CO2 Struggles Breed Innovative Practices & Alternative Gas Use

By: Gerald Dlubala

Shortages, surcharges and sketchy availability: that’s not what any craft brewer, distiller or winemaker wants to hear about their supply stream. Yet that’s the reality that many brewers have been, and still are, living with after the pandemic played havoc with CO2 (carbon dioxide) availability.

  The lack of regular, planned delivery and variable costs and surcharges of CO2 has brewers looking at ways to cut their costs or amount of usage of CO2, including replacing CO2 with nitrogen in some capacity. Nitrogen is readily available and an inert gas that does not typically   react with its surroundings, so there’s no worry of adverse reactions with the brewed products.

Reducing and Replacing CO2 Use

  Matt Malloy is the founder and CEO of Dorchester Brewing in Boston, Massachusetts, a contract partner brewery usually brewing for and partnering with 12 to 15 breweries at any given time. When facing a 75 percent reduction in planned CO2 deliveries from their supplier, Malloy knew it was time to look into new and alternative ways to keep his taphouse and brewery producing, especially as he is responsible for brewing beer for his partner breweries.

  “We’ve long had a great relationship with our gas supplier,” said Malloy. “But this became a serious issue for us. We are a contract brewer for others, so production and quality are always our absolute priorities. We adhere to strict best practices with the required equipment for our industry and have to perform at a certain expected level. We have a bulk CO2 tank but couldn’t get the supplies necessary to keep us going, so we had to start looking at other options and even other suppliers than we had previously. We began by looking at where we use CO2 in our production. (Like other brewers, they found it in use virtually everywhere in their process.) We decided that the 25 percent supply we could get would go towards the most needed tasks. Then we would look for alternative solutions for other tasks that would cut the CO2 usage or, in some instances, replace the need for CO2 altogether with a better, more economical option. In our research and testing (Dorchester Brewing has a full-time quality control and testing lab), we found that we could initially replace CO2 with nitrogen in our canning, seaming and kegging operations. Additional notable savings came from using it to purge our two 60-bbl and one 120-bbl brite tanks. It was pretty much a one-for-one swap between CO2 and nitrogen. Our gas supplier helped with suggestions, and we were able to use our current piping systems by installing T-valves for switching use to liquid nitrogen supply, vaporizers and dewars when needed. We also found that cleaning under pressure used less gas than cleaning in place. All of these changes were made incrementally, using slow and steady testing to ensure that using nitrogen in place of CO2 did not compromise the quality of the beer in any one step of change.”

  Malloy told Beverage Master Magazine that one very effective thing he and his brewers started doing is incorporating the German method of Spunding in their brewing process, using special valves attached to your tanks. Spunding literally means bunging, and the old German technique is making a comeback and something that Malloy says every craft brewer should at least try. It involves carefully monitoring the present gravity and sealing off the tank after the initial, aggressive fermentation stages have been completed. Once the wort ferments to near the targeted final gravity and orifices are closed off, you set the Spunding valve on the tank to your desired hold pressure setting. The valve’s attached gauge monitors PSI levels, and any levels above your set pressure tell the variable pressure relief valve to open automatically and release pressure down to the preset level when the valve will once again close. Spunding traps the naturally occurring CO2 created during fermentation so that it absorbs into the wort as it turns into beer. When done correctly, a brewer ends up with a perfectly carbonated beer ready for packaging and a decreased need for additional purchased CO2.

  “Right from the start, we reduced our CO2 needs by 30 percent,” said Malloy. “Spunding saves us money, but I also believe it makes better beer. There is an increased sense of quality with better aroma components. We are making better beer, with less cost and more flexibility.”

  Malloy encourages brewers to initially consider ways to save on and reduce CO2 usage before blindly transitioning everything to nitrogen.

“As brewers, we have to be super nimble and flexible in our thinking,” said Malloy. “Here at Dorchester Brewing, we’ve looked at and studied every step in our brewing and production process. As a result, we now see some of the duties that traditionally call for CO2 use, like purging and blowing down, as valid ways to use nitrogen instead and save money.”

  Malloy says that Spunding, combined with an intense review of brewery practices, has gotten their facility down to a 50 percent reduction in the amount of CO2 they would typically require, but he’s not stopping there. He is currently testing nitrogen use in his can seamers and fillers. As a result, he expects to reduce his CO2 deliveries from once a week to once a month, resulting in even more savings.

  Nitrogen offers a way to create your own gas supply or have a less costly bulk option. Onsite nitrogen generators provide nitrogen on demand and, depending on use, can pay for themselves in a short time, sometimes within the same year. Cryogenic bulk tanks offer an onsite nitrogen supply with fewer deliveries, and dewars are available for more minor production needs.

Innovation Leads to a Change in Philosophy and Brewery Practices

  “Spunding and nitrogen use have changed how we approach brewing, but those practices have also built a new philosophy within our brewery,” said Malloy. “We are always looking to improve, and now we see a change in behavior within our team. We’ve changed cleaning protocols and team behavior. Our team now sees value in every pound of gas used. Each pound used is sacred, and this type of thinking breeds innovation. We’ve used these protocols with all our brews, with no issues, differences or deficiencies noticed.”

  Malloy says that these changes help production, but just as significantly, they also add up to reduced costs for brewers. The cost savings in buying bulk is significant, with some breweries paying up to eight times as much for supply as Dorchester Brewing.

  “I would recommend that craft brewers first look at all of their production tasks in detail and, where applicable, incorporate the Spunding valves in their process,” said Malloy. “The upfront cost would be that of the valves, but the savings resulting from Spunding can be significant. Getting caught short can cause irreparable harm as a craft brewer, so you should also work with your gas supplier to investigate and research the possibilities of using nitrogen for as many practices as possible. It’s a win-win situation for both of you.”

  Malloy is invested in the brewing community and is willing to discuss his experiences and help to show other craft brewers how they can start reducing costs through Spunding, nitrogen use or both in their brewery, pub or taproom. In addition, Dorchester Brewing offers free lid seaming checks and DO (dissolved oxygen) testing for area brewers.

Reusing Produced CO2 Through Carbon Capture: Earthly Labs

  Due to the nature of the brewing process, breweries produce large amounts of CO2. With CO2 supplies being in such short and erratic supply, plus variable pricing structures, it may make sense for breweries to consider recapturing some of that produced CO2 for their use. Earthly Labs, a division of Chart Industries, is at the forefront of CO2 capture technology, manufacturing plug-and-play carbon capture units that enable a brewery start capturing and using their own produced CO2 within one day of installation.

  The Earthly Labs CO2 capture technology is designed to capture CO2 waste from smaller sources that ultimately make up more than half of all CO2 emissions. For breweries specifically, this translates to allowing brewers to capture their own produced CO2 and subsequently purify it to food-grade gas for reuse in the packaging and carbonating processes.

  Using recaptured CO2 for your beer immediately allows a brewer to reduce CO2 purchases and the associated delivery fees and surcharges. Additionally, peace of mind comes with decreasing worries and making an environmentally conscious decision to increase sustainability. Earthly Labs compares the capture and reuse of CO2 to brewers or distillers disposing of spent grain because it is also a way to become more sustainable while also simultaneously benefitting your brewery’s bottom line.

  Amy George, founder and CEO of Earthly Labs, says that while distilleries and wineries don’t have the amount of need that breweries have, they are also in the early stages of showing interest. Distilleries are continuously looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint, with some having plans featuring net zero carbon futures. Wineries are also exploring ways to capture and reuse CO2 onsite to help with tank purging or carbonation needs for specific products.

  George says that their CO2 capture units are about the size of a double-door refrigerator and can be running and capturing gas the next day after installation if the brewery is producing gas. Training is straightforward, taking one to two days. After that, the brewery employees will be fully able to use the system under the oversight of the Earthly Labs team. Additional support is always available, including the possibility of remote monitoring. Return on investment timetables varies by producer, based on the amount of gas captured versus what a craft producer would have to pay for supply, surcharges, frequency of delivery, and more. As the price of CO2 rises, the return-on-investment timeline shortens, but on average, the client can expect the units to pay for themselves within two to three years.

  Earthly Lab’s units are currently in use by breweries and craft producers of all sizes, but George says that the sweet spot for their workhorse unit, the CiCi ® (Oak), is for producers in the 5,000 to 20,000 bbl range. They can accommodate smaller producers with their CiCi ® (Teak) units, and larger producers will benefit from their CiCi ® (Elm) units.

  George believes the complex, ongoing supply and delivery conditions will ultimately lead breweries to explore ways to remain viable and become more efficient in their operations. This includes capturing the CO2 waste for reuse that would typically be released into the environment and looking at replacement alternatives for CO2 within production operations. 

  Earthly Labs works to accommodate all producers, including offering a winery leasing program to provide flexibility during harvest seasons and to help eliminate the upfront expenditure by spreading payments into more manageable monthly programs. Additionally, the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act also allows for tax credits for these types of purchases.

  Chart Industries CO2 storage solutions and partner networks offer opportunities to turn waste streams into value for businesses while reducing environmental impact. Chart also partners with buyers and distributors to help sell excess CO2 to other partners in the exchange ecosystem. The ultimate goal is to reduce as many emissions as possible to help achieve overall climate goals.

The Rise of Aquavit in the United States  

By: Becky Garrison

The word aquavit derives from the Latin word aqua vitae meaning “water of life,” a testament to the belief held by early distillers that alcohol infused with herbs was a healing spirit. Also known as aquavite, akvavit, akevitt or snaps, this national spirit of Sweden, Norway and Denmark represents an integral part of Scandinavian culture.

  A typical Nordic household has a bottle of aquavit in the refrigerator or freezer, which is brought out during festive gatherings like Christmas and Midsummer celebrations. Also, aquavit functions as a digestif in helping to digest rich food.

  Traditionally, Scandinavians shout skol (also skål) while maintaining eye contact as they down a shot of aquavit. Supposedly, this custom stems from the Viking sensibility of keeping one’s eye on others, even during a celebration to avoid potential threats. As a testament to aquavit’s celebratory role, the Historical Museum of Wine & Spirits in Stockholm, Sweden, currently lists over 200 drinking songs dedicated to aquavit, with new ones created each year.

  Families without means often made aquavit at home, similar to distilling Prohibition-era gin in the United States. While these homemade brews tended to leave a very bitter aftertaste, aquavits produced by licensed distillers elevated this spirit considerably.

  Commercially produced aquavit tends to range in ABV from 40 to 45 percent, with most aquavit classified as Taffel Aquavit. This term refers to aquavit that is either entirely unaged or aged in spent casks that impart nearly no character. Aquavit found in other parts of Scandinavia use a base consisting of clear, grain-neutral spirits, though Norwegians often distill theirs with potatoes as a base. Also, Norwegian aquavit is usually aged in barrels.

The Birth of Aquavit Distilled in the United States

  Until recently, Scandinavians in the United States wishing to replicate these Nordic traditions had to rely on imported aquavit. The most popular imports available in the United States were Aalborg (Denmark), Linie (Norway) and O.P. Anderson (Sweden).

  The first instance of aquavit produced in the United States can be traced to Christian Krogstad, founder of House Spirits and Westward Whiskey in Portland, Oregon. As his family is Norwegian, he grew up with the foods and drinks of Norway and a particular fondness for aquavit. As Krogstad reflects, “The caraway in aquavit is particularly good as a palate-cleanser if you have oily fish, like mackerel or pickled herring.”

  Since aquavit is such a niche category, Krogstad focused his efforts on distilling gin while waiting for his American single malt whiskey to mature. However, distribution issues in 2006 prevented aquavit from being imported to the U.S. in time for the holiday season. So, he decided to produce some aquavit, which he made using a neutral corn spirit. He then maturated the botanicals and redistilled it.

  His aquavit was kept at the distillery for marketing uses with no intention of selling or distributing this spirit commercially. But he discovered that whenever “cool kid” bartenders visited the distillery and sampled the aquavit, they indicated an interest in using this spirit at their bars.

  So in 2007, he made a label for his aquavit and started selling Krogstad Aquavit. Even though House Spirits took a minority investment in Westward Whiskey from Diageo, he still retains full ownership of his aquavit. Recently, he added Krogstad Gamle Aquavit, barrel-aged in French oak pinot noir barrels from various Oregon wineries. Currently, this is available in about 42 states and online, with approximately 1,000 nine-liter cases sold per year.

The Growth of U.S.-Based Aquavit  

  Initially, the TTB’s Distilled Spirits Beverage Alcohol Manual (BAM) specified that only spirits possessing the flavor of caraway could be labeled aquavit. After receiving correspondence from an aquavit producer, which explained that Norwegian law allows aquavit to retain the flavor of caraway, dill or both, they amended the entry for “aquavit” on pages 4-13 to read: “A caraway and/or dill flavored distilled spirits product.”

  This loose definition has allowed for experimentation among distillers in producing an aquavit that maintains the Scandinavian character of the spirit but has characteristics unique to that particular distillery.

Aimsir Distilling Co. (Portland, OR)

  According to co-founder Christine Hopkins, aquavit production emerged as their distiller’s passion project. “We learned a lot about aquavit together, and we got to try a bunch of aquavits, as my co-founder and husband, Steve, and I knew nothing about this specialty spirit.”

  Their aquavit is made with the same neutral grain spirit used for their gin and vodka, which Hopkins describes as very caraway but balanced with fennel, star anise, a lot of citrus and a little bit of lavender. Most of their aquavit cocktails have been very summer-inspired, following the success of their Nordic Summer, a drink that includes aquavit, lime and Aperol. 

Long Road Distillers (Grand Rapids, MI)

  While most distillers purchase their neutral-grain spirit for their aquavit, co-owner Jon O’Connor proclaims they craft all their small batch spirits from scratch using local ingredients. Around 2015, they distilled about 100 pints of aquavit as a passion project. But after sending off a bottle to the Denver International Spirits Competition, where they tied for Best of Show with a $200 bottle of scotch, they felt they were on to something. “We just kept sending it off to these big spirits completions, and it just kept winning all these awards,” O’Connor states.

  They use red winter wheat for their base spirits, adding a mixture of dill seed, fresh dill and caraway seeds along with curcumin, star anise, fennel and cinnamon. This recipe is also used in the Old Aquavit, which is barrel-aged in used whiskey barrels.

Norden Aquavit (Chelsea, MI)

  As a bartender, Robyn Cleveland, co-founder and distiller, explored making cocktails using unique ingredients. He fell in love with aquavit through a Danish childhood friend and his wife, who is half-Swedish. Cleveland created a brand focused on aquavit’s rich traditions with approachability and versatility as a cocktail ingredient at the fore. Cleveland says, “Aquavit’s potential was relatively untested outside areas with larger Scandinavian strongholds. It’s exciting to share the spirit with an ever-growing audience.” 

  At 45 percent ABV, their citrus-forward flagship, Original Taffel Style, embraces both caraway and dill along with clementine, coriander, angelica, orris, juniper, clary sage, staghorn sumac and anise. Also, they produce an American Oak Reserve using the same botanicals that have been aged for a minimum of 12 months in previously used rye casks.

Spirits of French Lick (West Baden Springs, IN)

  As a distiller and distillation historian, aquavit has always sparked head alchemist Alan Bishop’s interest. He opines, “Aquavit can trace its roots under various names back to the Aquavitae Treatises of the 1400s to1600s. It has deep connections to Sparagyic medicine, so three of my major interests were piqued: alchemy, history and complex botanical distillations.

  Bishop notes they push coriander and caraway to the forefront of their aquavit, with a small amount of juniper and some floral and citrus elements. Their base distillate is a blend of both neutral and 100 percent oat whiskey spirits, which Bishop states provide mouthfeel, aroma and perceived sweetness.

  Production of their Aquavit requires the production of three separate products. This involves high-proof corn ethanol and 100 percent oat whiskey, both taken through the full distillation steps. Then there is the blending, hand-mashing of various botanical elements, heat-up digestion period and 24-hour maceration. What follows is the distillation of the finished product and heavy cleaning of the equipment, which is shared with other products. 

Tattersall Distilling (Minneapolis, MN)

  When Tattersall Distilling began distilling in 2015, aquavit was one of the first spirits they made. “I have Swedish heritage, and my business partner has Norwegian heritage. So being up in Minnesota and given our backgrounds, we felt we had us an opportunity to make something unique that interested us,” Jon Kreidler, co-founder and chief officer, opines.

  Their aquavit is caraway- and rye-forward with a base of organic, corn-based spirits. While Kreidler is aware some U.S. distillers use cumin in their aquavit, he discovered this use is due to a translation error from Swedish to English. Instead, he prefers to use 20 locally sourced botanicals, many of which are also present in their gin.

  After customers expressed interest in their Tiki-style cocktails, they decided to bottle a coconut-infused version of their aquavit. “The citrus and pineapple create some very interesting notes when mixed with the caraway,” Kreidler notes.

Vikre Distillery (Duluth, MN)

  As a Norwegian and American dual citizen, Emily Vikre grew up with a cultural understanding of aquavit as a celebratory spirit. Her aquavit starts with organic, Minnesota corn that she either distills herself or augments with Minnesota, organic spirits. Next, she combines direct and vapor infusions with 12 organic botanicals, including caraway. Also, she produces aged aquavit with used cognac casks. “These casks shift the flavors of how the botanical come through,” Vikre reflects.

Marketing Aquavit in the United States   

  According to distillers, the biggest challenge in marketing aquavit is that most consumers don’t know what aquavit is. When Hopkins markets aquavit at a farmer’s market and other public events, she educates potential consumers by calling it a Scandinavian-style gin. “Aquavit is very similar to gin, but the botanicals are different. As they already have the vocabulary for gin, using this descriptive term allows them to transition from gin to aquavit.”

  Also, Vikre observes how some people think they won’t like aquavit as they don’t care for caraway or dill. This is especially true if they had a bad experience with an aquavit that was too caraway-forward. Cleveland adds that some Scandinavians need to be convinced that the poor quality aquavit of their youth does not represent the craft aquavit on the market today.

  Vikre classifies her customers into two types. First are the people who wear Norwegian sweaters and celebrate the Scandinavian holidays. The number of people who fit this description varies according to the number of Scandinavians living in that particular region.

  The second group is a growing collection of consumers interested in pushing the boundaries of craft cocktails. Within the cocktail culture, aquavit is emerging as a substitute for gin or vodka by those bartenders looking to offer a unique drink to their clientele. In particular, the caraway lends a tangy bite to a bloody Mary. Other cocktail recipes referenced by these distillers that can be made with aquavit include aquavit and tonic, banana daiquiri, dirty martini, eggnog, gimlet, julep with rye whiskey, mai tai, Manhattan, negroni, old fashioned and Tom Collins.

  Select Scandinavian festivals held across the country from New Jersey to Portland, Oregon offer opportunities to embrace the Nordic culture. While some festivals are alcohol-free, others, like ScanFair held this year on December 11 and 12, 2022 in Portland, Oregon, include aquavit among their festive offerings. Shawn MacArthur, festival and fundraising events manager, opines, “Having aquavit at ScanFair is one of the many ways attendees can get a taste of a Nordic Christmas market! Along with food, shopping and activities, it’s the perfect way to kick off the holidays.”

  Also, in 2012, Jacob Grier, co-author of Raising the Bar (Chronicle Books, November 2022), hosted Aquavit Week at Metrovino in Portland, where he served as the bar manager. He wanted to share his enthusiasm for the spirit and highlight its use in cocktails. Since then, it has grown into an annual tradition, with a range of citywide events and an opening party featuring a wide selection of aquavit, aquavit cocktails and Scandinavian fare hosted by Broder, a Portland-based Swedish restaurant. As the state opens up post-COVID, Grier hopes to relaunch Aquavit Week in January or February 2023.

Keeping an Eye on the End Game

Precision in Bottling and Canning for Craft Breweries

By: Cheryl Gray

Savvy craft brewers want problem solvers on their team, especially when it comes to bottling and canning products. 

Industry experts specializing in bottling and canning needs for breweries tout the equipment and technology to handle these tasks for operations of any size.

  One of those experts is XpressFill Systems, a long-established player whose clients, the company says, know to expect cost-saving innovations from its products and solid customer service, particularly after the point of sale. California-based XpressFill was founded in 2007 and began with the idea of solving a dilemma for small-scale wineries stuck with trying to bottle their wines by hand. It continues to service the wine industry, which surrounds the company’s facilities in San Luis Obispo.

  Today, XpressFill manufactures bottle- and can-filling systems in its San Luis Obispo plant, using top-quality components made exclusively in the United States. Its fillers come in several models, including volumetric, level fill and carbonated technology. With affordability, compact design and ease of use among its top priorities, the company continues forging ahead with new ideas to keep pace with customer needs in real-time.  

  The XFW200C is XpressFill’s latest addition to the line of filling products. Its weight-sensing technology is designed to ensure accurate fill volumes that will hit their mark every time. The importance of this precision, of course, is to avoid spills and underfills, which cost valuable production time and loss of product. 

  Rod Silver leads the company’s Sales and Marketing Division. He describes how the XFW200C is ideal for 12-ounce to 16-ounce cans. An industrial-grade touchscreen display allows the user to enter the desired weight and the technology installed keeps track of how much product fills the can. A larger flow path gives the user access to a smooth fill along with the flexibility of filling containers with almost any product of choice, including those with some level of particulates, such as flakes or small seeds. In addition to processing beer, kombucha, juice and RTD mixtures are among some of the other options.

  Twin Monkeys Beverage Systems, based in Denver, Colorado, is the brainchild of Josh Van Riper and Brian LeFevre. Their attention-grabbing moniker, along with the duo’s business model of customer-focused design, has earned Twin Monkeys a global presence in the craft brewing industry, with customers throughout North and South America, Europe, Australia, Africa and Asia.

  Both Van Riper and LeFevre have engineering backgrounds. They are focused on designing the kind of automated canning systems that didn’t exist when Van Riper was brewing craft beer.

  “I started a brewery and quickly found there were not good options for buying automated canning machines for craft breweries then (2013),”Van Riper said. “I got Brian to come to the brewery to discuss this opportunity and we then started Twin Monkeys to make affordable, high-quality automated canning systems for packaging beverages. We’ve grown to a 30-person company in a 14,000-square-foot facility, and we have over 500 canning machines strewn around the planet. I’m an automation engineer who does mostly controls engineering and mechanical concepts. Brian is a mechanical engineer. Between the two of us, we can design automated equipment from the ground up.”

  Twin Monkeys Brewing Systems offers a full range of can-fill-and-seam machines. The company offers craft brewers automation options that provide access to in-house, integrated canning lines equipped with three critical functions.

  “We are singularly focused on canning machines that do three things: fill cans, put lids on cans and seal cans. We rely on other expert companies to do things like labeling, depalletization and brewing, and we want to just perfect the three things we do over and over. We’re also creating a new customer service paradigm to provide easier and more efficient access to our knowledge for our customers.”

  Van Riper says that customer service extends to helping clients integrate their systems with a wide range of accessories.  

  “Although we only make canning machines, we consider ourselves to be systems integrators and that means we sell and support a wider range of equipment,” he said. “This provides more of a one-stop-shop model for customers to lean on us for a variety of their equipment needs. We plant 50 trees for every machine we sell, and in 2021 we became carbon neutral. We do serious work, but don’t take ourselves too seriously.”

  The process of canning and bottling craft beer also entails protecting the integrity of the product before it hits the market. That’s the role of Industrial Physics, which brands itself as the world’s leading test and inspection corporation. Armed with a global network of technical and support teams, the company’s 75-year history in quality control has guided the testing and inspection experience for some of the largest beverage corporations in the industry.

  Industrial Physics has a presence in 75 countries, with manufacturing facilities in 13 locations. Through its vast portfolio of more than a dozen testing and inspection brands, including CMC-KUHNKE, Quality By Vision, Steinfurth, Eagle Vision and TQC Sheen, test and inspection solutions are deployed to ensure premium quality control for beverage packaging, materials and products. At the same time, the company assures clients of personalized solutions for their product needs. 

  Whether a small start-up or a global name in the brewing industry, Industrial Physics says its

Testing and inspection solutions cater to every need and budget. Steve Davis, global product line director at industrial physics, has more than 20 years of engineering experience. He leads a team of experts who ensure that the equipment provided by Industrial Physics does its job.

  “When you’re dealing with bottles, cans and metal packaging, you’ll need reliable inspection machines to ensure the quality of your drinks,” Davis said. “With Industrial Physics, you’ll improve the efficiency of your processes and improve your product, saving yourself time and money and, ultimately, you’ll keep your customers happier. Through our leading brands, including CMC KUHNKE, Quality by Vision and Eagle Vision Systems, we’ve helped thousands of beverage fillers and breweries to taste success.”

  Davis went on to say, “From seam inspection and metal can testing to an inline inspection of empty and filled containers, our devices offer unmatched innovation and help you meet your quality needs. We protect the integrity of some of the biggest brands on the planet, as well as hundreds of emerging brands and everything in between. But how do we do this? By providing first-class test and inspection machines and products that check the quality of your packaging, materials and coatings.”

  Davis provides an example.  “Let’s take seam inspection. Our CMC-KUHNKE Auto XTS is a state-of-the-art, fully automated seam inspection solution. There’s nothing like it in the world, and it has the power to completely revolutionize seam solutions for your production line. We also have a wealth of smaller solutions to fit different needs and budgets.”

  The company offers instruments designed to provide functions that include double seam inspection, non-destructive seam inspection, bottle, keg and can vision inspection, abrasion testing and headspace and dissolved oxygen testing. Customer service, Davis adds, is a priority at every point of the client experience.

  “We understand that being fast, efficient and truly reliable is critical when it comes to servicing the instruments that keep your business running. And that’s why we’ve established a global network of dedicated service specialists to ensure you have an expert ready and waiting at a nearby location who can offer you support.

  Wherever you are in the world, our experts are on hand to support your needs, whatever they may be. We know that having the right people ready to help is critical. It’s critical to delivering quality and speedy service that ensures your instruments can get up and running as quickly as possible. From installation to calibration, repair and preventative maintenance, we’ve got you covered.

  We’re also passionate about being there for our customers in a more holistic way. We don’t just provide products. We’re there as a true partner. We have a wealth of solutions available across the beverage space, from metal packaging to bottles, our instruments test across an incredibly vast range of applications for many different manufacturing and laboratory needs.”

  Canning and bottling craft beer is a process that engages the expertise of filling, packaging and protecting products. Selecting the partner for one or more of these steps is not only based on budget but also depends upon which companies can accommodate the individualized needs of a craft brewery, no matter the size. Another important factor, experts say, is which company will stay with a brewery for the long run, ensuring that it can accommodate growth while not compromising on quality control. 

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 

Editor: As per an announcement on their home page, the Oregon Brewers Festival organizers decided to cancel the 2023 festival. They plan to bring the festival back when the timing is right. See https://oregonbrewfest.com/

  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.

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.

Increased Options in the Use of Yeast Strains Leads to Distilling Boom

By Gerald Dlubala

It’s an exciting time for craft distillers, for sure,” said Kris Wangelin, manager and distiller at Square One Brewery and Distillery in St Louis, Missouri. “When you see what’s currently happening in craft distilling, it’s easy to believe that distilling is on the cusp of some amazing breakthroughs, comparable to craft brewing a few years ago. A big part of the anticipated breakthroughs includes the ability and willingness to experiment by combining and mixing available yeast strains, then playing around with the fermentation times. As a result, the distilled spirits consumer will benefit with new choices and innovations in taste profiles that will ultimately lead the way to unique cocktail creations.”

  Wangelin tells Beverage Master Magazine that, unlike before, today’s craft distillers have a mindset that doesn’t limit the available yeast strain choices they can choose to use in their distilling process. Rather than sticking to the traditional distiller’s yeast options, more progressive-minded distillers have a mindset that revolves around the simple question of, why not? With this type of inclusive thought process comes more significant occurrences and acceptance of crossover in the yeast strains used in both brewing and distilling. For example, there’s now more intermingling of strains previously considered only distiller’s or brewer’s yeast. In addition, craft spirits producers are open to experimenting with producing new flavor profiles and combinations that feature different depths and twists from the more traditional spirit profiles that consumers recognize.

  “Yeast strains are not strictly divided into distilling and brewing anymore,” said Wangelin. “Now, it’s more about experimentation and differentiation rather than passing on a particular strain or idea because it hasn’t been done. Now we’re excited to try it to see what happens. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes it’s a fail and sometimes we find that a particular flavor profile can be a good fit for something other than initially intended. But every time we try, we hone the specifics for future distilling success. We know spirits consumers generally have a favorite, go-to spirit profile, which becomes their home point when comparing other spirits. Still, we know they are willing to venture out to see what new flavor profiles may be trending and what possibilities are out there, and ultimately, it’s the consumer that will determine if our efforts are successful.”

  “And today’s spirits consumers also want to know the distiller and the product origins more intimately and personally,” said Wangelin. “A great way to differentiate our products from competitors is to remain as locally-based as possible with ingredients, yeast-driven flavor profiles and all related suppliers. Promoting our product this way makes everything more personal for our consumers. They see us vested in the community and then feel the same level of support by drinking our products.

  Additionally, the availability of any distinctive yeast strains offers us a way to create our own niche and become known as the place to go for that unique flavor profile or mash bill. When that specificity includes being from a local market or our own grain supply, as some are doing here in the Midwest, the consumer gets to see where our spirits start, making for a great story.”

  In the future, Wangelin sees the yeast providers experimenting more with different yeast strains and combinations to offer even more unique and varied flavor profile choices. It’s becoming common for yeast suppliers to ask a distiller what flavor profile they would like to produce rather than telling the distiller what’s available. Then the yeast supplier gets to work on developing and propagating new strains to meet the distiller’s desires. Why not?

Seek Experience and Results When Choosing a Yeast Supplier

  “In the alcohol business, taste rules,” said Dr. Pat Heist, co-founder, co-owner and CSO of Ferm Solutions and Wilderness Trail Distillery. “And when talking about yeast use in distilling, we know that some yeasts remain traditionally great performers, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for experimentation.”

  Ferm Solutions is a leading research, product development, engineering and technical service provider to the ethanol and distilled spirits industries. They offer a two-day, 16-hour functional fermentation class that focuses on different fermentation levels using the same yeast strain.

  “Using 10 flasks with the same mash, we can achieve 10 different and very distinguishable results with only minor or minimal changes in the process,” said Dr. Heist. “Evaluations on those flasks reveal the easily recognizable and different attributes and developing trends due to those minor process changes.

  The difference in aromas is very distinguishable at the fermentation level. Ferm Solutions has done an excellent job identifying and selecting those yeast strains that perform best at the beer level. Once the beer is distilled, picking out those differences becomes more challenging because they’re now more subtle and enshrouded in higher alcohol content. After aging in a barrel, it becomes even more difficult and sometimes near impossible to differentiate the individual strains, especially with using and reusing barrels that may have held different spirits or alcohols.”

  “For new or inexperienced distillers, the main thing to remember is that a quality distilling yeast will always make a good distillate, whether you’re talking whiskey, bourbon, rum or other spirits,” said Dr. Heist. “That’s the starting point. First and foremost, craft distillers must focus on making the best product they can make. As much as they may want to venture into experimentation and try out new ideas, it’s always best to stick to a traditional plan and mash bill at the onset. Then, once they get experience in producing a great product, they can look at things like fermentation times and what the yield differences are when choosing to experiment and make changes to their proven production parameters.”

  Dr. Heist tells Beverage Master Magazine that the innovation and difference a distiller is looking for in their product isn’t always just a product of a new or unique flavor profile. It can also result from being in a unique locale or having a natural geographic advantage.

  “Maybe you’re producing your spirits in a region known for a specific strain of corn or other grain,” said Dr. Heist. “Use that to your advantage in spirits production and marketing plan. You’re a local spirits producer supporting your local makers and community. It’s a win-win situation.”

  Additionally, Dr. Heist believes that a distiller should choose a yeast supplier and producer with quality experience backed by round-the-clock technical support featuring someone that will pick up the phone when you call.

“We at Ferm Solutions know that a problem needs to be addressed now, not only during standard office hours. We started a craft distillery just eight short years ago and are now the 14th largest bourbon producer in the world, so I like to think that we know what it takes to succeed in this business.”

Whether Staying Traditional Or Experimenting, Focused Yeast Management is Critical

  “Yeast is a wily customer,” said Brent Elliott, Master Distiller at Four Roses Distillery. “It will find a way to flourish under many conditions, so here at Four Roses, we are mindful of possible contaminations or mutations by remaining extremely careful in our strain storage, use and management. Any little change in that yeast strain could change your flavor profile. Even if you think the change is minimal, it’s still there.”

  Four Roses uses five main yeast strains, the same ones they’ve used from their beginnings. These strains provide flavor profiles that include delicate fruit, rich fruit, herbal notes, slight spice and floral essence. Elliott tells Beverage Master Magazine that they haven’t wavered from those strains and are never more than one step away from the original mother strain, which is kept frozen until needed for propagation and the next batch.”

  “We frequently and consistently refresh and genetically test our yeast to maintain quality and authenticity,” said Elliott. “We propagate in-house, refreshing weekly if needed. It is one of the most tedious tasks we perform, but it’s also one of the most important and demands the most focus to maintain our quality and flavor profile.”

  Elliott said that the production of yeast compounds is a vital and tedious part of distilling, whether using single or multiple strains to produce and develop different flavors for your spirits. Of course, yields are essential, but when it comes down to it, yeast strains and their use are all about the desired flavor profile.

  “As a producer, you look at all the variables, including how high of an ABV beer is produced before distilling and the different flavors produced at different temperatures,” said Elliott. “The effects become very obvious when you approach it in analytical ways. For example, taste-testing distillate after different yeast strains like ours allows you to detect each unique flavor added through that yeast strain. It’s pretty cool that you think you can taste notes of a certain flavor profile with a distilled spirit, and then through testing, analytical processes and experimentation, you actually narrow down that implied flavor to a specific strain and get definitive reasons for experiencing that flavor. For example, our floral strain produces more phenol alcohol than other yeast strains, resulting in rose oil compounds that undoubtedly give you that floral note you get when enjoying our product. There’s a direct correlation.”

  Four Roses uses White Labs out of San Diego for most of its yeast products. White Labs has an inclusive catalog from which to choose yeast strains depending on your distilling goals. For example, a distiller can choose the traditional and more predictable yeast strains that have historically been successful or decide to experiment with the non-traditional strains. Another option is for spirits producers to provide their mash bill for customized yeast strains to be developed that fit into their distilling visions.

  “There really is a whole world of possibilities when it comes to choosing and using different yeast strains,” said Elliott. “When Seagrams owned us, we had a massive research department with over 350 yeast strains, each with unique details and characteristics. Now, especially with micro-distilling, those producers have a better path and more availability to experiment, innovate and produce new flavor combinations and spirits profiles.”

Trends in Beverage Packaging to Look Out For in 2022

By: Preston Geeting

Building healthy lives entails nourishing our bodies, both mentally and physically. As such, the beverage industry will continue to be an essential component in improving the health of societies across the globe for as long as we call it home. More presently, however, the products we choose to consume from brands in today’s world often reflect our own personal values.

  Packaging plays a huge role in how impactful a product is on its target audience. Much of the information regarding what is considered healthy or not is often presented on the packaging of consumable beverage products, so their packaging must clearly communicate how it reflects the values of individual consumers. This makes the packaging industry a crucial component of the beverage industry.

  According to MarketWatch, the beverage packaging industry, in particular, is expected to reach a value of $142.28 billion by 2023 at a CAGR of 4.17%, a significant growth from $111.36 billion in 2017. This growth can be credited to the constant demand for groundbreaking, trendy beverage packaging across both industry sectors of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

  Each sector serves as a quintessential example of the beverage industry’s permanent dependency on the packaging industry, fostering a crucial and long-lasting partnership between the two. Thus, companies must now shift their focus on the ever-changing trends within both industries, while simultaneously aligning with the demands of consumer markets to maintain a competitive edge.

  A product’s packaging often complements its brand image and desired messaging, empowering a brand to sell not merely a product, but a lifestyle to its target audience. In the era of 2022, with headlines abuzz with topics encompassing Web 3.0, the Metaverse, and other digital innovations, product packaging that may be deemed ‘Instagrammable’ or trend-worthy is far more appealing to consumers than those perceived as more “traditional” or mundane.

  In the beverage industry, packaged products often reflect what value the brand can add to a consumer’s life, and how that value complements or enhances their current lifestyle. What makes your product unique enough to stand out on the shelves, compared to hundreds of others, relies almost entirely on the impact of its packaging.

  Additionally, in the luxury beverage space — such as high-end alcohol brands — product packaging is the first element consumers interact with showcasing why the product is desirable. Nightclubs and bars are excellent examples of this. In these settings, the most sought-after alcohol purchased is typically the one that stands out the most and similarly emulates a high-class, sought-after, yet rarely-obtained lifestyle.

  In the case of non-alcoholic beverage packaging, the packaging must communicate why one brand is better than another. This is commonly seen with packaging for companies that sell water. Although water is rarely perceived as little more than a standard beverage, all the details of its product packaging — from visual designs and colors to its sourced location, packaging material, and more — can spell the difference between its sales stagnating or skyrocketing. Other factors listed on the product’s packaging, such as the brand’s sustainability efforts or even the sheer convenience of its packaging, likewise play a key role in targeting specific consumer markets.

  For example, plastic water bottles that have a twist-off top may be less desirable to consumers in comparison to those boasting a sports-bottle style cap. Furthermore, sustainably-packaged water, or reusable metal water bottles, might be more appealing to eco-conscious consumers.

  The trends witnessed within both the beverage and packaging industry are constantly evolving alongside a growing consumer market. These industries must continue to work harmoniously to understand what makes consumers tick. Competition is always intense in the beverage industry, and companies spend immense periods researching competitors, as well as the needs and wants of consumers, to ensure that standards are met through superior packaging.

  Packaging must serve a purpose other than simply protecting products in retail stores or back-of-house storage to be memorable and appealing. The little details are essential regarding a beverage’s packaging, and these seemingly small details can have a significant impact on sales.  With all of this in mind, here are the top ten trends in beverage packaging to look out for in 2022.

1. Biodegradable Packaging:  Biodegradable packaging comprises of biopolymers, which are often found in the cellulose of plants. Since this form of packaging comes from plants, they easily decompose naturally over time in comparison to plastic packaging. Traditional plastic packaging, unfortunately, never decomposes. Instead, it slowly breaks down into microplastics which often wind up in our oceans or, even worse, our food.

  Recently, it was found that microplastics were detected in human bloodstreams. While this hasn’t been directly tied to plastic packaging, single-use plastics — such as those frequently utilized in beverage packaging — have been a significant cause of ocean-dwelling microplastics.

  To combat this, companies like Boxed Water Is Better are taking an active stance in ensuring that their product packaging is decomposable to fight the ever-growing single-use plastic issue; an issue which has also been recognized across various consumer markets. Throughout 2022, expect more beverage companies to release (or, at least, announce) their products being packaged in a similar, more sustainable manner.

2. Internet of Packaging or Smart Packaging:  Internet of packaging, or innovative packaging, comprises the integration of QR codes, smart labels, RFID, and AR/VR into packaging technology. The industry will begin to see the next evolution of packaging personalization through technology, especially QR codes, as adoption rates have soared since the pandemic in 2020.

  An example of this is 19 Crimes, a famous Australian wine company that has become a global phenomenon that works with celebrities like Snoop Dogg to craft fine wines, with each one telling a new story. The bottles of wine are brought to life via AR integration with a mobile app. Once labels are scanned via the app, it tells consumers the tales of notorious criminals through a pop-up video. Several coffee suppliers in the Australian market have begun implementing this method to provide consumers with a story element behind the type of coffee they purchase. This informs consumers who advocate for ethical and sustainable farming practices that the product they purchased aligns with their personal values.

  For another example of this trend, imagine purchasing a bottle of wine as a gift. If the bottle has a scannable QR code, the sender can write a message, and the recipient can see the message enclosed in the app. This eliminates the need to send additional paper cards and advances the gifting process.

  From a design perspective, we will quickly begin to see more minimalistic styles as a direct result of QR codes; if brands design packaging to have a QR code containing all the written content, it eradicates the overwhelming amount of information consumers currently see on packaging. And because product information is often small, making readability an issue, QR codes could also add an element of accessibility.

3. Recyclable Packaging:  Recyclable packaging is similar to sustainable and biodegradable packaging; it helps the environment and appeals to more environmentally-conscious consumers. However, biodegradable packaging merely degrades, whereas recyclable packaging can be reused, making it more sustainable in the long run.

  One new interesting element of recyclable packaging not seen typically is referred to as circular packaging. Circular packaging is forecasted to become an industry trend, as it utilizes a single layer for the packaging, rather than multiple layers, significantly reducing waste in the process. Along with this reduction in waste, circular packaging encourages companies to optimize the materials used in their packaging, maximize and amplify supply, and protect brands while inspiring them to make a significant impact against high-waste packaging.

4. Edible Packaging:  In 2019, London marathon runners made headlines worldwide after news broke that they were provided with seaweed pouches filled with energy drinks, rather than plastic water bottles. This enabled them to consume their water and leave zero waste. While edible packaging may not yet be very common, this example highlights how such a trend can genuinely help niche industries advance and make a difference — both for the environment and consumers.

5. Custom Packaging:  Beverage brands looking to differentiate themselves from competitors are increasingly utilizing custom packaging platforms to meet their needs. These platforms eliminate the physical component of fully-stocked warehouses, offering beverage manufacturers, brand owners, and suppliers with streamlined tools that both align with their marketing initiatives, and efficiently and effectively deliver eye-catching packaging for their products. This simplified process is quickly gaining traction across the beverage industry, providing companies with a one-stop-shop for their custom packaging solutions.

6. Active Packaging:  Active packaging consists of new technological techniques that extend the shelf-life of products, especially in the food, beverage, and pharmaceutical industries. Active packaging works by interacting directly with the packaged product and is designed to eradicate residual oxygen, bringing the product to a level where there is zero-permeation. This trend could lead to increasing the shelf life for beverage products that may otherwise spoil on retail shelves or in warehouses, thus mitigating costs for companies.

7. Packaging Automation:  Packaging automation for the manufacturing of products has witnessed a significant boost through AI. When combined with platforms that can serve as a one-stop-shop for custom and stock package purchasing options, this trend shows how robotics in the packaging industry can turn companies into genuine industry titans like Amazon, which continues to lead in terms of warehouse robotics and automation. Packaging automation enables the e-commerce giant to stay ahead of the game and on top of the retail charts. The same tactics could easily apply to companies in the beverage industry.

8. NFT Integration and Utility:  Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are one of the fastest-growing trends in 2022, and the beverage industry is leading the way. Penfolds, Glenfiddich, Hennessy, and other luxury brands are now selling NFTs that corresponded to a limited edition physical bottle; the NFT acts as a digital receipt that validates the authenticity of the wine bottles. Many start-up beverage companies, however, are finding ways to leverage this technology with their physical packaging as a marketing tool. From startup Perfy’s customized NFT soda cans, to The Bored Breakfast Club including the famous Bored Apes collection on their packaging materials, NFTs are proving to be a unique way for beverage companies to help promote their brand and acquire a larger portion of consumer markets. 

9. 3D Printing:  3D printing has become cheaper for companies to prototype their packaging designs, materials, and even manufacturing machines. 3D printing boosts packaging designs by removing the typical challenges packaging designers face. Some of these challenges tend to include the need for multiple prototypes (which generate additional waste), fewer resources and materials to source prototypes, as well as reduced costs during the packaging design stage. This evolving trend streamlines the design process, and can enable beverage manufacturers and suppliers to conduct more in-house prototyping with their packaging without the presence of a middle man.

10. Nanotechnology:  Regarding the beverage industry, nanotechnology in the form of nanocoating or nanosensors is most commonly used. Nanotechnology-enhanced packaging reduces microbial bacteria and can help improve the quality of the product, especially in water.

  Overall, each of these trends holds the potential for companies within the beverage industry to successfully outgrow their competitors, and each is deserving of careful consideration when designing packaging solutions throughout the remainder of 2022. In a market that is as ever-changing as it is necessary, it is imperative that brands stay one step ahead, understand the true importance of these trends, and implement them accordingly.

  Preston Geeting is a Co-founder of Packform. Along with Philip Weinman and Peter Williams, he recognized the opportunity to transform the antiquated packaging industry with innovative technology, creating new service levels, better customer experience, and more significant opportunities for all involved. As of 2020, Packform officially became the fastest-growing packaging company and won the gold International Stevie Business Awards for Technology Startup of the Year.

Exploring the Nuances of Distilling Bourbon

By: Becky Garrison

Jason Parker, co-founder of Copperworks Distilling Company in Seattle, Washington and a native of Kentucky, may distill American Single Malt whiskey. Still, his collection of 600 bourbon bottles speaks to his love of this particular whiskey. “Whiskey made from corn produces a lighter and oiler texture than other whiskeys such as Scotch, Irish, Canadian or Japanese rye.”

  Tom Jones, Global Brand Ambassador for Kentucky Owl, offers this succinct history of bourbon. “Immigrant farmers discovered ways to turn wheat, rye and corn into dollars, which flowed all the way down the Mississippi, fueling celebration on the streets of New Orleans.”

  While some claim bourbon was named after Bourbon Street, others like Jay Erisman, co-founder of New Riff Distilling in Newport, Kentucky, believe the name came from Kentucky’s Bourbon County, where this spirit emerged.

  In summarizing the history of bourbon, Parker reminisces how modern expressions of whiskey have someone named Beam as their master distiller or on their board of directors. This points to the brotherhood and family network of individuals who have distilled Kentucky Bourbon since the 1700s.

  For example, Buffalo Trace Distillery, an award-winning distillery based in Frankfort, Kentucky, has a rich tradition dating back to 1775. According to Kristie Wooldridge, Buffalo Trace’s PR associate manager, Kentucky has many unique natural features that make it the ideal location for producing bourbon. “We experience all four seasons, which plays a big role in the aging process, and our water is naturally limestone-filtered. Early settlers found Kentucky’s ground to be quite fertile for growing corn, an essential ingredient for bourbon, and put down roots here. The rest is history.”

  Jones cites Kentucky’s natural resources as contributing to the quality of Kentucky Owl’s bourbon, which it’s been distilling since Charles Mortimer founded the distillery in 1879. “The blue limestone-filtered water provides us with a good supply of clean, fresh and filtered water unlike anywhere else.”

  In addition to using water to produce bourbon, the water also feeds the growth of raw materials. Also, in Jones’ estimation, the hot summers and cold winters provide the perfect conditions for bourbon to expand and contract, passing in and out of the oak barrels. “This gives us color, mouthfeel, and flavor,” he said.

Defining Bourbon

  For a U.S. spirit to be labeled “bourbon whiskey” by the TTB, it must not exceed 80% alcohol by volume (160 proof) from a fermented mash of not less than 51% corn and stored at not more than 62.5% alcohol by volume (125 proof) in charred new oak containers. New American wood imbues bourbon with a full-bodied flavor profile quite different than barrels from Europe and Scotland. Due to the difficulty in sourcing new American oak, bourbon is produced primarily in the United States.

  Straight bourbon whiskey has been stored in charred, new oak containers for two years or more, and may include mixtures of two or more straight bourbons, provided all are produced in the same state. Blended bourbon whiskey is the classification for bourbon produced in the U.S. containing not less than 51% of straight bourbon. The TTB does not specify the requirements for the remaining 49% ingredients, thus allowing for considerable creativity among distillers.

  Distillation processes typical to the Kentucky whiskey-making regimen differ from the Celtic traditions. Erisman told Beverage Master Magazine, “We distill ‘on the grain,’ meaning that the still is fed with both liquids and the ground grains from the mash. This extracts more flavor from the grains than in other distilling traditions.”

  While Kentucky may be considered the home of bourbon, one can find distilleries throughout the U.S. producing this spirit. Molly Troupe, Master Distiller at Freeland Spirits in Portland, Oregon, speaks to the regional differences inherent in bourbon distilled outside of Kentucky. “Each of those ingredients has their own nuances, particular to the region that they are grown, that makes them special.”

  Following are some examples of bourbons distilled in different regions of the United States.

  30A Distilling Company (Santa Rosa Beach, Florida) – Like many small-batch producers, 30A Distilling founder Brian Rabon sources his bourbon. He describes 30A’s process for making bourbon as “distilled in Indiana, rested at Sugarfield Spirits in Louisiana, and then finished at 30A Distilling Company.” Like its other spirits, its Blue Mountain Beach Bourbon (81.4 proof) is named for one of the local Florida beaches. The mashbill is very rye forward at 36%, which gives this bourbon some spicy and peppery notes. Also, Rabon produces a lower-proof version that allows for sweeter corn notes.

  The Aimsir Distilling Company (Portland, Oregon) According to co-owners Christine and Steve Hopkins, the Pacific Northwest’s cooler, drier environment affects how the bourbon extracts from the barrel. Steve, head of production, told Beverage Master Magazine, “Even though we’re using new oak barrels, our bourbon does tend to extract a little bit slower from the wood. So you get more of the mashbill flavor and less of the barrel flavor.”

  Aimsir uses 51% corn and 45% wheat for its mashbill, resulting in a high-wheated bourbon with a smooth flavor, bottled at 94.5 proof. The bourbon ages between four and four and a half years, with distillers testing the barrel periodically after the fourth year until it gets to that sweet spot. “If you age it too long, you start to get too much barrel notes,” Steve Hopkins said.

  Alchemy Distillery (Arcata, California) – When they first started their distillery, co-owner and head distiller Amy Bohner said they made batches of 100% single grains to get to know each grain’s flavor profile. “Being able to choose which corn, rye and wheat makes each batch unique. And every batch for us is a single barrel, so the options for our mash bills are vast.”

  Alchemy chose to work with local farmers and keep the grain in whole form until milling the day of the cook. According to Bohner, this ensures optimal freshness, similar to grinding beans just before making a cup of coffee.

  Brother’s Bond Bourbon (Fort Smith, Arkansas) Co-founder Paul Wesley describes Brother’s Bond Bourbon as hand-selected, four-grain, high rye, straight bourbon with the grain flavors optimized. It is distilled in a copper column and copper pot-doubler, aged four years in virgin American Oak, staves charred #4 and heads charred #2, and chill-filtered once at a distillery in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. Then the bourbon is bottled at 80 proof, 135 barrels at a time, and distributed at Brother’s Bond’s facility in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

  Ian Somerhalder, co-founder, highlights their commitment to sustainability. “We partner with organizations that use sustainable and regenerative practices to combat climate change. Also, we aim to use our platform to help reverse climate change by giving back a portion of proceeds to support regenerative farming practices.”

  Freeland Spirits (Portland, Oregon) – According to Molly Troupe, Freeland Spirits’ bourbon is a sourced whiskey, which means that only the aging and blending take place at the distillery. Distillers finish the bourbon in Pinot Noir barrels, where it sits for about six months. Then, they select barrels for blending, adding water to bring the bourbon to bottle-proof.

  In Troupe’s estimation, one of the best parts of living in the Pacific Northwest is its proximity to makers of all kinds. For example, through their relationship with Elk Cove Winery, they get barrels delivered to them the day they are dumped.

  Hood River Distillers (Hood River, Oregon)  – Hood River distillers purchase bourbon in barrels from a source in Kentucky. Then, they experiment and manipulate the bourbon through those barrel finishes, which Master Distiller Joe O’Sullivan finds best define the region and complement the flavor of the base spirit itself. He told Beverage Master Magazine, “By finishing the same spirit in various, unique regional casks, we focus entirely on the Northwest and its culinary strength.

  Maverick Whiskey (San Antonio, Texas) – Maverick Whiskey pays homage to founder Kenneth Maverick’s storied Texas roots and the family patriarch Sam Maverick (1803-1870). Its Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey mash, which consists of locally sourced corn and rye, is distilled in a hybrid pot still, a combination of a pot still and a column still. As the bourbon ages, it gets proofed to 88, using reverse osmosis filtered water and then non-chill filtered, thus ensuring a bold flavor. In Head Distiller Kevin Graham’s assessment, the Texas grains –corn, in particular – are sweeter with a bigger flavor than grains grown elsewhere in the county. Also, the Texas Hill Country is home to artesian wells that produce hard water with a high carbonate, ideal for distilling spirits and making beer.

  Mile High Spirits (Denver, Colorado)Wyn Ferrell, co-founder of Mile High Spirits, distinguishes his distillery not by the spirits but by the people. “We have an amazing vibrant staff that produces our products with passion, heart and soul, but also has a lot of fun with music pumping and people dancing.”

  Ferrell sources unique grain profiles from around the world for Mile High’s mashbill, which is distilled in a pot column hybrid from Germany-based Arnold Holstein Stills. As part of its commitment to regenerative agriculture, Mile High sends all its spent grain to a local rancher.

  Port Chilkoot Distillery (Haines, Alaska)Heather Shade, Port Chilkoot’s founder and co-owner, sources the distillery’s organic, certified non-GMO corn and Kentucky barrels from a barge that floats up the famed Inside Passage from Seattle to Haines once a week. Distillers cook, ferment and double-distill the bourbon mash on-site using a traditional method of open-fermentation, distill on-the-grain and a batch double distillation process. The bourbon is proofed down to barrel strength after distillation using water from their glacier-fed mountains and aged in a climate-controlled barrel house. According to Shade, “The unique water source and the stormy weather patterns/large barometric pressure swings here give their maturation a different character, more similar to the Scotch whiskies made in Scotland.”

  Side Hustle Brews & Spirits (Slippery Rock, PA) Chad McGehee, Founder, Balmaghie Beverage Group (dba Side Hustle Brews & Spirits, Side Hustle Hops Farm, Balmaghie Artisanal Spirits), sees his core business objective to build a farm so they can produce their own artisanal spirits from farm to glass. Starting in May, they moved from sourcing their bourbon to producing their first runs of produced recipes. They will purchase their Western Pennsylvania historic grains from a neighboring farmer. In particular, the Jimmy Red Corn used historically by Western Pennsylvania moonshiners produces a higher sugar content than normal corn that results in a sweeter Straight Bourbon Whiskey with an ABV of 50%. Their mashbill, which is high in rye and aged for seven years, is mixed either in their single pot or in space they rent from other distillers as need be. Also, they use American White Oak, which has been cured in the rain, snow, heat, and cold for a full eight seasons before they are transformed by coppers into barrels.