May 2014 Editions - Beverage Journal, Maryland and Washington, DC Fri, 28 Oct 2016 09:58:33 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Withall Finds a Home at The Hamilton Samantha0001.jpg - 48.65 KB

Samantha Withall, Beverage Director at The Hamilton on 14th Street, has certainly bounced around the biz locally.  She has been a chef for nearly a decade, having worked at such venues as Cafe Atlantico and Restaurant Nora and helping to open Minibar on E Street and Oyamel Cocina Mexicano.  At one point, she got out of the kitchen and served as Purchasing Director for the Park Hyatt Hotel.  "After that," she said, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal, "I did some restaurant consulting work before jumping into a wine and beer buyer position for an all-natural, organic market in Olney, Md."

That job ended up stoking her passion for the beverage side of the business, and she eventually accepted her current job at The Hamilton.  "The Hamilton is the cruise ship of restaurants!" she proudly declared.  "We are very large.  We have a lot of square footage.  In fact, the actual space that we are in used to be a Borders bookstore.  Before that, it was a Garfinckel's department store.  We have six bars and a live music venue in our basement. We offer a ton of all-American cuisine, but we also have our own sushi bar in-house that is manned by a full team of sushi chefs.  We're owned by the Clyde's Restaurant Group, and we're very eclectic in what we offer."

As for her duties and responsibilities, they are just as eclectic.  "I oversee our draft line-up, which for the upstairs restaurant is about 20 different draft lines.  We focus on as much local, all-American craft beer as we can with a few imports that are popular brands.  I also oversee about a 150 to 200-bottle wine list that focuses on small production wines, nothing more than 5,000 cases per vintage or per style per year.  Even though we are a very large restaurant, we really look to focus on the more artisanal and smaller production wines and, similarly, that follows suit with the focus of our beverage program as well.  For our cocktails, although we have a ton of the big-name brands that most everyone has behind the bar, we really look to focus on the resurgence of the American craft distillery movement.  All of our specialty cocktails focus on small craft distilled spirits."

Withall has also definitely become more of a wine person than she ever thought she'd be.  "This job has definitely broadened my palette and deepened my appreciation for what the growers and winemakers are doing.  I can honestly say that I very rarely taste a bad wine!  That's a really nice thing.  It makes my job that much more enjoyable."

She continued, "The amount of volume is daunting.  Keeping our product in stock is important.  We do a lot of volume.  So, just making sure that we have everything that we need for the guests is quite the challenge.  The most important thing is what is in the bottle.  Marketing and a million other things can sway one to want to purchase one thing versus not.  But my thought is, if what's in the bottle doesn't represent what is supposed to be, it's not worth getting."

Withall even has some sage words of wisdom for anyone reading this who is new in the beverage and hospitality trade and looking to thrive over the long term.  "Try as many things as you can whether you like them or not," she stated.  "I find that every couple of years or so, my tastes change.  Even something that I might not have enjoyed before I find that I might actually like now.  So, don't turn your nose up at stuff.  Just try it and be open to what is out there.  Personally, there are things that I like over others.  But the whole idea is to learn and understand what people are enjoying at the time."

With the arrival of spring, Withall and her staff at The Hamilton are looking forward to touting their seasonal cocktail list.  Customers are especially loving The Hamilton's cherry blossom cocktails, most notably Washington's Cherry Temple and the Cherry Chocolate Jubilee.  The former is made with American Harvest organic vodka and organic tart cherry juice, with Leopold Bros. Maraschino Liqueur and a little vanilla simple syrup. "Spring has definitely sprung at The Hamilton!" Withall stated.

FAVORITE MOVIE: "Dirty Dancing"

BEST TRIP: A few years back, she took a six-month break from the hospitality business to hike the Appalachian Trail.

PET: Dog (she has a weimaraner who goes on hikes with her).

SPECIAL TALENT: "I do stained glass work."



]]> (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) May 2014 Editions Thu, 17 Apr 2014 17:40:05 -0400
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Twenty nine years ago the Blue Point Brewing Company, Long Island’s first significant microbrewery, was founded in Patchogue, New York by two old friends - Mark Burland and Peter Cooper. Unlike most microbreweries, Blue Point’s first beer was a lager rather than ale.  This was risky business as lagers require much more care throughout the brewing process than your typical ale.  Darker color or additional hopping cannot mask flavor flaws and other mistakes.  But Burland and Cooper’s risk paid off.  Toasted Lager became the brewer’s flagship brand, and a Gold and Silver Award winner at the World Beer Cup competition.

Blue Point’s “Toasted Lager” takes its name from a brewing technique that uses the direct application of flames to heat the brew kettle. This is in contrast with the usual method of heating the kettle with steam.  The long used “Fire Brewing “method has been around for a long time and provides a hint of toasted flavor.  It was used and highly touted by Detroit’s famous Stroh Brewery. 

Lager beers are not known for being hop centric.  Blue Point’s Toasted Lager is no different in that regard, but according to the brewer, hops are added three times during the brewing process.  They are added at two different times during the boil in the brew kettle, and are again added later in the process in a technique known as “dry hopping.”  Hop notes are present at the beginning and at the end of the tasting.  The beer has a hop count of 28 IBU’s, which in the range of a Vienna style lager.

This beer obtains most of its flavor from the generous use of five kinds of malt.   English Pale, Crystal, Munich, Carapils, Wheat and Belgian Caravienna are used to produce the soul of the beer and the combination gives the beer a wonderful body.  At 5.5% alcohol this is a very pleasant and drinkable beer.  The typical craft beer drinker would probably be surprised at its refreshing taste.

In February of this year, the Blue Point Brewery began another chapter in its history when it was sold to AnheuserBuschInBev. This acquisition is part of a developing pattern by the largest brewers to broaden the appeal of their portfolios by including high quality craft beers.  No doubt they want to share in the margin pool of the rapidly growing craft beer movement.  Large brewers also hope it will give them increased credibility with craft beer consumers.  For the owners of this and other microbrewers, it represents a good way to cash out on their investment and sweat equity, and is part of a consolidation trend in the craft beer industry. Economic necessities, opportunities for owners to ensure their financial future and increased competition from an ever increasing number of brewing entities for a static beer drinking population will likely continue to add to this trend in the future.

]]> (Super User) May 2014 Editions Thu, 17 Apr 2014 17:36:00 -0400
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Beer marketing practices have changed rapidly in recent years and continue to evolve. It wasn’t long ago that local beer marketing consisted of the “beer man” bellying up to the bar and buying a couple rounds. While bar nights and trade spending still exist they have been eclipsed by other practices, but the one element that hasn’t changed from those bygone days is the firm belief in the popular slogan “Making friends is our business.”

The reach and power of personal marketing has now become more important than ever, and the majority of craft brewers “get it.” They have rediscovered what industry veterans have known for years that a friendly approach, knowledge about one’s product and providing honest recommendations go a long way in the brand building process.

In days gone by, sophisticated beer marketing was dominated by the largest domestic and international brewers.  Expensive measured media such as television, radio, print and outdoor campaigns were successful methods used to reach large blocks of consumers.  But as the Millennial generation gradually turned away from network television, radio station programming and newspapers, measured media became a less effective tool to communicate brand messages.  The value added analysis and conclusions supplied by Arbitron and Nielsen, communication industry auditors, to media buyers were no longer adequate predictors of consumer taste and preference.

Catchy slogans, cartoonlike animal characters, celebrities promoting a particular brand had often been used as successful marketing strategies, but these tactics no longer convince consumers to drink brand XYZ. New beer drinkers and experienced beer drinkers in the 21-30 year age cohort are restless and always on the lookout for new styles and brands. Today’s beer consumers want to personally connect with a knowledgeable brewery rep, the brewery owner or brewmaster to talk about their beer and its unique attributes. For the craft brewers who frequently brew beers that are quite different than the norm, it’s easy to spin up a story about the methodology used to make a beer, to talk about its particular flavor notes or to comment on what to look for in terms of aroma and taste. This sort of personal interaction brings a completely different level of involvement and credibility to the beer buying and beer drinking experience.

There is an old story about Jack MacDonough, the former CEO of Miller, and his thoughts about consumer promotions.  He was once asked at what point it is no longer economical to do sponsorships or promotions.  He replied, “….promotions are no longer viable if  they cost more than a six pack per person; at that point, I am better off buying everyone a six pack; at least this way, at least, I know they are drinking my beer.”   

MacDonough’s thought process was a prescient one as craft/microbrewers have discovered the primary objective of any promotion is to get their brand in the hands and stomachs of consumers.  All the other stuff is secondary.  

Craft brewers have found both an innovative and practical way to promote and market their brands –beer festivals.  Beer festivals can take the form of a single brewer deciding to promote its own brand, a beer festival hosted collaboratively by competing craft brewers, or it may be brewery personnel directly sampling consumers at tasting nights, at beer dinners or tap takeovers.  Beer festivals have become a mainstream marketing technique that allows craft beer makers to do big marketing without spending big marketing dollars.

There is currently an increased level of knowledge about beer as a result of the widespread use of social media. A rapid communication about likes and dislikes between social media sharing friends can make a brand an instant success overnight.  Many if not most members of the prime beer drinking cohort (age 21-29) are getting their information about beer not from commercials but from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.  The four letter word “like” had taken on new meaning.  Messages and opinions between friends and strangers morph from one on one communication into viral messaging.  The word about a new beer brand or a sponsored activity can go viral and spread beyond the local area, around the country, or around the world in short order.  This isn’t to say that young adult readers believe and agree with every communication and recommendation they receive, but if it is passed along by a friend or acquaintance with the similar lifestyle interests, the information has a good possibility of being read and acted upon, which has always been the goal of traditional measured media.  Social media communications have an advantage because whether real or imagined, social media messages convey the sense of being honest, genuine and real.  Whether it is true or not there is an inherent assumption that the messages have not been written by marketing professionals.  

At the local level, expensive brewery media programs were often bolstered by local distributor efforts within the community through team sponsorships, concerts and in store merchandising especially product display.  Although all of these activities were without question worthwhile, they often were missing two key components: having sales people who had in depth knowledge about beer, and having the ability to put a brand of beer in a consumer’s hands and talking confidently about it. The good news is the knowledge level within the industry is getting better as beer distributors are providing in depth training such as Cicerone training for their sales staff.  Some have even hired dedicated sales reps with specialized brewing knowledge. 

Brewery and distributor personnel are busy people. Both sides of the business are labor intensive, and whether manufacturing or selling it, both sides put many extra hours in meeting with consumers and to sample their products.  At one time, Gerhardt Kraemer, the long tenured master brewer at Anheuser-Busch was heard to say, “…..I used to worry only about making the beer; now I have to also worry about selling it.”  When brewing personnel show up at a tasting and are able to describe a brand’s unique characteristics, it is powerful stuff for the average beer consumer.  As beer drinkers gain more knowledge about brewing techniques and beer ingredients from hop types to malt varieties and specialty additives (like candi sugar), they also increase their beer drinking enjoyment.  Many savvy retailers already take full advantage of the knowledge and availability of brewery and distributor reps to hold in store or in bar tastings.  This is a sure fire way to directly engage the consumer.

Craft brewers and their wholesalers have really stepped it up a notch in addressing the need to directly engage consumers. They have become skilled promoters putting together major marketing events for their products and beer festivals have become more prevalent. Pick up a local newspaper, an urban magazine such Baltimore Magazine, What’s up Annapolis or Washingtonian or scan a brewer’s Facebook or Twitter postings and you will find a list of planned beer activities for 2014.  Another great way to stay informed about upcoming events is the Mid Atlantic edition of Brewing News.  You may wish to contact the editor and arrange to have copies available for your good beer customers.  The publishers are Bill Metzger ( and Jamie Magee (  Included in the bi-monthly paper is a detailed three month calendar of upcoming events.

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]]> (Super User) May 2014 Editions Thu, 17 Apr 2014 17:22:56 -0400
GIN 101:The Many Styles of Gin ClassicMartini.jpg - 15.37 KB

Benchmark London Dry style

Traditional American

Contemporary Western Dry Gin

New American Gin

Specialty Styles

]]> (Beverage Network) May 2014 Editions Thu, 17 Apr 2014 16:33:50 -0400
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No longer simply juniper, this spirit can be classic or creative, modern or mystical

According to conventional wisdom, and to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, gin is a distilled spirit with its main flavor derived from juniper berries. That leaves a lot of room for interpretation.

Just ask Frank Cisneros, partner at Manhattan’s Gin Palace, which boasts over 75 incarnations of the spirit. “It’s actually a carefully curated list, where the flavor profile of each gin is distinctive,” explains Cisneros, pointing out that now is the best of times for the Prohibition-era darling. “Just five years ago this would not have been possible. But we now have access to great variety—traditional styles like Old Tom gin, new gins in the American style, as well as classic London Dry.”

London Calling

For most of the modern era, London Dry has been the prevailing style of gin. Think of classic, juniper-forward brands like Tanqueray, Bombay Dry and its premium sibling Bombay Sapphire, and Beefeater. With a potent punch of juniper and ABV that exceeds the minimum 80 proof, Cisneros says these gins have the necessary backbone to stand up in cocktails like a Negroni. Detractors, and those weaned on vodka, however, sometimes liken their flavor to that of a Christmas tree, recognizing the juniper berry’s evergreen origins.

Acknowledging that one gin does not suit all comers, many of these flagship brands have added line extensions, adjusting flavors, adding botanicals and sometimes lowering proof. Bacardi’s Sapphire East, introduced in 2012, is a recent example. “Sapphire is a big, bold, classic among London Dry gins,” says Gary Hayward, house of Bombay brand ambassador. “However, we recognize that is not for everyone, and so we looked at the latest trends and modern flavors, consulting with bartenders to develop Sapphire East, with its additions of lemongrass and Vietnamese black pepper.” With a more modest 84 proof, compared to Sapphire’s 94, Hayward says that Sapphire East will help ease the entry to gin, especially among vodka drinkers.

Sapphire East’s flavor sits firmly in the London Dry tradition, while offering consumers something extra. Cisneros observes this is a popular extension strategy among benchmark brands. “These are iconic gin brands, so I see their super-premium gins as a reward to their faithful fans and to the Master Distiller, offering something extra special.” Created by Desmond Payne, the Master Distiller in charge of stewarding the 180-year-old Beefeater brand, Beefeater 24 includes a unique blend of Chinese green and rare Japanese Sencha teas to complement, rather than reinvent, the Beefeater style, bottled at 90 proof.

Tanquerary No. Ten, among the first to market in what Angus Winchester, Tanqueray global brand ambassador, refers to as the “ginnovation” of the 21st century, recently received a package makeover that reaffirms its super-premium status, with a faceted bottle cast in green glass that is more vibrant than the traditional Tanqueray. “Number Ten does everything that classic London Dry gin can do, but also shows how gins can play wherever other white spirits do these days, as most came after gin. It’s a simple but great step up in flavor for a customer who typically drinks vodka martinis,” explains Winchester.

Lest you think London Dry Gin remains the domain solely of big brands, Fifty Pounds is a gin made in the heart of London from a recipe dating to the first half of the 18th century. Crafted in batches of less than 1,000 bottles, Fifty Pounds is a boutique product that embraces the traditional London Dry profile.

Less Juniper, Tastes Great

A few London Dry style gins have long prided themselves on a more subtle juniper note, notably Boodles, which deviates from the pack with its understated juniper flavor and a range of botanicals that favors savory herbs and spices over citrus. However, no one really knew just how far gin could roam from its juniper roots until Hendrick’s Gin launched in 1999.

While William Grant & Sons’ Hendrick’s does include juniper, Bulgarian rose and cucumber are its hallmark aromas that captured the imagination of consumers and opened the gin category for experimentation. Some purists question whether some of the new entries are really gin, or merely botanical spirits, but following The Wall Street Journal’s anointment of Hendrick’s as the “Best Gin in the World” in 2003, there has been a steady stream of gins that pride themselves on a few proprietary botanicals, often emphasizing citrus, floral and other flavors over juniper.

Call them Contemporary Western Dry Gin, or perhaps Modern London Dry; by any name, many of these products are far removed from grandmother’s gin, with Bulldog Gin, launched in 2006, a good example. “We have juniper, but it is dialed back a bit, so that you can taste all the other botanicals,” explains Bob Beleson, managing director. “Suddenly you are tasting lotus leaf, white poppy and Dragon Eye, a Chinese fruit that is similar to lychee. We find people value a more complex and interesting balance of flavors.”

Bulldog Gin’s brand positioning and marketing also stray from the traditional, with advertisements projected in public spaces, urban sidewalk stenciling and New York taxi commercials. Bulldog certainly got the attention of Campari America, which as of January 1st partnered to distribute the brand nationally.

The Nolet family, notable for their creation of Ketel One Vodka, offers an eponymous gin in the contemporary style: Nolet’s Silver, an exquisite gin whose delicate floral notes belie its 95.2 proof.  In addition to Turkish rose, Nolet’s Silver includes peach and raspberry as signature botanicals, but make no mistake, this is not a flavored product or one that exudes overt fruitiness. While the $50 MSRP puts Nolet’s Silver firmly in the super-premium realm, Nolet’s Reserve—with its saffron and verbena and $700 price tag—has smashed the ceiling on gin price.

Other modern gins embrace current culinary trends in their recipes, like Caorunn, which hold a distinct regional identity derived from botanicals native to the Scottish Highlands. “Foraged within a hand’s reach of the distillery, the Celtic botanicals infused in Caorunn provide a sense of place,” says Caorunn’s Simon Buley, referring to the gin’s wild rowan berry, Coul Blush apple, dandelion, myrtle and Scottish heather. Of course, Caorunn does include the requisite juniper, but it is more of a footnote. “There is an ever-sophisticated consumer who is actively looking for unpredictable drink experiences that deliver nuanced flavor, over one-noted profiles from heavy juniper gin styles,” asserts Buley.

A sub-category all to itself, Monkey 47 is German gin based on the recipe of Wing Commander Montgomery “Monty” Collins of the Royal Air Force, who repurposed the juniper used to cure black forest hams for concocting gin in the region sometime in the 1950s. Revived by Germany’s Black Forest Distillers, Monkey 47 is newly imported by Sidney Frank Importing Company.

American ‘Inginuity’

While Western Europe has taken decades to slowly migrate away from London Dry traditions, in the U.S. the revolution is fast and furious, as craft distillers tinker with not just the botanicals, but every element of gin, sometimes even working on unusual base spirits. “The contemporary gin boom has primarily focused on unique botanical infusions. At 1911 Spirits, we took it one step further, distilling our gin from apples, which creates undertones of vanilla and caramel which delicately complement our botanicals,” says Stephen Brennan, co-owner and director of sales. Distilled in Upstate New York, 1911 Gin features only about half the juniper found in a typical London Dry.

In contrast, Seattle-based Big Gin, introduced in 2011, embraces gin’s piney pedigree. “We are using a pot still and include gobs of juniper as well as botanicals sourced from around the world, because we want to compete on a world scene,” says distiller Ben Capdevielle. However, Big Gin shows its American roots with a base distilled from corn, as well as a “Bourbon Barreled” rendition. While top-selling domestic brand Seagram’s Dry Gin has long boasted barrel-aging as a point of differentiation, Big Gin Bourbon Barreled has an unmistakable wood influence, perceptible in its golden-cast and rounded taste. “New oak is a detriment because it kills aromas and we really wanted the juniper to stand out. So it occurred to me that many premium spirits are aged in used bourbon barrels,” says Capdevielle, who currently distributes Big Gin in a dozen states.

Given the large number of ingredients in many gins, organic-certified offerings are few. Farmer’s Gin, however, tackles that task by using organic botanicals and organic grains, free of chemical pesticides, chemical fertilizers and GMOs. Farmer’s achieves a balanced style with subdued juniper balanced with floral notes of elderflower and citrusy lemongrass.

Moving Forward, Looking Back

Gin is a darling of the craft distiller set precisely because it does not require aging. Cisneros, who features the local gins of New York Distilling Company and Greenhook Ginsmiths, both from Brooklyn, in his cocktails, says he is especially excited about the rapid proliferation of craft gins. “It’s an analog to what happened with beer, and how craft beer consumers take their choice very seriously. Gin is the perfect vehicle for creativity by distillers. You can distill it today and sell it tomorrow,” says Cisneros.

As mixologists delve into the history books and encounter myriad recipes using obscure gins, styles rarely seen since Prohibition have returned to the back bar. Old Tom gin, of which Hayman’s Old Tom, launched in 2007 is the best known, is slightly fuller-bodied and sweeter than London Dry. Tanqueray Malacca has been likened to Old Tom in style by some bartenders, who are especially excited about its recent return as a limited-edition bottling. “It’s certainly closer to Old Tom–style gins, a softer and richer variant than London Dry,” says Winchester, who notes the marque has been a bit of a “unicorn” for bartenders and is being positioned primarily as an on-premise draw.

Dutch Genever, which Jaron Berkhemer, marketing director for Lucas Bols USA, is quick to point out is not gin, can’t help but be mentioned in the same sentence. “Although Genever shares a characteristic with gin—juniper—it really is a category of its own and actually gave birth to a juniper-based spin-off known as gin,” says Berkhemer with pride. By combining a base of malt wine with several distillates, Bols Genever is malty, full, rounded and complex, quite at home in a variety of 19th and 20th century cocktails.

At New York Distilling Company, owner Allen Katz crafts Chief Gowanus from a recipe he discovered for an early American version of “Holland gin,” based on flavored rye whiskey which is then aged in barrel for three months, clarifying it is indeed “a kissing cousin to Dutch Gin.”

Katz also offers Dorothy Parker as his American-styled gin and has revived navy strength gin Perry’s Tot, bottled at a traditional 57% ABV. Plymouth, a bartender darling and companion to Pernod Ricard’s Beefeater, is one of the few other distillers to offer a navy strength gin, which despite its potency retains the palatable Plymouth flavor profile. “As a style, Plymouth Gin is less dry than a London Dry,” says Juli Falkoff, brand director. “Back in the 1750s, the ports of Liverpool, Bristol and Plymouth created their own versions of London Dry Gin, a more aromatic and fruity gin. Today only Plymouth Gin survives.”

Cisneros may have to add another page to his gin list if the excitement continues, but he’s not complaining. “It’s a great time for gin, with the American craft distillers and revival of gins most of us have only read about,” he says. “At the same time, I don’t think brands like Beefeater or Tanqueray are going away. We have all these gins for a reason. They are each special.”

By jeffery lindenmuth


]]> (Beverage Network) May 2014 Editions Thu, 17 Apr 2014 16:16:54 -0400
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… Aims for Mucho Success In Maryland and D.C.

In early March, Beso del Sol Sangria expanded distribution to 10 states, including Maryland and the District of Columbia. The product is a joint venture between Arctic Beverage LLC and L&B, LLC, which have endeavored to bring a premium product in the high-growth sangria category to market. Arctic Beverage, importer of Beso del Sol, is partnering with Prestige Imports in Maryland and D.C.

The product features a colorful and modern box packaging that makes Beso del Sol ideal for celebrations and other gatherings -- both indoors and out. Christina Staalstrom, Commercial Director of Arctic Beverage LLC, comments, "We decided to go with a bag-in-the-box design. That category is growing in the U.S. and it's a category that we feel is perfect for our sangria. Not only does it stand out on the shelf in terms of packaging, it is attractive to have out for group gatherings. It's also great from a convenience and a cost-savings perspective to the consumer and the distributor. We feel like our timing is really good on this one. A lot of sangrias on the market tend to target the Spanish consumer. We're targeting the American consumer."

Arctic Beverage is supporting the brand with a strong in-store merchandising and sampling program along with local market advertising and event support. Staalstrom says the goal is to be in 11 states before the beginning of this summer.  "Unlike most of the sangrias that you have out there," she states, "we are really trying to target a younger and more modern demographic. That's why we went with the bright packaging, the bold colors, and all-natural flavors. There are no artificial additives at all. It's ready to serve. All you have to do is pour it over ice, throw some fruit in there, and you're good to go." 

This marks the first joint venture between Arctic Beverage and L&B to develop, produce, and bring a brand to market for commercial distribution.  Imported from Spain, Beso del Sol Sangria is indeed the first premium sangria made from 100 percent natural ingredients available in the United States in a bag-in-the-box design. High-quality Spanish Tempranillo wine is blended with a selection of fruits to create a light and fruity sangria that is both sweet and refreshing.

Staalstrom, a 17-year veteran of the beverage industry having started on the non-alcoholic side, says she and her colleagues are looking forward to the challenges of our marketplace. She notes, "In the Mid-Atlantic, there is seasonality. Sangria is definitely something people love in the spring and summer, and that's why we're launching it now. Maryland and D.C. certainly have a large Latino population, and they're familiar with the product. More broadly, I think in any large, transient city like Washington where you have a lot of people moving in and out, you have people who are willing to try new products. It's a market of people who are willing to see what is out there and not just stay with the tried and true. So, it's a good place for us to get some valuable feedback and some new consumers."

She is also looking forward to a long and prosperous relationship with Prestige Imports in distributing and selling the product. "They have a great reputation in the industry," she said.  "They're very focused on building brands as opposed to just moving cases. For us, it's very important to have a partner that wants to build the Beso del Sol brand in the marketplace and grow the sangria category as opposed to just pushing cases out the door. They have good relationships with a lot of independent retailers and also the larger chains. I think it's going to be a great fit for us!"

Made according to a traditional Spanish recipe, Beso del Solo Sangria is well balanced with a smooth finish at 8.5 percent alcohol. Each 3L box is the equivalent of four traditional 750 ml bottles. The technology used ensures that each sip is fresh, from the first one to the last. The wine stays fresh for up to six weeks after opening and generally retails for around $20 per box.



]]> (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) May 2014 Editions Thu, 17 Apr 2014 16:11:14 -0400
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Whenever an Industry Snapshot subject tells me he is gotten into boxing in his spare time, I have to fight the urge to frontload the article with all sorts of fight cliches.  "When he got into the beverage business, he had the eye of the tiger ... and he still does!" "He's been punching and counter-punching in our industry for 10 years now."  "His company went 15 rounds with the last recession and was still standing at the end."

That's why I had to chuckle when Tim Schestag recently revealed: "I've taken up boxing.  I got tired of the monotony of being in a gym, and I can't stand running.  It was something different, something unique.  And believe it or not, it keeps me level on the job."

That job is Mid-Atlantic Regional Manager for Palm Bay International's Quantum/Spirits Division.  Schestag has been with the company for four years this July and has indeed been in the business for a decade.  He started when he was 24, working for everyone from F.P. Winner to RNDC.  He seems to have found a home with his current employer.

"Palm Bay is a family-owned and operated company," he stated, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "We're based out of Port Washington, N.Y., and we represent over 80 brands from 11 different countries.  One of those brands is Cavit Pinot Grigio, the No. 1 imported pinot grigio in the market."

Schestag, a personable man with an obvious love for wine and spirits, said that the relationship side of the business is what he loves the most.  "Sometimes in this business, that part of it gets lost.  It becomes more about the boxes than the relationships with both the wholesalers and the key customers and restaurateurs that make up your business at the end of the day."

He continued, "To be successful, it's all about the details.  That's the hardest part, the detail-oriented nature of the business.  The business is expanding, and there is innovation and new brands and there is a lot being asked of everybody.  The challenge is staying out in front and being on top of your business when it is forever changing.  Every day, you think you have a plan.  But that plan changes, and you have to be mindful of that."

Schestag came into the industry in boom times before the economy went south.  He soon learned how important it was to be able to adapt.  "The ability to sell fine wine at a higher price point was sometimes challenging," he recalled.  "But the good part about having a portfolio like Palm Bay's is that we have brands that fit every aspect of what a buyer and a customer would want -- from a high-end Amarone or Barolo to your everyday value-driven wine.  The thing that has changed the most in 10 years is the ability to give the consumers what they want at a price point they are comfortable with."

He hopes those young and coming into the industry today will have a less bumpy ride than he had.  Regardless, it all comes down to the hours you put into the job.  Schestag remarked, "There's no real big secret.  You just have to button up and work hard every day.  You have to be personable when you are out there, and you have to take every day as it comes.  At the end of the day, you need to know that you have taken care of the customer first and foremost.  Once you establish a relationship with a customer, it's not a business anymore.  You're not a sales person to an account.  It's a lot deeper and a lot more involved than that.  Once you establish that, you'll want it to last forever."

But few things do last forever, especially in the beverage biz.  Palm Bay, for instance, was Palm Bay Imports.  But the name was changed to Palm Bay International a couple of years ago to reflect the broader scope management would strive to achieve moving forward.  And there is a lot of moving forward at the company.  Schestag concluded, "We're getting into the California business with our very first domestic winery partnership.  That will hopefully be coming the middle of this summer, which we're very excited about it.  Pretty soon to follow that, we're getting back into the New Zealand business. So, the rest of the year should be very interesting!"




HIS TEAM: Baltimore Ravens

PRIZED POSSESSION: His wine collection

]]> (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) May 2014 Editions Thu, 17 Apr 2014 16:02:48 -0400
2014 ABL Conference ABL LoRes.jpg - 621.52 KB

American Beverage Licensees (ABL) will return to Washington, D.C. for the 2014 ABL Conference from June 8th through the10th. The 2014 conference will mark ABL’s 12th anniversary and brings together beer, wine and spirits retailers from across the country as well as representatives from all three tiers of the beverage alcohol industry. 

ABL Executive Director John Bodnovich recently stated, “ABL members will have a great opportunity to flex the retail tier’s grassroots muscles on Capitol Hill while also learning about the issues affecting their businesses from a range of industry leaders, elected officials and policy experts.”

 General session and seminar presentations will focus on some of the most pressing topics facing independent beverage alcohol licensees, such as the evolving regulatory landscape for alcohol; emerging policy initiatives on drunk driving (including proposals to lower the BAC from 0.08% to 0.05% or lower); the impact of new healthcare laws on small business; and the movement for legalized recreational marijuana.

 “Unlike other retail trade shows, the ABL Conference is a unique opportunity for retail beverage licensees because in addition to exploring regulatory, legislative and legal aspects of their businesses and industry, the conference will give attendees a chance to act as citizen lobbyists by meeting with Members of Congress to discuss the issues that matter to them,” said Bodnovich.

The purpose of ABL is to:

l Initiate, promote, and support laws, regulations and rules that preserve and protect the right of responsible on and off premise retailers of beverage alcohol to operate legitimate and lawful businesses without burdensome intrusion. 

l Encourage and promote closer relations among all entities engaged in the responsible sale of beverage alcohol through effective communications, innovative services, and education and training opportunities.

l Educate the public to a higher level of awareness regarding the scope of the licensed beverage alcohol industry.

 For more information on the conference visit ABL’s home on the web,

]]> (Stephen Patten) May 2014 Editions Thu, 17 Apr 2014 15:54:17 -0400