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Winston Churchill once declared, “The Gin and Tonic has saved more Englishmen’s lives, and minds, than all the doctors in the Empire.” A Gin and Tonic is the only good cocktail you can have on an airplane in coach class. It’s also a gourmet obsession in Spain that has made its way to the trendiest American cocktail bars. And because a G&T doesn’t require any fancy syrups or shrubs, you don’t need to be much of a mixologist to make one at home. 

As with wine, the gin market is hot at the high end and cool on the bottom shelf. Gin is still a small percentage of the total spirits market, about 4% according to Nielsen. But sales by value are growing while sales by volume are actually dropping. So this is a good time to switch inventory away from the super-cheapies and to branch out into some of the new gins coming onto the market. And a classic, refreshing, deceptively powerful G&T could prove to be your MVST (Most Valuable Selling Tool).

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The Washington, D.C., drinking scene definitely has its share of rock-star bartenders.  But few rock harder than Justin Hampton, the man behind the taps at Poste Moderne Brasserie inside the Hotel Monaco.  After graduating a decade ago from San Diego State University with a degree in Social Science and a focus on economics, he went into restaurant management.  His first gig?  The Hard Rock Hotel in San Diego.

"I had worked my way as a waiter through college," he recalled during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal. "At the Hard Rock, the bartenders were walking out with several hundred dollars for working half the hours I did.  When I saw that, I said, 'What's that all about?!'  Those guys looked like they were having a lot more fun.  I wanted to hang out with them, and I wanted to make that money."

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Posted by on in May 2016 Editions

American craft distillers have led the movement toward less juniper, more diversity & higher price points.

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What a difference a century can make. London Dry ruled the 1900s, but the craft boom of this century has used London Dry more as a blueprint of how not to make gin. This movement has often become particularly important at the higher end of the price spectrum: While the total gin category saw volume shrink about 1.8% last year, to fewer than 10 million cases (DISCUS), super-premium gins actually rose 37.8%.

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Since DiPasquale’s opening in 1914 the DiPasquale family has provided Baltimore with an authentic Italian market that has metamorphosized into what it is today. Currently the store features a full deli, brick oven, homemade pastas, oils, fine wine and spirits, and more. 

Affectionately, third generation owner Joe DiPasquale struggled to define the store saying, "This is insane. I can't cookie-cutter what this place is."

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Conundrum was born 25 years ago, and today it still stands for doing things your own way and daring to explore. Its inspiration came from Charlie Wagner, Sr. – co-founder of Caymus Vineyards and father to winery owner Chuck Wagner – who would sit at the dining room table and mix wines to create the “perfect glass” to pair with his meal. At the time, blending wines was considered almost unthinkable, and even Charlie Sr. had no idea that his bold experiment would help usher in a whole new trend. 

Today, Conundrum is as original as ever.  They continue to source their fruit from some of the most sought-after California winegrowing regions to ensure both quality and diversity: Napa, Monterey, Santa Barbara and Tulare Counties. While the exact blend remains under wraps, with every vintage they include Chardonnay for its weight and complexity, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon for crisp acidity, Muscat Canelli for floral qualities and Viognier for lush texture. Taken together, they add up to a wine that’s amazingly versatile, pairing well with everything from salmon to spicy food, or enjoyed on its own as an aperitif. 

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Rebecca Spicer is Senior Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs for the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA).  It's an impressive job ... eh, to everyone but Rebecca.  "I don't get hung up on titles," she said, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal from her office in Alexandria, Va.  "The really fun thing about working in an association is that everybody pitches in.  Associations are built around people coming together, and that's certainly reflected in our work atmosphere here.  We don't have job descriptions per se that are written in stone, because you never know what's going to come up."

Spicer came to NBWA from TV news.  The Nashville transplant scored an internship with her local news station when she was just 16 and became hooked.  "Every day a reporter went out on a story or a producer put together a newscast, and you had no idea what you would be covering that day," she recalled.  "I think that desire to learn about new issues and new people and never really knowing what was going to be scripted is part of the excitement I love in the association world."

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Cross-selling remains a potent strategy for retailers in the digital age.

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Consumers today have more options than ever for new wine recommendations. The long reign of wine writers and published ratings has been joined by mobile apps like Vivino, Wine Ring and Delectable. The wine world is wired now; anyone can follow the preferred palates of friends and industry pros, or receive suggestions specific to their taste, all with a few swipes on a smartphone.

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Alaska Distillery is a small batch distillery located in the foothills of the Alaska Range, where they handcraft spirits with ultra-pure glacier water and the finest grains and ingredients. Having developed a reputation for superior spirits with their Flagship Ultra-Premium Vodka, Permafrost, Alaska Distillery continues to blaze new trails with flavors and inventive spirits indigenous to a state famous for extreme beauty, untamed wilderness, and pristine scenery.

You can catch Toby and the entire Alaska Distillery gang every Thursday night on the Animal Planet channel’s new hit show ALASKA PROOF.

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New Liberty Distillery, located in Philadelphia, PA, is reinterpreting some of the famous, but forgotten, Pennsylvania and Maryland brands that once formed the foundation of the U.S. whiskey business.  As Michael Jackson, the renowned international whiskey critic, commented, “American whiskey had its beginnings in Pennsylvania and Maryland.”  Many of the region’s brands were lost to Prohibition or Americans’ changing tastes after World War II that led to the rise of light mixable spirits like vodka.  

“Our Heritage Collection is made up of whiskeys we are reintroducing and New Liberty is honored to make them once again available to consumers,” stated Thomas Jensen of New Liberty Distillery.   “We introduced our first Heritage Collection release, Kinsey, in 2014.  Kinsey is a famous Pennsylvania-based whiskey that was once nationally known for its witty advertising and easy drinking style.   We currently are launching our Maryland Heritage Series exclusively in Maryland and The District of Columbia.  Maryland rye was a softer rye whiskey usually with a 51% rye content, unlike Pennsylvania rye which was usually 95% rye and very spicy.  At the turn of the century, the Baltimore area was home to numerous distilleries which are now long closed.  After extensive research, we decided on three distilleries that played unique roles in making Maryland whiskey famous.  Our master distiller, Robert J. Cassell, sought existing whiskey stocks that could be used to create the easy drinking style of pre- and post-Prohibition Maryland whiskey, and we hope you can taste the history in every sip.”  

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Posted by on in April 2016 Editions

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Welcome to our newest series, Back to Basics! Every month we'll provide you with a 101-style feature about a different spirit that not only goes in-depth, but can be electronically shared and/or printed out and given to your staff. Let the educating begin with...Tequila!  

 
Click this link and go directly to the PDF that you can view, print and distribute to your staff... CLICK HERE.
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Posted by on in April 2016 Editions

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At a key moment in "The Shawshank Redemption," Morgan Freeman's good-hearted convict friend, Red, posed the question: "Seriously, how often do you really look at a man's shoes?"  Well, anyone who hung around Shane McCarthy in January and February of this year likely looked at his footwear quite a bit.  The assistant general manager and beer manager at Ronnie's Beverage Warehouse in Bel Air wore pink boots day in and day out to promote a very special event his store hosted on February 26 to raise money and awareness for the Pink Boots Society.

Some of you reading this may be asking, "What is the Pink Boots Society?" It is an international organization of women that was created to empower female beer professionals to advance their careers in the beer industry, chiefly through education.  The organization also seeks to teach women beer professionals the judging skills necessary to become beer judges at the Great American Beer Festival and other competitions.  Society members include women who own breweries, who design beers, serve beers, package beers, and write about beer.  The group currently has more than 3,000 members and counting. 

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Posted by on in April 2016 Editions

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Dennis and Alice Kistner are the Bar and General Managers, respectively, at Mahaffey's Pub in Canton and are married in "real life". The two proud parents also have an 18 month old baby keeping them busy at home, but that doesn't stymie their dedication to the bar one bit. If anything the youngster has driven them to reach for greater success.

The pair couldn't help but show excitement, and borderline elation, whenever talking about "Little Dennis". Alice described early motherhood with the youngster saying, "It's fun. We take him with us everywhere. He's a good baby, he makes us laugh and now he's doing so many things, it's entertaining."

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"I love the creativity aspect of my job.  I love the autonomy that I have and the challenges I've been given to come up with new drinks."

So said Erin Ivey, bar manager at Lincoln on Vermont Ave., during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  Ivey, who has been tending bar at various area establishments for the last decade, has become known for her craft cocktails.  "What drew me to craft cocktails is I really love the integrity of the drinks as far as fresh juices and ingredients," she stated.  " I enjoy making twists on an Old Fashioned, different syrups and such.  I love being able to play and bring a different and unique element to drinks."

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After a long career working for everyone from RNDC to Southern Wine & Spirits, Barry Cregan moved to the supplier side about a year and a half ago to serve as East Coast Vice President of Carolina Wine Brands USA. The company handles mostly South American wines for the U.S. market for Carolina Wine Brands, one of Chile's main winemaking groups owned by the agro-industrial group Watt's SA.

If you've seen Cregan or any of his colleagues lately, you can tell they are riding a real high. That's because the company's flagship winery, Santa Carolina in Chile, recently won the New World Winery of the Year 2015 honor from the Wine Enthusiast. Cregan traveled to New York City in late January to attend the awards ceremony.

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Taps are running dry and doors are closing at neighborhood bars across the country. That has left the remaining ones to try to find ways to stay afloat.

One in six bars closed between 2004 and 2014, according to market research firm Nielsen. More than 600 close each month, with just 334 opening.

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At the Jameson-centric Barrelman Tavern in Chicago, Irish whiskey keeps getting reinvented.

There may be venues that pour more Jameson Irish whiskey than Barrelman Tavern in Chicago, but it’s hard to imagine that any pour it with more enthusiasm. “We’ve always had a special thing for Jameson,” says the bar’s owner, Blake Itagaki. And his regulars are on board too; instead of ringing in 2016 with a Champagne toast at midnight, the crowd at the Barrelman raised shots of the brand new Jameson Caskmates expression.

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Posted by on in March 2016 Editions
The Case for Vino Nobile

New Reasons to Rediscover Montepulciano’s Noble Wine.  

In the Tuscan trifecta of great wines, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano suffers from middle child syndrome—it’s largely ignored and often passed over. It’s a dramatic role reversal for a region that once dwarfed its neighbors—Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino—in both pedigree and esteem.

Vino Nobile (Vee-no NO-bee-lay), Montepulciano’s most important wine, got its name in the 1800s from the Medici family (it translates as “wine for nobles”); and the small region in Southeast Tuscany was the first in Italy to attain the prestigious DOCG status, in 1980.

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Posted by on in March 2016 Editions
Stadium Size Service

Tim Graham Looks to Score With Beverage Service at M&T Bank Stadium

If you've ever owned, operated, or tended bar at a sports-themed restaurant or tavern, you know there is always the risk that some customers may get a bit out of hand if their team is losing.  Heck, even when the Ravens, Redskins, Orioles or Nationals are doing well, the atmosphere can get rowdy.  Chances are, you only have to be concerned about a few diehards getting too distraught over a final score.  Tim Graham, Beverage Manager at M&T Bank Stadium for concessionaire Aramark, has to worry about a few thousand!

Graham has held his current job since last June, having previously served as Beverage Manager at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.  He wasn't there when the Ravens had their Super Bowl run a couple of years back.  But he was there for this past season's injury-plagued, 5-11 disappointment.

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Posted by on in March 2016 Editions
Too Cool for School

What You Don’t Know About Ice

Shine a bright light in the eyes of an accomplished mixologist and he or she will eventually admit that ice is the most important ingredient in cocktails. It impacts every aspect of mixed drinks and does so with little cost and no marketing or packaging. In a time when success behind the bar is measured one drink at a time, outfitting your bar with the most advantageous type of ice is essential.

Its contribution goes beyond lowering the temperature of a cocktail to its proper serving temperature of around 37-38˚F. While only the genuinely obsessed would stick a thermometer into the drink to ensure it’s sufficiently chilled, the fact remains that cocktails rapidly increase in temperature moments after hitting the glass. Ice plays a crucial role in postponing the inevitable. 

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Green Shoots on the Emerald Isle

Irish whiskey is undergoing an unprecedented wave of new distilleries.

Imitation is the highest form of flattery, the saying goes. But investment is pretty high up there, too. For years now, Irish whiskey has been posting noteworthy gains on a small base. Now the supply side of this phenomenon has jumped in with real capital, and big plans.

Here is most of what you need to know about the growth trajectory of Irish whiskey: In 2011, there were four distilleries operating in Ireland, and now, at least 14 are up and running with nearly 20 more in various stages of planning. And make no doubt about where distillers expect most of their new whiskey to be flowing: to the United States, their number one market.

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Julian Demiri: An Unexpected Ascension

Julian Demiri arrived in the United States in 1996 as a young 19 year-old from Albania. He arrived speaking no English. He arrived with no job. He had however, just won the lottery.

Every year the United States offers around 50,000 temporary green cards to applicants from around the world. While this may not be the lottery you had in mind, it is in many ways just as important in the lives of those who are picked. What those "winners" do with such an opportunity makes all the difference. 

Speaking French and Albanian, Demiri hit the ground running at a now defunct bar in Fells Point. After five years, Demiri earned full citizenship and sought a job at the Inner Harbor staple, the Rusty Scupper. The Scupper has become a well-known landmark in Baltimore with an impressive history and an award-winning wine list.

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Teeling Single Malt Irish Whiskey

The Teeling Whiskey Company has expanded its premium Irish whiskey portfolio with the launch of its award winning Irish Single Malt.  This Single Malt, was recently named World’s Best Irish Single Malt at the 2015 World Whiskies Awards.

Teeling Single Malt is the third release in the Premium range of Teeling expressions completing their full range to form the Teeling Trinity of non-aged statement of Irish whiskeys. To add a unique depth of character and flavor, Teeling Single Malt consists of aged malt whiskey up to 23 years old that has been matured in five different wine casks including Sherry, Port, Madeira, White Burgundy and Cabernet Sauvignon. This combination of cask maturation techniques has never been done before in Irish whiskey and creates a truly innovative Irish whiskey bursting with personality. Like all the Teeling whiskeys, it is bottled at 46% with no chill filtration allowing for all the natural flavors of the whiskey to be retained. 

Jack Teeling, founder of the Teeling Whiskey Company, commented, “We are delighted to be able to release another expression of Teeling whiskey that helps expand consumer choice and challenge existing perceptions of Irish whiskey. Our new Teeling Single Malt proves Irish whiskey can have big bold flavors that appeal to Single Malt drinkers without losing its distinctive Irish identity.”

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Distilled Spirits Growth Continued in 2015

Distilled Spirits in the United States have enjoyed a gain in market share for the sixth consecutive year.  The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) has reported another year of steady growth in 2015 with supplier sales up 4.1 percent and volumes up 2.3 percent.  Distilled spirits suppliers and marketers also marked the sixth straight year of increasing their market share relative to beer in 2015. 

“The positive performance of distilled spirits is the result of many factors including market modernization, product innovation, consumer premiumization and hospitality tax restraint,” said DISCUS President and CEO Kraig R. Naasz.

DISCUS reported strong growth in every whiskey category for the second straight year, with revenues rising 8 percent.  Super premium whiskeys were particularly popular among American consumers with luxury Bourbon, Scotch, Canadian and Irish whiskeys all recording double-digit gains.  Other categories performing ahead of the distilled spirits average growth included Tequila, with another exceptional year of 9.4 percent sales growth, and Cognac, with sales growth of 16.2 percent.

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Posted by on in February 2016 Editions
Protect Your Livelihood

Get Involved...Stay Involved   

The Maryland 2016 Legislative session begins in two days (it is January 11th as I type this) … There is no doubt that Chain Store legislation is a concern of the entire industry as is Dram Shop legislation.  As in year’s past, you can expect these industry hot topics to arise during this year’s session.  Chain stores being allowed to enter the Maryland marketplace is a dangerous prospect to the independent beer, wine and liquor retailer.  As in year’s past, I am again iterating how important it is to get as many industry members involved and be prepared to defend the independent store-owners’ position to the state representatives.  Many of you are involved and are familiar with the process of protecting your business from harmful proposed legislation.  However, too many are not.  Below is my annual ‘How To’ on getting involved and protecting your livelihood …

First, you need to know what proposed legislation is coming down the pipe and how it would affect your business.  Becoming a member of your county association as well as the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association (MSLBA) would be a great start.  The MSLBA was formed, in part, because the association's leaders understood that actions in the Maryland State House directly impact the operations of your businesses.  The MSLBA tracks proposed legislation that will have an effect on its members’ businesses.  They do this right at their web site, www.mslba.org.  

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Posted by on in February 2016 Editions
Caught In the Draft

Cocktails on tap are no longer just a fad ...  

 

When Anton Baranenko, owner of Draft Choice, a New York-based company that customizes draft systems, began installing cocktail lines in 2010, the response from his bartending peers was hostile, even Luddite, with accusations that he was cheapening the value of craft cocktails, and could put bartenders out of work.

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Breakthru Beverage Group Launched

Charmer Sunbelt and Wirtz Beverage Begin New Venture

Breakthru Beverage Group, an innovative beverage wholesaler formed by Charmer Sunbelt and Wirtz Beverage, was established on January 1 and has launched in 19 markets including Maryland and The District of Columbia. 

“Breakthru Beverage is built upon the best of our legacy operations while setting a new path and approach forward,” explained Greg Baird, Breakthru Beverage President and CEO.  “Our vision for the future is focused on excellence and how we can be a stronger and more innovative partner for our suppliers and customers in all of our markets.”

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A Look at the Best New Mezcals

Artisanal mezcals are on the charts with a bullet.  Consumers and mixologists actively looking for spirits loaded with character and authenticity have struck gold with the expanding roster of artisanal, 100% agave mezcals. Stringent production standards have been put into place within the industry to ensure the utmost degree of quality such that the mezcals of today bear little resemblance to the worm-laded mezcals of the past.

These are indeed the glory days for the Oaxacan spirit. There are now more high quality mezcals being marketed in the United States than ever before. Demand for the spirit has caused the category to expand another 4.9% in volume to roughly 50,000 cases in 2014. Nearly all of the growth is attributable to the high-end, super-premium segments of the market—those with a retail price above $22—this according to the 2014 Technomic’s Adult Beverage Resource.

The differences between brands of 100% agave mezcals are years in the making. From cultivating agaves—also referred to as maguey—to the un-barreling of an añejo, the production cycle can easily exceed 18 years. It is a time-honored process, one in which every decision made along the way ultimately will impact the finished mezcal.

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Posted by on in February 2016 Editions
The Way North

Paced by Rye, Flavors and Strong Branding, Canadian Whisky is Mounting a Rally ... 

 

Finally, it seems, the whisky renaissance has shone a spotlight on Canadian. It’s not that Canadian whisky hasn’t long been popular in the U.S.—whiskies from up north are second only to bourbon here, though more than half the volume, according to 2014 numbers from DISCUS, occurs in the lowest price tier.

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Posted by on in January 2016 Editions
The 21st Century Bartender

Balancing technical skills with the (lost?) art of hospitality.

There may never have been a better time to be a bartender. The information age has streamlined access to cocktail lore, training options abound, most restaurants are in need of skilled drink makers to create recipes and train staff, and career horizons have opened wide.

But none of that means customers have found the current level of bar service to be correspondingly elevated. True, there are now numerous bars in almost every city that serve well-crafted classic cocktails and complicated modern drinks. But in conversation with some of America’s cocktail luminaries, it becomes clear that although today’s technical skills and knowledge may never before have been as sharp, significant hospitality issues—indifferent attentiveness, glowering greetings, excess geekery, and a sneaky sense that bartenders believe some orders are beneath them—need to be tackled.

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A Look Ahead at the 2016 Maryland Legislative Session

The next General Assembly Session is just around the corner, and the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association (MSLBA) will once again be taking a lead role in looking out for the beverage industry's interests.  This means guys like MSLBA President David Marberger and his close colleagues are expected to step up and drive the discussions.

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"We're at the rough and ready every year at this time," said the proprietor of Bay Ridge Wine and Spirits in Annapolis.  "In 2016, we plan on working very diligently at getting a really good relationship going with the Maryland microbreweries, the distilleries, and the wineries.  We really need to forge together as a cohesive unit.  There will always be some issues that we won't see eye to eye on.  But all of us coming together in this industry as an industry so we can move forward is a must and something we really want to focus on."

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Posted by on in January 2016 Editions
Mark Walker

Behind the Bar At Plug Ugly's

Mark Walker, bartender extraordinaire at Plug Ugly's Publick House in Baltimore, still remembers the first time he ever poured drinks professionally. It was on a particularly busy night at Charm City's fabled Hammerjack's, and The Alarm was rocking out on stage.  "Yeah, my first training shift was a sold-out concert," he recalled, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "There was probably around 2,000 people there.  My boss looked at me and she said, 'Well, Mark ... sink or swim!'  I guess I swam."

Walker has been doing more swimming than sinking ever since.  A lot more.  Last year, in fact, he was named one of Baltimore's 10 Best Bartenders by the Baltimore Sun.  With well over two decades of experience, Walker got his current gig at the popular O'Donnell Street restaurant and watering hole because of his longtime friendship with co-owner Tommy Welsch.  "He's a really good friend of mine," Walker said, "and I actually waited for him to open this place up for two years while I was working elsewhere.  As soon as he opened the doors, though, I started working for him."

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Posted by on in January 2016 Editions
Escutcheon Brewing Co.

"Mind Your Draft"

Most craft brewers are entrepreneurs who have an interesting back story.  The Escutcheon Brewery, located in Winchester, Virginia, is a good example of an interesting story and some interesting beers.

Escutcheon Brewing Co. started with the friendship between two guys who both really like beer. John Hovermale and Art Major met while John was working to open a different brewery in Winchester. While that venture didn't work out, their friendship did.  Together, pint after pint, the pair discussed how they would "do it the right way," were they to launch a brewery of their own.

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Casey’s Bar and Restaurant Holds Charity Golf Tourney

I always enjoy hearing about good deeds being done by members of the industry.  I came across something that is very worthy of some press.  Casey’s Bar and Restaurant in Parkville, MD recently hosted their 7th annual golf tournament in honor of three of their favorite customers on the spectrum (the Autism Spectrum) … Christina Pollizzi, CJ Manouse, and Eric Kane. 

Owners Casey Brooks and his mom, Terry Santoro started their annual golf tournament as a way for employees and patrons to get together and have fun outside of the establishment.  There was no specific charity. More recently proceeds were donated to a local church. This year, however, Casey wanted to support an organization that works to provide resources, research, and awareness to his patrons. He chose Autism Speaks and he worked hard to get sponsorships from his distributors and donations from nearby businesses. Most of all, he needed golfers.  Well, he got them, lots of them.  Casey’s efforts paid off as he raised $5,000 to benefit Walk Now for Autism Speaks: Baltimore. 

This industry is full of people and organizations giving back to their communities in very heart-warming ways.  If you or your company has conducted a fundraiser, let us know about it.  We are very happy to tout your efforts here in the Beverage Journal.

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Wine and Cocktails Take a Can-Do Approach

Lifting a Page from Craft Beer’s Marketing Manual.

It’s back to the future for the aluminum can. First used to package frozen juice concentrate in 1960, aluminum cans were quickly embraced by soft drink and beer producers following the addition of the convenient pull-tab, patented in 1963. Despite the timeless luster of traditional glass bottles and the lightness of modern PET plastics, more beverage producers are realizing that even today few packages can rival aluminum for its combination of recyclability, portability, durability, lightness, and protective qualities.

Craft beer producers are returning to the format in droves, a movement instigated by Peter Love of Cask Brewing Systems, who revived the prestige of the package at Colorado’s Oskar Blues starting in 2002. “Cans are now seen by craft beer consumers and brewers as a premium and preferred package for beer, and we have a long list of brewers who have quickly grown their business by using cans. That will someday be the case with wine, cider and cocktails,” predicts Love.

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Everybody Loves Rosé Champagne

It is now old news that rosé Champagnes (and rosé wines in general) are more popular than ever. The trend began around the turn of the century, and sales have been growing steadily since. My local retailer told me that 47% of the wines he sold this summer were rosés.

The reason? We have gotten over the “sweet” curse of white Zinfandel, and blush wines in general (these wines still sell, of course, to those people who prefer sweeter wines). One popular theory is that people started to realize that most rosé wines—particularly Champagnes—are not sweet, but dry, and not frivolous.

Going back a while, I can remember the time that a “real man” wouldn’t drink pink anything, especially Champagne; the myth was that “rosés are for ladies.” I never believed that trash, thank goodness, and have been enjoying rosé Champagnes for decades. I must admit, though, just from my own observation, that rosé Champagnes tend to be even more popular with women than with men.

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Posted by on in December 2015 Editions
Year of Discovery

With fascinating wines coming from the unlikeliest of places, 2015 has become the Year of Discovery in wine, with retailers in the vital position as gatekeepers between curious drinkers and bold new regions and grapes.

A funny thing happened on the way to 2016: Buoyed by two decades of steady growth in wine consumption, Americans are—finally(?)—getting it. After decades of wine suppliers, merchants and critics alike exhorting people to “drink what you like,” people are doing just that.

Consider some of the most dynamic wine-category upswings of late—Moscato, Malbec, Prosecco and Red Blends. What they have in common is simple, pure and powerful: they are being driven by consumers’ tastes. Not by critics’ ratings.

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Posted by on in December 2015 Editions
Wives Tales and Sea Lawyers

 “Sea Lawyer” is a maritime term first used in the US Navy in the 1800s.  A sea lawyer is someone who speaks authoritatively, and gives advice about rules and regulations even if he/she has no idea what they are talking about. Wives tales, folklore and near truths are their stock in trade.  They casually pass along myths, regardless of their factual basis, from one generation to the next.  In today’s beer selling world, the industry equivalent of sea lawyers are still passing along bad scoop just as sailors did in Old Ironsides navy. 

In an industry so highly regulated, one wonders how wives tales and sea lawyers can exist.  But here is the problem. A majority of the people, who now work in the alcohol industry are relatively new to the business. This fact isn’t isolated to any one level of the three-tier system, but is true across all levels of the industry.  It is equally true at both the major brewer and craft brewery level, at the distributor level and at the retail level.  This isn’t to knock new people, but it brings to light the fact that new people don’t have the same body of knowledge as the more experienced and tenured industry members of yesteryear.  The beer industry currently suffers from a lack of “institutional memory.”  Knowledge and understanding take time to acquire while false or erroneous information doesn’t have the same time requirement.

A perfect example is a recent ad in the trade paper Mid Atlantic Brewing News.  A brewer placed an ad that showed a beer label with a character wearing a Santa hat. What’s wrong with that? Well, it clearly violates industry advertising guidelines that alcohol advertising shouldn’t contain a depiction of Santa Claus.  This reference could give children an erroneous impression that a relationship exists between Santa and alcohol, and industry leaders have long agreed this type of advertising was not good for business.  The advertising guideline about Santa was developed within the industry by the Beer Institute, the brewers’ trade group, in an effort to self-regulate, but, it is not law.

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Raven Beer, The Taste is Poetic

You don't come across a lot of people in the beer business who also have a PhD in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry.  Meet Stephen Demczuk, co-founder of Baltimore-based RavenBeer.  The Dundalk native was doing post-graduate work at the University of Geneva in Switzerland when he fell in love with beer.  "I had what I call a few 'near-religious experiences' with beer," he stated, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.

Beer became a professional side passion of his.  When he wasn't in a lab, he was traveling Europe, visiting different breweries, and writing about his experiences for such publications as American Brewer.  He eventually "dropped out of science" to pursue a career in beer full-time.  

His first success was launching Beer Around the World, the first European beer of the month club.  "I started packaging and shipping beer off from small breweries around the world," he recalled, "up to 15 countries we shipped to in Europe.  I would bring the beers in and pay the fees and tax.  Once you pay the tax, you can do with the beer what you want over there.  There is no three-tier system.  You can box it, sell it, distribute it, take it to your restaurant, whatever you want."

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Bruce Wills Named Boordy Vineyards’ National Sales Director

Bruce Wills has assumed the position of National Sales Director for Boordy Vineyards and will be responsible for managing the distribution and sales of Boordy wines in Maryland, the mid-Atlantic region, and beyond.

Bruce began his wine career in the early 1970’s working in both retail liquor stores and distribution.  In 1985 Bruce joined the Robert Mondavi Winery, serving as their mid-Atlantic representative for 11 years, spanning the period when that winery was a central figure in the renaissance of California wines.  Following Mondavi, Bruce has held management positions with William Deutsch & Sons, Rosemont Estate, and for the past eleven years he served as Sales Director for Old Bridge Cellars, an importer and marketer of fine wines from around the world.

Regarding his new position, Bruce said, “I love wine and am excited about the future of local wine; Boordy is Maryland’s first winery; it has always been an industry leader and takes quality very seriously.  I am thrilled to have the opportunity to represent Boordy’s wine portfolio to the many friends that I have made throughout my career.”

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Posted by on in November 2015 Editions
2015 Holiday Gift Guide

Good Things Come in Value-Added Packages (aka VAPs).

Small packages, big packages, colorful packages and see-thru packages ... sometimes it’s a corkscrew; often it’s glassware; occasionally it’s really different (tequila-inspired drum set, anyone?). But to many holiday shoppers, these add-ons are just the bonus they need to make a gift-buying decision, whether they are wavering on which product to pick or just in a hurry.

That’s the theory, of course. In practice, wine and spirits merchants have a major challenge just in terms of sorting through the options and choosing VAPs that make sense for them. The devil is always in the details. Should you stick with brands you sell, or test out new ones? What price point do you target, or do you want a broad range? And, mais oui: Where are you going to put them all?

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Posted by on in November 2015 Editions
Ocean City Distilling

Hometown Boy, Joshua "Josh" Shores, Makes Good ... 

Some people never really leave their hometown.  But when your hometown is Ocean City, Md., and you are the owner of the Ocean City Brewing & Distilling Company, staying put has been a most rewarding life choice.  Meet Joshua "Josh" Shores Sr., a man who had run a successful Internet sales business for a number of years who wanted to be a name in his hometown.  What he really wanted to do was bring a craft brewery to the beach.  He recalled during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal, "I know it sounds crazy, but I just closed up shop one day and said, 'I want to open a brewery!'" 

He got that chance in 2013 when he learned that the old Adkins building on 56th Street was available.  At that location, he founded the Ocean City Brewing Company, which has thrived and grown into a large-scale brewery, bar, and restaurant that has at least two dozen craft beers on tap at any given time.

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Posted by on in November 2015 Editions
Maryland Microbrewery Festival

The historic Union Mills Homestead recently hosted the Maryland Microbrewery Festival.  This year was the 10th Anniversary of the event. The event celebrates the best of Maryland's handcrafted and distinctive microbrews and craft beers. Eighteen breweries were on hand, each with a variety of beers to sample.  The Festival was also the concluding event of Carroll County’s Beer Week … a celebration of Maryland craft beer, including Carroll County brewers and brewpubs, the region’s agricultural products used in making Maryland beer, and those establishments that sell these products.

Pictured above are Clint Griggs, The Phoenix Emporium in Ellicott City; and Chad Twigg, Heavy Seas Beer; enjoying the Maryland Microbrewery Festival.

 

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Posted by on in November 2015 Editions
Glenfiddich 14

Glenfiddich Pays Tribute To The American Whiskey Industry With 14 Year Old Release.

Glenfiddich – one of the world’s most awarded single malt Scotch whiskies – has recently released a new expression to its permanent portfolio: Glenfiddich 14 Year Old.  Exclusive to the United States, the bourbon barrel reserve is a celebration of American spirit. It pays tribute to the shared history of American and Scotch whisk(e)y, and the American Oak ex-bourbon barrels that are the backbone of the single malt Scotch whisky industry. 

Glenfiddich 14 Year Old uniquely delivers a bourbon heart with the soul of single malt.  Matured for 14 years in ex-bourbon American Oak casks, the whisky delivers beautifully complex flavors of woody spices combined with ripe summer fruit, resulting from the spirit’s interaction with the casks. After waiting patiently for 14 years, Glenfiddich Malt Master, Brian Kinsman, finishes the whisky in deep charred new American Oak barrels supplied by The Kelvin Cooperage in Louisville, Kentucky. The result: a rich, sweet and vibrant single malt.

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Posted by on in November 2015 Editions
Henry “Hoby” Wedler

Host of Francis Ford Coppola Winery's Tasting in The Dark

Henry “Hoby” Wedler is a blind graduate student at the University of California, Davis, founder of the nationally recognized chemistry camp for the blind and host of Francis Ford Coppola Winery’s Tasting in the Dark experience.  When he’s not busy working towards his Ph.D. in organic chemistry or leading his blind or visually impaired chemistry camp students in conducting lab experiments through touch and smell, he turns his attention to wine – where he’s passionate about wine flavor and how it relates to chemistry.

Once per month Hoby travels to the Francis Ford Coppola Winery and hosts Tasting in the Dark, a blind tasting experience that he helped establish with the Coppola winemaking team in 2011. The surprising and enlightening two-hour wine tasting, where guests are blindfolded and led to the Winemaker’s Lab, explores how flavors and aromas in wine are accentuated when experienced in complete darkness. Hoby believes that when a sighted person is in complete darkness, he or she feels more vulnerable and his or her senses become more heightened, bringing out more flavors in a wine.  

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Fielder’s Choice Raises $8,500.00

As a follow-up to my September column announcing the availability (as well as the fundraising efforts) of Heavy Seas’ “Fielder’s Choice” … Hugh and his team recently presented their donation of $8,500 to the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation. This donation comes from the proceeds generated by the sale of their commemorative Fielder's Choice beer, celebrating the 20th anniversary of Cal’s 2131 as well as the 20th anniversary of Heavy Seas.

The Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 2001 by baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr., 12-year Major League Baseball veteran Bill Ripken, and members of the Ripken family. The Foundation honors the legend and spirit of Cal Ripken, Sr., who passed away in 1999. During his 37-year career with the Baltimore Orioles organization, Cal, Sr. was a pioneer for his way of teaching the basics of the game as well as the basics of life to both big leaguers and their youth league counterparts. The traits and lessons passed on by Cal, Sr. – leadership, work ethic, responsibility, and healthy living -- are brought to life through a character education curriculum created for at-risk youth.

The Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation is reaching out to underserved youth across the country. Through partnerships with youth-serving organizations and schools, the Foundation brings vital life lessons to America’s most impressionable population, using baseball as the hook to engage kids.

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Posted by on in October 2015 Editions
The Office Bar and Grill

If you were ever a fan of the immensely popular TV series “Where everyone knows you name.” Then you might want to visit a local version of that fabulous watering hole right in the heart of Anne Arundel County.

Pasadena, Maryland is an interesting place to visit, and is probably an even more different and interesting place to live.  Pasadena is a place of conviviality. It is situated almost equidistant between Annapolis and Baltimore, but it doesn’t seem to suffer from the social or political ills that plague either locale.  According to the local patrons I spoke with on a recent visit to The Office Bar and Grill, it is what we might envision mid America to be but is located here in Maryland.

The Office Bar and Grill sits on a busy thoroughfare with the unlikely name of Mountain Road.  It is curiously not mountainous, and abruptly ends at sea level by the Chesapeake Bay. This stretch of flat highway was once known as the longest piece of dead end road in the United States.  Locals say, “It conveniently ends nowhere.”

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Posted by on in October 2015 Editions
Narragansett Lager Beer

First brewed in 1890, Narragansett Lager Beer is making a resurgence, and in some New York City bars has taken over the low priced but good beer spot … a spot that was previously dominated by Pabst Blue Ribbon.

The Gansett story began with the Rhode Island’s Haffenreffer family in December 1890.  From its inception through the 1970s, Narragansett Lager beer was the dominant beer in the New England area when in 1955 it attained a lofty 55% share of market. Ownership of the brewery changed hands when Rudolph Haffenreffer sold it to The Falstaff Brewery in 1965.

In some ways, Falstaff and Narragansett were ahead of their time as they were innovators in sponsoring major events such a Led Zeppelin concert in 1969, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young at the Boston Garden in 1971, and the Newport Folk Festival. The brewery also continued to use the beer’s clever advertising featuring the designs of cartoonist Theodor Seuss Geisler, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss.

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Posted by on in October 2015 Editions
Bayou Rum

Bringing the Spirit and Spirits of Louisiana to Maryland and the District

When I was a little boy, to make me laugh, my grandma would spontaneously break into her rendition of Hank Williams' classic country song "Jambalaya (On the Bayou)."  You know the lyrics: "Goodbye Joe. Me gotta go. Me oh my oh.  . . . Son of a gun, we'll have big fun, on the Bayou!"  Granny was a drinking woman, and I wish she was here with me now to sample some fine Bayou Rum.

Louisiana Spirits debuted its four variations of the product in Maryland back in May, and they've been hot sellers statewide ever since.  Founded in 2011, the company follows an authentic "sugar house" recipe in gathering raw, unrefined cane sugar and molasses from M.A. Patout & Sons Enterprise Factory in Patoutville, La.  Bayou Silver is the company's original, copper pot-distilled base rum.  "It's a lot different from most white rums on the market," said Louisiana Spirits President Trey Litel, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "It's colorless; clear; and has an almost grassy, fruity sort of aroma.  It also has a wonderful flavor and after taste and is great for sipping on ice, or with cranberry juice, or lemonade."

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Posted by on in October 2015 Editions
Oktoberfest Celebrations

Maryland and Washington, DC residents have numerous options to celebrate Oktoberfest locally. German beer and bratwurst will draw nearly one million people with German heritage to the area to celebrate the anniversary of the marriage of young Crown Prince (later King) Ludwig I and Princess Therese of Sachsen-Hildburghausen.  The original celebration took place on a huge meadow outside of the city walls of Munich on October 17, 1810. This festival lasted several days and was celebrated by the entire city.  Here are some local venues participating in the long-lasting German tradition.

Frederick’s Oktoberfest
Frederick, MD – October 3-4, 2015

Oktoberfest bier, bratwurst, dancing, live music and children’s activities to benefit Frederick County charities and local organizations. Location: Frederick Fairgrounds, 797 E Patrick St Frederick, MD 21705

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Posted by on in 2015
Isaac Martinez, At Hank's Oyster Bar

If you operate a restaurant that has a full-service bar, you really can't ask for a better bartender than Isaac Martinez.  He's the man behind the taps at the very popular, always bustling Hank's Oyster Bar in Washington, D.C.  When asked during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal what his overall work philosophy is, Martinez had this to say: "I am interested in learning more and more so I can become better.  I want to know everything!  When people come in and say, 'Can you make this drink?' I always want to be able to say, 'Yes, I know how to make that drink.'"

Martinez came to the United States from Mexico in 2001 and has never gone back.  His English is not the best.  This reporter had to ask him to repeat a few answers during our chat and had to rewind the tape more than a few times while transcribing.  But, clearly, the force of his personality is what has his customers coming back to him again and again.  And the fact that he makes one of the town's best Old Fashioneds!  He remarked, "I really like it when people say to me, 'Oh, you work HARD! I like how you work!' I am motivated by this as much as when people say, 'I like this drink you just made me.'  When you work at a bar, you have to have a lot of energy.  You have to be in shape."

He continued, "I've always worked in restaurants and bars.  I've worked as a barback and as a bartender.  Right from the start, I really liked the job and the business. I enjoyed mixing drinks, and I still like coming up with something new for the customers."

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