Growing Your Brewery’s Brand

By: Lewis Barbera – Vice President, Sales

There are currently more than 7300 regional breweries, brewpubs and microbreweries in the United States. Even during difficult times, the popularity of the craft brewery continues to grow. For many home brewers and beer aficionados, the prospect of owning and operating their own brewery is a dream come true. It’s an opportunity to expand their personal recipes that they have refined over the years as a hobbyist and share them with a wider audience.

  Making your mark within the industry is not an easy task to accomplish. Perfecting your craft is an important start in staying relevant. But satisfying your regulars and marketing through word of mouth is just the beginning. It’s the additional, day-to-day business details that become so incredibly important. Maintaining your brand and ensuring that it reaches the widest audience possible will help you to stand out in a crowded market.  

Brand Identity

  One of the benefits of owning and operating your business is the freedom associated with developing its brand. From the name to the logo, this is an opportunity for you to work closely with your business partners to establish something catchy and unique, while also cutting through the clutter and staying top of mind with your customers. But once you’ve picked out your colors and have come up with a memorable catch phrase that highlights your craft, what’s next?

  In today’s market it’s not uncommon to promote your brand through a variety of related products. Whether that’s pint glasses and coasters, umbrellas, signage or an oversized Jenga set reserved for outdoor events, merchandising your business in creative and unique ways is critical. But there are numerous moving parts that inevitably get in the way. Working with your local Kinkos and your cousin (twice removed) to help with the graphical design will only get you so far.

  Properly sourcing your merchandise is an indispensable asset to your overall brand marketing initiatives. Working closely with a partner capable of assisting with the delivery of your products can make an immense difference in your day-to-day operation.

  Understanding the ins-and-outs of product sourcing often includes first-hand experience in knowing what works and what does not. These conversations can help steer you in the right direction, while also shielding you from potential missteps. Promoting your brand with a Point of Sale (POS) system capable of delivering the best return on investment (ROI) in a growing market will help you to realize even greater success.

Off-Premise Initiatives

  Traditionally, craft beer has primarily been sold on-premise. The experience of enjoying a freshly tapped beer while socializing at your local brewery is one of the reasons the craft beer industry has stayed consistently strong. When combined with ongoing marketing and merchandising efforts, off-premise sales has the strong potential to develop into an additional sales and distribution plan.

  Some beer aficionados might argue that traditional retail sales takes away from the uniqueness of the craft beer experience and no longer differentiates itself from large national brands. However, retailers are very much in tune with consumer preferences and will always be looking for opportunities to emulate the success of on-premise craft breweries through off-premise sales.

  It’s important for every craft brewery to take the steps necessary to continue promoting their name and their brand. As such, there are several opportunities worth considering for an off-premise strategy:

•   Stand Out in a Crowded Space: Whether you’re positioned within a local liquor store or the corner grocer, make sure your branding is prominently displayed and catches the eye of every customer. Proudly present your most popular beer or newest recipe on shelves, stackers and corrugated risers that clearly exhibit your branding. Make sure the colors are bold and vibrant, and that the wording can be read from across the aisle. Take pride in your craft and give it the attention it deserves.

•   Small Idea, Big Impact: Even the smallest idea can have the biggest impact when it comes to branding and product marketing. Sticky shelf talkers, ceiling danglers, window clings and floor placements. Make it so that no matter where the customer is looking, your brand is sure to grab their attention. And it’s not always about how big of an impression you make or how much real estate your branding utilizes. A strategically placed logo can help even the most undecisive beer drinkers make the right choice.

•   Your Fans are Your Biggest Advocates: Don’t overthink it. The practicality of the idea often becomes the biggest win for off-premise business. Let your fans do the “heavy lifting”. Selling a variety of tote, lunch coolers and brown paper bags, each with your branding clearly identified for everyone to see, is a great way to continue getting your name out there. Used at work, on vacation or attending any number of social events, your biggest fans will be promoting their favorite beer without ever saying a word.

•   The Signs Are Everywhere: Chalk-based A-frame menu boards. LED light boxes. Laser cut, digitally printed hardboard wood. What do all these different types of signage have in common? They’re the most classic form of beer advertising you can think of. People of all ages collect them and prominently display them in their homes, garages and on the walls of the businesses they own. They catch your eye, make a statement and get you thinking about one thing, and one thing only – BEER!

Product Management

  Having access to your own, business-specific e-commerce website is an opportunity to more effectively manage your growing list of products. When conveniently organized by category, a robust e-commerce solution is more likely to yield an increase in the number of merchandising orders placed. By providing your sales group, wholesalers and consumers 24/7 virtual access to your products, you’re removing yourself from the time-consuming difficulties and headaches of manual maintenance and upkeep.

  An effective e-commerce portal is not only a reliable source for managing your inventory in an organized fashion, it can also be seamlessly updated to accommodate for new products and inventive promotional efforts. Including pre-order windows and making them available to your distributors will help to better gauge the potential success of your latest product promotions before taking the plunge and jumping head first into a new initiative.

  Planning for the upcoming year’s promotions, brand launches and seasonal programs is an important function critical to the ongoing success of your business. Having access to online ordering is a great resource to take advantage of when working toward upcoming events. Providing your distributors access to your ecommerce site makes the process of managing and expanding your brand a seamless activity.

  However, maintaining your inventory and shipment data can often be challenging. Working from a comprehensive and reliable report – one that details the data needed to drive a successful program – saves time and increases productivity, allowing you to focus more on your craft. Accessing these reports, whenever needed, makes the process of future inventory planning and promotional efforts even easier and more sustainable.

Inventory Optimization

  Space is a commodity. You’ll never have enough and will always be needing more. When owning and operating your craft brewery, you’ll quickly realize that as more of your space is consumed by branded merchandise, less will be available for that essential, behind-the-scenes equipment – brewing systems, canning lines, tanks, fermenters and more. Working with a total fulfillment partner opens up the possibility of maintaining and safely storing your merchandise stock.

  At its core, inventory optimization and supply planning answers the question about how much merchandising inventory should be carried. Working with your fulfillment partner, you’ll be able to better understand the complexities of supply and demand and more accurately identify inventory targets. By maintaining appropriate levels of merchandising stock you’ll greatly reduce the chances of inventory obsolescence, thereby freeing up capital that can be applied elsewhere throughout your business.

  Fulfillment partners often include consignment opportunities, giving you the option to store your products offsite while still retaining ownership. As the products begin to ship, you’ll be able to track how much inventory sold and work closely with your fulfillment provider on the transactional details.

  When tied directly with your unique e-commerce platform you’ll have even greater flexibility and control over the number of products sold, understand when and how they have shipped and be able to effectively report – from week-to-week and month-to-month – for better management of your business’s overall expenses and profits.

  Pre-orders are also designed to increase profitability. Utilizing your fulfillment partner’s expertise in identifying products that are best suited to both order windows and the make-and-ship process, you’ll capitalize on an effective solution to the POS puzzle. This pre-order option provides greater overall flexibility when planning for upcoming events and seasonal placement.

Dedicated Support

  Whether it’s the account manager, sourcing, logistics or warehouse, the various touchpoints of a fulfillment team provide the support needed to effectively operate your business. Their focus is helping you maintain yours. In doing so, you’ll have greater opportunities to further pursue your passion.

  A committed support team should be analyzing your POS operations on a quarterly, bi-annual and annual basis, and provide feedback to assist with any changes that may be needed. Their long-standing relationships within the industry are designed to support your needs and ensure that your business realizes continued success.

  Your merchandising efforts are directly connected to establishing your brand and helping your business thrive in an increasingly competitive market. Aligning yourself with a reputable fulfillment program will assist you in meeting the goals you have established for your business. When done well, your brand will realize the greatest potential to reach more customers and leave lasting impressions.

Brewery Financial Statements 101:

How to use Financial Reports to Improve Results

By: Kary Shumway, CPA, CFO, Numbers Guy

Financial literacy is the ability to read and understand the numbers of your brewery business so that you can improve financial results. Improving financial results may include growing sales, improving gross margins or increasing cash flow. In today’s uncertain times, financial literacy is more important than ever.

  The numbers of your brewery business are reported on the financial statements – the income statement, balance sheet and statement of cash flows. Each of these reports provides vital financial information to understand what’s going on in your business.

  In this article, we’ll review the basic components of brewery financial statements and provide examples of what these reports should look like. We’ll also dig into the mysteries of the brewery chart of accounts – the building blocks of the financials – and provide tips to make sure your financial reporting is as good as it can be.

  We’ll close out with a list of best practices to follow so that your financial information is accurately reported. These best practices are summarized into a handy checklist of month end procedures to follow.

Brewery Financial Reports

  The numbers of your business are organized into reports called the financial statements: the income statement, balance sheet and statement of cash flows. Each statement provides useful information about a different part of your brewery business.    Below is a brief review of each report.

  Income statement (Profit & Loss Statement or P&L): The brewery income statement reports on sales, margins, operating expenses and shows whether the business had a profit or loss. This statement measures results over a period of time – the month, the quarter, or year to date, for example.

  It’s important to understand that the income statement measures transactions but does not measure cash flow. The income statement records sales when earned, and expenses when incurred, regardless of whether cash was received or paid out. 

  Balance sheet: The brewery balance sheet lists assets, liabilities and equity.  Assets are things you own, liabilities are things you owe, and equity is the difference between the two.  If assets are larger than liabilities, you have equity.  If liabilities are bigger, you have a deficit.

  While the income statement measures results over a period of time, the balance sheet measures numbers as of a specific point in time – at month end, quarter end or year end, for example. 

  Statement of cash flows: This financial report measures the flow of cash coming into and going out of the brewery business.  It tells you where cash came from (collections on sales, for example) and where cash went (payments to vendors, for example).  The income statement measures transactions, not cash. The statement of cash flows shows picks up where the income statement leaves off and records the flow of money through the business.

Brewery Income Statement (P&L) Examples

  Now that we’ve covered the basic financial reports, let’s look at examples of what brewery income statements should look like.

  We’ll begin with a summarized version of the P&L.  Shorter reports are easier to read and allow you to see important information quickly.  The summary report includes sub-totals for each major P&L category: sales, margins, operating expenses and profit or loss.

  The simple P&L shows the summarized results for a period of time (Year to Date, in this example) and presents each category as a percentage of sales. P&Ls don’t need to be five or ten pages long to be good. In fact, shorter is better. Shorter is easier to read and makes it more likely that you actually will read the report. Start with a summary P&L like this one, then expand the report by adding more details. Here’s an example:

  This P&L shows sales, cost of sales, and margins by package type. This type of presentation makes it easy to see the margin percentage by package type (kegs, cans or bottles) which is useful in analyzing portfolio profitability.

  An alternative to this P&L is to present the information by line of business. This might include sales through the taproom, self-distribution and wholesale distribution. Regardless of which method you use, it’s helpful to mirror the sales categories within the cost of sales and margins categories. For example, have a separate account for taproom sales, taproom cost of sales, and taproom margins.

  Financial literacy is the ability to read and understand the numbers of your brewery business so that you can improve financial results. The income statement, balance sheet and statement of cash flows are reports that summarize those numbers. Each report gives you different information about the business, and each is important to review on a regular basis.

Brewery Chart of Accounts

  Accountants use the term Chart of Accounts to describe the listing of all the things you want to track and report on in your business. These include all of the assets, liabilities, revenue and expenses. The purpose of this listing is to provide organization and structure for your financial reporting. The Chart of Accounts serves as the building blocks of your financial statements.

  The level of detail in your chart of accounts listing will depend on how much information you want to see on your financial reports. For example, you may have three different sales accounts, as shown earlier: Sales-Kegs, Sales-Cans, and Sales-Bottles.  Each captures the sales specific to a type of package.

  Alternatively, you may have any number of different sales accounts to show sales by market and package type. For example, Sales Self-Distribution Kegs, Sales Self-Distribution Cans, Sales Self-Distribution Kegs, etc.

  Be purposeful about the level of detail in your chart of accounts. More detail may be preferable, however this will take more time for your bookkeeper to record the transactions into the proper accounts. Start with the kind of reporting you need to see in your financial statements and build the chart of accounts accordingly.

  For an example of a full brewery chart of accounts, visit www.craftbreweryfinance.com and enter chart of accounts in the search box.

Brewery Financial Month-end Process

  We’ve covered the basics of how to read the financial statements and understand the chart of accounts. Next, we’ll review a month-end process you can use to make sure your numbers are complete and accurate. A process is defined as a series of steps, followed in order, that will lead to the right outcome. In this case, the right outcome is accurate numbers in the financial reports.

  The month-end process should be clearly written and used as a document to train your bookkeeping staff. An accounting manager should periodically audit the work of staff to ensure that the process is being followed. 

  The process can be presented in the form of a checklist, indicating what task to do, when to do it, and who is responsible for completion.  Below is an example of a month-end financial checklist:

  The process checklist should contain all the necessary steps to close the books for the month in order to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information. For example, all payroll journal entries should be made on the 1st day of the new month and all bank statements should be reconciled by the 5th business day of the month.

  To create your month-end process checklist, have your bookkeeper write down all the actions they take to close the month. Compile this list of actions and assign due dates and a responsible person. Each month when it’s time to close the books, use the checklist as a guide to make sure each step is done and completed on time.

  The best way to make sure you have good financial information is to follow a good process consistently. To download a full month-end process checklist, visit www.craftbreweryfinance.com and enter month-end process in the search box.

Wrap Up + Action Items

  Financial literacy is the ability to read and understand your financial statements so that you can improve results in your brewery business. Improved results may be sales growth, margin increases or positive cash flow. You define the result you want to achieve and use your financial literacy to make it happen.

  Use the summary income statement templates presented here or create your own so that you can monitor financial outcomes. Review your chart of accounts and compare to the template at www.craftbreweryfinance.com to identify any needed changes.

  In today’s uncertain business environment, financial literacy is a competitive advantage. Use this advantage to drive increased financial performance in your brewery business today.

    Kary Shumway is a Certified Public Accountant and has been working as a CFO in the beer business for the past 15 plus years. He creates financial training courses for beer wholesaler owners so that you can build a more profitable business.

For more information please visitwww.craftbreweryfinance.com.

Regulatory Accommodations in the Age of COVID-19

By: Brian D. Kaider, Esq.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected virtually every industry, from government-mandated shutdowns, to limitations on occupancy, to changes in consumer behavior even in the absence of mandatory restrictions.  Some businesses, such as live theaters, have been completely shuttered; Broadway recently announced it will be dark until at least January 3, 2021.  But, breweries, wineries, and distilleries have the advantage of being both retail centers for their products and also manufacturers.  This dichotomy has allowed many to keep their doors open in some capacity throughout this emergency.  Every U.S. state has allowed alcoholic beverage manufacturing to continue.  How manufacturers have been able to get their products into the hands of consumers, however, has varied widely from state-to-state. 

  This article is not meant to give a complete status of the law in any, much less every, state.  Nor is it to point out that one state is doing more than another for the beverage industry.  Each state is facing its own unique challenges in the face of this pandemic due to differences in infection rates, hospital capacity, population density, economic conditions, political climate, culture, and various other factors.  So, it is not surprising that their approach to these challenges differ, as well.  It is also important to note that as circumstances change, so does the government response, so what is described below may have changed by the time this article is published, and may continue to change.

  Rather, this article is meant to illustrate that there are many options available to help industry members survive the crisis.  As conditions change in any given state, so to do the accommodations needed to help the industry.  So, for industry members who are in a state where the pandemic is growing, the information below may provide suggestions to take to state and local officials to seek further accommodations, as needed. 

Carry-Out

  Nearly every state is allowing manufacturers to sell their products from their licensed premises for off-site consumption.  The details, however, vary widely.  For example, many states require that the carryout alcohol be part of an order for food.  Alabama and Montana have limits on the amount of alcohol a customer may purchase to-go.  Maryland, on the other hand, suspended these limits during the emergency. 

  Most states require carryout alcohol to be in “sealed containers,” though even that definition varies.  In many states it includes growlers, but in Alabama only if the local jurisdiction allows draft beer, in Maine only if with a food order and in the brewery’s own branded growler, and in Nebraska only if the growler has a capacity of no more than 64 ounces.  In Colorado, a to-go cup with a lid may be secured with tape that says: “WARNING: DO NOT OPEN OR REMOVE SEAL WHILE IN TRANSIT.”  In Vermont, manufacturers may sell beverages in a paper cup with a lid that has a hole for a straw…but may not provide a straw.  Nebraska allows these cups and straws can be provided, but not inserted into the cup on the premises.  In Virginia, due to supply chain issues, the state allowed for “alternate/novel” containers, such as flip-top bottles.  Missouri originally required “factory sealed” containers, but changed the rule in June 2020 to allow for “retailer packaged” beverages.

  The manner of carryout sales varies, too.  In Arizona, Montana, and South Carolina, licensees are allowed to operate a drive-thru window for beverage sales.  But, in Washington State, they can have a “walk-up” window, but not a drive-thru.  In Wisconsin, the carryout sale must be conducted face-to-face, not over the phone or internet for pickup.

  Some states, such as Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Michigan, Missouri, and Nebraska are also allowing mixed drinks or cocktails to go.  California and Maine require mixed drinks to accompany a food order and Maine and Virginia have limitations on the amount of alcohol in the to-go container. 

Curbside Pickup

  In order to keep patrons from congregating inside the tasting room to pick up beer, some states have allowed curbside pickup, where the customer orders the product online or over the telephone and drives to the licensee’s parking lot.  The licensee then brings the order out to the customer’s car, often putting the order in the trunk so there is no direct contact between employee and customer.  At least Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, South Carolina, Vermont, and Virginia allow curbside pickup.  Tennessee only allows curbside pickup for beer and wine, not spirits.  But, New Mexico expressly forbids it because all sales must be made on the licensed premises, which does not include the parking lot.

Delivery

  Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Ohio, the District of Columbia, and Missouri allowed manufacturers to deliver beer, wine, and spirits to consumer’s homes.  Since the outbreak, many other states have followed suit, at least on a temporary basis, including Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho (beer and wine only), Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey (beer and wine only), Oregon, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.  In Oklahoma, the Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission was allowing breweries and wineries to do home delivery in April/May 2020, but the legislature stepped in and gave that right only to retailers, not manufacturers.  Most states that allow home delivery require that the delivery be made by an employee of the licensee, not by a third party service.  Idaho, Illinois, and New York, however do allow third party services, though in Illinois, mixed drinks can only be delivered by third party from licensed retailers, not from distilleries.

  Most states also require that payment be made in advance either over the phone or online.  California, however, is allowing payment, even in cash, to be made at the point of delivery, but will not permit a “mobile sales apparatus” to sell and deliver in real time in a public space.  In other words, one cannot set up a “food truck” type of service for alcoholic beverages.

  The majority of states also require that the delivery be made directly to a residence or other building.  North Carolina, on the other hand allows breweries and wineries to deliver within 50 miles of the licensed premises and to make deliveries outside a home to any place the customer requests, except to other licensed premises.

  In Maine, New Hampshire, and New York, the delivery must accompany a food order, though, to borrow a phrase from the movie “Pirates of the Caribbean,” some may be treating that requirement “more as a guideline than an actual rule.”  Hawaii has four individual county liquor commissions and liquor control departments.  Three of the counties have allowed brewpubs to deliver beer along with a food order, the fourth has not, as of this writing.

  Maryland is not only allowing manufacturers to deliver their own products directly to consumers, but also products from other manufacturers, who may not have the resources for home delivery.   At least two breweries in another Northeastern state have teamed up to share their delivery resources, though it is unclear whether there is any official or unofficial approval in that state.  In Ohio, if a manufacturer also has an “A-1-A” liquor permit, it may sell and deliver other brands of beer, wine, spirits, and mixed drinks (though mixed drinks must accompany a food order). 

  Some states have also begun to allow breweries, wineries and distilleries to ship their products to consumers within their own state using UPS or Federal Express (not the U.S. Postal Service).  These include at least Vermont, Maryland, New York, and North Carolina.

Other Accommodations

  When the COVID-19 outbreak began to spread in the United States and hand sanitizer quickly went out of stock in retail outlets, many distilleries and breweries sprang into action.  Licensing commissions and legislatures scrambled to provide necessary approvals for these companies to pivot their manufacturing activities.  This created a valuable revenue stream while tasting rooms were closed and provided a service to communities in need of protection.  In some cases, states allowed breweries to transfer fermented wort to distilleries for distillation and mixing with other ingredients and then to take the product back to the brewery for bottling and distribution.  One word of caution, however; at least one brewery in Hawaii received a citation for “inducement,” because they were giving a free bottle of sanitizer to anyone who purchased their beer.

  When taprooms were ordered closed in Ohio, the Department of Commerce recognized that some small breweries did not have bottling or canning capabilities and would struggle more than those who were able to package their products and sell for carryout or delivery.  So, the department created a procedure that would allow a manufacturer to have another manufacturer bottle or can their products for them.  Ordinarily this would be a violation of Ohio law.

  As various states begin their tiered reopening plans, many are still either prohibiting indoor dining/drinking or only allowing a limited percentage of normal seating capacity.  To further accommodate manufacturers, several states, including: Alaska, Arkansas, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, have been much more lenient about allowing outdoor seating areas to make up for lost capacity inside.  In many cases, states have allowed manufacturers to rope off sections of sidewalks, parking lots, and even closed portions of streets to enable outdoor seating.  New Jersey has even gone a step further and allowed breweries to occupy outdoor spaces that are not directly attached to the brewery, such as nearby parks.

  Finally, most states have been very flexible with licensing renewals and tax filings, extending deadlines and fast-tracking application processing. 

Final Thoughts

  No one knows how much longer this crisis is going to last.  As the number of new coronavirus cases falls in one state, it rises in another and the experts seem to agree that we are still in the midst of the first wave of this virus with a second likely to hit during flu season.  It is reasonable to expect that we will see state and local governments react to changing circumstances with an ebb and flow of restrictions on people congregating. 

  The manufacturers who have fared the best, so far, are the ones who have done two things: 1) applied early for federal, state, and local grant and loan opportunities, and 2) found creative ways to pivot their business to maximize their opportunities under restricted conditions.  Being based in Maryland, I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out here to True Respite Brewing Company.  Based in Rockville, Maryland, they were the creators of the craft beverage delivery platform, Biermi, which is now being used in at least 29 states.  This type of innovative thinking both in the private sector and in state and local governments will be critical as we navigate the COVID-19 emergency.  If worsening conditions require tighter restrictions in some states, hopefully the information presented above will be useful in discussions with licensing commissions and legislators as ways they can help accommodate manufacturers. 

  Lastly, with the constantly shifting regulatory structure surrounding this industry, it is essential that licensees stay in contact with their insurance companies and their attorneys.  A state may change the rules to allow a manufacturer to deliver alcohol to consumers’ homes or to serve its products in a parking lot, but that does not necessarily mean that the manufacturer’s insurance policy will cover those activities.  Further, the devil is always in the details.  In each of the states mentioned above, there are conditions and terms that must be satisfied in order to engage in the permitted activities.  Always consult with a knowledgeable attorney before engaging in a newly allowed process.

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

The Evolution of Craft Beer

By: Erik Lars Myers

When the “craft beer revolution” began, there was a purpose. The craft beer industry was built by people who had been to the promised land and seen the light. That promised land was usually somewhere in Europe, and the light was not all that light. It was a revelatory moment in which a drinker found themselves confronted with beers that were not the light, bland, American-style macro lager they knew at home, but rather beers that were dark, moody, and hoppy. They were beers bursting with flavor and individuality, something that those American beers lacked. Those people returned from their promised land as evangelists, priests of a new order built to spread the gospel of those beers to a new, insulated, naïve market. Craft beer was born.

  The roots of what we learned to see as normal craft beer offerings came through the lens of one book. It is so ubiquitous in the craft beer industry that some older beer veterans have referred to it as “the Bible”. The reverence with which Charlie Papazian’s book The Complete Joy of Homebrewing has been treated, as well as Papazian himself, who recently retired from the Brewers Association, makes it easy to draw a direct line from that book to the development of the modern beer industry.

  Ignore, for a moment, that many professional brewers still brew with the dated knowledge presented in that book: knowledge that still makes great homebrew but is fairly basic for a professional brewery. The recipes presented in the book in the 1970s are the harbingers of the industry’s path to maturation some 15 to 20 years later.

  By the 1990s, in the first big boom of the craft brewing industry, every brewery in the country worth its salt was putting out the same simple lineup: Golden Ales, Brown Ales, Pale Ales, IPAs, and Porters or Stouts. All the flavors of beer. Breweries with extra tank space might have thrown in the occasional lager, but since money and space were often limited, lagers sometimes fell by the wayside. Invention and innovation in the brewing industry leapt directly from Charlie’s books. He published what was probably the first pumpkin beer recipe. He let us know that honey was a great addition to brown ales, that fruit belonged in dark beers, and that historic styles that no longer existed were cool.

  At the same time, the beer industry itself was working as hard as it possibly could to lower the barrier of entry to open a brewery. As startup brewers were treated like royalty by eager homebrewers, those brewing pioneers began to release books regaling fans with the tales of opening a brewery and all of their mistakes, so that you – the eager reader – would not be doomed to repeat them. It seemed like writing a business book was a prerequisite for owning a nationally-distributed brewery for a decade or so. Ken Grossman (Sierra Nevada), Sam Calagione (Dogfish Head), Jim Koch (Sam Adams), Tony Magee (Lagunitas), Steve Hindy (Brooklyn), Tom Schlafly (Schlafly), and James Watt (Brew Dog) among others have all written books about starting their breweries that, to some degree or other – mostly blatantly – encourage the reader to believe the idea that starting a brewery is an achievable task, even if you don’t know what you’re doing.

  The Brewers’ Association itself followed suit by releasing a book plainly titled “Starting Your Own Brewery”. The first edition was a loosely tied together collection of academic articles and essays that acted as a dry review of boilers and floor sealants of the 1990s, but the second edition was transformed into an easy manual to start a brewery by Dick Cantwell (Elysian, Magnolia). The Siebel Institute of Brewing Technology even went so far as to hold a “How to Start a Brewery” course using that book as a rough textbook. The course did not teach people to make beer or run a business. It taught people how to start a brewery.

  And so, the barrier to entry became the notion that “It’s just so crazy it might work” and the finances to afford the most minimal amount of equipment. Buoyed by an industry (and industry association) that boasted double digit growth numbers for 20+ years, banks were eager to throw loans at anybody who could write a passionate business plan.

  But when those breweries started, they were different than the earlier ones. They were not built by the originators and inventors, the people that had traveled abroad and found new ideas to bring home. They were started by their fans. They were started by eager homebrewers who wanted to do the same thing their heroes did, and when they started breweries, they started homebreweries instead.

  Over the past decade and more, homebrew took a natural step from Charlie Papazian’s creative recipe starts into the concept of Extreme Brewing. You can thank Beer Advocate for it. Though their tame definition, “A beer that pushes the boundaries of brewing” is an easy definition to apply to even, say, the latest trends of non-alcoholic beers and low-cal IPAs, their intent was made clear in their preference for high alcohol offerings and rare, outlandish ingredients that was showcased on their website, and at Beer Advocate’s Extreme Beer Fest.

  In breweries at the time, these extreme beers were fairly uncommon. Dogfish Head’s brewers stood out among their peers as the people who were most likely to throw lobster in the boil kettle, or have their entire staff chew corn to make a traditional chicha, but in homebrew it was an easy step. Ingredients that are off-limits to commercial brewers due to cost, scale, or regulatory reasons pose no impediment to a homebrewer.

  The only thing stopping any homebrewer from making a beer out of 10 lbs of Snickers bars is the cost of 10 lbs of Snickers bars.

  For years, the Brewers’ Association had a mantra based on fear: Quality is the most important thing. The fear was that a potential customer would try craft beer for the first time and it would be terrible and they would never try any craft beer ever again. The idea that a macro American lager drinker would walk into a craft brewery, drink a sub-par IPA, and then give up forever is a myth. Instead, that drinker tried beer again, maybe not that day, but at some point. Everybody drinks craft beer now, macro American lager drinkers.

  For years, craft breweries were not at the mercy of their customer’s tastes, they defined them. Now, the educational period is over.

  When thousands of homebreweries started throughout the country, they brought their recipes with them and taught millions of craft beer fans to love what they made: chock full of lactose, breakfast cereal, candy bars, fruit, and all kinds of sugars. More and more brewers experimented with more and more ways to get hops into beer, because they had been trained by those giant hopheads of yesteryear, and they found the gold mine in New England IPAs.

  Today, our most successful small breweries flourish on a small variation of hazy IPAs, fruited sours, and dessert stouts. Our most successful large breweries cling to the waning popularity of their flagships in a broken distribution system.

  Now, most craft beer fans value alcohol, adjuncts, and adjectives over quality and classic styles.

  And they should. We taught them to.  The only way back to classics is forward through education and inspiration of a whole new set of craft beer fans.

Erik Lars Myers is an author, brewer, and lover of beer. He currently works as the Director of Brewing Operations at Fullsteam Brewery in Durham, NC where he strives toward innovation every day while supporting the Southern Beer Economy by using brewing ingredients sourced and grown across the American South.

How Craft Breweries Can Use Technology to Drive Channel Incentive Programs

By: Nichole Gunn, Vice President of Marketing and Creative Services, Incentive Solutions

In order to stay competitive in today’s distribution channel, craft beer producers must be able to digitally engage their supply chain trading partners and effectively communicate across channels. However, this can seem like a tall order! Between the need for integrated technology, gaps in partner data, and interorganizational goals that might not always be aligned, craft beer producers often struggle to utilize technology to sell through and with their partners.

  When facing these challenges, a channel incentive program might not be the first solution that springs to mind. After all, most people associate incentive programs with rewards rather than considering how that program fits in as part of an effective channel management tech stack. However, today’s channel incentive programs are software-driven, offering craft beer producers a platform to provide connected, omnichannel partner experiences, improve communication, and collect important partner data to inform their sales and marketing strategies.

Creating Engagement Before and After the Reward

  While offering incentive rewards can be an exciting way to differentiate the brand and drum up initial engagement, the real value proposition for craft beer producers occurs in the opportunities for growth and improved communication that the program creates.

  Motivating and facilitating digital engagement is a major focus of today’s channel incentive programs. Depending on their scope, these programs can provide:

●    An integrated digital hub where channel partners can learn more about the brand, while exploring the latest incentive promotions;

●    Automated communication touchpoints, such as email, SMS, push notifications, monthly statements, and website announcements;

●    Custom enrollment forms and survey tools to round out partner profiles and fill in missing gaps in data;

●    A branded mobile app where partners can easily upload sales invoices and other documents in order to earn reward points;

●    Gamification- and education-based platforms to increase engagement and help supply chain trading partners become better representatives of the brand; and

●    Streamlined administrative tools and reporting dashboards that enable craft beer producers to easily manage their programs and monitor success.

  These components help make the brand more accessible to supply chain trading partners, while giving craft beer producers tools to consistently engage partners across digital channels. Better yet, all of these platforms exist in a space where supply chain trading partners have the opportunity to earn rewards. This means that supply chain trading partners will be more likely to engage with the brand interactions they experience through the channel incentive program, whether via email, SMS, apps or other digital platforms

Integrating Incentive Programs with a Website

  Providing a seamless user experience is an integral element of effective digital engagement. Modern channel incentive programs allow craft beer producers to integrate their rewards program with their existing website or partner portal.

  This helps craft beer producers accomplish several goals. First, it drives supply chain trading partners to the website, where they can gain additional exposure to the brand and its product lines. Secondly, creating a single sign-on reduces the need for partners to keep track of additional URLs or login information, making them more likely to engage with the brand. Finally, offering channel partners the ability to redeem for rewards directly from a company website provides positive reinforcement that partners will associate with your brand in the future.

Leveraging Automation for More Efficient Communication

  When it comes to channel partnerships, communication is key. While smaller craft beer producers can be accustomed to operating exclusively with manual processes and analog customer experiences, what happens when it’s time to scale a go-to-market strategy?

  Channel incentive programs give craft beer producers the ability to automate a large portion of their channel marketing. With triggered emails, SMS, push notifications, and website announcements, incentive program software allow craft beer producers to efficiently communicate with members of their channel based on specific parameters. Additionally, if craft beer producers are pressed for time, some incentive companies even provide the option to outsource entire custom, end-to-end incentive marketing campaigns.

Collecting Data to Provide a Connected Customer Experience

  For craft beer producers, a channel incentive program is a valuable opportunity to learn more about the distributor and wholesaler sales reps who make up their channel. Reward-earning opportunities motivate supply chain trading partners to share information that craft beer producers would otherwise struggle to obtain. From firmographic data, to contact information, engagement metrics, and buying habits, craft beer producers can use this data to inform their sales and marketing strategies and further personalize their sales and marketing strategies.

  By integrating this data with their existing CRM or ERP, craft beer producers can maintain a more accurate picture of the buyer experience. For instance, craft beer producers can see which distributor and wholesaler sales reps are engaging with a certain promotion in order to create relevant cross-sell and up-sell opportunities. They can view which accounts (or even regions) need to be nurtured or reengaged. Having this visibility into the sales channel helps craft beer producers anticipate the needs of their supply chain trading partners and allocate their marketing spend more intelligently.

  Additionally, sales claim submission and verification tools make it easier for distributor and wholesaler sales reps to exchange data at the point of sale. Some craft beer producers use this as an opportunity to gain information about customers further down the supply chain in order to glean insight about the retailers and restaurants that sell their beer to end-users. Survey tools allow supply chain trading members to offer feedback, which can be used to further personalize sales and marketing strategies.

Using Gamification to Make Programs More Engaging

  Elements of gamification, such as trivia, leaderboards and spin-to-wins, can be incorporated into incentive program websites to drive more regular engagement in between reward-earning opportunities. These make the programs more interesting for participants, while offering additional tools to shape the behavior of supply chain trading partners. For instance, daily trivia can be utilized to keep channel partners coming back to the website, while assigning limited-time bonus points for selling specific products or completing other CTAs (calls to action) are another great incentive. This makes for a more rewarding channel partner experience – even before partners ever redeem a reward!

  In addition, interactive quizzes and training modules make your supply chain trading partners more knowledgeable and effective representatives of the brand. Sales reps sell what they know and providing sales enablement is a great way to build brand preference with an indirect salesforce. Plus, these educational modules give sales reps the chance to earn rewards, further increasing the value proposition of an incentive program.

Streamlining the Administrative Experience  

In addition to the benefits of incentive program technology for channel sales and marketing, another important consideration for craft beer producers is ease-of-use from an administrative standpoint. How complicated is implementation? What are the time-costs of managing the program? How much flexibility is there for adjusting the program website or setting new promotions? Will there be ongoing strategic support from the incentive company?

  Today, cloud-based, modular incentive software has streamlined the admin experience. Programs can be launched in as little as eight weeks. With easy-to-use administrator dashboards and drag-and-drop editors, sales and marketing managers at craft beer producers can quickly make changes to their program. Plus, custom reports help them monitor their program and measure ROI.

  Additionally, some companies offer teams of incentive specialists to manage the program. According to a 2019 survey of our clients, many of whom are in the beverage manufacturing industry, more than 70 percent spent less than two hours a week performing administrative responsibility for their incentive program.

Sustaining a Competitive Advantage

  In short, a channel incentive program acts as an entire digital ecosystem for partner engagement, an important competitive advantage for craft beer producers who rely on supply chain trading partners in order to go to market. Compared to other industries, the craft beer production industry is still in the early stages of adopting channel incentive strategies, giving those who jump on board soon a major competitive edge. Being among the first to roll out a channel incentive program for distributor and wholesaler sales reps represents a major opportunity to capture mindshare and share-of-wallet.

  However, it’s important for craft beer producers to keep an eye on the future. Technology is evolving at a rapid rate and the craft beer distribution channel is notoriously competitive. When shopping for incentive program providers, make sure to choose one that fully supports their software and has definite outlines for future development. Moreover, look for a provider that offers the ability to quickly enhance and expand a program in response to competition. That way, it’s easier to capitalize on the present opportunity, while planning ahead for the future, and staying one step ahead of industry competitors.

  Nichole Gunn is the VP of Marketing and Creative Services at Incentive Solutions (www.incentivesolutions.com), an Atlanta-based incentive company that specializes in helping B2B companies improve their channel sales, build customer loyalty, and motivate their employees. Nichole Gunn can be reached at ngunn@incentivesolutions.com.

Social Media in the Time of COVID-19:

Social Distancing Doesn’t Apply to Your Social Media Efforts

By: Tracey L. Kelley

It’s no surprise that time spent online during the height of the pandemic increased exponentially. Data from Nielsen specifically tracking social media usage indicates that on platforms such as TikTok and Instagram, there was a 25% spike in mobile engagement, and a soaring 75% of ad content placed by influencers. While usage is expected to flatten a bit by the end of the year, there’s still a slight uptick of average minutes per day people peruse social networks: 82 minutes now, compared to a 2019 forecast of 76 minutes.

  How does this data impact social connection with your audience? Now more than ever, refine your brand and your community presence to cultivate content people are willing to notice.

Share the Story of Your Community

  Craft beverage producers repeatedly demonstrated these past few months how quickly they could pivot to accommodate not only the needs of their business but also those of their employees and the community as a whole. Many of these efforts were the feel-good stories major news agencies were eager to feature in bleak times.

  Ruby Benoit is Head of Craftiness and Founder of Craft Good Business, a company in Southern California specializing in helping craft beverage companies create and implement marketing plans and events. She told Beverage Master Magazine that storytelling holds considerable clout in social media messaging.

  “Since consumers are turning to social media to evaluate brands even more so now, storytelling creates a connection and helps keep you top of mind,” she said. “Your audience wants to see what your brand is all about: What do you stand for? What is your purpose? And it’s critical to show your community efforts: decide on how you have a unique, positive impact on society. Whatever your stance is, communicate with your customers and all stakeholders in an authentic way.”

  Brands should stick to providing great experiences, as well as dedicate energy to remaining consistent and genuine in their messaging to win customer support, according to the media team of Happy Medium, a full-service digital creative agency in Des Moines, Iowa.

  “Overall, audiences tend to react well to community involvement because it’s inspirational and aspirational. If your team is volunteering, share a photo of employees at the volunteer event. If you made a charitable donation, ask the recipient to share digital assets that align with the cause you’re helping them support,” the Happy Medium team said. “This demonstrates how your brand builds and supports communities in a way that’s relatable and impactful. Write a brief caption about why the cause you’re supporting is relevant to the brand. Always tag the organization!”

  Chad Richards is vice president of Firebelly, a “social media marketing agency on a mission since 2007” based in Indianapolis. Firebelly has worked with 450 North Brewing Company, Gnarly Grove Hard Cider and Upland Brewing Company, as well as wineries and restaurants. Richards also recommended taking a less self-serving approach. “Whatever you do, make sure the hero is the charity or community you’re supporting. Nothing elicits eye rolls faster than ‘Look at us—we’re so charitable!’”

  The continuing flux of the pandemic’s ongoing impact creates many levels of marketing uncertainty. Managing social media right now might feel more like a scattershot than a targeted approach. Richards said storytelling will pull you through.

  “Humans like stories, and we’re storytellers by nature. It’s how we connect to one another, and right now, people are seeking connection more than ever,” Richards said. “Don’t worry about trying to be creative or clever—just be honest.”

Marry Content to Audience

  Some producers believe they must extend concerted effort across all platforms to reach all people, all the time. Realistically, it’s more effective to shorten the funnel to one or two channels that hit the sweet spot of your consumer base. Benoit offered a collective summary aggregated in early 2020 by Hootsuite, the social media management platform, which you can find here: https://blog.hootsuite.com/social-media-demographics/.

  You may have favorite channels based on your preferences, but where is your audience? As a brief but interesting example, here are just a few statistics from the Hootsuite summary—focusing on the U.S. for simplicity—such as:

•    75% of adults who identify as Hispanic use Facebook more than Black and White adults. Most users of this platform “live in urban areas, followed by suburban and rural.”

•    83% of women age 25–54 use Pinterest—more than Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. Also, “one out of every two millennials use Pinterest,” and 59% discover products there.

•    28% of Black Americans use LinkedIn, compared to 26% of White Americans. This platform is “most popular among 25- to 49-year-olds.”

•    43% of Black Americans use Instagram, “followed by 38% Hispanic and 32% White Americans.” Users also mostly live in urban communities, then suburban and rural areas.

•    44% of young adults age 18 to 24 use Twitter, compared to 26% of people age 30 to 49.

•    78% of Hispanic internet users watch YouTube, followed by 76% and 71% of Black and White users, respectively. This channel “reaches more 18- to 34-year-olds and 18- to 49-year-olds than any cable network in the U.S.”

  The key for the next few months is to strategize with social media professionals to develop messages that not only communicate with individuals of your loyal base but also others who might not know who you are and what you provide.

  Happy Medium advised using interactive content whenever possible to build confidence and trust. “Customers are more likely to engage with content that entertains, educates and tells an authentic story. Engaging customers with your content makes your brand more memorable and creates a deeper connection,” the media team said. “Try incorporating polls [or] question and answer stickers. Feature the people who make your brand what it is in Instagram stories or by hosting a live stream—both of these are growing social trends that bolster higher engagement and should be a staple to any social media strategy.”

  Don’t feel you have to do all the heavy lifting of brand awareness and connection alone. Once again, Richards said, think about potential alliances. “Get your product into the hands of influencers—allowing people to learn about your product via someone they already trust or admire. And think outside the box. These don’t have to be craft beverage or foodie influencers. A travel, fashion or beauty influencer could easily weave your brand and product into their story.”

  If the budget allows, boost your social media ad views. “I realize they may be a luxury in times like these, but ads really are the fastest way to get the right message to the right people in the right places,” he said. “Many brands have cut their ad spends, so the marketplace is less competitive right now. You’ll get more for your money if you’re able to participate.”

  Here are some other content considerations:

•   Promote your best practices for safety and cleanliness to reassure and comfort people who want to visit the taproom but express concern about contagions.

•   Develop clear, concise messaging both on your site and through social media regarding all procedures, special events, advance registration practices, bottle shop services, state-sanctioned curbside sales and other issues. These continual and timely updates speak when you can’t, so it’s worth the time investment to update them daily.

•   Take a tip from wineries by boosting virtual hospitality efforts. Live streaming, which experienced quite a boost during the height of the pandemic, continues to grow in popularity across all platforms.

  Additionally, ask your followers what they might be interested in, and listen carefully. Their suggestions might differ from what you’ve tried before, but now is the time to take advantage of fresh ideas.

Social Media Ideas for the 12–18 Months

  “Flexible consistency” is the action plan for your social media efforts now—and the foreseeable future. Maybe your marketing manager is temporarily furloughed. Or your state allowed gradual reopening, but a summer resurgence in COVID cases forced closure or hour limitations again, and you’re not sure how to engage with purpose. It’s still an essential business practice to like and respond to all posts your establishment is tagged in—that’s the basic approach.

  The media team at Happy Medium suggested three other areas of focus:

•   Post consistently. While so much consumer activity has slowed during this period, it’s especially important for brands to stay top-of-mind with their consumers. Even if operations are currently paused, still send at least a couple of posts per week.

•   Stay positive. Audiences overloaded with COVID-19 messaging over the past few months are starting to become jaded to overused marketing verbiage. Send positive messages while still being respectful to the current situation.

•   Don’t post content exclusively directed at sales: share photos and stories about your team, industry news or fun facts about your operations.

  A 2017 study from the American Express Customer Service Barometer reported that Americans are “more likely to post about good experiences (53%) than poor experiences (35%).” So reaffirming authentic engagement is what Benoit advised.

•    If you haven’t already, create a give-back campaign that helps people in the community such as frontline workers, teachers and others in need. For example, a distillery might do a canned food drive and invite customers to participate.

•    Engage with customers through a social media sweepstakes: they post a creative picture or video of themselves enjoying your beer, spirit, cider or mead. Then, the individual’s photo or video with the most likes wins a day with the craft producer when social distancing is over.

•    Host a virtual ‘Meet the Brewer’ event where the master brewer leads participants through a curated beer and food pairing and interacts with participants. This creates connection and promotes valuable partnerships with local restaurants also in need of exposure.

  Finally, be realistic, Richards told Beverage Master Magazine. He provided these points:

•    Be flexible. These are unique times, and we’re not sure what will happen next. That’s okay. Nobody does. Be prepared to update your plan and approach as needed.

•    Think short term. Take it month-by-month or maybe even week-by-week. Any really long-term campaign planning will likely be disrupted.

•    Show vulnerability. If you’re struggling, say so. It makes you relatable, and people will want to support you and come to your rescue.

  “Know that it’s okay to ‘not know.’” Uncertainty is uncomfortable—especially when it comes to business and finances—but we’re all in the same boat right now. A ‘best guess’ is sometimes the best you can do.”

Barrels Old and New: Make Crafting Spirits a Careful Balance of Art & Science

By: Cheryl Gray

Distilleries are as selective about the barrels they use as they are about the ingredients that go into crafting their spirits. In fact, the right barrel plays an integral role in the entire process.

  Experts say that new barrels impart the highest wood impact into a spirit, giving it color and emphasizing characteristics exclusive to the wood. On the other hand, older barrels play a very different role and are used in a variety of ways by the spirits industry.

  Brown-Forman is the only spirits company in the world to handcraft its own barrels. Michael Nelson is Director of Brown-Forman Cooperage.

  “The barrel plays an important role in the making of whiskey,” said Nelson. “With more than 50% of the flavor and 100% of the whiskey’s color coming from the barrel, it is a key ingredient, not just a storage vessel. Barrels impart this flavor and color by sucking whiskey into the wood and through the char and layers of sugar behind it during the winter. When summer comes, it pushes the whiskey back out. That process repeats itself several times before it’s ready.”

  Brown-Forman has two cooperages, one in Louisville, Kentucky, and the other in Decatur, Alabama, both of which use American white oak to custom craft barrels for time-honored brands including Jack Daniels, Old Forester, Canadian Mist and Woodford Reserve. Few know better how barrels impact the end product than Woodford Reserve Master Distiller Chris Morris.

  “When crafting a straight whiskey, such as Woodford Reserve Bourbon or Rye, the use of a new, charred oak barrel is required by the federal standards of identity,” said Morris. “The pros of using a new barrel are that we achieve the product type and descriptor we desire. The cons would be that if we filled a used barrel, we wouldn’t. There are additional pros and cons as well—those of crafting a desired flavor profile. A new barrel is an intense source of color, aroma and flavor, while a used barrel is not. During our initial use of a new barrel, we extract approximately 85% of the heat-induced oak character. Therefore, to create the product profile that consumers expect, we must use new wood.”

  However, Morris said, that doesn’t exclude using barrels from another beverage class, a technique he calls “finishing.”

  “We have finished Woodford Reserve in wine barrels, port, sherry and cognac barrels for a specific flavor formation purpose. Of course, by finishing a straight whiskey in a barrel that was previously used in any form or fashion causes us to lose the straight whiskey designation. That con is superseded by the pro of getting a unique finished product.”

  Morris told Beverage Master Magazine the concept of using finishing barrels is an innovation that Woodford Reserve Distillery introduced to the whiskey industry in 2006 when it became the first distillery to “finish” a whiskey in Chardonnay barrels. The flavor notes found in such barrels, like citrus, apple, pear and vanilla, are also found, Morris said, on the Woodford Reserve flavor wheel.

  “The ‘finishing’ barrel is selected so that it will highlight and enhance an existing Woodford Reserve flavor,” he said. “This will create an out-of-balance flavor presentation by design, therefore making the ‘finished’ expression ‘flavor focused.’”

  Canton Cooperage is also headquartered in Kentucky. Its master coopers handcraft barrels for wineries and distilleries worldwide, using American white oak, aged in open air. The company creates “Spirit by Canton,” a line of branded barrels for its distillery clients, who place orders based on specific barrel details, including the age of the barrel’s wood.  Bruno Remy, a veteran enologist, is Vice President and Sales Manager for Canton Cooperage.

  “At Canton Cooperage, our production is limited to craft premium spirit barrels,” said Remy. “We make our barrels by order with American oak wood seasoned for 12 months, called ‘Spirit by Canton;’ two years, called ‘Spirit Premium;’ three years, called ‘Spirit Grand;’ four years, called ‘Spirit Limited Edition;’ and even a very limited production of barrels with five-year-old wood called ‘Spirit FIVE.’”

  Remy told Beverage Master Magazine that distilleries pay attention to a barrel’s every detail.  He said that list includes dimensions, the thickness of staves and headings, logo branding on the heads, number of hoops, position and diameters of the bunghole, toasting recipe and charring.

  Another critical factor that distilleries look for in a barrel is the percentage of leakage, with 0%, of course, being ideal. That’s where handcrafted barrels have the edge. Industrial barrel production can show a higher percentage of leakers compared to artisan production.

  As for the life span of a barrel, some barrels can last 30, 40, 50, even 100 years or more, provided they are well-kept. Barrel recycling is fundamental to the spirits industry. Not only is it environmentally responsible but also financially practical.

  “Commonly, the large distilleries have a contract with their cooperage to sell back the used barrels after a certain number of years. Large distilleries can also transfer used barrels to subsidiary distilleries when part of a group,” said Remy. “There is a market of used barrels, and effectively, the barrels can have a second life when shipped to Scotland, Ireland, Spain, Caribbean islands, Japan, Brazil and Chile for whiskey, Scotch, sherry, rums, cachaça, pisco, etc.”

  In producing its rum, Washington D.C.’s Potomac Distilling Company uses a mix of new and old barrels to create Thrasher’s Rum. Owner Todd Thrasher told Beverage Master Magazine that multiple factors go into his barrel choices.

  “One con associated with new barrels is cost. It tends to be very expensive,” said Thrasher. “Also, because we have limited storage space, I only use 30-gallon barrels, which are more expensive than 50-gallon barrels. I find that many American spirit drinkers tend to enjoy the taste of oak, so it definitely makes for an easier transition for whiskey drinkers and can open our rum up to a potential new audience of drinkers.”

  Thrasher said that he sources old barrels from a variety of local distilleries with whom he has relationships. He chooses used barrels that are, on average, three years old, and inspects them for any aesthetic defects, especially for any signs of leakage. That aside, he is sold on the benefits his distillery gains from barrel recycling.

  “Barrels can absolutely be recycled! For example, one of our barrels is a used peach brandy barrel. I find that the recycled barrels can imbue the new spirit with a slightly different profile or flavor.”

  New barrels, Thrasher said, can be harder to source but, when he does place an order, in addition to size, he looks for other specific characteristics. “All new barrels are number three char with medium-toast. That’s the barrel profile that best suits my needs.”

  Cooperages do not typically stock a lot of new barrels in their inventory since most are made-to-order, and empty barrels sitting too long can cause problems. Even with a new barrel, the wood is continually drying out. As it does, the barrel shrinks. Once a shrunken barrel gets filled, it will almost certainly leak.

  Heidi Korb, owner and co-founder of Black Swan Cooperage in Park Rapids, Minnesota, said her cooperage’s typical lead time for a barrel order is approximately two months but will vary depending on the quantity of the order.

  Korb told Beverage Master Magazine there is a wide range of possibilities for clients to consider when choosing barrels. “The variables and options are fairly endless, so it very much depends on what the customer is looking for, what product they are aging and their preferred aging timeframe,” she said. “Using new barrels, especially smaller barrels 30-gallon on down, can be a great way to test new products because the age time will be less than if aged in a standard 53- or 59-gallon barrel.”

  Although used barrels are a staple in the spirits industry, Korb said that careful inspection includes more than watching out for aesthetic imperfections or signs of leakage.

  “In used barrels, you want to avoid any barrels that have off-flavors or barrels that have gone sour. This means they have sat too long empty or were stored in an area where they started to grow mold,” Korb said. “If a barrel is treated well and used rather continuously, it can be used—for lack of a better term—a very long time. Think of your 20-80 plus year aged Scotch whiskey!”

  Virtually all experts agree that the best method to protect a barrel’s integrity is always to keep it full. Industry veterans recommend that if barrels are to be ricked, empty them with the plan in mind to fill them within hours. Cellar or rick house temperatures should stay between 45 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Moisture in a cellar is vital for the barrel’s physical stability and aging of the spirit, with 50% to 80% of humidity recommended. Low variances of temperature and moisture present the ideal environment.

  New or old, the common denominator in the industry conversation about barrels is that they are a significant part of the distilling process that uniquely defines a crafted spirit, giving that spirit an identity all its own.

Pike Brewing Company: Celebrating 30 Years as a Craft Beer Pioneer

By: Becky Garrison

Why is Seattle-based Pike Brewing Company still standing 30 years after its 1989 founding when a growing number of craft breweries in the Pacific Northwest are either shuttering their doors or being bought out by global conglomerates?

  According to Pike’s co-founder and co-chair of its board, Charles Finkel, “There’s an unbelieva-ble amount of competition out there with a challenging business climate, but we’ve done our best to have a sustainable business model. We work really hard and have a good team of people.”

  Following his lifelong passion for imported beers, Finkel founded Merchant du Vin in 1978, so he could introduce consumers to craft beers from England, Scotland, Germany, Belgium, France and Norway, as well as several small American breweries. Jason Parker, co-founder of Copper-works Distilling and Pike’s first brewer, points to the difficulties in convincing Americans to give craft beer a chance. “Back then, nobody knew how to drink a quality beer, so Charles had to edu-cate each person bottle by bottle.”

  Finkel would enter a restaurant and ask to see their beer menu. Inevitably, the waiter would re-spond, “We don’t have a beer menu, but I can tell you what we have.” The waiter would recite names of commercial beers like Budweiser, Coors Light, and Rainer. Then Finkel would reply, “Oh, just bring me some jug wine.” When they noted they don’t serve that type of wine here, he would respond, “Yes, but you serve that type of beer.” Following this exchange, he would set out some imported beers and encourage them to up their beer game.

  In assessing the Seattle beer culture circa 1980, Christian Krogstad, Seattle native and founder of House Spirits Distillery in Portland, Oregon, recalls being smitten by the unusual styles and packaging of Merchant du Vin’s imported beers. In Krogstad’s estimation, “More people than you can imagine were influenced by the beers they imported. I credit them more than any mi-crobrewery or homebrewing writer with creating the spark that led to the explosion in American craft brewing.” In the spirit of other like-minded folks, Krogstad tried his hand at home brewing, and he discovered his vocation in this process.

The Founding of Pike Place Brewery

  In the late 1980s, Finkel took his experience influencing some of the finest breweries on the way that they brewed, packaged and marketed their beer, and founded his own brewery. “I felt if I could sell beer from Bavaria, Yorkshire or Belgium at a price level that was the highest in histo-ry, I could do at least as good, if not better, here in Seattle.”

  On October 17, 1989, the Pike Place Brewery announced its grand opening courtesy of the World’s Shortest Non-Motorized Uphill Parade. John Farias of Liberty Malt Supply led the pa-rade pushing a two-wheeled silver hand truck filled with a keg of Pike Pale Ale. Following Fari-as were the Finkels, Franz and Angela Inselkammer from Bavaria’s Ayinger Brewery, and Jason Parker, along with local media and about a hundred beer aficionados. Also included in the parade were dogs, a cat, a walking geoduck from the Sheraton Hotel, a llama from the Herb Farm and an oyster. After a two-block uphill walk, the menagerie arrived at Cutter’s Bay House, where Franz Inselkammer tapped and poured the inaugural pint of Pike Pale Ale.

  Finkel chose the brewery’s location on Western Avenue due to its uphill location so he could in-stall a gravity-flow steam-powered system. At the time, the brewery’s equipment was state-of-the-art with a four-barrel copper kettle custom made by Seattle’s Alaska Copper and Brass Com-pany.

  When Dick Cantwell, currently the Head of Brewing Operations for Magnolia Beer Company in San Francisco, was hired in 1991 after Parker went back to college, the craft brewing scene was in its infancy. About 200 U.S. breweries were in existence, with Pike being the third in the great-er Seattle area. Cantwell recollects, “By today’s standards, most people made mediocre beer, but the scene was exciting, and we all became lifelong friends.”

  In addition to brewing their perennial best-selling Pike Pale Ale along with a porter and Pike XXXXX Stout, Pike also has the distinction of making one of the first IPAs in the United States. By developing relationships with companies such as Skagit Valley Malting and area grain farm-ers, Finkel sourced local products to create flavorful beers.

  Finkel worked in conjunction with his wife Rose Ann, co-founder and co-chair of the board. Parker sums up their creative, collaborative relationship. “Charles is the artistic force while Rose Ann is the business financier. When he wants to bring a vision to life, Charles needs a team who can come behind him and help him figure out how to do that.” Finkel’s artistic touch can also be found on Pike’s iconic beer logos. The art is distinctly “Charles Finkel” in its design, colors and Victorian-style lettering.

Opening of Pike Pub

  In 1996, they moved to a larger 30-barrel brewery located at the site of a former winery on First Avenue. Rose Ann’s experience of owning a cooking store played a seminal role in their mission to combine craft beer with local, sustainable food. Also, they changed their name to the Pike Brewing Company due to their proximity to Pike Place Market.

  Concurrently, they launched Pike Pub as a destination place that offers a curated experience visi-tors cannot experience elsewhere. For example, the pub houses the Microbrewery Museum, a collection of Finkel’s personal artifacts that document 9,000 years of brewing history. “My goal was to encourage people through our decorations to view beer as cultural items instead of a mass-marketed highly advertised commodity,” Finkel tells Beverage Master Magazine.

  Then after realizing that the brewery and pub could not stand on its own without the support of parent company Merchant Du Vin, the Finkels sold the brewery and pub to Merchant Du Vin the following year. Drew Gillespie, Pike’s current president, began as a line cook in 1998 during this period, which he describes as the Dark Ages. “There wasn’t a lot of investment or passion within the company.”

  After realizing they were missing their brewery and the maturation of the industry, the Finkels purchased Pike back in 2006. Gillespie describes this purchase as “a rebirth that really picked up the heart and soul that the Finkels bring to their work.” Upon their return, the Finkels further built up their community connections, ethical business practices and sustainability focus.

  Among their numerous community projects include a long-standing commitment to Planned Parenthood, where Charles Finkel served on their board before founding Merchant du Vin. They brew a specialty beer titled Morning After Pale as a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood, which they offer during their annual Women in Beer event. Also, their annual event, Chocofest, sup-ports Long Live the Kings, an environmental group dedicated to preserving local salmon.

Moving Towards the Future

  Currently, Pike has five owners, who are all members of the board: the Finkels, Gillespie, VP and Controller Patti Baker and Executive Chef Gary Marx. “We call this selling in versus selling out,” Gillespie says. “You have to have people on site who are really focused on how to make it successful and willing to put their life into it.”

  Pike further expanding its brewing capacity in 2017 by launching Tankard & Tun. This intimate seafood restaurant located on the second floor above the pub enabled them to serve dishes like oysters on the half shell that are hard to serve in a hectic pub environment.

  They also introduced cocktails, which Parker says is a relatively new development in brewpubs. “There was a time, if you were a brewery and you had cocktails, you were seen as not committed to being a brewery. You must think your beer is not good enough to be able to stand on its own. But that’s sort of like saying we’re not going to serve wine either because no wine can be better than our beer. Well, that’s wrong.” 

  Presently, Pike partners with local distilleries, including Woodenville Whiskey, Dry Fly Distil-ling and Copperworks Distilling for their barrel-aged program, which they look to expand in 2020. They also plan on making more sour beers to meet the customer demand for more extreme types of beers.

  Despite these innovations, Pike’s prime focus remains its consistency. “We like being slow-moving. We don’t feel we need to expand and get giant. We just want to have a nice solid base, two restaurants and a beer distribution network in the Pacific Northwest,” says Gillespie.

  To this end, they’ve made in-roads in Hawaii and Alaska and want to establish a presence in Or-egon. In 2018, Pike went global by launching a collaboration in Japan with hopes to expand the Pike concept to China through a Chinese partner.

  “If we could maximize the capacity of the brewery, we will be helping the local community and being a good employer,” says Gillespie. “That’s a recipe for success for our little mini-empire.”

Post-harvest Tips for Hop Growers

By: Alyssa L. Ochs

Hop growers spend much of the year planning and preparing for harvest, which is typically a busy time in the late summer through early fall. But once harvest season has wrapped up, there is still plenty of work to be done on a hop farm.

Hops by the Season

  Running a hop farm is a four-season endeavor because there is something unique and important to do every time of the year.

  In the winter, it’s time for trellis construction, planting cover crops and transferring potted plants to greenhouses.

  Springtime is ideal for applying fertilizer, pruning primary shoots to prevent early disease, and tying twine to the trellis. Spring is also the time to establish training dates and install drip irrigation tubing.

  When summer rolls around, hop farmers see the blooms occurring, monitor the crops to prevent loss to disease and pests, and plan for harvest between August and October.

  In fall, it’s time to inspect the quality of the harvested crop, have brewers visit the farm to select hops, and plan for the first frost when plants go into dormancy.

  While sometimes overlooked and not given the attention it deserves, the post-harvest season is crucial for hop growers as part of a year-around maintenance schedule. The tasks relevant to this time prevent pests and disease for the next season and help growers get their orders in well in advance, so they’re not rushing at the last minute. Meanwhile, post-harvest provides an opportunity to set up the next season for success by recalling lessons learned from the past growing season.

Soil Considerations

  Soil maintenance should be at the top of the priority list for any hop grower’s post-harvest season. After harvesting the hops, growers can spend their time wisely by draining irrigation systems, cleaning filters, tilling the hop yard and planting winter crops or perennial cover crops. This time is also when growers can run harvested bines through a chipper to create mulch or add to a compost pile and fertilize the area to replace nutrients in the soil. Typically, applications of nitrogen—80 pounds per acre or less—are most effective. Fertilizer should be applied along rows, not on top, to prevent rot and disease.

  Consider changing the irrigation frequency after harvest, and only irrigate if the area is experiencing a drought to prevent downy mildew and other diseases. To restore nutrients and increase the health of next year’s hops, add lime, potassium or gypsum. It is often best to apply sulfur to the field soil after harvest in small applications to lower the soil pH. It’s also a good idea to dig up a selection of plants to inspect the roots and assess the soil compaction, decay and lesions before simply replanting the crowns.

Pest and Disease Control Considerations

  Hop growers can get ahead of pests and disease problems by paying more attention to these issues right after harvest. To fight downy mildew, a common problem on hops at this time of year, try using systemic fungicides and developing a protectant treatment program for next spring.

  Other common insects to watch for in fall are two-spotted spider mites, damson hop aphids and potato leafhoppers. When high populations of these pests exist, it may be beneficial to apply insecticide in the post-harvest period. It may also be required to obtain a burning permit if burning pest-infested plant debris is allowed in the area.

Post-harvest Hop Drying

  Also important is the post-harvest drying of hops to prevent mold and mildew, while allowing for proper storage to maintain high crop quality. This task is timely and relevant because harvested hops are rarely needed for immediate use. Right after harvesting, hops have high moisture content, often greater than 75% moisture contained within the fruit, leaves and flowers. Moisture content between 10 and 15% is ideal for preservation, but this may vary slightly based on hop varietal. Timely drying of hops will help preserve their flavors and aromas while keeping them fresh.

  Growers can dry hops in ambient air with no heat added or use an oast to dry hops with temperature and air controls in a dedicated building or cabinet. Oasts can be convenient for large-scale hop producers but are often not practical or affordable for smaller hop growers with more modest crop yields. Alternatively, food dehydrators, ovens and microwaves are used by hop growers to aid the heated drying process. A drying rig can be used for the small-scale, low-cost drying of hop cones and other plant material where low-temperature drying is preferred.

Packaging the Hops

  After hops are dried, it is time to store them in airtight packaging in a cool, dark, dry place. The hops should remain there until they are ready to be used.

  Preserve hop cones and pellets in tightly sealed bags, while getting as much air out of the packaging as possible through manual pressing, vacuum removal, or nitrogen gas-assisted removal. Nitrogen purging is most effective but requires specialized equipment. Many medium-sized hop producers rely upon a food-grade vacuum sealing machine to package and store their hops in either multi-layer plastic or mylar vacuum-sealed bags. Hops are generally best used within a year of harvesting; however, properly packaged hops can often enjoy an extended shelf-life of up to five years.

Pruning and Trimming Considerations

  Concerning maintaining the plants, this is the time to prune long stems off at the ground level. Top-dress hops with compost and mulch now too, which is especially important when winter temperatures drop below zero degrees Fahrenheit.

  For infected hops, trim the bines short after leaf drop and then remove the debris. Cut at about two inches above the new crown buds for bines that are still green and not killed off from the frost. Then cover the remaining crown buds lightly with soil or mulch before winter comes. It’s best to get rid of weeds promptly, so they don’t lead to higher disease infections.

Trellis Repair Considerations

  After harvest, but before winter is also an ideal time to inspect trellises and make any necessary repairs to the construction. If any trellis repairs are needed, stock up on supplies including anchor and interior pole materials, cable, anchor pins, clamps, staples, nails and wires. Tools and machinery potentially needed for the job include a tractor, shovels, cable pullers, hammers, sockets, tampers and a flatbed trailer.

Hop Stock Considerations

  To prepare for the growing season ahead, start browsing different hops and the pricing from several competitors. This way, hop growers can learn about new varieties, the care they require and their general characteristics and benefits.

Contract Review Considerations

  On the administrative side, early fall is an ideal time to review current contract options with trusted suppliers to secure high-quality hops for many years to come. Work on establishing good long-term relationships with suppliers and other relevant companies while reevaluating hop needs and plans for the future. Compare the cost options, and look into getting a private pesticide license if needed. Such a permit may be required in some areas for any use of general or organic pesticide on a crop for sale.

Other Post-harvest Tasks

  Around this time of the year, make sure that trickle and drip lines and tape are drained and don’t have water pockets that could freeze in the winter. Cover lines that will remain in the field with plastic or mulch to prevent rodent damage. Growers with animals on their property can allow chickens or sheep back into the area to finish the cleanup process in the fall. Some hop growers even use hop bines as materials for winter wreaths as a side hobby or small business, so think creatively during any downtime after harvest.

Reflect and Reassess Operations

  Post-harvest is also a valuable time to reflect upon the past season. Jot down a few notes about problem areas in the hop field or general operations to address anything related to nutrients, pests or other issues for next season.

  With the craft brewery scene continuing to expand worldwide, now is an exciting time to be a hop grower and be such an integral part of the craft beverage industry.

The Canadian Ready-to-Drink Canned Cocktail Movement

By: Alyssa Andres

Over the past five years, the Canadian ready-to-drink cocktail scene has gone from passé to a huge craze, hitting liquor stores across the country. Blossoming from a limited selection of sugary beverages to a sophisticated array of craft canned cocktails, RTD beverages act as an easy and accessible option for cocktail lovers. As more and more breweries and distilleries make the move to include alternative, ready-to-drink choices to their repertoire, it is clear Canadians love a canned cocktail. The movement has sparked an array of new RTD options across the country, each offering a unique, local flair.

  In 2015, the biggest names in RTD cocktails on Canadian liquor store shelves were Smirnoff Ice, Palm Bay and Mike’s Hard Lemonade. They were most popular amongst teenagers and novice drinkers but left something to be desired amongst cocktail connoisseurs. Still, sales of these vodka-based coolers were on the rise each year as the only portable alternative to beer. As consumers continued to reach for these products to bring along to the beach or a picnic at the park, the concept of the cooler started to evolve, and the idea of a sophisticated, more adult RTD cocktail was born.

  In 2016, a new, more refined canned cocktail arrived on the scene in Ontario. That year Georgian Bay Spirit Co., located in Northern Ontario, released the Georgian Bay Gin Smash, made with their award-winning, handcrafted London style dry gin. The Gin Smash, flavoured with lemon, lime, tangerine and a hint of mint, was an instant hit, earning rave reviews from The Toronto Star that called it “easily the best pre-mixed cocktail to have hit the shelves of the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario).” They could not keep it on the shelves, doubling their sales in 2017.

  The Gin Smash appeals to a more mature audience. The gin is made using wild juniper berries handpicked along the shores of Georgian Bay. It’s light, complex and refreshing while still having some sweetness. Since the remarkable reception of the original Gin Smash, Georgian Bay Distillers has released seven variations of RTD canned cocktails, including a Smashed Tea that combines the original Gin Smash recipe with black and Darjeeling tea. Following the Gin Smash’s enormous success, many breweries and distilleries across the country added ready-to-drink cocktails to their lineup.

  No longer are these RTD beverages marketed explicitly to young adults. Many companies are opting for a dry and often sugar-free alternative to the everyday canned cocktail using natural flavours and sweeteners. On the west coast, Vancouver company Ocean Blu has created a vodka-based beverage sweetened with stevia, a natural alternative to refined sugar. With zero grams of sugar and 100 calories per serving, these drinks are perfect for the health-conscious consumer and a far cry from the limited offerings of the early 2000s. True to its name, Ocean Blu is also dedicated to the environment, using eco-friendly packaging and donating 25 cents from the sale of every six-pack to ocean shoreline clean-up initiatives and marine wildlife conservation, pivotal to the west coast’s ecosystem.

  Further inland in Kelowna, British Columbia, Orchard City Distilling has created their own conscious cocktail, Zen Kombucha, which combines vodka with kombucha and other organic herbs and botanicals in a convenient can. The health tonic/alcoholic beverage is the first of its kind in Canada and hints at a potential future evolution of hybrid RTD cocktails that could cross over into health elixirs and probiotics.

  While British Columbia distillers create health-conscious canned cocktails, in Alberta, Canada, they are crafting a spirit that is unique to the province. Eau Claire Distillery in Turner Valley created Alberta’s first line of craft cocktails. They instill a “field-to-glass” attitude in their small-batch craft cocktails, using local ingredients like spruce and handcrafted techniques, including hand-harvesting and hand-sealing. Master distiller, Caitlin Quinn, has created a unique spirit made with prickly pears that are indigenous to Southern Alberta. She uses the Prickly Pear Equineox, a sweet, barley-based alternative to gin or vodka, in the Eau Claire Equineox Mule. The spirit is naturally sweet, intensely fruity and has hints of watermelon and bubble gum.  The Equineox Mule combines this unusual spirit with a ginger beer made by local brewery, Annex Ale Project, and is a great option for cocktail lovers interested in Alberta’s local flavours.

  The emphasis on local flavours doesn’t stop in the west. The prairies of Canada are also serving up a variety of RTD cocktails. Prairie Cherry and Prairie Pear are the results of a collaboration between Manitoba’s Fort Garry Brewing Company and Capital K Distillery. These RTD cocktails are produced in Winnipeg using small-batch gin made from Manitoba grains and are released seasonally, selling out each summer in liquor stores across the province. Fort Garry Brewing Co. general manager, Scott Shupeniuk, says the duo of gin beverages has been a huge success. They plan to continue releasing these types of beverages despite being predominantly focused on beer most of the year. Many breweries and distilleries are choosing to release variations of their usual offerings to please consumers looking for new drinks to sip on this summer. 

  Canada’s signature summer drink, The Bloody Caesar, has also evolved with the RTD movement. Four variations of the original cocktail are now available at liquor stores across the country, including Pickled Bean, Lime and The Works. Made with Mott’s Clamato juice, vodka, tabasco and Worcestershire, the Caesar is just one example of a classic cocktail that now comes pre-mixed in a can, no bartending skills necessary. This is a huge draw when most bars have been closed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The notion of sitting down and ordering a cocktail at a bar is no longer, so more brands are choosing to offer classic cocktails in a pre-mixed, RTD format.

  So, what’s next in the Canadian ready-to-drink cocktail movement? As single-serving pre-mixed cocktails become more popular amongst consumers, a new line of spirit-forward beverages has started to appear on the Canadian RTD scene. Dillon’s Distillers in Grimsby, Ontario, has created a single-serving Negroni they call The Professor’s Negroni, available at Ontario liquor stores. At 18.4% alcohol by volume, this product is the first of its kind in Canada. It took two years for Dillon’s to get the product on the shelf due to the cocktail’s spirit-forward nature. As of May 2019, Canada set in place restrictions on ABV in canned cocktails. Previously a 568 mL beverage could contain up to 11.9% ABV. Now, a 473 mL canned cocktail may contain 5.4% ABV, while a 568 mL can is limited to just 4.5% ABV. Dillon’s Distillers has gotten around these restrictions by classifying their pre-mixed Negroni as a spirit and serving it in 125 mL glass bottles. It isn’t located in the RTD section of liquor stores; it is placed on the shelves alongside bottles of liqueurs and aperitivos, despite being pre-mixed and ready to pour over ice for quick and easy cocktail convenience.

  The Professor’s Negroni is an example of a truly artisanal RTD cocktail. Dillon’s Distillery crafts all three ingredients for the cocktail, from the Dry Gin to the vermouth to the bitter aperitivo, made using rhubarb, violet and wormwood. The distillery believes this sort of spirit-forward RTD cocktail fits their brand better than a canned drink and allows them to showcase what they do best. The distillery has even tried a kegged version of the classic Negroni, ideal for busy bartenders and extremely cost-efficient for restaurants. As the idea of easy, accessible, pre-mixed beverages continues to evolve, RTD cocktails might be the new alternative to traditional bartending. 

  Presently, new RTD products are hitting the shelves each month in Canada. From seltzers to spiked iced teas to classic cocktails-in-a-can, the options are limitless. Unique cocktail creations are becoming more common with flavours that might be surprising to find. Collective Arts in Hamilton, Ontario, is producing an artisanal dry gin soda with grapefruit, lemon and thyme. Little Buddha Cocktail Company in Toronto makes a premium distilled vodka-based cocktail with grilled pineapple and rosemary that also contains carrot and pumpkin juice. No matter their preference, there’s an option for every cocktail lover.

  With Canadians deprived of bars and restaurants for the majority of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and therefore unable to grab a cocktail made by a proper bartender, the pre-mixed cocktail movement may continue to rise. With seemingly many more days of social distancing ahead, RTD beverages are the perfect option for summer outdoor gatherings and backyard barbeques. Opting for an RTD beverage makes perfect sense for most, as opposed to spending money stocking a bar cart with expensive liquor bottles and taking the time to prepare the perfect cocktail to-go. As the food and beverage and hospitality industries continue to change and evolve through this pandemic, so too will the vision of the RTD cocktail.