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This is a place to read articles found in the Maryland and Washington DC Beverage Journals as well as thoughts on current issues from our staff. If you would like to be a registered BJ Blogger, contact Stephen Patten.

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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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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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Maryland Beer Loses a Steady Hand in Bob Footlick

If there was a Mount Rushmore dedicated to the Maryland beverage business, surely Robert "Bob" J. Footlick would be one of the faces chiseled on it.  The president of Bond Distributing Co. Footlick died of cancer on June 15 at his Pikesville, Md., home.  Footlick went to work as a beer salesman in the mid-1960s for his future father-in-law, Edward Borow, who had established Bond Distributing Co. at Bond and Thames streets in Baltimore's Fells Point years earlier. After the death of his father-in-law in 1979, Footlick became president of the company and remained in that position until his recent passing.

It was a calling that almost didn't happen, though, as Footlick's first love was the legal system.  He had every intention of becoming an attorney, having earned his law degree from George Washington University Law School where he majored in labor relations. His daughter, Leslie Footlick Schaller, stated, "When he graduated law school, my grandfather looked at him and very astutely said, 'Why in the world would you want to be an attorney when you could be in the beer business?!'"  

Fortunately, her dad agreed, and the rest is local suds history. And like so many in the business today, Schaller owes a big debt to her father and mentor.  Today, she herself serves as Bond Distributing's Director of Media and Marketing.  She stated, "His big concern was creating a company culture where employees were passionate about the business, but also felt excited about getting up and going to work every day and secure in their roles and responsibilities.  Many of our employees are multi-generational.  We have lots of different generations of family members -- fathers and sons, husbands and wives, siblings.  We're very proud to be a 21st century version of a family business that has, over the course of time, also grown to be a $100 million company."

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Boost Sales With Hot New Vodkas

Vodka is the Switzerland of spirits. But who knew something ostensibly colorless, odorless and lacking any perceptible taste could cause such a fuss.
Nevertheless vodka has sparked a heated debate
within the drinks community about its place in
contemporary mixology.

On one side you have practitioners who say the neutral spirit contributes nothing to cocktails but ethyl alcohol and that in almost every instance there’s a more appropriate liquor choice. Furthermore, they contend its weed-like proliferation has stifled the growth of other more worthy spirits and the differences between new marques are growing indistinguishable. 

Those in the other camp counter that denigrating vodka’s neutrality is like condemning an artist’s canvas for being white and unsullied. And like a blank canvas, it has afforded mixologists unlimited latitude, a free-styling creativity that has contributed greatly to the prevailing cocktail culture. Then there’s the fact vodka accounts for nearly 35% of all the distilled spirits sold in the United States, inescapable evidence of its mass popularity. 

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You Can’t Sell from an Empty Cart

Twenty-five or so years ago, the floor, shelves and cooler of Bowie Liquors in Bowie, Maryland was chock full of wine, liquor and beer.  A customer entering the store was greeted immediately by one of the owners, and was asked “May I help you?” If the customer said no, he/she was free to walk the narrow aisles of products to peruse and shop the wide-ranging inventory. The stacks of beer, wine and liquor seemed to be a complete listing of all the products advertised in the Beverage Journal.  But, it was up to the consumer to choose what to buy with or without the owner’s advice.

At some point during this time period, Tony Gentile co-owner of Bowie Liquors said these important words to me - “You can’t sell from an empty cart.”  His words and this thought have stuck with me as being one of those immutable truths of retailing that ranks up there next to the well-worn maxim “location, location, location.”

Prior to joining his older brother Fred and his father Fred Sr. in the retail alcohol business, Tony worked for one of the area grocery chains.  He learned a valuable lesson from that experience.  It was obvious to him that a successful retailer had to have what a customer wanted, when he wanted it or risked losing a sale or even worse losing a customer.

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Heavy Seas Intros 'Fielder's Choice' Lager

It's no mystery that I am a big fan of baseball.  That's why when I heard Hugh Sisson and his crew at Heavy Seas Beer had something in the works to honor the 20th anniversary of Cal Ripken, Jr. breaking Lou Gehrig’s record for the most consecutive games played (2,131), I was flooded with memories of Camden Yards and the absolutely amazing evening that was.

Heavy Seas Beer has created “Fielder’s Choice,” a limited edition American Premium Lager in honor of 'The Iron Man.' The commemorative brew is now available in select stores throughout the Baltimore-region, as well as in-stadium at Oriole Park and Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium.  And --- like Cal --- everything Hugh does, he does with class ... with each case of “Fielder's Choice” sold, Heavy Seas will make a donation to the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation (The Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation helps to build character and teach critical life lessons to at-risk young people living in America’s most distressed communities through baseball- and softball-themed programs).

“Twenty years ago, Cal Ripken Jr. became baseball's Iron Man and Heavy Seas started brewing in Baltimore,” said Hugh. “I am very excited about this project. ‘Fielder’s Choice’ celebrates a milestone for both a great local business and a truly great local sports icon. All Baltimore-area residents can share in these success stories, and indeed, in the hopes for continued success in the future for us all."

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Posted by on in August 2015 Editions
ABL Honors Retailers

Brown-Forman Retailers of the Year were recently recognized for their commitment to the beverage industry. 

American Beverage Licensees was pleased to recognize twenty-one beverage retailers for their success and dedication to the beverage alcohol industry at the 2015 ABL Annual Conference earlier this month.  The 2015 Brown-Forman Retailer of the Year awards recognizes independent beverage business owners who engage in responsible sales and service of beverage alcohol and who are committed to their state associations.  ABL congratulates all of the honored businesses and their proprietors for their outstanding contributions to the industry and their communities.  

This year marks the 13th consecutive year that Brown-Forman, one of the world’s leading distilled spirits producers, has sponsored the awards and made the recognition a truly special event.  

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Posted by on in August 2015 Editions
Baltimore's Inaugural Wine Fest

At the Canton Waterfront Park, a crowd gathered to celebrate Baltimore’s first wine festival. With over 120 wines, gourmet foods from more than 25 local restaurants, and entertainment for the whole family; there was plenty to please anyone’s palate. 

Beth Laverick, owner of B Scene Events and Promotions, was thrilled with the opportunity. She wanted to provide an open air, family friendly environment to bring the city together. And with benefits going towards projects such as the city’s recreational parks, the festivities were going towards a good cause. Even vendors had been staffed by volunteers.

Wines from near and far were gathered to provide tastings on some of the season’s more popular flavors. Winemakers, distributors, and importers all agreed that sweet, fruity wines were the strong suits of the summer. Many of the booths had run out of their white wines first, noting that the younger crowd preferred lighter, more fragrant choices. Selections such as the Sweet Rose presented by Palm Bay were a crowd favorite, as well as the wildly popular Cupcake Moscato, presented by The Wine Group. A few select other groups were spotted, including Heavy Seas Beer and McKenzie’s Hard Cider, which provided a larger range of flavors for those looking for more than just wine.

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National Beverage Brokers

Increasing the Diversity of Drink Choices

Maryland is definitely a diverse state.  The population is diverse, the geography is diverse, and the drinking preferences are most definitely diverse. The Hagerstown-based National Beverage Brokers (NBB) knows this and seeks to cater to that diversity. For a company that specializes in finding boutique to mid-sized importers, producers, and distributors seeking access to both the Maryland and Washington, D.C. beverage markets, that means representing everyone from the small Bordeleau Winery in Eden, Md., on the Eastern Shore to France's Original Gangster XO Brandy, which is fronted by rapper/"Law & Order SVU" star Ice-T.

At NBB's helm is owner Alan Emery, who has been in the sales business for nearly 10 years.  "Our company is a group of salespeople -- eight of us total -- who represent several small distributors," he stated, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "The concept behind this is a salesperson has a difficult time working for a small company.  There is just not enough product to sell usually.  What we've done is gotten some small companies together and we represent them in the state of Maryland and in D.C., as well.  We also help them find new products that we think will work well."

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Posted by on in August 2015 Editions
The Long Hot Summer

I often peruse old editions of the Beverage Journal when looking for ideas for future articles and editorial topics.  I found a very good column recently by Ralph Chase.  Mr. Chase wrote a column during his tenure as editor and publisher entitled “Editorially Speaking.”  I found the below in our July 1967 edition … yes, July 1967 (which happens to be the month and year of my birth).  

I think you will agree that Mr. Chase’s article is particularly interesting, if not amazingly timeless.

“That long hot summer we’ve been hearing so much about is now at hand.  And in the sense this phrase is now used as a threat of civic unrest, we can only hope for the best.  But from the merchant’s point of view, the summer season in years past usually was synonymous with an inevitable “summer slump.” For those in the industry it was a time for some extra beer, gin or rum business, but for the most part, they accepted skidding sales as the inevitable consequence of hot weather and wrote off the summer with the hope that a good Fall season would make up the losses.

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Posted by on in July 2015 Editions
Frank Cheplowitz...

...Has Found a Home at Paul's Homewood Café.   

Annapolis certainly has its institutions that have been around for decades.  The U.S. Naval Academy.  The Maryland State House.  St. Anne's Church.  And Frank Cheplowitz.  Wait ... who?  Those who know the state capital's wining and dining scene know who.  Cheplowitz has been a professional waiter there for nearly four decades.  One of his first gigs was at the old Harbor House restaurant in the City Dock area. That was followed by a nearly 27-year stint at the Maryland Inn, where he did everything from serve guests to manage staff to order the wine.

He made the switch to Paul's Homewood Cafe nine years ago and has served as its head waiter ever since.  The key to his longevity?  "I still love learning about the business!" he exclaimed, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "I love learning about food, about drinks, and about myself.  It's really never too late to learn things.  I also don't stress out about things as much as I did even just a couple of years ago."

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The Frustration of Being a Retailer

After 27 years of working in the alcohol beverage industry and writing about the industry during the past ten years, I have heard over and over again from retailers about the frustrations they experience day in and day out. So with my apologies to all the professional advice columnists out there, let me proceed with a letter from a retailer:

Dear Al,

I can’t sleep at night. I have a landlord who is always looking for excuses to raise the rent, but who is also slow to address complaints and drags his feet when it comes to making repairs. There’s the credit card company who thinks of new fees to charge for their services at every turn.  And the liquor board that wants to tell me one more time how to run my business. But more than any of those things, my suppliers, customers and employees are making me crazy. 

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Donal O'Gallachoir Explains

How Glendalough Is Preserving Ireland's Whiskey Heritage.   

Donal O'Gallachoir was one of five friends who found that they had a shared passion.  No, not for sports or automobiles or a particular brand of music.  What brought them together was a quest to revive the heritage of craft distilling in their home country of Ireland.  

As late as the 19th century, there were more than 200 licensed distilleries in Ireland in addition to countless unlicensed ones.  Until recently, that dropped to a small handful.  But the five friends' Glendalough Distillery is now looking to be a part of a true revival.  Named after one of the most beautiful valleys in all of Ireland, Glendalough Distillery is looking to make a name for itself abroad, but especially here in the States. Initially, the founders started with poitin, the first-ever spirit distilled.  Since then, they have moved on to whiskeys (the Glendalough Single Grain Double Barrel has become an especially hot seller), Irish Single Malts and four wild botanical gins for each season.  

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Posted by on in July 2015 Editions
Icing on The Cupcake

A California Vineyard Learns to Live Deliciously

As children, almost everyone enjoyed cupcakes. They were small indulgences that brought cheer and excitement. One California vineyard is bottling that joy to help others celebrate those little, “simple” moments with surprising depth. 

Cupcake Vineyards, from Livermore, California, started out with a small selection of fruity, creamy wines in 2008. Since, they’ve grown a wide selection that boasts both classics and more modern tastes sampled from around the globe. These wines can form to fit any and all occasions—parties, dinners, small get-togethers, or even a night in. Flavors can range from a playful Red Velvet or Angel Food, to a stately Chianti or Sauvignon Blanc. 

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Posted by on in July 2015 Editions
Golia Vodka

Looks to Be a Horse of a Different Color...

The first thing I noticed when I went to crack open my first bottle of Golia Vodka, the latest hot import from Asia, is the majestic label featuring a winged horse.  While I am quite certain the owners of American Pharoah poured more than their fair share of vodka and other spirits upon winning the Triple Crown recently, I was a little iffy as to what a similarly legendary beast had to do with vodka.  So, I went to the source, Golia Vodka Chairman David Solomon.

"It's a Pegagus to Americans, but called a Wind Horse in Mongolia," he stated.  "In Mongolian folklore, the Wind Horse is conjured up by shamans to take the spirit on its journey to Heaven.  So, what we want people to think of when they are drinking Golia is that they are ascending to Heaven.  You'll see that we also incorporated the Mongolian sun, mountains, the water, and the wheat into our version of this Wind Horse."

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Posted by on in June 2015 Edition
Bottling a Legacy

When people think of wine, what often comes to mind is a sense of tradition, a diverse richness that can speak volumes of its origin. With House of Mandela wine, it is all of that and then some. The wines are not simply juice in a bottle, but the story of those behind it and the rainbow nation of South Africa. 

Each wine contains a distinct piece and flavor of Africa, her history, and her people--from the Royal Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, a red with a rich and opulent palate of sweet-yet-dark fruity notes; to the Royal Reserve Chardonnay, a white that delicately balances citrus fruit and natural acidity with oak integration. For this reason they chose wine as a bridge between the past, present, and future – an appropriate way in which to tell their story, and pay homage to their ancestors.

The House of Mandela is conceived of and led by the women of the Mandela family, Makaziwe and Tukwini (pictured), respectively daughter and granddaughter of Nelson Mandela. They draw much of their inspiration from his words, “I was shaped by the cultural traditions and values of 

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Posted by on in June 2015 Edition
Have a Seat...

...and a Blue Chair Bay Rum:  

On country superstar Kenny Chesney's current U.S. tour, fans can walk through the singer's American Kids bus.  Inside, there are displays that tell the story of the singer's music; his lifestyle; and, most importantly to Beverage Journal readers, his line of flavored Blue Chair Bay Rums imported and bottled by Chesney's Fishbowl Spirits LLC.  "There is an opportunity to taste, as well," said Fishbowl Spirits President David Farmer.  "So fans can come to understand what these rums are all about."

First and foremost, what Blue Chair Bay Rums are about is lifestyle.  Chesney is selling an island vibe that comes through in many of his most popular tunes.  Created at a small distillery in Barbados and launched in April 2013, there were the three initial selections: Blue Chair Bay White Rum, Blue Chair Bay Coconut Rum, and Blue Chair Bay Coconut Spiced Rum.  Before long, Blue Chair Bay Banana Rum came along and was also a hit.  In June, the company is launching Blue Chair Bay Vanilla Rum and Blue Chair Bay Banana Cream Rum.  

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Posted by on in June 2015 Edition
360 Vodka ...

...Connecting With Wounded Veterans:   

It's perfectly fine to buy one's self a drink because you just want to feel good.  Well, if you buy 360 Vodka's latest limited edition bottle, you will more than feel good.  You'll be doing your patriotic duty!  AND, as always, buying 360 Vodka also means you are doing right by the environment as each bottle is made with 85 percent recycled glass, 100 percent recycled paper for the labeling, and the distillery where it was made has its own water treatment plant.

But back to the patriotism part.  The limited edition, 1.75-liter package hit shelves in April, and $1 from each bottle sold is being donated to the Connected Warrior Foundation.  The Annapolis-based organization provides tablet computers and other services to injured soldiers so they can stay connected with their families, friends, and the world when in the hospital or in a rehabilitation program.  A tax-exempt 501(c)3 organization, the Connected Warrior Foundation was founded in 2012.  The group has delivered everything from Kindle devices to Nexus tablets to wounded veterans during their stays at such facilities as Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, the San Antonio Military Medical Center, and Balboa Naval Hospital.  Connected Warrior serves veterans -- whether newly-injured or on the path of recovery over an extended period of time -- who have suffered physical and/or emotional invisible wounds (PTSD) that were received during the course of combat on behalf of the United States.

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Posted by on in May 2015 Editions
The Evolution of Beer Packaging

Draft, bottle or can? Each person has his/her own preference when it comes to enjoying a brew, and each of these beer packages has its own unique history.

Draft Beer was First

Draft (or draught) was the first method of getting beer from the brewer to the beer drinker. In fact, draft beer has been available in kegs for several hundred years. Early on, beer kegs were wooden barrels made by artisans called “coopers.” The barrels they made were large, bulky and much heavier than today’s stainless steel, aluminum or polyethylene kegs, but for the times they allowed large amounts of beer to be transported to local pubs and on ships across oceans.

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The New Maryland Distillers Guild

Guilds come in all shapes and sizes these days, and they have varying missions.  The Screen Actors Guild, for instance, represents the interests of thespians worldwide who appear on the big and small screens.  The Newspaper Guild is a labor union for journalists and other employees of newspapers and currently boasts more than 30,000 members across North America.  The much smaller Lollipop Guild, meanwhile, is tasked with doling out sweet treats as a form of welcome to visitors of the magical Land of Oz's Munchkinland precinct.

The recently formed Maryland Distillers Guild is looking to be all those things -- an industry representative, a de facto labor union, and a welcome wagon -- and more for those artisanal distillers statewide who craft whiskeys, rums, vodkas, and other spirits. Boutique whiskeys and other spirits are surging in popularity with consumers both in Maryland and across the country. Unlike wines whose quality and character are shaped by such things as climate and soil type, spirits can be distilled anywhere with raw materials like barley or sugar to be shipped in if need be.

The distribution model now in place in Maryland basically allows a distiller to sell a limited amount directly to the customer -- three bottles per person each visit.  In addition, distillers can go to distributors to retail their products or apply for a wholesaler’s license themselves.  Of course, each distiller needs state and federal permits. One person who has navigated this process and wants to help others do so is Guild President Jaime Windon, who is also co-owner, along with Ben Lyon, of Lyon Distilling in St. Michaels.

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Posted by on in May 2015 Editions
Troeg’s Cultivator Helles Bock

There is an old wive’s tale that Bock beer is made from the leftover liquid that remains in the bottom of a lager tank.  The notion is pure myth.  The truth is that Bock is a style of lager beer that got its name from Einbock, Germany the town in which it was originally brewed. The residents of Bavaria often pronounced the word einbock as two words ein and bock which literally translated means “goat,” and it is common to see to a picture of goat on the label of a bottle of bock beer.

The term bock doesn’t describe a singular style of beer but rather it refers to a variety of brews including: Maibock (Helles Bock), Eisbock, and Dopplebock. Bock beer was brewed typically in late Fall for consumption at celebrations during the Spring of the year.  

Beer made in the bock style has a higher alcohol content, in the neighborhood of 6-7.5% abv, which is more than most lagers.  Its color can vary from a light brown to a dark, nearly opaque liquid.  In terms of taste, a typical bock beer tends to be on the sweet side due to its high malt content in contrast with a low level of hops. 

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Billy Reilly...Making a Splash in the Fishbowl

One of country superstar Kenny Chesney's biggest hits was "When the Sun Goes Down."  Well, in the beverage biz, the sun has definitely not gone down on Billy Reilly yet.  He's the new Maryland-D.C.-Virginia Territory Manager for Fishbowl Spirits LLC, an independent spirits company wholly owned by Chesney.  Their signature product is Blue Chair Bay Rum.

Reilly believes he's the man to bring this premium-blended spirit, distilled in Barbados and inspired by the singer's relaxed island life, to market in our region.  After all, he was the owner and commissioner of the Fastest Bartender Contest for many years, putting on exciting competition shows all over the Maryland-D.C. area.  He sold that business to some members of his staff.  "It has stayed in the hands of the people who have actually run it, and I am really happy for them," he said proudly, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.

Reilly also operated a small consulting firm which specialized in "out of the box" marketing.  His clients included a number of bars, restaurants, and small businesses.  "I was never far from the business," he remarked.  "I heard about this job opening.  I immediately inquired online, and I made the most of my interview opportunity and landed the position."

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Posted by on in May 2015 Editions
Powdered Alcohol… Palcohol

Expressing deep concern for the health and safety of Marylanders, Comptroller Peter Franchot has announced that a voluntary agreement to ban the distribution and sale of powdered alcohol has been reached with the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association (MSLBA), Maryland Beer Wholesalers Association (MBWA) and the Licensed Beverage Distributors of Maryland (LBDM). 

“This product, by its very nature, presents a significant and untenable risk to the health and safety of Maryland consumers,” said Comptroller Franchot, who serves as Marylanders chief regulator of alcohol. “The likelihood of widespread Palcohol abuse – particularly among underage consumers – carries a real possibility of tragic consequences, which is why I’m so pleased by the industry’s unified response to protect the public from such a dangerous product.” 

The U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau recently approved several labels for Palcohol, a powdered form of alcohol that can be dissolved in a beverage and then consumed. It is expected to be in stores nationwide by the end of summer. Several states have recently passed legislation banning the sale of powdered alcohol. 

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Glendalough Double Barrel Irish Whiskey

Glendalough Distillery, Ireland’s first craft distiller, is leading an exciting Irish whiskey revival with the American release of its new Double Barrel Irish Whiskey. Available in Maryland and Washington, DC via Bacchus Importers, this hand-crafted small batch spirit is a new caliber of Irish whiskey, boasting unique richness and complexity.

“This truly new, unique style of Irish whiskey was born of a wild Irish streak,” said Glendalough’s USA Brand Manager Donal O’Gallachoir. “Like the fiercely independent, Irish monk, Saint Kevin whose image graces every one of our bottles, we are carving our own way with the Double Barrel. This whiskey represents a distinguished sociability—it dares to stand out in a world of copycats and ‘same old’ styles.”

Glendalough Double Barrel Irish Whiskey brings new life to a pre-Prohibition style of Irish whiskey that would be familiar to one’s grandfather. Hand-distilled in a Coffey still from a mash bill of locally sourced malted barley and organic corn, the whiskey gains its distinctive complexity from a year of gentle, steady aging that is aided by the country’s mild maritime climate. The double-aging process combines six months in first-fill American oak bourbon barrels, then graduates to six months in first-fill Spanish Oloroso sherry casks. Before bottling, the cask-strength whiskey is cut with purified mineral-rich water sourced from the surrounding Wicklow Mountains. A year on oak yields the distinctive vanilla thread that runs through this Iight and floral Irish whiskey. The Bourbon barrels impart deep, robust chocolate and caramel notes, lightened on the palate with fruity, nutty notes from the Oloroso casks. The subtle nose is rich with the dark, fruity notes of Christmas pudding, and a sweet and creamy palate resounds richly with honeyed sweetness returning to dry fruit and a gingery, golden finish.

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Increase Revenues Through Backbar Management

A restaurant that doesn’t routinely change its menu always has plenty of open tables. The same holds true for a bar. If you find yourself in need of a financial shot in the arm, consider taking a page from the beverage consultant’s playbook and revamp your backbar. Regardless of the size or concept of your operation, the backbar is your principal and most effective marketing device. Ensuring that it has the most advantageous product mix is a tried and true strategy for boosting revenue and rejuvenating a beverage program.

To that end, here are the important things to consider when renovating your backbar and adding punch to your beverage line-up.

Taking Stock — Over time the inventory at most beverage operations grows to the point of being unwieldy. New products are added to the backbar, while older, slower moving products are allowed to remain on the shelves. The reality is there’s a physical limit to how many products can effectively market on all backbars.

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Weyerbacher Last Chance 120 IPA

When a brewer describes his beer as being a “….full blown hop assault-delightfully lacking in balance,” the beer drinker is clearly forewarned as to what to expect. Without a doubt Last Chance 120 IPA is a hop centric brew, but it is by no means off putting to the beer drinker who prefers a mild pale ale or lager.

Last Chance 120 IPA is one of the Weyerbacher Brewery’s seven, year round beers. Other year round brands include: Blithering Idiot, Double Simcoe IPA, Merry Monk, Old Heathen, Tiny and Verboten. They are all more or less examples of the abundant use of aromatic and flavoring hops as the means of giving each brand its own unique character.

Founded in 1995 by the husband wife team of Dan and Sue Weirbach, the Weyerbacher Brewery has remained true to the owners’ vision of producing full flavor beers of a high quality. Since the beginning, the brewery has had a loyal customer following that over the years has grown exponentially. From its small humble beginnings in a livery stable in Easton, PA, Weyerbacher has gone through several growth iterations. It is now housed in a modern facility with an up-to-date brew house and a fully refurbished Krones bottling line. The owners and Weyerbacher sales team now sell their thirty-one brands in 19 states.

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