CB50C trade open-air filling for counter-pressure filling to meet the demands for higher carbonation drinks. Heavier producers can use rotary beer canning systems to increase throughput without requiring an expanded footprint. Inline and rotary volumetric options offer packaging solutions at speeds from 15 to 100 CPM, meeting the need for small-batch or frequent-changeover production schedules.

  For additional information about Pneumatic Scale Angelus products and how they can jumpstart and improve your packaging function reach out to Gigi Lorence, global marketing director, at Gigi.Lorence@bwpackagingsystems.com.

Fillmore Packaging Solutions: Small-Scale Production Solutions

  After spending more than 20 years as a winemaker and craft brewer, Tony Saballa, owner of Fillmore Packaging in St Louis, started focusing on the mechanical side of craft beverage production. During that time, he found a continuing, unmet, small-scale packaging need for those beginning craft brewers trying to expand from the serious hobbyist ranks to craft beverage production.

  “There just wasn’t anything feasible and available at the time,” said Saballa. “A small craft brewer had to either import something costly from Germany or settle for used soda bottling equipment that was usually large and bulky.”

  That’s when Saballa started to build his own machinery, versatile and built for the micro and craft brewer to alleviate the more tedious manual filling work. He began making fillers for his needs and posting the process and results to his YouTube channel. With the corresponding boom in craft brewing, he became inundated with requests to build and sell his fillers. Fillmore Packaging was born, eventually branching out and now exporting all over the world.

  “Canning is still the most popular, but many craft brewery offerings are well-suited for glass containers,” said Saballa. “Small-scale producers need and want a versatile machine with quick changeovers, which is an advantage our fillers can provide. We supply two changes with the filler, with additional sizes available for purchase, so a brewer can customize the machine to their liking and offerings.”

  “Fillmore Packaging sells directly to the users, immediately cutting out the middleman and allowing the user to speak directly with us for support if needed,” said Saballa. “We provide quality, consistent filling systems and provide excellent support. We always pick up our phones.”

XpressFill Systems: Experience, Quality and Service

  Rod Silver handles marketing and sales for XpressFill Systems LLC, providing expert filling and packaging options for small to medium-sized craft beverage producers. XpressFill offers several filling machines for quality packaging of beer, wine, spirits, ready-to-drink options, vinegar, kombucha and more.

  “As with most production machinery, the right unit depends on your situation and needs,” said Silver. “Owners must weigh the costs, benefits and overall advantages and disadvantages of manual labor versus the automated machines counterparts. We encourage craft producers to perform a basic evaluation of labor costs to help them get a filler and determine what manual and semi-automatic options will work the best for them. The result of that evaluation is usually the sweet spot for filling and production because they’re reducing manual labor but not jumping into full automation, which can get very expensive and cost-prohibitive for craft producers, especially in the early stages of their growth.”

  Many breweries and distilleries are now crossing over, with breweries distilling their house spirits and distilleries coming out with signature brews. However, Silver warns that there is no one best type of machine that will consistently handle the packaging of both on a high-quality level.

  “You need the counter pressure filler to have the adequate shelf life for your beer, but it’s not the best choice for packaging spirits,” said Silver. “We help breweries when they need guidance on the best choice of equipment for their operations. We offer affordable and efficient filling machines in two or four spout models specifically designed for the craft beverage markets and to be easy to use. Their customer service and support are unmatched and have long been a hallmark of the company.

  XpressFill’s counter-pressure machines, XF2500/ XF4500/XF4500C, are perfect for beer, kombucha, soda or any other carbonated beverage filling in bottles, cans and even the popular crowlers for the to-go market. Open filler options like the XF4400/XF2200 use level filler technology and can increase efficiency using a gas purge cycle and automatic level sensor. Volumetric fillers are useable with many different bottle sizes and are ideal for bottling spirits, vinegar, oils and more. Level fillers for wine packaging use a sensor probe that shuts off the filling function at a specified height, giving the product that perfect visual for shelf presence.

  Silver tells Beverage Master Magazine that XpressFill is rolling out a brand-new filler that is already generating market interest and buzz. Their latest offering, the XFW200C, is a weight-based filler that ensures accurate and reproducible fill volumes while canning your beer. It’s a significant advantage since you can’t see the level and volume of the product inside the can.

  “Canning is still the most popular method of packaging beer,” said Silver. “With our new Weight-Based filler, you know that your 12- and 16-ounce beer cans are holding the proper amount. It eliminates the guesswork and ensures accuracy in your packaging, utilizing weight sensing technology to ensure accurate and consistent fills.”

  This weight-based filler is ideal when filling 12- to 16-oz cans, and the logic-based board makes it easy to learn and operate. It features an industrial-grade touchscreen display that lets the user enter the desired weight and then keeps track of how much dispenses into the can. The larger flow path allows for a smoother fill with product flexibility to include your craft products that contain a small degree of particulates, accommodating products like beer, kombucha, juices, RTDs, mixers and more. As a semi-automatic machine, it can be a producer’s first step into a more automated system if and when needed.

  Silver says the XFW200C Weight-Based Filler is slightly more expensive than other, more traditional fillers, but that additional expense negates the guesswork and worries over improper filling amounts.

SKA FABRICATING: Effortlessly Getting Your Product into Optimal Packaging

  “For canning operations under 50 CPM, the level of automation needed is fairly low,” said Jake Kolakowski, chief customer officer for SKA Fabricating, an automated packaging line fabricator in Durango, Colorado. “But, for smaller applications, I would recommend our Microbus depalletizer. It appeals to the most basic setup needs but performs a tremendous amount of labor-saving, manual work. It’s compact and folds down to about the floor size of a standard pallet. Mobility is key for smaller production areas and can be moved from area to area or folded away for storage. And it’s built for the budget conscious, working as a manual lift or easily adjusted with a cordless drill.”

  SKA FAB’s Nimbus depalletizer is built on the same technology as the Microbus. The half-height depalletizer system adds auto lift technology and can easily handle speeds of 50-80 CPM.

  “Our popular, full-height machine is our Can-i-bus,” said Kolakowski. “It’s customized for speeds up to 300cpm and has much more accumulator space before the rinsing operation so that it can run continuously through pallet changes. Then the user can add gravity-based ionizer air rinsers before filling on systems requiring speeds at or above 110 CPM. The Can-i-bus integrates seamlessly with our Dual Twist Rinse Cage, making size changes effortless with no tools needed. Post-fill operations are customized to what the producer wants, but automated can inspection is a must at these speeds since human visual inspection can’t keep up.”

  “SKA Fabricating’s core competency is building customized systems built to a manufacturer’s needs,” said Kolakowski. “We always strive to fit operator-friendly equipment into small spaces with optimal flow patterns. Coming up with the right working layout to limit any awkward or unnecessary movements of the operator is a built-in, value-added part of our service with no extra cost.”

  Kolakowski said that although bottling isn’t a significant component of most beer packaging, it is an essential segment of other sectors, including distilling, winemaking, heritage products, RTDs and many smaller craft producers. SKA FAB’s equipment for those operations is made with the same care and customization detail to automate the high labor parts of those processes.

Better Employee Retention Through Automation

  “Any manufacturer should take a return-on-investment approach to automation,” said Kowalowski. “Look for your highest labor input and where your employees spend most of their time. Then, look at the employee’s quality of life within those jobs. Any high-labor, repetitive task that machines can do will free your employees to perform higher value, more fun and more meaningful production tasks that ultimately lead to higher employee satisfaction and retention. We continuously see examples that investing in automation has led to better employee retention rates. And that’s important in today’s workforce availability.”

  SKA FAB works with many manufacturers on integration to make your packaging line the best it can be. They feature in-house tech support and dedicated installation/training teams to close most open tickets within the same reporting day. SKA FAB also sells components individually so a manufacturer’s capital outlay can be budgeted and controlled, resulting in a fully integrated, matching and functional packaging line.

Nelson-Jameson Inc: Reduce Costs with Proper Stretch Wrap

  “Craft beverage producers put a lot of effort into crafting and packaging their product, so it’s vital to keep that detailed effort up by utilizing the recommended stretch wrap to secure craft beverages and distilled spirits,” said Melissa Pasciak, director of marketing for Nelson-Jameson, a leading food and beverage industry distributor. “The proper stretch wrap keeps your products secure during shipment and storage, avoiding damage that results in loss of product and profit.”

  “It’s worthwhile to note the different types of stretch wrap that are used for different applications,” said Pasciak. “One size does not fit all, which is why we offer on-site stretch wrap audits to ensure that craft beverage producers get the most out of their budget. We perform a complete analysis on multiple areas of your stretch wrapping operation, including wrapping patterns, load dimensions, stretch percentage, actual applications and film weight. In addition, our expert auditors continue to optimize stretch film through recommendations, education and training on the proper film for your applications and best practices on use.”

  Pasciak says that if the same stretch wrap gets used for all applications, a beverage producer will likely spend more money and cause more damage because different situations benefit from particular gauges, strengths and load capacities.

  “The wrong choice of stretch wrap can significantly increase downtimes, needlessly raise unit load costs and negatively impact the environment and its energy resources,” said Pasciak.

  Nelson-Jameson has been a trusted source of food processing supplies to the food and beverage industries for 75 years. They represent over 850 vendors and distribute over 55,000 products in the categories of processing and flow control, safety, sanitation and janitorial, production and material handling, building and facility maintenance, laboratory and QA/QC and packaging and ingredients. Through comprehensive product offerings, industry expertise and expertly curated food safety programs, Nelson-Jameson is ready to lower your transaction costs while providing the products and services you need to produce safe, quality beverages.

  For more information or to schedule a stretch wrap audit for your business, contact Nelson-Jameson today.

Toll Free: (800) 826-8302 Website: nelsonjameson.com

The Right Tools Make All the Difference

By: Cheryl Gray

The right tools, technology and know-how go a long way in protecting the integrity of beer and spirits. In fact, they make the difference between a great product and a mediocre one.

  Many breweries and distilleries now rely upon state-of-the-art tools to protect the integrity of their products. Companies that manufacture items for production lines of every size provide industrial equipment, such as pumps to transfer liquids and testing equipment to gauge important components, such as temperature. 

  One of the industry leaders is Milwaukee Instruments, specializing in precise digital analysis for industries including breweries, wineries, hydroponics and greenhouse growers, laboratories, aquariums and education. The company has a global presence, with products designed with ease of use and accuracy in mind. It makes everything from simple pens to more advanced testers, monitors and controllers. The products, made in Europe, have multiple applications to help customers manage critical parameters, such as pH, conductivity, salinity, BRIX and temperature.

  Carl Silvaggio is the president of Milwaukee Instruments. With nearly 40 years of broad-based experience in the industry of scientific instruments, Silvaggio has been part of virtually every facet of this manufacturing sector, including research and development, warehousing, sales and customer service. He walks us through the process from the moment his company makes contact with a client.

“Milwaukee Instruments is a customer-centric company that focuses on the customer’s needs. From the moment of contact, we ensure the information and service the customer receives is accurate, complete, expeditious and fits the application at question. Our product line is designed and tailored to provide the customer with a choice of features and benefits that fit the application and offer competitive price points for the features and benefits that the customer needs. We do not oversell what the customer does not need.”

  Silvaggio adds that his company’s wide range of products allows customers multiple options in transitioning from antiquated testing to more advanced choices.

  “We’ve made it possible for hundreds of thousands of professionals, enthusiasts and beginners around the world move from difficult and inaccurate visual testing to accurate and precise digital analysis.”

  Some of those products include the Milwaukee digital BRIX refractometer, which comes in different versions but all feature user-friendly functions and make precision measuring a priority. Case in point: The Milwaukee digital BRIX refractometer is temperature compensated with a zero to 85 percent BRIX range and plus/minus 0.2 percent accuracy. Ease of use is achieved with simple, two-button operation, followed by a lightning-fast response time of under two seconds. The low maintenance design of a steel glass prism and stainless steel wall makes cleanup simple.

  Milwaukee Instruments also offers a wide range of pH and temperature testers, such as the Milwaukee Waterproof pH55 PRO. This version is one of several used by the company’s brewery clients as a cost-effective, accurate tool to calculate the pH and temperature of the beer. The tester features dual-level LCD readouts, easy-to-replace probes and extended pH ranges to meet the applications required for a brewery. The tester has simple one or two-point automatic calibration and two sets of memorized buffers from which to choose. And, of course, it is fully waterproof to IP65.

  FLUX Pumps, a Georgia-based company, is a global leader in the arena of flow technology, and it creates pumps for breweries, distilleries and other industries. For more than 70 years, the company’s innovations have drawn upon the invention of the first electric drum pump responsible for FLUX Pumps being established.

  Glenn Mulligan, president of FLUX Pumps, says new products are in store for 2023.

  “In 2023, we will be releasing our new VISCOPOWER product line,” Mulligan said. “These pumps will replace our existing F550 and F560 pump models. The new pump design is much easier

to dismantle and assemble, which reduces cleaning time and maintenance time while simplifying the pump design. VISCOPOWER pumps will also be built from a modular configuration that allows for streamlined spare parts, while still offering a pump design that can be customized to a degree for each customer application. VISCPOWER products will continue to stand the test of time in durability and product quality, both of which are customary to FLUX products.

  Other products for FLUX in 2023 are standardized offerings of flow meters and control panels that can turn your standard drum or tote pump into a one-touch batching/metering system. Too often, companies rely on operators to dispense just the right amount of product for their needs. By adding just a few components to the pump, we are able to give customers accurate, repeatable dosing, which will save time and money and prevent mistakes. We have also partnered with a company so that FLUX can also provide high-quality drum and tote mixers/agitators for customer needs. This gives our customers the ability and peace of mind to buy everything they need for moving fluids from drums and totes from a single source.”

  The Yamada Corporation, which touts itself as an industry leader in pneumatic pumping technology, is headquartered in Tokyo and has been in business since 1905. It has facilities in the Netherlands, Shanghai and the United States. The stateside facility is a 40,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art complex in Illinois known as Yamada America, Inc., equipped to provide service and support for a full array of Yamada industrial pumps and parts for the company’s clients throughout the Western Hemisphere. 

  Yamada offers diaphragm metal and plastic pumps. Its metal pumps are best used for waste yeast, sump and general wastewater. Its plastic pumps are used for CIP chemicals, wastewater treatment chemicals and also general wastewater. The pumps are used in liquid transfers, including liquid hops, liquid sugars, bottling, keg-filling and hops slurry.

  Specific tools and industrial equipment promote safety in the production and quality of the product for breweries and distilleries. Knowing what to consider in selecting these products comes with choosing the right company that can guide the process from purchase to customer support.