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Posted by on in March 2014 Editions

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While bourbon and Scotch get more press, Irish whiskeys have quietly become the fastest growing, barrel-aged spirit in America. So what’s the attraction?

It may be no more complicated than Irish whiskeys are exceptionally easy to drink. They’re accessible, highly aromatic and loaded with palate pleasing flavors. Equally tempting, years of steadily increasing popularity hasn’t significantly driven up their price making them relative bargains. For a category long existing with nary a pulse, these are heady days.

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If you’re looking for bright spots in the world of Irish whiskey, it’s hard not to find them. The question is where to start.

For example, ground has recently been broken in County Carlow for the new 25 million pound Walsh Whiskey Distillery, a venture backed by the Italian makers of Disaronno Liqueur. Meanwhile to the northwest, William Grant & Sons, owner of Tullamore D.E.W., will fire up the stills next fall at their new distillery, the first in a generation for the brand. Those two are just part of the unprecedented Irish whiskey distillery boomlet, to be followed by other new facilities including one at a former Diageo brewery site in Dundalk and another right in Dublin.

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Posted by on in February 2014 Editions

Chicago’s Goose Island Brewery refers to its “Honker’s Ale” brand as an English style bitter, but don’t be fooled by the name. This fine beer is anything but bitter. What then is an English Bitter?  Simply put, it is a style of ale in which the brew master uses ample amounts of aromatic hops and sweet malt.  The result is a beer with a strong hop presence but a pleasantly drinkable taste.

The brew master at Goose Island uses an interesting mixture of grains including: two row barley malt, wheat malt and roasted barley.  This hearty malt combination produces a bread like aroma with a sweet malt flavor, strong enough to balance out the Stryrian Golden and Super Styrian hops. Although both hops types have mild bittering and aromatic qualities, Super Styrian hops is known especially for its dual flavor and scent characteristics.

When held to the light, a brilliant coppery gold color shows through the glass.  A tight off white head forms as it is poured and quickly dissipates into a nice band of lacey foam around the inside of the glass. An abundance of small bubble carbonation gives the beer a pleasant feel in the mouth that carries through in the aftertaste as a pleasant mix of hops and malt lingers at the back of the tongue.

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Maurizio Farro, founder of Cantiniere Imports & Distributing Inc., is a true American success story.  He even talks like a proud American, albeit with a way-cool Italian accent. He doesn't refer to the year he came to the United States as "2002."  He describes it as "the year after the Towers fell."  He didn't let the language barrier stop him from prospering.  He went to community college in Towson to improve his English ("I realized I had to not only learn the language, but be able to hear the people").  And when asked what his secret is for becoming his own boss, he answers: "If you come here to this country, you must come to work hard.  Otherwise, there is no reason to be here."

Farro indeed came to America in 2002.  "I come from a winemaker family in Naples," he said, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "My family has been making wine for decades.  Both of my grandfathers made wine, my father made wine, and so did my uncle.  There was always wine on the table.  . . . My father eventually didn't want to do the job anymore, and my brothers and I didn't follow in his footsteps.  It was my cousin, who was working for my father's brother, who kept the family business.  Today, I purchase his wine." 

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In every profession, there are some projects you work on that are just more "important" than others; projects that become less of a work task, and more a responsibility.  Into my lap a couple of weeks back fell a story about Reliable Churchill funding a new PSA (public service announcement) video for the R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. Commonly known as "Maryland Shock Trauma," it's the place on the news where you hear people taken to or flown to when they have been in very bad accidents.  It's also the place where you as a parent do NOT want to get a call from in the middle of the night or anytime of the day or evening.

The executives and employees of Reliable Churchill know that.  In fact, management had been looking to do something along the lines of a video that was dramatic and immediate and real for some time.  The result is "Someone Like You," a 12-minute presentation that the company and Shock Trauma are hoping gets seen at every high school and in every Driver's Education class in the state.

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This 2014 Maryland General Assembly Session is underway and retailers have two options: sit back and watch and hope all turns out well, or be actively engaged and impact the outcome in a way that helps your business.  Please make it a top priority to join with members of the Maryland Beer Wholesalers Association (MBWA) and the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association (MSLBA) on the morning of February 13th to meet with legislators from your district in their Annapolis offices.  The day will start in Annapolis at 7:30 am at the Governor Calvert House for meeting assignments and a briefing on the issues.  The group will then head over to the state house to meet with our elected representatives to voice the concerns of the industry on potential and proposed legislation.  The group will then meet back at the Governor Calvert House for a debriefing followed by MBWA and MSLBA association meetings.  Following these meetings there will be a luncheon ... all wrapping up by 1:00 pm.  

This is a great opportunity to meet your elected officials and let them know what is important to you and your business.  If you have questions or just want to register, call the MSLBA at 800 921-1381.

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Posted by on in February 2014 Editions

Change is the universal language of all modern industries. In this special section, we examine how innovations and adjustments are driving French wine, spirits, beer and cider sectors forward. From an entirely new category of “vin” to fresh brilliance behind the bar and the renewed relevance of beer and cider on the global market, France is demonstrating more flexibility and quality than ever in the nation’s history.

Even better, these improvements have made French alcohol products more relevant to today’s American consumers, who are eager to discover quality, style and value to fit their fast and varied lifestyles.

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In 1981 Ken Grossman, owner of the Sierra Nevada Brewery, brewed his first batch of “Celebration Ale.”  This beer quickly became the classic ale sought after year after year during the Christmas Season.

Celebration Ale is an India Pale Ale (IPA) made with a twist. It is brewed in late fall using hops just recently harvested from the fields.  These newly picked hops, although dry by the time they are used, provide a fresh flavor and aroma that can’t be duplicated.  The beer would have a very different character if these same hops were allowed to dry for six to nine months.  The brewermaster uses a blend of Cascade, Centennial and Chinook hops that together provide plenty of bitterness with a moderate amount of hop aroma. The combination produces a bitterness level of 65 IBUs, which is at the high end of the bitterness scale for an IPA, as well as for most beers, with the exception of barley wine.  Celebration Ale, however, it is not a “hop bomb” that grabs your tongue and squeezes.  Rather, it is a skillful blending of fresh hops, and two row pale malt and caramalt that yields a delicious and flavorful beer.  Additionally, Celebration Ale is bottled conditioned meaning a small amount of sugar and yeast are added to the bottle before it is capped to induce a secondary fermentation that produces natural carbonation and provides additional life on the shelf.

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The next General Assembly Session is scheduled to re-convene in January, marking the last year of the current four-year election cycle in Maryland.  That means all 188 legislative seats in the General Assembly -- along with the Offices of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Comptroller, and Attorney General -- are up for election.  In addition, for the first time in the state's history, the primary election will be held in June just 60 days after the Session's conclusion.

For beverage industry interests, this politically charged time represents an opportunity to become even more actively engaged than they have in the past.  The Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association (MSLBA), in particular, has no plans to sit idly by.  MSLBA President David Marberger comments, "It's not really politics.  You're just talking facts.  You're saying, 'These are things that I experience.  These are things I face.  These are challenges that we have to overcome.'  And these are challenges that your local politician may not be aware of.  At some point in time, there has to be a give and take.  If you want your politicians to listen to you, you have to listen to him."

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"It is a industry that is endlessly exciting because it is ever-changing and no two days are the same.  I've been in this business 37 years, and I bet I am going to learn something new today about the business that I didn't know yesterday!"

The industry Bill Burrill is speaking of is, of course, our beloved beverage biz.  And Burrill indeed speaks from nearly four decades of experience.  He started right out of college in June 1977.  Early on, this University of Baltimore graduate worked for Carlton Importing.  "When I was there," he recalled, "it was owned by McKesson.  Back then, McKesson was the largest wine and spirits distributor in the country and they also owned suppliers. So, I got some experience on the supplier side.  But after two years, I came back to the wholesaler side and have been in it ever since.  I've represented pretty much every major supplier, every major winery, and every major importer as well as many smaller ones.  I've worked in mostly Maryland, but also in South Carolina, Boston, and upstate New York. I've always been transferred back here. I'm like that bad penny. I keep turning back up!"

Today, he is manager of Republic National Distributing Co.'s Chesapeake Division, which encompasses off-premise accounts throughout the entire state of Maryland.  In that post, he represents such major suppliers as Pernod Ricard, Heineken, and Bombay Imports, among others.  He was brought aboard RNDC earlier this year after selling his interest in the Prestige Beverage Group.

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Posted by on in January 2014 Editions

American Distillers Large & Small Are Fueling a Whiskey Revolution

By Jack Robertiello

Behind the bar at The Square One Brewery and Distillery restaurant in St. Louis, pride of place is given to the beers and spirits that are made on-site. Among the spirits, there’s an expected array of new distiller wares—gins, rums, vodka and the like—as well as whiskies that put a twist in the tail of the traditional styles consumers expect. Here, customers can order tasting flights that include J.J. Neukomm Whiskey (made with cherry wood smoked malt and aged in Missouri-made oak barrels) and Hopskey (the house’s hop-infused whiskey, grainy with a pleasant aromatic hoppiness).

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Posted by on in January 2014 Editions

Do you need to get away? Are you tired of vacationing in the same place year after year?  If you answered yes to these questions, maybe your first resolution for the New Year should be to plan something new, fun and completely different - so, why not take a beer vacation?  A beer vacation can take you to some never before visited place like Belgium with its unending variety of beer styles, or it might be an adventure closer to home visiting local microbreweries within a day or weekend’s drive.  In either case, the options for a beer vacation are almost limitless.

Vacations are tonic for the soul.  They provide us a mental break from the everyday routine of life. They refresh and recharge us so that we return more energetic and renewed about our lives and our jobs. They can be used as learning experiences or simply as a way to relax. The nice thing about taking a beer vacation is you can do it with family, with friends or all by yourself.  The only rule is there is no rule.

If vacations are meant to fun, then a beer vacation should be a hoot and a really cool thing to do. There are new places to visit and new things to see along the way, while having the opportunity to stop and savor new unfamiliar brews.  And, as beer drinking is a social event, meeting new people may turn out to be the most fun and rewarding part of all. 

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