The Return of In-Person Beer and Cider Festivals

By: Becky Garrison

As Ann Obenchain, marketing director of the Brewers Association, keenly observed, “The past two years have been tumultuous for the craft brewing community, and COVID-19 has had ripple effects in many aspects of life.” Once COVID hit in March 2020, the Brewers Association placed the health and wellbeing of their industry peers at the forefront of all decision-making for their events. This led to the cancellation of all in-person events and festivals, including The Great American Beer Festival (GABF), Craft Brewers Conference (CBC), SAVOR: An American Craft Beer and Food Pairing Experience, Homebrew Con and the World Beer Cup (WBC).

  Early on in the pandemic, their Homebrew Con went virtual for 2020. In addition, the Craft Brewers Conference (CBC) launched an online version, bringing five weeks of conference talks available and free through May 2020 while everyone was in lockdown. Also, they hosted a virtual hill climb for brewers to meet with elected officials and staff. However, other festivals, such as GABF and SAVOR, could not be retooled for a virtual experience.

  With the return of GABF in Denver (October 6-8, 2022), Obenchain notes they must be ready for anything, given they host events across the country. “Each location has different safety requirements, which are subject to change at any time. Our team has learned to be nimble and flexible in providing event attendees with the best experience possible at any moment.”

  Among the offerings for the 40th Anniversary of GABF are hangouts for entertainment, live music, games, a brewers’ studio to meet with industry experts and brewers, a designated driver lounge and PAIRED, a ticketed event pairing food from award-winning chefs and beer that includes unlimited tastings of unique beers not found in the festival hall.

Cider Summit Returns to the National Stage

  Pre-COVID, Alan Shapiro spearheaded regional Cider Summit festivals in Seattle, Portland and San Francisco, as well as a national cider summit in Chicago that coincided with CiderCon. All these events were canceled effective March 2020.

  In 2020 and 2021, they experimented with giving festival-goers an at-home festival courtesy of their “festival-to-go tasting kits.” These kits featured a range of two-to-three packages at different price points and cider selections ranging from modern to artisanal, with some packages including international ciders.

  The tasting kits were tailor-made for each specific festival and released in the same month as the in-person festival for that region. For example, the kits released in June featured Oregon cideries. Then they highlighted Washington ciders in September and California ciders in April.  According to Shapiro, the Chicago tasting kit was a bit harder to navigate, given this festival’s initial national focus. “We had had ciders from all parts of the country or as best as we could,” he observed.

  They distributed these kits via their partnership with Seattle-based Press Then Press, an online retailer of rare, independent, local and craft ciders. Consumers living within a particular festival’s geographic area could pick up their kit or arrange for local delivery. Nationwide shipping was available for those living outside of these areas. 

  Included in these tasting kits were promotional items and an invitation to a virtual tasting with several of the cidermakers whose wares were included in these kits. Shapiro estimates that about 20 to 30 percent of those purchasing the tasting kits tuned in to the virtual tasting. Over time, they developed a loyal and passionate following, especially as they got better at producing virtual events.

  Shapiro hoped he could return to in-person events in 2021 and announced the dates for the Seattle Cider Summit held in September. Even though this festival would be outdoors, they chose to cancel it due to an uptick in COVID cases and the ensuing governmental restrictions.  

  The Portland Cider Summit, held June 10-11, 2022, marked their return to in-person events. Audience anticipation was high, with a much stronger selling of pre-sale tickets than in prior years, though the monsoon-like rains that pummeled the city lessened the expected attendance. Also, the number of participating cideries was down from around 50 to 43, a dip Shapiro attributes to cideries that are no longer in business, as well as staffing issues.

  They will be hosting the Seattle Cider Summit on September 9-10 at South Lake Park, with plans to launch the San Francisco Cider Summit in 2023. As the Chicago Cider Summit is their one indoor event, they will decide in November 2022 if they can host this in February. Also, they will continue their partnership with Press Then Press to offer tasting kits to those who cannot attend their in-person events. 

The Oregon Brewers Festival Reopens with a Leaner Look 

  Since its founding in 1988, the Oregon Brewers Festival has emerged as the largest beer festival in Oregon and draws in over 50,000 people from across the United States. Hence, co-founder Art Larrance felt the need to maintain its reputation. So, they focused on quality, not quantity, as they relaunched this festival in 2022 after a two-year absence.

  To ensure a successful beer festival, they reduced the number of taps to 40 beers and two cideries. They also limited the size of the overall festival footprint and scaled back the number of days. In addition, they did not offer the brewers’ parade live music acts, and they had a more limited selection of vendors. They plan to keep the festival at about the same scale in 2023.

  While past festivals have spotlighted international beers or beers from specific states, they chose to focus this year on award-winning Oregon beers. They made this decision to focus on craft breweries with local distribution channels, in large part due to shipping issues. According to Larrance, “I’m glad that we made that decision because while I was looking for 27,000 to 30,000 people, we only had 23,500 people. Had we not scaled down, we would have been spending a lot of money and not broken even.” Also, at the conclusion of the festival, they were able to donate $10,000 to their nonprofit partner, Doernbecher Children’s Hospital.

  While the beers remained Oregon-specific, preliminary data from the festival survey shows that 36.8 percent of attendees came from outside the Portland Metro Area. In this regard, they were very close to their pre-COVID percentages of local versus out-of-town attendees.

  In addition to a heatwave and concerns about COVID that somewhat reduced attendance, the festival’s location along the Tom McCall Waterfront Park in downtown Portland continues to experience challenges due to the uptick in homeless camps and civil disobedience. These ongoing issues led to a 15 percent occupancy of downtown office buildings, thus significantly reducing the number of local people working downtown who would stop by the festival after work. Typically, they would get about 40 percent of their business from out of town, a number Larrance estimated was down to about 20 percent for this year.

  Despite the lower than projected attendance, brewers and beer lovers appeared ecstatic with the return of OBG. As Dan Malech, co-founder of Stormbreaker Brewing in Portland, Oregon, proclaimed, “It was so good to see so many people enjoying fantastic beer. We’ve been a part of OBF every year since we opened, and we hope to continue every year.” John Harris, owner and brewmaster of Ecliptic Brewing, also based in Portland, Oregon, concurred. “It was great to have OBF back. I’ve always enjoyed all the special beers that brewers make for the fest. The smaller size was a great way to bring the fest back.”

The Return of Local Pacific Northwest Beer Festivals

  Pre-COVID, the Craft Beer & Wine Fest of Vancouver (Washington), featured 60 beer taps, 80 wines and 35 craft vendors, along with live music all weekend and people traveling to the event from afar. While COVID restrictions prevented them from offering an outdoor festival in 2020, Rusty Hoyle, owner of Craft Nation, noted they were the only in-person Pacific Northwest festival of this type in Summer 2022. “We were really busy with the local people who were itching to get out and do stuff.” In keeping in line with consumer demand for personal safety, they offered hand wash stations, an expanded fence line that provided more room for people to be comfortable and new microphone covers for each singer. They plan on continuing these measures at future festivals.

  While many of their prior vendors are no longer in business, Hoyle observed how they are now seeing new craft vendors and also people traveling to this festival from outside the area. Each year, Heathen Brewing of Vancouver, Washington brings a fire truck with seven tap handles that contributes to the festival atmosphere.

  The 2022 festival featured over 100 wines and about 30 craft vendors, a number that Hoyle predicts will increase. Also, they narrowed their beer selection to showcase the breweries that align with their values. “We want them to be a part of this event and talk to our customers, not just drop off their beer. It allows fewer hands to touch the product while giving a better customer experience,” Hoyle opines.

  Among the other events that Hoyle organizes is Gorge Blues & Brews in Stevenson, Washington, which is held in late June with RV and tent camping available. This year’s event pulled in 2,500 people, shattering their prior attendance record by 1,000. The event features world-renowned blues artists on two stages with local craft beer, wine and spirits.

  In February 2022, Larrance launched the inaugural Over the Hills to Hillsbrew, a new local beer festival designed to highlight Washington Country and Portland breweries, along with a few other Oregon-based breweries. He believed that the local people felt cooped up and thought that a beer festival would help lift their spirits. While he anticipated around 5,000 people to attend,  approximately 2,800 came to sample beers from 25 to 30 breweries. This was an inside event held during the winter months when COVID was on the rise, so proof of a COVID vaccination was required. 

  In addition, the Oregon Trails Brew Fest, traditionally held the weekend before the Oregon Brewers Festival, returned in 2022. Hosted by the Oregon City Brewing Company in Oregon City, Oregon since 2019, this all-ages outdoor brews festival is a community-based event with lawn games, live music, 32 breweries, and three cideries. While they had a few more breweries in 2019, their ticket sales remained consistent with their pre-COVID statistics. 

  In the Pacific Northwest, an area with some of the strictest COVID restrictions in the United States, major festivals with a beer component that attract a national crowd, such as Feast Portland, are not slated to return until 2023, and festival plans are still in development. Some local breweries have begun to offer festivals, albeit often in a modified format, while others have chosen for now to focus on rebuilding their businesses.

The Design, Production and Manufacturing of Flavored Distilled Spirits

By: Kris Bohm: Distillery Now Consulting, LLC  

Take a moment the next time you are in your local watering hole. If you peer at the bottles of spirits behind the bar, there is a particular type of spirit you are sure to find. It is not whiskey, nor rum, vodka or tequila. The bottle you will almost certainly find is some type of flavored spirit. Whether it is a peanut butter whiskey or raspberry flavored vodka there is a variety of flavored spirits to be found behind every bar. If you look around at a liquor store, you will find dozens if not hundreds of flavored spirits on the shelf. The spectrum of flavors is massive and it is well worth giving the concept of flavored spirits some consideration. Many successful manufacturers have found that flavored spirits can be sold in volume. Let’s look closer at flavored spirits and then take some plain old vodka to flavortown.

The Appeal of Flavored Spirits

  There are literally thousands of varieties of spirits that are flavored. From spiced rums to honey whiskey, and vodka in a rainbow of flavors, there are flavors galore. The process of manufacturing flavored spirits can vary widely for the type of product being made. Some processes are expensive, labor intensive and can be subject to seasonality of ingredients. Other methods of manufacturing are very simple with merely the addition of a flavor before bottling. You might be asking yourself at this point. What kind of flavored spirits should I make at my distillery? This is a tough question because no two distillers have the same answer. Let’s start to answer this question by looking at the way flavored spirits are perceived by folks.

  The average consumer chooses flavored spirits because it is easy to make a mixed drink with. A person who enjoys a cocktail often has little to no knowledge of how to make a good cocktail. This demographic of consumer will view products like a lemon flavored vodka as a spirit that can simplify the process of making a cocktail. For this example, let’s explore the humble vodka soda. This popular drink is commonly served as vodka, plus soda water, with a lemon or lime added to it. If we substitute plain old vodka for a delicious lemon vodka this product can be combined with soda water and simplify the process of making a cocktail by not requiring fresh fruit to be added to the drink.

  For some consumers the appeal of choosing a flavored spirit over a traditional spirit is both flavor and drinkability. Drinkability can be a bit fickle so let’s define “drinkability” for the sake of this article. Some consumers of spirits believe they prefer to drink spirits that are labeled as “smooth” or “easy drinking”. Spirits even at 80 proof can be perceived as hot or labeled as a spirit that “has bite” or that it “burns”. These descriptors might not be terms used by producers of spirits as fair adjectives to describe their spirits, but regardless the adjectives are often used by the general public. Many flavored spirits not only have flavors added to them, they also have sugar or other ingredients added to them that mask the detectability of the alcohol in the spirits. The addition of flavor and sugar to a spirit can make the spirit taste more smooth or have less burn to it.

  It has been proven in blind tasting panels that the addition of sugar to distilled spirits is quite effective at masking the perception of the alcohol in spirits.

This is a huge factor as to why flavored spirits are sold in such massive volume. Consumers who might not otherwise like to drink distilled spirits find flavored spirits to be more pleasant to drink.

How to Make a Flavored Spirit

Distilling with Real Ingredients:  Smaller craft distilleries will sometimes use fresh ingredients to produce a flavored spirit that is deemed “authentic” or “artisanal”. One example is a fresh lime vodka made by a distillery in California. This spirit is produced by macerating fresh locally grown limes in a neutral spirit then redistilling that spirit to produce a flavored vodka. This method is quite effective and the resulting lime flavored vodka is quite delicious. On the down side this method is labor intensive and subject to the seasonality of the fruit. This can create limitations in production capacity and in some cases be cost prohibitive to produce.

Extracts for Flavoring:  A method employed successfully by large distilleries to produce flavored spirits is the use of extract based flavors. Extract flavored products are built in a tank where a measured amount of neutral spirit has water, sugar and extract flavor added to it to create a flavored spirit. This method is simple, scalable and economical. There are several flavor companies in the US and abroad that manufacture extract flavors that are TTB approved and meant specifically for flavoring of distilled spirits. These extracts are easy to work with and can fast track the production of flavored spirits. This method is a very economical way to manufacture them, when compared to using real, fresh ingredients to add flavor.

Quality Assurance Process:  Quality assurance, also known as QA, is the testing of a product before it is released to the market. There are many pitfalls in this process that must be navigated prior to release. Once a concept has been created for the production of a flavored spirit it is essential that rigorous product development and quality assurance testing takes place. Testing of the spirits for faults, flaws or problems is essential to the success and commercial viability of the product.

  Let’s look at an example of a failed QA in product development. A distiller once hit upon the idea of a flavored vodka and quickly rushed to take the product to market. The product was a strawberry flavored vodka and it was made by soaking freshly picked strawberries in vodka, then filtering the vodka and bottling the product. The result of this process was a vodka that had a beautiful light pink hue and an aroma of fresh strawberries. The product was instantly a hit and the distiller sold lots of it through their tasting room and to distribution. Not long after the launch of this product the complaints began to roll in. Customers complained that their bright pink vodka turned an unsavory shade of yellow. Liquor store owners demanded refunds for the vodka. Upon tasting the ugly discolored vodka there were no flaws to be found in flavor or aroma, but the color was downright off-putting. In the end the distillery recalled and bought back the product and shortly thereafter discontinued the production of their strawberry vodka.

All of this could have been avoided if they had a better QA process

Legal Considerations:  There is some legal navigation required when it comes to manufacturing flavored spirits. The TTB requires a formula to be submitted and approved before that spirit is allowed to be sold.  Part of the TTB formula process is the review of the ingredients used in the manufacture of a flavored spirit. Ingredients used in a flavored spirit must be approved by the FDA as an ingredient that is on the GRAS (generally recognized as safe) list. It is important in product development that one makes sure the ingredients they intend to use are approved by the FDA and TTB for use in distilled spirits. In the case of using extract based flavors, these extracts should be TTB approved. Ask your flavor manufacturer in advance if the flavors they are providing are approved by the TTB. Some flavor companies have thousands of TTB approved flavors. This multitude of options afford a distillery the opportunity to make a flavored spirit of almost any flavor they can dream up.

Let’s Go to Flavortown:  Now you have a better understanding of a few methods used to make flavored spirits, along with some of the guidelines and restrictions around production. You have the basic tools you need to start working on producing flavored spirits at your distillery. There is a huge opportunity to sell flavored spirits and one that we encourage you to take. Flavored spirits are the gateway to flavortown and it’s a place many successful distilleries go. If you need some help making your own flavored spirits drop us a line.

A Closer Look at Celebrity Brands of Craft Spirits & Beer

By: Alyssa L. Ochs

Actors, musicians and other celebrities love craft beer and spirits just like the rest of us. Yet the difference is that they often have the means, resources and connections to make significant investments in the industry. An increasing number of famous individuals have been getting interested in the craft beverage business and putting their names onto labels of products they stand behind or perhaps have even helped create.

  Here’s what the celebrity craft beverage industry looks like right now, major players in this field and what there is to look forward to in the future.

Celebrity Involvement in the Industry

  Celebrities take a step away from their typical work to get involved with craft beverages for various reasons. Some have a true passion for the craft, while others are in it for the money or just looking for more exposure and additional ways to promote themselves. While some celebrities learn about the production process and engage in making beer and spirits themselves, others do little more than attach their name to a brand for cross-promotional purposes.

  Either way, celebrity-brand craft beverages are often unique because of their higher price tags and limited availability. Some celebrities use their beverage-related profits to benefit charities, and others use their star power to launch tasting rooms for VIP guests. However, there are unique challenges that come with producing, marketing and selling celebrity craft beverages that other beer and spirit companies may not encounter. For example, a beverage brand may suffer when an affiliated celebrity declines in popularity or is involved in a scandal. Meanwhile, a celebrity’s popularity may be affected if the beverage he or she promotes isn’t received well by the public. Some craft beverage fans believe that beer and alcohol belong to them personally and not the rich and famous. Therefore, they might be turned off by the concept of celebrity affiliations and avoid these products entirely.

  But for people who are loyal to certain celebrities or just curious to try celebrity-affiliated beverages, these are accessible products that can often be purchased in stores and online. More popular beverages are usually found in liquor specialty stores, such as Binny’s and Total Wine & More. But you might have to search for more obscure and exclusive celebrity-brand beverages online through sites like Cask Cartel and Sip Whiskey.

Examples of Celebrity Beverage Endeavors

  From musicians across all genres to television personalities and film actors, a diverse array of celebrities have been making their mark on the craft beverage industry in recent years. Some of these examples were limited editions that are no longer sold, while others are ongoing efforts that are changing the industry one bottle or can at a time.

  For example, actor and comedian Dan Aykroyd co-founded Crystal Head Vodka as a way to introduce additive-free vodka and bring more creativity to the vodka industry. Along with his business partner, artist John Alexander, Aykroyd envisioned a new kind of vodka without unnatural ingredients and has a true passion for the product.

  Several years ago, pop music star Justin Timberlake entered into a co-branded partnership with Sauza Tequila to create Sauza 901 silver tequila. The name 901 references the area code in Memphis, which is Timberlake’s hometown. Timberlake said that he developed a love for tequila after visiting Jalisco, Mexico and seeing the craftsmanship that went into each bottle of the spirit.

  Iconic hip hop legend Snoop Dogg partnered with his friend and co-founder of Trusted Spirits, Keenan Towns, to establish his own spirits brand. Known as the “King of Gin and Juice” because of his famous song of the same name, Snoop Dogg developed Indoggo Gin, which mixes seven premium botanicals with all-natural strawberry flavoring. In the past, the musician has also had marketing deals with the Corona beer brand, released his own rosé wine and made investments in the cannabis industry.

  Meanwhile, actor William H. Macy co-owns Woody Creek Distillers, which is based in Colorado and operates a distillery and tasting room just west of Aspen. Not only has Macy invested in the brand, but he has also rebranded himself as Willie Creeks, an alter ego who is a musician and offers life lessons that ultimately promote rye whiskey.

  Another celebrity who has been involved in the spirits industry is actor Ryan Reynolds. He teamed up with Aviation Gin in 2018 after falling in love with the spirit and investing in the company. Since then, Reynolds has become a co-owner of Aviation Gin and driven the creative marketing for the brand. In recent years, and staying true to the aviation theme, he and the brand have teamed up with businessman Richard Branson to serve the gin onboard Virgin Atlantic and British Airways flights.

  A financial success story in the celebrity spirits industry brings us to the actor George Clooney. The idea behind Clooney’s tequila brand, Casamigos, came about after he and his friend, Rande Gerber, were in Mexico and wanted to find a smooth tequila they could sip all day without the dreaded next-day hangover. This was back in 2013, but the friends still personally tasted every batch of tequila made four years later. The brand exploded in popularity, mainly through word-of-mouth and having Clooney’s name attached to it. In 2017, they ended up selling the brand to Diageo for $1 billion, which made Clooney the highest-paid actor of the year.

  Thus far, celebrities have been more involved in the spirits industry than in craft beer or wine. But to a lesser extent, those markets are also drawing the attention of the rich and famous.

  The late-1990s and early-2000s pop band Hanson, comprised of three brothers who love craft beer (now that they’re old enough to drink it), launched the Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Hanson Brother Beer. They created their own craft beer business in 2013 with their flagship beer, Mmmhops, a 7.5 percent English-style pale ale. Since then, the brothers launched the Hop Jam Beer and Music Festival, collaborated with other breweries to create unique beers and dedicated a portion of their beer-related profits to clean water wells in Africa through a nonprofit organization they created.

  Another celebrity beer collaboration involves The Grateful Dead and Dogfish Head Brewing, based in Milton, Delaware. The psychedelic rock band has been involved with the brewery since 2013 and has worked together since then to create a third version of American Beauty HazyRipple IPA. The band’s “American Beauty” album and famous track “Ripple” inspired the beer, which features the iconic Grateful Dead dancing bear image on the label. However, the band’s involvement with other aspects of the beer production process is limited.

  To show how diverse and widespread the celebrity beverage industry has become, here are some additional examples of celebrities and their affiliated beer and spirit brands:

•    Kenny Chesney – Blue Chair Bay Premium Rum

•    Kendall Jenner – 818 Tequilla

•    Marilyn Manson – Mansinthe

•    Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson – Teremana Tequila

•    Mark Wahlberg – Flecha Azul

•    Curtis ‘50 Cent’ Jackson – Effen Vodka

•    Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul – Dos Hombres Mezcal

•    Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs – Cîroc Vodka

•    Channing Tatum – Born and Bred Vodka

•    Drake – Virginia Black Whiskey

•    George Strait Código – 1530 Tequila

•    Bob Dylan – Heaven’s Door Whiskey

Considerations and Looking Ahead

  The celebrity-brand beverage industry continues to be exciting because there’s always something new in the works to look forward to. There is always a strong public fascination with rich and famous people, and that trend is not likely to disappear anytime soon. As an increasing number of celebrities enter this industry, the competition increases and drives the demand for superb product quality that goes beyond just a popularity contest of celebrity status.

  Yet there are significant legal considerations that celebrities must keep in mind as they venture into the beverage industry for the first time. Collaborative efforts between celebrities and spirit-makers can take on various forms. These include development deals that give celebrities greater control over the final product and endorsement deals that offer little more than using a celebrity’s name. Other deals involve simply using a famous person’s image to promote an existing brand all the way up to full ownership, in which a celebrity owns both the brand and the means of production.

  Specific state and federal laws separate the roles of beverage producers, distributors and retailers, which can make it challenging for celebrities to navigate if they want to be involved in more than one part of the business. Other issues that celebrities must consider before diving into the beer and spirit industry are background checks needed to obtain alcohol beverage licenses, the age of their target audience, morals clauses in their contracts and endorsement disclosures required by the Federal Trade Commission.

  Alcohol production is proving to be an enjoyable and profitable side gig for numerous celebrities interested in connecting with their fans in new and unique ways. But to get beyond the initial hype and keep craft beverage customers coming back for more, it is time to embrace the spirit of innovation and achieve long-term growth with products able to stand on their own, even without a familiar name and face behind them.

How Your Bar/Restaurant Can Make Money in a Nation of Inflation

By: Raj Tulshan, Founder of Loan Mantra

There’s no doubt that the past few years have been tremendously disruptive for the restaurant industry. Now that your bar or restaurant has survived a global pandemic and its long-lasting, widespread ramifications – including labor and product shortages, supply chain disruptions, etc. – you’re also facing historic inflation and tremendous price hikes on the things you need to run your business.  How can you face yet another challenge after all your business has already been through?

  This is a great time to plan a business strategy, especially as you may be feeling financially insecure. The annual inflation rate in the US accelerated to 9.1% in June 2022, the highest it’s been since November 1981. Prices for things like energy, food, and rent have skyrocketed, while stocks plummeted. Now that inflation is at a 40-year high and economists are hinting at a possible recession later this year or in early 2023, what can business owners do now to survive?

The first half of 2022 was challenging, with soaring inflation, the biggest selloff of bonds in 40 years, a huge decline stocks, and the implosion of crypto. The challenging economic situation includes supply chain disruptions and the Russian/Ukrainian conflict. According to July National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) Research, 34% of business owners report that inflation is the most important pressing business issue. And 61% of owners do not expecting business conditions to improve.

  While the volatile economy can be nerve-wracking for business owners nationwide, there are concrete things you can do to get a handle on your company’s finances. For instance, get an annual financial checkup. This means assessing how your business is doing, determining what’s going well, identifying what needs improvement and setting concrete financial goals for the coming year. The experts at Loan Mantra are helping companies boost their financial health, making the process simple, transparent and effective.

Here Are Some Tips to Get Started

Review Records: Recognize there are certain things you can’t control (such as whether the U.S. tips into a recession), and certain things that you can. Make a proactive effort to get your finances under control. Update your business plans, pull your current credit report, and talk to an expert about your financial health, including your money goals. Organize and file your paperwork, ideally in a secure, online system, like Loan Mantra’s vault, so you’re able to access necessary financial information instantly and easily whenever you need it.

Think Through:  Be strong and remember this, too, shall pass. On average, recessions last 11 months. The shortest one on record was in 2020, when the pandemic spurred a recession that lasted only three months. And while stocks are currently low, they’ve historically bounced back after recessions. This is a good time to talk to a financial advisor about how (and where) to invest so you can take advantage of the eventual recovery. Your business has gotten through a few difficult years – stay strong, flexible, and resilient, and you’ll get through the heightened inflation, as well.

Audit Your Business:  Businesses should regularly audit their spending, but this exercise is especially important during tough economic times like these. Consider whether there are any services or resources that you can reduce or eliminate. Comparison shop for any products that you use regularly to try and get a better price. Consider switching suppliers to get better deals.

Borrow Smart:  Pay off credit card balances and other debts as soon as possible. With interest rates rising and a possible recession coming, this becomes even more critical. Get a low-interest business loan or consolidate debt. You’ll pay off your credit card debt much faster if you transfer high-interest debt to a credit card with a 0 percent rate. If you don’t qualify for a 0 percent credit card, call your current credit card company, and request an interest rate reduction. Ask a financial expert for advice on the best and fastest ways to pay down your debts.

Invest for Returns:  Acquiring a new customer costs, on average, five times more than retaining an existing customer. The cost of recruiting new customers is even more costly and difficult during a recession, when people are trying to minimize their spending and are, therefore, less likely to buy new products or services. Your current customers already know how great your organization is, but during tough times, you’ll need to maintain (or increase) standards to keep them happy, satisfied, and loyal. Consider adding (or enhancing) customer loyalty programs, offer incentives or discounts for loyal customers, hold an industry night where you give a percentage off the bill for first responders, teachers, healthcare workers, etc. Donate gift cards or sponsorships to worthy charity events in your community to generate awareness and goodwill. And, of course, hold yourself (and your employees) to the highest quality and safety standards to keep customers coming back.

Focus on Favorites:  As you take an honest assessment of your organization’s finances, consider whether you’re still offering products that are no longer performing well. It’s wise to eliminate anything on your menu that is underperforming and no longer generating high sales or profits. Consider reducing your menu to focus on fewer, beloved, high profit items, and eliminate any complicated or overly expensive dishes. Spotlight a few signature drinks instead of a huge array of alcoholic offerings. Use last night’s leftovers to create intriguing specials for tonight’s dinner menu. Trimming underperforming areas can help you focus on the more profitable ones. This will allow you to put time, money, and energy into your top sellers and innovate promising new offerings.

Be Authentic:  As a business leader, your team is looking to you for guidance during economic uncertainty. Transparency is the best way to give that to them. While it may be tempting to be overly positive, your team craves honesty and authenticity.  Your employees don’t want to see their leaders presenting a fake facade that everything’s fine when it’s not. They want to see that the people in charge can lead confidently and strategically, particularly during difficult times. Be honest and your team will respect you for it.

Stay Out There:  While your company might be looking for areas to reduce spending, marketing shouldn’t be one of them. With a turbulent economy – and a recession looming – do whatever you can to stay top-of-mind among customers and prospects to boost sales. As consumers become more careful with their spending, remind them why your bar or restaurant is still an essential part of their lives. While other companies may reduce or eliminate marketing efforts to cut costs, you should do the opposite. If you maintain (or even increase) your marketing spend, you’ll stand out in the marketplace and reach a wider audience. While this may not pay off immediately, it will be beneficial over the long-term, as people start spending more in the post-recession months and years to come. Look for cost-effective tactics, like social marketing efforts and online advertising, to expand your reach without breaking the bank.

Think Local:  Invest (or re-invest) in local infrastructures that support your own communities and encourage these local businesses to support your company, as well. Support local farms, bakeries, wineries, etc. Invest locally to strengthen your community’s business ecosystem. When you support local, those vendors will be loyal to you and send more business your way.

Co-Promote:  Some common adages are true in our current economic climate. There is strength in numbers, and we’re all in this together. It’s wise to network and find like-minded business owners to share ideas and best practices. Support one another. Cross-promote your goods and services whenever possible. Hold joint promotions – such as dinner and a movie deals with a local theater.  Serve and sell local wines and have the local winery offer discount cards to drive their customers to your bar. 

Strive for the Long Haul:  In any economic environment, it’s smart to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. If the past two years have taught us anything, it’s that life can be unpredictable. Therefore, it’s important to plan for the unexpected. While it may be unpleasant to consider, have a succession plan in place in case your owners or managers are injured, incapacitated, or even die. Decide who will fill these roles temporarily or permanently in an emergency.  Prepare top performers for future leadership roles. Ensure they have plenty of training, mentoring, and experiences so they can successfully grow upward in your organization. Consider how you’d handle a variety of crisis scenarios to ensure your business remains successful, seamless, and uninterrupted.

  Working with a financial expert, restructuring debt, becoming agile, analyzing your business processes and reducing expenses can help your business succeed and become more financially stable.  Not sure if your business is fiscally fit?  Take our test today!

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

  Loan Mantra is a one-stop FinTech business portal that democratizes the loan process by providing corporate sized services and access to new entrepreneurs, small and medium sized businesses. Loanmantra.com provides access to numerous loans and lenders, government programs and small business services all through one easy application process and upload of business information ONE time. Business accounts are free and secure. But most of all you won’t be served by a blog of bots after you sign up. Service is provided by friendly, responsive agents that will answer the phone and listen respectfully while serving accounts through one of three locations in the US. And as a minority-owned business, we understand the challenges of underserved groups and we encourage diverse businesses to apply. We speak English, Spanish, Hindi, Bengal and many industry lingos, but if we don’t speak your language we’ll learn, so connect with us today at www.loanmantra.com or call 1.855. 700.BLUE (2583).

Tröegs Independent Brewing: Not Your Ordinary Brewery

By: Nan McCreary

Tröegs Independent Brewing in Hershey, Pennsylvania, is not your ordinary brewery. Situated along a confluence of highways connecting seven million tourists annually to central Pennsylvania, the brewery’s location is a perfect model for generating traffic. But it’s not the locale that truly captivates the visitor, it’s what’s inside. Whether you’re in the 5000-square-foot tasting room enjoying one of Tröegs’ award-winning brews or exploring the menu at the Snack Bar for scratch-made food to complement your beer, you are actually immersed in the brewhouse, with views of open-air tanks, and a glass-lined self-guided tour path that cuts through the center of the facility and allows you to experience — firsthand — the entire beer-making process, from fermentation to bottling lines to barrel-aging. It’s clearly a place for the adventurous and the curious.

  “We’re not a bar, and we’re not a pub,” said Chris Trogner, who co-founded the brewery in 1997 with his brother, John. “It’s a place where people can walk around and discover and learn. Our entire operation is on view, including the fermentation/filtration hall, packaging lines, an art gallery, a general store and our new Scratch Lab, where we experiment with new recipes. This is not just a place to drink beer, it’s where you can come and have a semi-immersive experience.”

  The Tröegs story is one of extraordinary growth and innovation. The Trogner brothers, who were always inventing something new when they were young — from skateboard ramps to homemade cannons — reunited after leaving home and going their separate ways, only to discover that a craft brewery might be in their future. Chris was attending college in Colorado in the midst of the craft beer explosion, and John, at Chris’s urging, joined him in Boulder. John began taking brewing classes and working at Oasis Brewing Company, and Chris went to England to study English brewing techniques. The two then hatched a plan to return to their native central Pennsylvania and open a small brewery in Harrisburg. They decided to name it Tröegs, a combination of their last name with “kroeg,” the Flemish word for pub. John was 25 at the time, and Chris was 23.

  Chris Trogner recalls rough patches during the brewery’s early days. “It was just my brother, John, and me,” Trogner told Beverage Master Magazine. “We started primarily as a packaging brewery, selling only bottles and kegs.” Their first pint sold was a Tröegs Pale Ale, and it helped get the little brewery off the ground. The first keg sold went to a Harrisburg restaurant shortly after the brewery opened.

  Fast forward 25 years — the brewery just celebrated its anniversary in July— and Tröegs has changed dramatically since its humble beginnings. Despite early challenges, Tröegs managed to gather such a large fan base of family, friends and “kindred spirits” that they quickly outgrew their facility in Harrisburg. In 2011, they built a new 90,000-square foot brewery (three times the size of the original) in nearby Hershey. With the craft beer industry booming, the move opened up an entirely new realm of possibilities for the Trogners’ innovative spirit. “As the industry grew, we were able to grow with it,” Trogner remembered. “Each year, as we’d sell more beer, we’d reinvest in more equipment and hire more people.”  Now, Tröegs boasts three brewhouses: a three-barrel brewhouse for experimental brewing, a 15-barrel brewhouse and a 100-barrel brewhouse, which the brewery uses for distribution. Annual production is 118,000 barrels. The brewery employs 250 people, with distribution in nine Mid-Atlantic states, plus Washington, D.C. “We look and feel a lot different than we did 25 years ago,” Trogner recalled, “but we’re still very much a family business. Because we’ve stayed true to our core values of independence and family ownership, we’ve kept the small-brewery DNA we all hold dear.”

  Today, their production focuses on specialty and seasonal beers. Their signature beer, the Perpetual IPA, is the best-selling IPA in Pennsylvania and is brewed with six different hops. Other standard beers include Tröegenator Double Bock, brewed in the German tradition of malty, sweet beers; DreamWeaver Wheat, a German-style hefeweizen; Sunshine Pilsner, a classic German-style pilsner and Haze Charmer, a hazy pale ale. In June, Tröegs released a limited amount of one of its most loved beers, Nimble Giant, described by Trogner as a “big beer that goes down easy.” Nimble Giant is always rated “outstanding” by Beer Advocate and is a fan favorite on Untappd. Equally popular is the seasonal holiday beer, Mad Elf, a legendary ale made from five varieties of tree-ripened cherries. “We’re always adding new beers,” Trogner said. “We try to have something for everyone.”

  In their never-ending quest for flavorful beers, the Trogners established the three-barrel Scratch Lab so that a dedicated team of tasters could meet weekly to test new flavors, equipment and brewing techniques. Beers are not given a name, but rather a number. Today, there are over 450 varieties in the Scratch Series, and in fact, many signature brews started in the scratch tanks. “We’re into getting to know the whys of our beers, where the flavors come from and how the process affects the flavor,” Trogner told Beverage Master Magazine. “We try around 100 new recipes a year. The recipes may not all become beers, but the experiments can make us more knowledgeable and help us become better brewers.” The Scratch Lab at Tröegs is on the self-guided tour and the Guided Production Tour (named in 2020 by readers of USA Today as the Best Brewery Tour in America). Here, visitors can have a ringside seat to see what the staff is doing and enjoy that same learning experience.

  While the Trogners are always seeking innovation in the Scratch Beer Lab, they’re just as inventive in providing refreshments to their visitors. Soon after opening, they added a Snack Bar to offer foods as original and interesting as the beer. The menu ranges from soups to salads, sandwiches, sweets and even a kids’ menu, with the majority of food made from scratch using local ingredients. “We develop our Snack Bar menu items much like we do beer recipes with our Scratch Series,” Trogner said. “We’ve thought long and hard about not just what food pairs with our beer, but why. We’re not out to tell you what to eat, but to inspire you to create pairings that perfectly suit your own palate.” For those who want to try a new food and beer adventure, Tröegs offers regular beer dinners with local restaurants, complete with tasting notes and recommendations on what hops variety may pair well with fruit or cheese, for example. “It’s our way of constantly experimenting and moving forward,” Trogner stated.

  Clearly, the Trogners’ desire to create is the heart and soul of their operation. Not only is this evident in the Scratch Beer Lab and the Snack Bar but also in a distinctive feature of the self-guided tour, the Art of Tröegs Gallery. “Artwork is important to us,” Trogner explained. “As brewers, we express our creativity with ingredients, tastes and flavors, but we enjoy what others are able to do, whether it’s making art with our bottle caps, labels and cans — anything that will give a sense of what’s in the bottle or the keg.” Every year Tröegs sponsors a contest and narrows the submissions down to the top two dozen for final judging. The grand prize artwork is featured in the gallery, and the winner receives a limited-release beer label created in honor of their artwork by Tröegs’ in-house artists. Over the years, entries have included a video game, a Smurfy miniature of the Hershey brewery, a multi-tiered cake, a hand-embroidered jean jacket and custom Tröegs sneakers.

  While the Trogners are committed to providing visitors with a unique experience at their brewery, they also focus on remaining active in their local community. Every year, they participate in local activities, whether it’s a large, organized event like a mountain biking ride or a fly fishing contest, or a simple beer tasting set up by a local distributor. Every year, the brewery also donates to more than 150 nonprofits involved in animal advocacy, arts and culture, education, health services and more. Additionally, the brewery buys more than 225,000 pounds of local grain, honey and fruit for use in their beer and seasonal fruits and vegetables for their Snack Bar.

  As Chris Trogner looks back on his 25 years in the craft brewing industry, he has witnessed many changes. “When we opened, there were fewer than 2,000 craft breweries in the country,” he said. “Today there are close to 10,000. There’s more innovation and more diversity. Now is one of the best times to be a beer drinker.”  Trogner is equally optimistic about the future of Tröegs Independent Brewing. “We’re young and we have a lot of gas left in the tank. We’re making long-term investments to increase capacity and improve infrastructure to set us up for the next 25 years. And, with good geography — Baltimore, DC and Philly are only two hours away, Pittsburgh is three hours away— we’re right in the sweet spot, distribution-wise.” 

  Undoubtedly, the Trogner brothers will continue to be driven by adventure and a sense of curiosity. With creative brewers like them, it is indeed a good time to be a beer drinker.

For more information on Tröegs Independent Brewing, visit www.troegs.com

Enhanced Single-Serve and Ready-to-Drink Markets Need Updated Point-of-Sale Systems   

By: Gerald Dlubala

Whether online ordering for pick up, requesting additional items to-go or purchasing single-serve containers from a local market, these options reflect the alternative and increasingly essential revenue streams for craft beverage producers. Additionally, they have proved to be a popular and effective way for craft producers to get their products into the hands of new and potential consumers. According to data supplied by Arryved, a leader in Point-of-Sale (POS) systems for food and drink businesses, many of the consumers that participate in the online and to-go craft beverage markets are different than those that choose to frequent brewpubs, tasting rooms and taprooms in person.

  The good news for craft beverage producers is that participation in the single-serve, ready-to-drink and to-go markets continues to grow. Consequently, it makes sense to nurture those relationships and make the off-premises consumer experience an event that provides value and enjoyment while enhancing your bottom line. The proper POS system can do that.

Your Business, Your Point-of-Sale System: Arryved

  “Of course, there was a sea of change beginning with the pandemic,” said Nancy Trigg, chief people officer for Arryved. “It seemed like, over the course of one night, the brewpubs, wineries and taprooms all had to scramble and pivot business models to come up with a functioning online and to-go ordering system, as well as a safe and viable delivery or customer pickup option. Point-of-Sale systems had to evolve and quickly match that change in direction. In haste, many businesses simply installed a separate system for this newfound revenue stream. It all seemed good until the businesses realized that, in reality, they were using two separate systems pulling out of a single inventory base, causing supply confusion and accountability problems. Point-of-sale systems, like Arryved, that looked at the situation and responded in a more business-sensitive, proper way were the ones that not only helped their clients survive but also helped them grow their consumer base during the uncertainty and shutdowns.”

  Trigg says that a proper POS system is one of the most crucial tools a craft producer has to understand and analyze for how they are doing business, and she urges owners to approach their businesses with that exact mindset.

  “If you have the proper POS system set up for all of your revenue streams, including on-premises, single-serve purchases and online ordering with customer pickup, you will immediately receive valuable insights into what you are selling, when you are selling it and how your products are being used,” said Trigg. “Are some products more popular at certain times, like lunch or dinner? Are some being consumed more with food? Which beverages are more popular at which times? Are they being sold in smaller pours? Larger pours? Are certain products more popular for carryout over in-house consumption? For flight purchases? So much data related to your specific craft products concerning single-serve and online-ordering revenue streams can be harvested from the right POS system.”

  Trigg told Beverage Master Magazine that the applicable laws about these types of sales will generally stick around because of the great work from the guilds, communities and cities to help food and drink businesses remain afloat during the height of the pandemic. Now, craft beverage producers must have a POS system that integrates these transactions into their daily business practices by highlighting and providing data tailored to their specific products, customer profiles and unique business situations.

  “When craft beverage producers start packaging their products, the inherent level of their risk rises, if only based on the costs of packaging,” said Trigg. “That little extra risk can be just enough to inhibit the creative experimentation that makes up the backbone of what a brewpub, taproom or tasting room is supposed to be. But with the right information derived from an inclusive and detailed POS system, that risk is minimized. Now they can offer the right products to the right consumers at the right time, including single-serves, ready-to-drink varieties or a wide range of to-go flight-type options or mix-and-match packs tailored to specific tastes. Unfortunately, not many POS systems properly provide these types of flight tools or pick-six options within their makeup. Arryved does just that, providing the craft producer meaningful insights into what is and isn’t working, and when.”

  Trigg said that Arryved is a POS system genuinely built to care for an all-inclusive beverage program, including those that, either now or in the future, want the option to offer food sales. In addition, Arryved enhances brewpub or tasting room atmospheres by allowing its customers to order drinks to-go, online or in single-serve, ready-to-drink options.

  “There are always developing options within the single-serve and ready-to-drink markets that craft beverage producers need to stay aware of,” said Trigg. “This includes the growing popularity of flight options and different sizes of mix-and-match take-home packs that the customer can customize. Craft producers need a POS system that recognizes these trends and supports mobile guests just as well as it does with on-premises guests. Arryved supports craft beverage producers in all facets of their revenue streams, while featuring unmatched support for the industry. In addition, we stay engaged in the business sector and always have someone available to speak with directly.”

Ready-to-Drink, Single Serve and To-Go Markets Thriving

  The ability to try and enjoy craft beverage products off-premises was, and still is, a game-changer for many craft brewers, winemakers and distillers. For the past couple of years, these markets have helped many establishments remain open and proved they could be a robust, new revenue stream. Breweries have traditionally offered their products in growlers and crowlers so their consumers could enjoy the beer at home. Additionally, the popularity of individual can seaming devices, like those offered by Oktober Can Seamers, gives craft beverage producers more flexibility in to-go offerings and allows consumers more flexibility in how and where they choose to use the beverage.

  In its primary function, can seamers allow craft beverage producers to get their product out the door and into the hands of consumers for off-premises enjoyment. But Dennis Grumm, CEO and lead engineer for Oktober Can Seamers, told Beverage Master Magazine that many clients realize additional untapped revenue possibilities by canning beer, mixed drinks and specialty cocktails for to-go orders. Brewpubs, distilleries, and wineries can all use a can seamer to offer their beverages, unique brews and house cocktails on a to-go basis. It’s an economical and very effective way to get new customers to try your products while satisfying your current customer base. Distillers have had great success canning their best-known, ready-to-drink cocktails, but canning is also an effective way to offer seasonal or limited-release drinks and cocktails.

  Pouches are another way to get your product in the hands of consumers that would not normally spend time in your place of business or would just like to take your crafted offerings with them on the go. Pouches range from those in the refrigerator for individual pours of wine to the single-serve cocktail and wine pouches that resemble the child-friendly juice pouches. The benefits of using pouches include offering a resealable, portion-controlled package that reduces packaging weight by up to 94 percent and can be shipped and packed using fewer resources.

Enhancing the Single-Serve and Ready-to-Drink Market: O-I Glass

  O-I Glass, based in Perrysburg, Ohio, is looking to elevate the single-serve, to-go and ready-to-drink markets to better reflect the on-premises, brewpub and tasting room experience. Megan Henry is the global marketing communications business partner for O-I Glass. She told Beverage Master Magazine that they are transforming the to-go, single-serve and ready-to-drink markets by offering a new glass packaging alternative called the Drinktainer™ for these markets.

  “In an increasingly common world of to-go packaging, we feel that it’s time for craft beverage producers to elevate that part of their business and the consumer experience,” said Henry. “Growlers and crowlers are great, but they have limitations. As soon as you open them, you’re under a time constraint as to how long that product will be good. Using our wide-mouthed Drinktainer™, you’re promoting a sustainable packaging option with the recyclable glass and RipCap® closure, and you’re allowing the consumer to enjoy your products as if they were in your brewpub, taproom or tasting room.”

  Henry said that capacity and shortage concerns still affect many industry players, but those worries are not an issue with Drinktainer™, which is currently available in inventory.

  “We know that many beer aficionados prefer to consume their beer out of a glass, straight from the tap,” said Henry. “Offering to-go, single-serve options in a recyclable glass container is just a naturally better way to enjoy beer and craft beverages in general. Glass packaging provides great flavor retention in any environment and allows producers to feel more comfortable offering their consumers different types and combinations of products without the fear that alternative packaging, like plastics or pouches, will taint their beer, cocktails or wine. In addition, with the wide mouth (42mm), consumers get the deeper flavor and more robust aroma experience as if they would be drinking from a glass on premises.”

  Sustainability is a significant issue of consideration in every phase of craft beverage production, and the Drinktainer™ is a fully sustainable product, available in clear that is customarily used for beer and in a flint tone that highlights the color combinations of cocktails and other beverages. It’s sealed using a RipCap®, an easily applied and highly secure closure that O-I Glass believes brings a nostalgic feel to the products. Drinktainer™ has been successfully used to offer pick-six trial packs and beer flights, and it requires no other glasses or barware to enjoy as the beverage maker intended.

Find more information on the Drinktainer™ at www.o-i.com

TANK & TANK SYSTEMS: Streamline Production and Maintenance

By: Cheryl Gray

The tanks and tank systems that support the production of the brews and spirits of the craft beverage industry work to keep the quality and safety of those beverages on target.

  No matter the size or brand of the tanks involved, craft brewers and distillers want optimal results and a minimalistic cleaning and maintenance routine to ensure productivity goes uninterrupted. Some companies cater to the industry to provide multiple options.

  Among them is Quality Tank Solutions (QTS), headquartered 35 miles outside of Milwaukee. The company, founded a decade ago, is a stainless-steel tank manufacturer. Jimmi Jean Sukys is the

company’s owner.

  “We are about 100 employees in size and we serve the brewing, food and beverage, dairy and pharmaceutical industries,” Sukys said. “Aside from manufacturing, we also install and repair stainless steel vessels. Our talented engineering team helps you refine your process by increasing efficiency, quality and cleanability.”

  QTS provides a wide range of complete stainless-steel tanks and tank systems for craft breweries, whether it is a start-up or an established brewery. This includes custom-built brewhouses with two to four vessels of 3-1/2BBL to 100BBL in size. The systems are configured to accommodate any height or space restrictions. Standard construction offers features that include either manual or fully automated operation and either steam or direct fire. QTS also supplies brewhouse equipment, such as boilers, chillers, keg washers, bottling lines and walk-in coolers. Sukys explains what additional innovations set QTS apart, including the top-priority use of high-quality materials, efficiency and cleanability.

  “Our QTS cellar tanks are versatile and are completely customizable to meet your specific needs,” Sukys said. “The tank system industry has been around for some time now. What QTS has brought to the table, in just 10 years of service, is consistent and trustworthy results with emphasis on quality standards. Our tanks are engineered and manufactured in Wisconsin, USA using only U.S. stainless steel. Tank longevity is a priority. QTS is with you every step of the way. Even after you receive your tanks, we can help you install, repair or expand. Our expert team members offer amazing customer service.”

  Solid customer service and buying American-made products are among the reasons behind Potomac Distillery’s decision to buy tanks and tank equipment from Idaho-based Corson Distilling Systems, Inc. The Washington D.C.-headquartered distillery is the home base for Thrasher’s Rum, which takes its moniker from owner Todd Thrasher.  “I worked with Corson because I wanted to source American-made products,” said Thrasher.

Corson Distilling Systems is a family-owned business founded a little over a decade ago by brothers Josh and Tory Corson. Today, the company hand-builds each system from materials that include raw stainless steel and copper. The firm also turned to SOLIDWORKS Premium 3D design software to boost its output, streamlining the process of creating models and drawing files while supporting automatic configurations of equipment designs within the SOLIDWORKS products family. Combining the productivity of SOLIDWORKS with another technology solution, COUNTERPART ERP, shaved off a considerable workload and further streamlined processes for the team of draftsmen responsible for the products sold by Corson Distilling Systems, Inc.

  Breweries count on a variety of tanks and tank equipment to get their products out. That includes brew kettles, lauter tuns, mash tanks and more. 

  QTS brew kettles feature what the company describes as a steam-driven Omega Heat Transfer Surface Jacket. The company touts this feature as one that allows precision boiling designed to eliminate over-boiling, which can negatively affect the final product. In addition to some of the other features that are standard on QTS products, its brew kettle standard features include a vent stack with DMS drain, flanged and dished top head, shallow cone bottom and a vortex breaker. 

  Options include a combination brew kettle and whirlpool, so-called “China-hat” assembly, direct fire and vent stack installation. The company’s whirlpool tanks can either stand alone or be combined with other functions. They are customized to handle a brewery’s system capacity. Standard features incorporate many of those offered in other products by QTS, along with a feature known as Trub Guard. The whirlpool tanks can be customized to combine the functions of a whirlpool tank with a brew kettle.

  The company also offers steam-driven calandrias designed to achieve boiling point temperatures without using a heat transfer surface jacket. The calandrias are made of a cylindrical shell and a tube design that is custom-sized to meet the requirements of breweries of virtually any size. The calandrias feature an insulated shell and tube design, accessible flanged ends, a square tube frame with adjustable feet and an optional flexible design to fit a brew house.

  Mash tanks by QTS include standard features such as flanged and dished top head, turbine agitation, glass stop manway, tank light, side wall baffles, shallow cone bottom, NORD gear drive, removable CIP assembly, steam jackets and, of course, 3-A standards. Options include a combination mash and lauter tun, a hydrator and a knife gate.

  The company’s lauter tuns incorporate a tight wedge screen wire fit at the bottom of the vessel, which is designed to eliminate the possibility of the screen bending under the pressure of a heavy mash bed.

  This tight tolerance design prevents excess grains from seeping through the screen. Features of the QTS lauter tuns include gear drive and agitation, which are configured based on the size of the vessel. Other standard construction features include a freeboard above grain bed depth, flanged and dished top head, shallow cone bottom, rake assembly with plow bar, glass top manway, tank light, removable CIP assembly, rectangle side entry manway and wedge widescreen false bottom. Optional features are a combination mash and lauter tun and underscreen CIP.

  Lager tanks designed by QTS feature a horizontal design that the company touts as more efficient since the tanks have more surface area coverage. The lager tanks feature flanged and dished heads, an insulated vessel design, a heat transfer surface jacket, a quarter-inch thick formed saddle with adjustable feet and an oval swing-in manway. They also have a removable CIP assembly with a “whirly spray” device and come fully equipped with a PRV, sample valve, butterfly valves and a CIP accessory. Available options include a stacked tank design and a visual sight gauge assembly.

  For distilleries, QTS offers custom-made hot and cold liquor tanks with features that include flanged and dished top heads, an insulated vessel, a round cross-arm manway, a heat transfer surface jacket, overflow control, F&D and flat-pitched bottoms.

Options include a visual sight gauge and an immersion heater. 

  One QTS product used for adding ingredients during the brewing process is the QTS Q-Bot. It can be used as a dry hop or slurry vessel. The tank’s flexibility helps in the work of adding ingredients at different points in the production process. Among its features are a shallow cone top head, a 24-inch round pressure manway, interchangeable perforated baskets in sizes of one-eighth, one-fourth and one-half inches, a tangential side inlet, a rolled push ring and caster wheels.

  Cleaning tanks and the accompanying equipment are very important, not only for protecting the investment in production, but also for protecting the distillery products. At Potomac Distillery, Thrasher favors a non-chemical approach to cleaning his tanks, which he says are all jacketed.

  “We clean the still and fermentation tanks about once a month. We typically use a combination of water and citric acid and then clean again with distilled water.”

  Experts say that designing, manufacturing, installing and maintaining tanks and their accompanying equipment is done with a combination of craftsmanship, innovation and ever-evolving technology. The aim, of course, is to preserve the products that craft brewers and distillers pour their time and resources into making and getting ready for market.

Inviting Sustainability into The Vodka Industry

By: Tina Karras, Founder & Owner — Tina’s Vodka

As a founder and owner of a vodka distillery, I regularly contemplate our industry’s sustainability. I want people to have what they enjoy, but I also want a future for our planet.

  The process of sourcing, making, and packaging alcohol has environmental implications that we can no longer afford to ignore. It varies by the liquor and production method, but the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable’s research reveals that each 750-milliliter bottle of liquor produces an average of 6.5 pounds of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. This cannot continue.

Sourcing Sustainable Ingredients Through Regenerative Agriculture

  I’ve always been disheartened by the nagging fear that nothing I did as a single business owner would impact the global environment. However, after watching the documentary “Kiss the Ground,” I am hopeful at last. This film asserts that if we commit to changes that regenerate our planet’s soil, we will simultaneously balance our changing climate, replenish the Earth’s water supply, prevent species extinction, and raise more abundant crops. Here, at last, is a film with solutions that leaves me optimistic about our planet’s future.

  The documentary inspired me to embrace regenerative agriculture in my vodka production process and spread the news to others. This type of farming is not new by any means. Instead of industrial farming methods that deplete the land with a lack of biodiversity, pesticides, and fertilizers, regenerative agriculture applies traditional farming methods to maintain healthy soil, plants, and water. It seeks to reverse environmental damage through no-till systems, crop diversity, planned livestock grazing, and biosequestration (the method of trapping and storing carbon in plants, microbes, and other organisms).

If We Implement These Solutions, We Will See A Rapid Shift In Our Planet’s Health

  Regenerative agriculture is the simplest way to heal the soil, and soil health is the key to solving the climate problem. If every alcoholic beverage producer sourced grain from fields farmed with regenerative agriculture and bio-sequestration, massive amounts of CO2 would be drawn down into the soil and out of the atmosphere. Tilling fields for corn, wheat, barley, rice, and other ingredients we source for our products releases massive amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. No-till plows can plant those seeds without allowing CO2 to escape. The healthy soil that resulted would capture carbon and reduce runoff. If we keep the soil covered and healthy, CO2 remains in the ground where it belongs.

Resistance to Regenerative Farming and Organic Ingredients in the Liquor Industry

  Leading scientists and soil experts claim that capturing atmospheric carbon and replenishing the Earth is possible with the technology we already have. Unfortunately, this type of farming faces strong opposition, and many remain resistant to change. I haven’t yet seen regenerative agriculture become a significant part of the spirits industry. Perhaps this is because organic, non-GMO corn is simply more expensive to produce than GMO corn.

  Today’s farmers are able to keep the cost of industrial agriculture low through the extensive use of harmful chemicals. These become necessary because their way of farming creates an ecosystem centered around only one crop. Over time, it depletes the soil of nutrients and throws the environment out of balance. Natural ecosystems are filled with a variety of plants and animals, each designed to keep the others in harmony. When massive amounts of one plant cover an area, it is natural for predatory insects and weeds to move in and take advantage of the surplus. In an effort to protect their crops, farmers spray tons of poisonous pesticides and herbicides on the fields. To replace nutrients in the soil, they turn to harmful fertilizers. 

  For example, glyphosate has had a major impact on the production of corn for vodka. For over four decades, this chemical has been the leading tool farmers in the United States used for killing weeds before planting their corn. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), glyphosate — the main ingredient in Roundup — has become the most widely-used herbicide in the US since 2001.

  The problem was that this chemical killed all plants indiscriminately. In response, scientists created “Roundup-Ready” crops in 1996. Genetically engineered plants were then able to tolerate the herbicide. After this, farmers could spray their entire cornfield without worrying about being selective. Today, farmers who grow Roundup-Ready GMO crops use glyphosate as a desiccant to speed up their harvesting timetable. Spraying their plants with the herbicide kills the crop, causes it to dry out sooner, and produces more consistent yields. This allows them to harvest crops as much as two weeks earlier than they could have otherwise, which proves to be an advantage in colder climates.

  Exactly how glyphosate impacts long-term human health is still being debated, even though its use has increased almost 20-fold during the last two decades. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declares that glyphosate is a carcinogen. The IARC also claims that Roundup is linked to Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and autism.

  Regenerative farming employs biodiversity to control weeds and pests. It is more expensive, but the cost is worth it. When spirit brands embrace this way of farming, they discover exciting benefits. In addition to the environmental gains, they will also be pleasantly surprised by a vast improvement in the quality of their product. Vodka made with organic corn and without added sugar simply tastes better, since it has its own natural sweetness. There are no additives — just organic corn and water.

  The best way to ensure the corn and grains sourced for the production of spirits are organic and farmed sustainably is to purchase them locally. Eliminating the need for transporting large volumes of grain over long distances is also a way to reduce the liquor industry’s carbon footprint.

  Despite the cost, a growing number of farmers are looking into the possibility of producing their crops with sustainable farming methods and regenerative practices. Because of the damage that has already been inflicted on our planet and the harmful practices still going on today, regenerative farming requires commitment. Some of these farmers have to spend up to three seasons restoring the soil in their fields. On top of this, many are forced to plant a 25-foot buffer crop to block the overspray of pesticides from neighboring farms. It is time for the liquor industry to show these farmers our support.

  Farming is inherently risky, and farmers are resistant to change. When you ask them to do something they have never done before, especially when neighboring farmers aren’t doing it, you are asking a lot of them. It’s hard for farmers to learn new techniques because so many of them are already working another job to avoid losing their farm. Greater education is key to getting more farmers to adopt regenerative practices.

  The best means of persuading large farms to commit to regenerative agriculture is by demonstrating that it makes financial sense. If large distilleries can work out long-term contracts to source grains directly from the farm, it could be a win-win scenario for both parties. The distillery could share a regenerative story about the farm and about their product. Likewise, if a farmer knows there is demand for sustainable ingredients, they will be willing to meet it. There are so many positive stories that can come out of these partnerships.

Reducing Waste in the Distilling Process

  Sourcing quality ingredients is paramount because it offers us a chance to restore our planet’s health. However, the most unsustainable part of liquor production is distillation. It leaves us with waste products that are harmful to the environment if not disposed of properly.

  Inspired by shortages during the Covid-19 pandemic, some distilleries began turning these waste products into hand sanitizer and are still doing so even after the commercial producers restocked the shelves. I have known certain distilleries to give away a bottle of sanitizer with every purchase.

  Distilleries are also forming partnerships with industries such as fish farms, livestock farmers, and bakeries to put waste grain and water products to good use. At TimberFish Technologies, spent grain is converted into fish food and pumped into growth tanks brimming with speckled trout, Atlantic salmon, and shrimp. Distilleries also send waste products to farms that raise livestock — often the same farms where they purchased their grain initially. Upcycled waste products are not just for animals. Bakeries use mash to make sourdough bread and grain byproducts to make flour.

  Other distilleries are exploring ways of reusing their waste products to keep the machines running. Converting waste into energy can be achieved by an anaerobic digester system that uses waste to produce methane. Cyclically, this methane helps to fuel the very distillation process that produces it.

Reducing The Impact Of The Liquor Industry’s Packaging Materials

  After distillation, packaging is the second most significant environmental challenge in our industry. A 2019 assessment finds the carbon footprint of glass vodka bottles accounts for 43 percent of the product’s carbon footprint. Recyclable PET plastic bottles account for around 27%.

  Ideas for making the packaging of our products more sustainable include recycled glass and cork. Larger distilleries are funding research into biodegradable bottles, recycled paper-plastic hybrid bottles, and plastic bottles made from wood pulp.

Hope for a Sustainable Future in the Liquor Industry

  As more and more of our consumers become aware of climate change and its implications, they are adopting a new understanding of what it means to drink responsibly. Today, people are reading labels. They are aware that their purchases have an impact on our planet and want to know where their food and beverages come from. We should give them the opportunity to make a difference with the products we provide.

  There is a new climate story that is optimistic and simple, and the liquor industry can be part of it. If we learn how to support sustainably-farmed ingredients, manage our waste products responsibly, and package our products in environmentally-conscious ways, we don’t have to live in fear.

The Most Important Opportunity for Brewery Owners

Why So Many Are Missing It

By: Catherine Tindall

The Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) is one of the best ways for those in the beverage industry to regain their footing in a post-COVID age. Unfortunately, according to current estimates, many eligible businesses are missing out on this historic opportunity. For those who received or may otherwise be familiar with the Paycheck Protection Program, also known as the PPP, the concept is similar, but there are key differences that make the ERTC a much more generous program overall.  To understand why I will outline some of the key provisions and eligibility parameters, explain the process for claiming the credit, and answer some common questions I encounter in my own practice, such as “why haven’t I heard of this before?”

  The ERTC is a tax refund credit entitling employers to up to $26,000 per employee, depending on the number of quarters a business qualifies for. Eligibility is determined by either revenue disruptions or government orders on a quarterly basis. Many breweries are unaware that they are eligible for the ERTC due to the capacity and operation restrictions on their indoor dining and/or tasting rooms that occurred during the pandemic. Financial disruptions to that aspect of the business trigger ERTC eligibility for all the divisions of the brewery, not just the restricted segment.  We routinely see businesses qualify for six or seven-figure credits under these parameters.

  There are a number of features that set this credit apart from other programs designed to aid businesses affected by the pandemic, like the PPP. Unlike the PPP, the credit itself comes back as paper checks from the IRS, and also unlike the PPP funds, which were restricted to certain uses, a business owner is free to use the ERTC however he or she sees fit. This is because the credit is actually a refund of wages and payroll taxes your organization has already paid. A consequence of this is that there is no overall program limit on the funds to be disbursed through the ERTC, in contrast to the PPP which had a limited fund pool. Businesses affected by government orders are entitled to every cent they qualify for. Taken together, all of these factors are what gives this program its power. The only limitation is time. This credit will begin to be phased out in April of 2023, meaning that business owners need to ensure they submit their claim as soon as possible. 

  Given the tremendous upsides, every business owner in the beverage space should try to see if their business qualifies, even if it seems doubtful. There is no need to become experts in the credit’s provisions, which can often be nuanced. The important thing is to find the right professional, and, to this point, one must be careful. There are unfortunately a lot of bad actors in this space looking to make a quick buck, and many of them are very good at seeming legitimate. 

  The following are some of the most asked questions associated with the ERTC.

  Should I get a second opinion? Because of the substantial nature of these credits, it’s often worth speaking to multiple providers for the credit to get a sense of the relative merits of each, and to look to the expertise and experience of those working on your case rather than fancy marketing or smooth sales tactics.

  Why haven’t I heard about this before? There are several reasons why many business owners have not heard of this important credit. One is that, in contrast to the PPP program, the ERTC has not been well advertised by the government (after all, since when did the IRS advertise refunds you’re entitled to). Another is that many tax practitioners are hesitant to pursue it given the sometimes complex nature of the claims, if this isn’t their area of expertise. Finally, we commonly find that too many CPAs mistakenly believe that their clients do not qualify for the credit, and so never bring up the possibility of claiming it with them.

I would encourage all brewery owners to actively explore eligibility. The potential benefits of qualification, hundreds of thousands of dollars in obligation-free money from the IRS, is one of the highest value things you could do for your business in the current environment of economic uncertainty.

  There are certain pitfalls to avoid, such as dishonest companies operating in the space, but if you choose the right firm or professional to partner with, the process is remarkably painless. Just be mindful that this is an opportunity with a time limit attached. With less than a year before it begins to phase out, now is the time to claim the credit you’re entitled to.

  Catherine Tindall is Partner & CPA, Dominion Enterprise Services (DES), a full-service CPA firm providing tax planning and consulting alongside specialty tax credit processing. The firm has more than 50 years of collective experience and recently announced the launch of its Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERC) Division to help restaurants assess their eligibility for the ERC and properly secure the maximum refund allowed. Learn more at…