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Julianne Sullivan's life story up until this point reads almost like one of those Hallmark/Lifetime Christmas TV-movies that permeate both networks each year from Thanksgiving on. She grew up and graduated from high school in scenic, small-town Cape St. Claire, Md.; moved away and established a thriving career in real estate, working in such major markets as Los Angeles and New York City; only to return home to Cape St. Claire to run the charming, small business that's been in her family for decades.

The business?  Bella's Liquors, which was started by her grandmother and grandfather -- a Navy man and Pearl Harbor survivor who put himself through night school and eventually earned an accounting degree -- with financial help from Sullivan's great-grandmother. "They started it as a bar and restaurant, and they had a license to sell on and off," she recalled. "That was 1964, and my grandfather saw that the off-premise business was really picking up. So, he expanded that. Around 1974, he moved to the location we're at right now … and we've been here ever since."

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Over the past few months headlines repeatedly scream about an impending trade war between the U.S. and, depending on the week, just about everybody else. Among the debated questions – who really pays the higher tariffs?  Of course, the media could never be helpful enough to explain that the ultimate consumer price/producer profit impact will vary with the product in question, strength of demand, availability of alternate products or sources, etc. Suffice it to say that adding costs is rarely a good thing, and that increased government revenue from tariffs will almost always be an expense shared in varying degree by buyers and sellers. 

The beverage alcohol business is in the unenviable position of being a weapon/victim of both the U.S. and many trading partners. Alcohol beverages often seem to be selected for new tariffs that will get the attention of the other side. Even though trade disputes about unfair practices impacting free trade in alcohol beverage products are generally fairly minor, we keep getting drawn into the battles we initially played no role in. 

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Tito’s Handmade continues to be a market leader and the centerpiece of Texas’s burgeoning vodka scene.

Tito’s Handmade continues to be a market leader and the centerpiece of Texas’s burgeoning vodka scene.

By Jack Robertiello


When Burnett’s, a top ten vodka brand with dozens of flavored versions, underwent a redesign last year, those in charge of the brand decided it was time to proclaim front and center: “Made in America.”

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Hendrick’s Gin, widely credited with opening new botanical frontiers in the 1990s, released not one but two extensions this year, Orbium and Midsummer Solstice.

By Jeff Cioletti


Ever since it emerged on the scene more than three centuries ago, gin, for all intents and purposes, has been identified as a quintessentially British spirit—or, at the very least, British by way of Dutch, thanks to the influence of the latter’s genever on the former’s iteration.

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Some VIPs in attendance were Jane Springer, Executive Director, MSLBA; Goose Kaiser, Past President, BCLBA; Dan Minnick, Former Delegate and Owner of Minnick's Restaurant; Jeri Zink, Executive Director, BCLBA; Paul King, President, BCLBA (King Liquors); and Jack Milani, Legislative Chairman, BCLBA/MSLBA (Monaghan's Pub).


Members of the beverage alcohol industry recently gathered for the Baltimore County Licensed Beverage Association’s (BCLBA) Rockin’ the Races event at the Timonium Fairground Grandstand Concourse.  Industry members from all three tiers and from all over Maryland joined the fun.  Attendees enjoyed live music, bartender competitions, corn hole toss competitions, beer, wine and liquor tasting stations, local restaurant tasting stations, pig on a pit, pit beef, raw oysters, money wheels, liquor wheel, betting on the ponies and much, much more.

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Seventeen independent beverage licensees from states across the country have been recognized as Brown-Forman Retailers of the Year. Nominated by their state licensed beverage associations for commitment to their state associations, dedication to the beverage alcohol industry and their success in business, these licensees were honored in a ceremony at the ABL Annual Meeting. 

For more than two decades, the Brown-Forman Retailer of the Year awards have celebrated retail beverage licensees who engage in the responsible sale and service of beverage alcohol, are committed to their state beverage associations, and demonstrated excellence in innovative retailing. ABL congratulates all of the honored businesses and licensees for their outstanding and continued contributions to their state associations, the industry and their communities.

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Despite the profound sadness over the passing of Speaker Busch the day before, work continued on Monday, April 8, until the curtain closed at midnight (sine die).  With that came the end of 90 days filled with new faces in both chambers, and new Committee leadership in the Senate.  This was the first year of the four-year term, following the 2018 election, which brought nearly 60 new legislators or almost a one-third turnover in the 188 member General Assembly.  New legislators constituted over half of the membership of the Senate Education, Health and Environment Committee (EHE), where alcohol bills are considered.  That Committee also had a new Chairman in Senator Paul Pinsky (D-Prince George’s), who kindly spoke to those who attended Lobby Day on February 21st, as did new House Alcohol Subcommittee Chairman, Delegate Talmadge Branch (D-Balt. City).

The goals of the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association (MSLBA) for this year were largely achieved, thanks to the efforts of our members and in particular our Legislative Committee, which reviewed, discussed and took positions on each of the 164 bills we identified as impacting the industry, amidst the nearly 2,500 total bills filed.  Our Legislative Committee’s work was made more difficult than usual, since nearly half of the bills were introduced just ahead of the deadline during the week of February 4th, almost 30 days into the Session.  This was a symptom of the 2018 election, which gave legislators, particularly new ones, less time than usual to prepare their legislation.

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Know this much to start: the United States is embarking on its greatest decriminalization effort since the end of Prohibition. Until the federal government gives its legal green light to cannabis, a confusing and difficult transition will remain difficult and confusing. But the states-rights pattern has been established, and while no one can (yet) say for certain what will happen in regards to beer, wine, and spirits consumption, cannabis is entering the Conversation faster than you can say “don’t bogart that joint.”

“My friends in Colorado, Washington and Oregon are quite candid about potential lost sales, but most are sanguine about the future,” says Kansas City’s Doug Frost, MW, MS. “It’s tremendously challenging because no one knows how the next steps unfold, other than that every state will want a piece of the cannabis tax pie. Regardless, the genie ain’t going back in the bottle.”

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Posted by on in March 2019 Editions
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Irish Whiskey keeps growing—in size, selection and value

With all the new distilleries, brands and line extensions emerging from Ireland, whiskey retailers have an unprecedented array of choices that show no sign of narrowing. Accordingly, the proverbial Irish eyes are still smilling broadly at this vibrant sector. Powered by Irish whiskey’s inherently smooth style and the swelling popularity centered on a handful of powerful, widely available brands, the category is not just small and mighty—it is expanding dramatically in breadth.

Take two recent additions stretching what Irish whiskey can be: Dingle and The Sexton. Dingle produces distinct small-batch single malt releases—the third finished in ex-bourbon and Port barrels. The Sexton arrives as an especially young (four years old) malt whiskey meant for category novices and cocktail makers.

After decades of relying on the light and fruity blended triple-distilled spirit that predominates, Irish styles are exploding. Single malts and pure pot still expressions, of course, but also grain whiskey, double distilled variants, peated malts and extended aging and finishing in non-traditional barrels—rum, marsala, or exotic woods like acacia. There’s even an Irish rye now. 

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Tim Miller has gone from being a successful oilman to the owner of National Premium Beer. But he doesn't really see it as that big of a leap. During a recent interview with the Beverage Journal, he remarked, "I tell people, 'It's the same thing!  We're using the same kind of practices we used in the oil business, and I'm still delivering liquid. It's just in a can or a bottle and not in a truck'"

Miller was indeed the third generation to head his family's oil business, joining right after college and running it until 2001.  Working at his grandfather’s company over the years, he developed an appreciation for vintage advertising, signage, and fuel pumps.  After Miller sold the company, he became a Realtor with Benson & Mangold in Easton, Md. But his interest in antiques and old signs persisted. One day in 2002, he saw some vintage beer signs in an antique store and thought, "Wouldn't it be cool to bring back an old beer brand?'"

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Posted by on in March 2019 Editions
Bee-Hive

Bar Biz: Some save time, some add flair… 
little things can really elevate a bar’s game

While most of the attention in Cocktail World lands on bars and restaurants pushing the limits or carving out narrow niches, the vast majority of operations that serve drinks have a myriad of concerns beyond drink-making. Given that and increased customer knowledge and expectations, what is the average bar and restaurant to do to up their cocktail game?

Kim-Mixing_hi-resIf you ask  consultant and author Kim Haasarud of Liquid Architecture (pictured), for clients that are relatively new to craft cocktails, keeping it simple but better is the right approach.

“Those simple, three-ingredient cocktails are really in fashion right now and there are so many really good spirits out there. You can make some pretty great drinks using simple ingredients,” she says. Drinks like Manhattans and Old Fashioneds score very high on most drink menu surveys, she notes, and any number of tweaks—adding a dash of Chartreuse to a Margarita, or an amaro to spice up a Whiskey Sour, or using split bases, like bourbon with Cognac or tequila with mezcal—can smartly customize standard recipes.

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Posted by on in March 2019 Editions

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Hunter Douglas is the bar manager at Hank’s Oyster Bar Dupont Circle and just-opened Hank’s Cocktail Bar, part of the Washington, D.C.-based Jamie Leeds Restaurant Group.

Beverage Journal: How does Hank’s Cocktail Bar, an industry hangout that originated in Petworth and is soon to re-open in Dupont Circle, differ from the oyster bar, where guests eat lobster deviled eggs and sip libations like the I Dream of Pralines (pecan-cinnamon-infused bourbon, Licor 43, burnt sugar, ginger/orange bitters)?

Hunter Douglas: Hank’s Cocktail Bar is our playground and a space to dive into some of the District’s most exciting beverages, but both concepts share the philosophy of JL Restaurant Group by featuring the use of fresh produce and seasonal ingredients. Customers leave having experienced consistently well-made cocktails to fit their mood, and there is an opportunity to play and be overly adventurous, enjoy a slight variation of your favorite or stick to what you know and love in either place. 

BJ: There are now four locations of Hank’s Oyster Bar. How has the group’s beverage vision evolved along with the growth of the JL Restaurant Group portfolio? 

HD: JL Restaurant Group establishments now have regionally-recognized bar programs that are built on the success of our past initiatives. The aim is to be playful while remaining grounded in classics. For example, a few of the new menu categories at Hank’s Cocktail Bar are “We Invented the Remix,” “Beertails” and “Size Matters.” We’re serious about our cocktails, but want the atmosphere to be comfortable, social and a D.C. must-visit.

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Posted by on in February 2019 Editions
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Hennessy’s “Master Blender’s” series, representative of the trend toward creative limited editions, is composed exclusively of high-quality eaux-de-vie that have been set aside specifically to be used at the Master Blender’s discretion.

 

Taking After Whiskey, The Classic French Brandy Is Getting Hot, Trading Up And Branching Out 

By Jack Robertiello

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A Beverage Biz Look Ahead at the 2019 Session

The 2019 General Assembly Session is just around the corner, and the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association (MSLBA) is once again gearing up to play a big role in looking out for the beverage industry's interests.  This means guys like MSLBA Legislative Chairman Jack Milani and lawyer and MSLBA lobbyist J. Steven "Steve" Wise are expected to step up and drive the discussions.

So, what's different about this coming year?  For one … legislator turnover!  "We just had statewide elections back in November," Wise observed, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "Somewhere between 25 percent and roughly 30 percent of the General Assembly will be new.  So, it will be even more of an ongoing effort to educate legislators as to how our industry works, the issues that are important to us, the small businesses that are affected by everything that is done with alcohol in Annapolis, and so forth. This will be the most important thing MSLBA and the other industry associations will do in 2019!"

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Posted by on in December 2018 Editions

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Think Millennials are a tricky bunch? Meet Generation Z…

By Kit Pepper


After 15 years on center stage, Millennials are about to have to share the spotlight with a new generation whose arrival will rock the consumer scene: Generation Z (or iGen), born from about 1996 to 2012.

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What happens when a noted property developer and one of Maryland's most reliable plumbers team up? They're hoping the end result will be "two new great places to eat and drink!" 
John Roe has partnered with Len Bush (a.k.a. "Len the Plumber") and are hoping a building they own and are renovating at 37 W. Cross St. in Baltimore's Federal Hill will be 2019's newest hotspot for wining and dining.

Roe, who began his professional career managing his father's tavern in Laurel before transitioning into commercial real estate brokerage in Baltimore during the late 1990s, had ironically been trying to reach the owner of this particular building for a couple years. But he could never get a return call from him. "It appeared to be vacant, and it was one of the larger buildings in Federal Hill," he recalled. "Finally, an agent we knew asked if we'd like to take a look at 'some building in Federal Hill.' When she drove us up to it, I couldn't believe it! It wasn't formally on the market, but she was good friends with the owner so she arranged a tour. After that, we knew we had to have it."

Bush described the structure as "love at first sight." He added, "This property had all the character and charm of an old industrial building that I knew we could breathe new life into. Sitting in the heart of Federal Hill, it's one the last remaining historic properties left undeveloped in the area."

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Posted by on in November 2018 Editions

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For wine and spirits merchants, the holiday season is the most wonderful time of the year. Also the most harrowing.

In November in particular, time and space collide as stores hustle to make room for season-specific merchandise. As is the case every year, suppliers have dug deep into their sacks of merchandising and marketing tricks to create gift-worthy pre-packed wines and spirits.

The idea behind Value Added Packs—aka VAPs, as they are often called—is simple: to make gift-giving even easier for shoppers. People love shortcuts. People love “extras.” VAPs deliver both. Whatever their motivation, VAPs offer prepackaged routes to gifting success—a resolution to which merchants and shoppers alike aspire.

Of course, not every VAP is going to suit your current store and clientele. Be mindful of stocking new products at varied price points—for the Prosecco budget and Champagne budget, so to speak.

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Riggs Liquors in Northeast Washington, D.C., has risen from the ashes like the Phoenix of lore.  That mythological bird lived in the desert, consumed itself by fire, then later rose renewed from its own ashes. By most accounts, the phoenix lived for 500 years before rebirth. Riggs was only down for 18 months.  But don't say "only" to owner John Yoo.  He thought he'd be back up and running in six months after an accidental blaze destroyed his store in December 2016.  It wouldn't be until June of this year.

So what happened?  In late 2016, Yoo was having some work done on the front overhang of his store's roof section in preparation of a new awning.  The workers had stripped it all down to the bare metal.  But because the metal itself was heavy, they opted to do the work on a Sunday because there would be no people interfering with the job.  

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Posted by on in November 2018 Editions

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Retirees Honor Past Breakthroughs and the Current Breakthru at Twice-Yearly Gatherings

Twice a year in March and September, three dozen or more beverage industry retirees meet for a special breakfast or lunch to reconnect, share old "war stories," and find out the latest goings-on in the business they dedicated most of their adult professional lives to.  The group is comprised almost exclusively of retirees from Breakthru Beverage Group LLC … or rather Charmer Sunbelt, which merged with Wirtz Beverage Group in 2015 to create Breakthru Beverage Group.

William "Bill" Morawski, a 30-year company veteran, heads the group and puts together the various gatherings.  He recalled, "Bob Bireley was the salesman who started this in 1996.  He ran this twice a year as a biannual breakfast event from 1996 through 2011.  In 2011, his health was failing, and Bob asked me to take the reins.  I reluctantly did, but I'm glad I did and I've been doing it ever since.  Bob passed away in 2012."

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Whiskey options abound at Barrel, a whiskey and cocktail bar in Washington, DC.

Staying On Top Of Whiskey Types Is Vital To Presenting The Category Optimally

By Jeff Cioletti


The spirits-drinking public may be far more savvy about whisk(e)y than in eras past, but that doesn’t mean carrying a vast selection of the spirit is a license to print money. With total whiskey revenue up 5% and the super-premium tier up nearly 10% in 2017, according to the Distilled Spirits Council, there’s been an explosion of new brands, expressions, barrel finishes, all vying for the attention of consumers who range from aficionados who demand to try something they’ve never sampled before, to the novice drinker who’s curious but often overwhelmed.

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Posted by on in October 2018 Editions

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The Granddaddy Of Fine Scotch Whisky Aims To Stay Relevant And Fresh

By Jack Robertiello


Ask most people in the Scotch whisky business for their opinion about American whiskey innovation, and you’re likely to get a bit of a “Been there, done that” in response.

It’s not that the changes in American whiskey don’t impress or encourage Scotch single malt producers—distillers are an affable clan of mutual admirers, and they are generally pleased that, with whiskey boundaries being broken at all levels. It’s just that perhaps the “new” whiskies are not so novel.

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Posted by on in October 2018 Editions
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Brenne, sourced in France by Allison Parc, is fruit-forward whiskey aged in Cognac casks; she smartly followed up the initial release with a 10 Year Old.

The Liquids are Different, but the Trajectory Begs Comparison

By W. R. Tish


Those selling wine in the varietally charged 1990s remember how a 60 Minutes report on The French Paradox kicked off an unprecedented run of wine popularity. As Americans came to embrace The Grape, consumption rose steadily, and the market exploded with expressions: single-vineyard wines, reserve wines, varietal extensions, new labels, cult wines, kitsch wines, Euro-style blends, proprietary blends, alternative packages, and so on. The wine boom reverberated loudly if not clearly for decades.

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"I enjoy being the dog in this dog and pony show!" exclaimed Phil Prichard, founder, president, and master distiller of Prichard's Distillery in Tennessee.

The dog and pony show he is referring to is his recent visit to Maryland to press the flesh with customers, sales personnel, and anyone else who will be associated with moving his products here in the years to come.  He made several key account calls, touring Total Wine & More locations in Laurel and Towson, Bay Ridge Wine & Spirits in Annapolis, Wine World Beer & Spirits in Abingdon, Ronnie's Beverage Warehouse in Forest Hill, Wells Discoutn Liquors in Baltimore, and more. 

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Posted by on in October 2018 Editions

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Ultimate Beverage Challenge 2018: 
Identifying The World’s Best Spirits, Cocktails, Ciders, Sakes & Wines ...

Ultimate Beverage Challenge® (UBC) conducts two major international beverage competitions: Ultimate Spirits Challenge® (USC) each March and Ultimate Wine Challenge® (UWC) each May.So, since 2010, why has UBC become the bever-age industry’s most trusted and respected evaluation company? Answers UBC’s Judging Chairman and Co-Founder F. Paul Pacult, “Three crucial factors have made UBC the world’s foremost authority of beverage alcohol quality. First is our rigorous, innovative meth-odology that creates a level plaor every spirit and wine that’s submitted to USC and UWC. We introduced the industry’s strictest analytical processes by institut-ing a unique multi-level evaluation system that allows more than one panel to analyze each entry. In order for spirits and wines to display their virtues, they are served at optimum temperatures. UBC is the only competition company to insist on so 8 beverages so judges remain alert and fresh. Entries are tasted blind with like-with-like spirits and wines to ensure that each entry is dealt with fairly. Our goal is one-pointed: to provide unbiased, accurate ratings.“Second, because of UBC’s uncompromising and stringent procedural standards we must hire the world’s foremost authorities as our spirits and wine judges. By that I mean our generation’s most prominent and acknowledged beverage specialists, such as Masters of Wine, Master Sommeliers, award-winning authors and journalists, consultants and buyers, bartenders, bar owners, and food and beverage managers. In addition to the UBC judges, we employ the most capable and experienced organizational team in the world to guarantee the smooth operation of each competition.“Third, UBC has its own dedicated facility in Hawthorne, New York, a mere 35 minutes north of Manhattan, where both USC and UWC are conducted. By creating a pristine, calm, and conducive environment for our staff and judges, we have brought forward the entire concept of beverage competitions. The UBC Evaluation Center provides brick-and-mortar proof of UBC’s total commitment to doing things right. It’s the UBC way, where shortcuts are never allowed.”If these reasons aren’t enough for you to believe in UBC as being the world’t beverage competition company, visit the UBC website for more at www.ultimate-beverage.com.

 Click Here for the complete results and ratings.  (This is a large file, be patient while it downloads.)

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After attending college at The Art Institute of Philadelphia for video production and graphic design, Shaun Stewart then began the journey that eventually led him to Edinburgh and back. The trip had nothing to do with film, but everything to do with his creative direction.

Shaun started off around food and beverage and continues today to find ways to stay interested. He's worked up and down the I-95 corridor creating new cocktails and honing his skills. 

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On the evening of July 12, Town Center Market in Riverdale Park, Md., played host to a special wine tasting event in which customers came and sampled all of Trinchero Family Estates' SeaGlass wines from the Central Coast in California's Santa Barbara County.  They included SeaGlass Rose, Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon.  For every bottle of SeaGlass that was sold that night, the Trinchero family donated a portion of the proceeds to the Maryland Waterman's Association (MWA).

Among those in attendance was Nicole Crews, Trinchero Family Estates' District Manager for Maryland and Washington, D.C.  She remarked, "This was a featured event at Town Center Market to introduce their customers to SeaGlass Wines and how they could help out a great local nonprofit organization. The account really wanted to take it to the next level, so we decided it would be fun and educational to incorporate a seafood element."

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In Frederick, Md., here be dragons!  Well, actually, here be the Dragon Distillery.  It's the brainchild of founder Mark Lambert, a huge Dungeons & Dragons fan who wanted a beverage business that would specialize in small batch artisan spirits made from the finest locally sourced ingredients.  He and his staff have breathed fire into this niche with such colorfully named products as Medieval Mint Flavored Vodka, Basilisk Bourbon, and Joust Gin.

Dragon Distillery's latest line is a series of canned cocktails that are appealing to a wide range of drinkers.  Lambert, in a recent interview with the Beverage Journal, explained why: "The product is easy.  You just grab it, you go!  It's easy to take to parties, or when you're going out on your boat, or at the pool.  It's a can, so there's no glass that can break.  It's quick to chill, and it's ready to drink."

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Posted by on in September 2018 Editions

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By Vicki Denig


More & More Brands Embrace Image-Driven Marketing.
But How Influential are ‘Influencers,’ Really? 

They’ve upended the fashion world. Their impact has transformed the health, fitness and beauty industries as well. And today, we are increasingly feeling their impact in the wine business.

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Posted by on in September 2018 Editions

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Premiumization Lifts Blended Scotch; Pure Malts Add To The Momentum

By David Lincoln Ross


While single malts have enjoyed much of the Scotch whisky spotlight in recent decades, blends still rule Scotch volume in the U.S. And recent patterns are worth watching. With an uptick in releases of cask-conditioned Scotch aged in Port or Sherry barrels, new bottlings of 12-, 15- and 18-year-old blends, plus a growing array pure malt offerings, premiumization is energizing the blended Scotch category in ways not seen in at least a generation.

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Industry Again Unites after Second Devastating Flood

On the afternoon of May 27, 2018, Ellicott City's historic Main Street flooded again after the region got more than eight inches of rain in the span of two hours.  Businesses, including numerous bars and restaurants, were heavily damaged.  And National Guard member Eddison Hermond Jr. lost his life trying to help people.  The town was still recovering from a July 30, 2016, storm that dropped six inches of rain on the community, produced massive flooding, killed two people, and damaged and destroyed businesses and homes.

Maureen Smith, Executive Director of the Ellicott City Partnership (ECP) echoed what many interviewed for this article had said: "This time around has been very different from 2016!" she exclaimed.  "With this latest flood event, the Ellicott City community has an understanding that parts of town may need to be envisioned anew to ensure long-term sustainability.  The ECP is working closely with all stakeholders, including county, state, and federal entities to significantly increase the resilience of Ellicott City."

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Posted by on in August 2018 Editions

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Celebrating eight bartenders at the forefront of establishing women’s leadership behind the bar

 

Text by Jack Robertiello         ⊗        Portraits by Andrew kist


One of the sometimes overlooked but significant changes wrought by the blossoming of Cocktail Culture across the country has been the surge of female bartenders at every level of the business.

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Lohr Focuses On Cool-Climate White Wines

By Kristen Bieler

Unlike many California winemakers, Kristen Barnhisel doesn’t worry much about acidity. “In Monterey’s cool-climate Arroyo Seco region, we have plenty of acidity every vintage; building texture into our wines is what I’m focused on,” says Barnhisel, the white wine winemaker for J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines.

Working with Jeff Meier, J. Lohr’s President and longtime Director of Winemaking, Barnhisel works solely on crafting the estate’s white wines, a position that founder Jerry Lohr has always emphasized. “Jerry has always known that this kind of focus is what is required to achieve the kind of quality we are looking for,” Barnhisel explains.

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Posted by on in July 2018 Editions

July18 Vodka

It’s hard to call a spirit ‘neutral’ when there’s so much diversity within its category 

By Jeff Cioletti


Vodka hasn’t attracted the sort of feverish fandom that, say, whiskey and agave spirits have, but that, in a sense, is by design. If vodka is truly doing its job and being everything it’s supposed to be, it’s neutral—without color, aroma or flavor (mostly). What’s to get excited about?

Well, it still outsells every other spirit—that’s pretty exciting.

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The Urban Winery in Silver Spring, Md., not only bills itself as the closest winery to the nation's capital, its proprietors also tout their business as the first winery in the overall D.C.-Maryland-Northern Virginia region to be located in an urban environment.  
The Urban Winery proprietors are husband-and-wife team Damon and Georgia Callis, and their passion for the grape has proven infectious.

"Georgia is the winemaker, and I'm basically her business partner," said Damon Callis, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "We'd been making wine together as amateurs for 18 years.  But we started to see a lot of the opportunity that arose in Silver Spring and in Maryland, in general."

He continued, "The concept of an urban winery is not new.  It's actually been around for a long time.  Even before Prohibition, much of America's wine industry was created in an urban environment and was distributed.  It was only after Prohibition where players like the Mondavis started to create this farm-style wine approach in the U.S.  In reading up and studying the history, there really wasn't an urban winery in the Mid-Atlantic.  The closest one was New York.  We fell in love with the [idea].  Making wine is fun.  But sharing it with others and then them coming back and sharing it with people they know is what keeps us going every day."

Callis made it clear that he and his wife are not farmers.  They get grapes from such far-flung locales as California, New York, and Pennsylvania.  They've also developed relationships with various farmers throughout Maryland, from the Eastern Shore to Carroll County. "Contributing to our local economy and our local agriculture is very important to us," he said.  "But what's really important is knowing the palettes of our customers and giving them a very different experience when they come to our tasting room. The Urban Winery experience is Taste … Learn … Create.  Our wines range from Merlots from Maryland to Zinfandels from California.  We make dry, white wines.  But we also make some semi-sweet white wines that are fabulous, and we're also making white wines with hops.  VidalPA is one of our newest products that we're releasing in cans.  We also have a Bourbon Barrel Merlot."

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When mentioning the word moonshine to many, images of a low-quality, home-brewed, bootlegged concoction immediately come to mind.  Much of it has to do with how moonshine has been portrayed for decades in mostly Southern-themed pop culture.  
Granny from the 1960s TV series, "The Beverly Hillbillies," ran a moonshine still by the Clampett family swimming pool.
In the video game, "Redneck Rampage," moonshine is used as a power-up that increases fighting ability (like Popeye's spinach).

And then there are the references in countless songs over the years.  And not just country favorites like George Jones ("White Lightning") and Florida Georgia Line ("Get Your Shine On").  But crossover artists like Aerosmith (who were "gettin' crazy on the moonshine" in their 1989 rock hit "Rag Doll") and funk band Parliament (their classic "Moonshine Heather").

Enter Richmond, Va.-based Belle Isle Spirits, whose stated mission has been to revive the art of moonshine. So far, they've been very successful at doing so.  The Beverage Journal recently asked Belle Isle co-founder and CEO Vince Riggi how he and his colleagues have managed to convince so many people to give their products a try.  "For the consumer," he said, "people inherently want to experience something new and exciting.  Belle Isle helps facilitate that journey by providing a unique product that's not quite like anything they’ve ever experienced before.  There is something that sticks about our product.  On the bartender side, we're another tool for their toolbox that provides them with a canvas to create delicious cocktails, and again, provide that unique experience for their clientele."

At tastings, Riggi has recorded a very common response among first-time drinkers: "Utter surprise!" he exclaimed.  "'This tastes better than my favorite vodka' is probably the most frequent comment we receive.  That's soon followed by 'Where the heck can I buy this?!'"

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Posted by on in July 2018 Editions

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Winegrowers are taking deliberate steps to lighten up Malbec and more

By W. Blake Gray


 If you haven’t tried Argentine wine in a while, you might be surprised. Malbec, the country’s definitive wine that has earned its status here by punching above its price point, is changing. Musclebound Malbec is no longer the norm; there’s a trend toward picking earlier and using less new oak. In short, Argentina is lightening up.

This is not just a trend for boutique producers, or at one price level. Some of Argentina’s most important exporters—including Catena, Susana Balbo, Trivento, Kaiken and Trapiche—are intentionally making most of their wines lighter. “Ten years ago, one of the most important elements was concentration. Density,” says Trivento Chief Winemaker German di Cesare. “Now it’s not so important.”

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Fruit Brandies—A Small But Booming Niche—Present Opportunities

By Jack Robertiello

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Posted by on in June 2018 Editions
Sampling from barrel at Flor de Caña.

As Premiumization Reaches Rum, The Action Is In Aged Expressions

By Jack Robertiello


When Gruppo Campari threw open the doors to their $7+ million expansion of Appleton Estate distillery in the hills of Jamaica in January, it was only the latest step in their effort to upgrade the reputation of the best-known aged Jamaican rum.

This expansion comes after recent double-digit growth for Appleton Estate Reserve Blend and Rare Blend 12 YO, the introduction of 21- and 50-year-old expressions, and the swapping of J. Wray for Appleton on the Gold and Silver rums, leaving Appleton as an aged-only brand.

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When DC's Red Lounge Caught the 'Black Panther' 

The whole world has gone Marvel Comics crazy.  The latest "Avengers" sequel smashed opening day and weekend records at the box office.  Before that, "Black Panther" shocked the world by becoming the third-highest grossing film of all time in North America, appealing to a wider demographic than ever before for a "comic-book film."

Not everyone was surprised, though.  Back in February, Jason Kelley and Greg Jackson Jr. sensed a pop-culture phenomenon was about to happen and sprang into action.  Their Washington, D.C.-based event production company, The Wave, put together a "Black Panther"-themed pop-up bar that was hosted at the Red Lounge on U Street in the nation's capital.  It was only supposed to run one weekend.  Interest was so high in the event, dubbed Enter Wakanda DC, that Kelley and Jackson extended it a second weekend the following Friday-through-Sunday.

"We realized very quickly that it was far bigger than our original intention," Kelley recalled, during a late April interview with the Beverage Journal.  "Some people stayed at the pop-up bar for five, six hours.  It definitely celebrated the moment, the movie, and our culture."

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Posted by on in June 2018 Editions

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Ready-To-Drink Sangria Is Having A Moment

By Jeff Cioletti


 Beverage segments come and go with the ebb and flow of consumer trends, but one category that’s had a dependably steady, yet relatively quiet presence on the scene has been ready-to-drink sangria. There are some periods in which it’s more fashionable than others, but it’s always somehow managed to adapt to evolving consumer habits.

Ready-to-drink sangria is a relatively tiny segment, accounting for about 4.7 million total cases and revenue of about $193 million in the 52-week period that ended in late March, according to Nielsen. Volume grew about 4.1% and revenue climbed about 3.5% over the prior 12-month period. Domestically produced sangria represents the larger slice of the market, 3.7 million cases to imports’ 972,459 cases. But import volume grew faster during that period, surging 9.6% versus domestic growth of 2.7%.

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Posted by on in June 2018 Editions
Sable’s Message in a Bottle has dual serving vessels for distinct aged spirits.

Mixologists Continue To Push The Limits Of Ingredients & Technique

By Jack Robertiello


If you can find it a TGI Friday’s, can it still be extreme? 

As cocktail trends ebb and flow with the drive to be fresh and intriguing, it’s hard to make a splash without reaching for extremes. Which may be how a drink made with charcoal was featured at one of the largest mainstream chains last year.

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Posted by on in June 2018 Editions

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The Need For Evolution And A Commitment To ‘Stand Out’ Highlight The Annual Wine & Spirits Wholesaler Convention

By Kristen Bieler


This year was the 75th anniversary of the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America convention. Held in Las Vegas from April 30th through May 3rd, the convention also marks the last year of WSWA President and CEO Craig Wolf’s leadership after 18 years with the organization. Among his parting words of advice: “A unified membership has been the key to our success.”

General session attendees heard from former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Sidney Frank Innovation Award Winner Rob Sands (CEO Constellation Brands) and Lifetime Leadership Award winner Robert Harmelin (EVP, Allied Beverage Group), among others.

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Posted by on in May 2018 Editions

Rose

Soaring demand meets explosive supply with a Provençal twist

 By W. R. Tish


For a category that represents less than 5% of the overall table wine market in the U.S., rosé has taken on extraordinarily high visibility, spilling over into pop culture and social media—in turn strengthening the trend.

Pardon the pun, but the outlook for rosé is still rosy, right? The category’s double-digit growth just begins to hint at the pink success story. Over the past four years, rosé has almost quadrupled in volume and jumped in varietal wine rank from #17 to #9, according to Nielsen. Rosé’s largest segment is $11-$15, so premiumization is already at play. Plus, consumption is still accelerating. Americans drank 67% more rosé in 2017 than they did in 2016, and that year was up by 44% over 2015.

Beyond stats, this pale pink liquid has grabbed America by the buds, delivering fruity refreshment with an aesthetic (read Instagrammable) bonus. Rosé has joined the broader culture—from sweatpants to fashion shows, gummies to wedding favors—lending its pink halo to rosé cocktails, cider and spirits; inspiring social media hashtags à la #brosé and #yeswayrosé; even prompting marketers in other arenas to go pink when propping wine.

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Slushies and such are all grown-up, thanks to technology, creativity…and rosé.  Of all the beverage types that joined in the contemporary cocktail revolution, frozen drinks were left wallflowers, uninvited to the cool kids’ table.  Outside of Tiki, which has always welcomed the qualities that frozen offers, it was a style mostly left to chains churning out schooners of fruit-laced Margaritas and Daiquiris. In the past couple of years, creative cocktail makers with a well-developed sense of fun took advantage of equipment and ingredient evolution to whip up tasty adult treats.

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Posted by on in May 2018 Editions

In a Post-Juniper Era, The Spirit is Flexing Its Muscle—and Style

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By Amanda Schuster


Many Americans still associate the category with bracing, herbaceous expressions traditionally associated with the designation London Dry. But that reputation deserves to be retired. Juniper, of course, is the defining botanical in all gin, but it has come to be handled more palatably than ever, even in bang-for-buck brands like Burnett’s and New Amsterdam. And a boomlet of new ventures shows there is much room for play in creating other vibrant, complex flavor profiles from alternative ingredients. For those looking beyond the typical dry expressions, here’s how some brands have rethought gin.

Exotic Gin

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The new Mid-Atlantic Region Manager for Sovereign Brands has made the jump from a long tenure in spirits to a heavily focused wine supplier with a newly focused attention on spirits

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Dave Hochrein is the new Mid-Atlantic Region Manager for Sovereign Brands, a family company of fine wines and spirits owned and operated by the Berish brothers.  Hochrein previously served as Proximo Spirits' Regional Director for Maryland and Washington, D.C., from September 2014 to March of this year.

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MISCellaneous Distillery opened in December 2016, selling its Risky Rum product via a tasting room on Main Street in Mount Airy.  The brainchild of Dan McNeil and Meg MacWhirter, the business has taken off since then.  Wholesale sales began in mid-2017.  Before long, MISCellaneous Distillery had launched four more products -- Dew Point Rum, Diametric Whisky, Restless Rye Whisky, and Virtuous Vodka -- with more on the way.

One of the things that distinguishes the operation is MISCellaneous Distillery sources 100 percent of its Rye from a Carroll County farm and all of its sugar products from Domino Sugar in Baltimore. MacWhirter says the local partnerships are very important.  "We find these Maryland connections are an important part of our story," she stated, during a recent interview, "and they help us connect with our customers and accounts even if they haven’t been able to see us at the distillery.  We have great partnerships with both Hickory Hollow Farm and Gravel Springs Farms for grain, allowing us to grow and distill our products in the same county. We then send protein-rich spent mash back to Hickory Hollow for them to feed their cattle."

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Posted by on in May 2018 Editions

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Santa Carolina Reserva is a tribute to Carolina Íñiguez –the wife of the winery’s founder Luis Pereira.  This wine seeks to reach people who are keen on enjoying every moment and always find an opportunity to turn an ordinary day into a special occasion.

Carolina is a woman who knows how to enjoy life. She can turn even the simplest of moments into a grand one. She, like no other, understands the power of small details and reminds us that any moment can become a great occasion and that there is always a good reason to celebrate.

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Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum and The Aleethia Foundation have again joined forces in supporting wounded, injured and/or ill service members and their families through the early phases of the healing process at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

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Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum, named to honor the life and legacy of Norman ‘Sailor Jerry’ Collins, formed the creation of The Norman Collins Initiative at The Aleethia Foundation. The Foundation is designed to raise funds for Aleethia in its ongoing efforts to support wounded/injured/ill service members in their rehabilitation and healing process.

“Aleethia is excited about the expanded support through the Norman Collins Initiative,” stated Hal Koster, Executive Director of the Aleethia Foundation. “We are a volunteer organization that exists because wonderful organizations like Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum have shared our vision of support.”

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Posted by on in April 2018 Editions

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Wine’s Latest Format is Busting Out With New SKUs. But are Consumers On Board?

By Jeff Siegel 


What are you supposed to believe about canned wine? Are cans the next big thing, given that sales were up 52% last year—growth that far out-paced every other part of the category? Or are they the next Moscato—here and mostly gone, given that each massive sales increase is from a tiny, tiny base.

According to Nielsen, the market share for cans in 2017 was one-fifth that of 187ml bottles, and the airline-sized pour owns a grand total of 1.1% of the U.S. wine market. So, we are really talking about sliver of a fraction of the overall wine market.

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