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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 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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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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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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Heavy Seas Celebrates New Brew House and 20th Year

Senator Ben Cardin and Heavy Seas founder, Hugh Sisson, were recently joined by many guests including other political leaders, investors, bankers, media representatives, distributors, brewery employees, and friends and family for the official unveiling of the new brew house.  This ribbon cutting ceremony and reception also marked the 20th year for Heavy Seas Beer, formally known as Clipper City Brewing Company. The Senator, using a cutlass sword, cut the ribbon to present the new Heavy Seas brew house. 

The event included a cannon being fired inside the brewery right after the ribbon cutting as well as pints of Heavy Seas beers being served … including the new year-round, CrossBones Session IPA, and the new seasonal, Deep Six English-style porter. 

The new brew house is now fully operating and taking the brewery from producing 200 barrels of beer a day to almost 500 barrels a day, which increases the production capacity by 250%. The term “brew house” refers to the equipment that is used to produce wort, which becomes beer during fermentation. 

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Greg Baird Promoted to President of The  Charmer Sunbelt Group

Greg Baird was recently promoted to President of The Charmer Sunbelt Group; the parent company of Reliable Churchill as well as Washington Wholesale.  

“As our industry has changed these past few years, Greg’s steady direction as Chief Operating Officer has guided us in our vision to be The Distributor of Choice," stated Charlie Merinoff, CEO at The Charmer Sunbelt Group.  “On behalf of our Board and shareholders let me say we are confident Greg has the sound judgment, business acumen, foresight and demonstrated leadership to bring us to the next level and continue our growth and profitability.” 

Greg began his career in the industry with the E&J Gallo Winery, where he spent almost ten years in a variety of roles. During that tenure he was responsible for Gallo’s recruiting and training efforts in the East Region. It was in that role that he recognized the critical importance of sourcing, developing and retaining talent to strengthen the organization. He joined Reliable Churchill in 1990, where he rose through the organization, eventually becoming President in 1999.  In 2007, Greg joined the corporate team, assuming the role of Vice President of Sales for all of Charmer Sunbelt.  After several years of executing supplier strategies and expanding key relationships, Greg was promoted to Chief Operating Officer in June 2010. 

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Help for Small Business Owners is Close at Hand

As a business owner, you may at times feel “stuck.”  Perhaps you can’t get the traction necessary to move ahead; doing the same old thing in the same old way has made you stale or you are just plain tired of fighting the same old battles, or maybe you know what you want to do but you just don’t know how to do it.  Fortunately, there is plenty of affordable and practical help close at hand for Maryland’s small business owners.

Inexpensive Life Long Learning

Maryland can take great pride in its network of sixteen community colleges.  Hagerstown Community College, Maryland’s first community college, was founded in 1946 an innovator in a series of local institutions of higher education.  Most of Maryland’s counties and Baltimore City are home to a central community college campus that is supplemented by other locations convenient to the business community, who may want more specific information and education about a wide array of topics.

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Posted by on in March 2015 Editions
Samuel Adams Boston Lager

What is a brand?  Simply put, a brand is a picture, an icon, words, feelings, beliefs or any notion we attach to a product (person or service).  In the case of Sam Adams “Boston Lager,” it is the beer, the brewery and a marketing genius named Jim Koch, wrapped into one.

Koch is the self-effacing, denim shirt clad CEO and spokesman who is seen often in Sam Adams television commercials.  He comes across as sincere and knowledgeable.  He is both.  After all, it’s his beer and his company.  The company’s marketing engine has carefully crafted the legend that Koch himself comes from a long line of brewers, and in fact, he tells the story that the recipe for Boston Lager is one developed in 1860 by Louis Koch a forebear who owned a brewery in Missouri.

But, Jim Koch is much more than just a brewmaster.  He is one smart guy. Koch holds three degrees from Harvard including a BA, MBA and JD.  Prior to founding Sam Adams with his partner Rhonda Kallman, he learned many lessons about marketing and business strategy while working as a consultant at the prestigious Boston Consulting Group.  Koch, Sam Adams and Boston Beer are a good example of a modern version of the “Horatio Alger” story of American success based on a unique idea, a lot of hard work and a fair share of good luck.

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Babak Pakravan Anything But Common at Penn Commons

Most people who I interview for this column have come to the bar business with similar stories.  "I started bartending in college and fell in love with it" or "My dad owned a tavern, so I grew up in the business."  That's not the case with Babak Pakravan, head bartender at Penn Commons in D.C.  A first-generation Iranian-American, his family's travels took him back to Iran where he had to eventually be smuggled out in 1983.  He tried university life, but dropped out to join the United States Marine Corps. from 1985 to 1989.  After those four years, he went back to college before becoming an officer in the U.S. Army.

He didn't get his start in hospitality until 1995, working various taverns and restaurants in Chicago.  A year later, he moved to the District of Columbia and continued his service in our sector.  "I was on the periphery early on," he recalled.  "I was a dishwasher.  I became a barback.  I worked security.  I worked at Timberlake's for 13 years.  When Timberlake's closed, I came over to Passion Food Hospitality, the group I'm with now."

He initially started working at 10 Penh, a Pan-Asian restaurant, then went to Saba.  He was the bar manager there until it closed, which brought him to Penn Commons, the newest restaurant in the company.  Pakravan believes he has found a home.

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What Glitters is Gold at Heavy Seas Beer

When this journalist suggested to Joe Gold that he was a "beer nerd," the Sales Manager at Heavy Seas Beer in Halethorpe chuckled and replied, "Yeah, I guess I am."  Then, he thought for a moment and proudly declared, "Actually, I'm more of a 'beer explorer.'  I go on beer hunts.  What I do is I keep a beer journal, and I travel the globe looking for fun things to visit beer-wise -- taverns, brewpubs, historic sites.  I tend to plan my trips around beer.  For instance, when I'm on the road for work, I'll do some research as to what's happening that weekend with beer.  If there's a festival or some sort of pub I've never heard of, I'll stay over the weekend just to check it out."

Sorry, Joe.  That pretty much qualifies you for "beer nerdom."  Not that there's anything wrong with that!  After all, how many people get to turn their life's passion into a full-time job.  Gold earned his first paycheck in the brewing business in 1986, working for Young & Co.'s Brewery in London.  His younger days as a lacrosse player had moved him from Baltimore to England three years earlier.  When it came time to get a job, the beverage business there beckoned.

"So much has changed from when I first got involved," he stated.  "I used to walk into taverns in the '80s and say, 'I have this phenomenal beer. It's fantastic. We just came out with it.' And the buyer would say, 'I've never heard of it, and nobody's ever asked for it. Get out of here!' I go in today and tell the buyer, 'Hey, we came up with this new batch of beer. It's fresh off the line.' And the buyer says to me, 'I've never heard of it, and nobody's ever asked for it. I'll take three kegs!' It's the weirdest professional shift I've ever lived through!"

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Black Momma Vodka to Show the Market 'Who's Your Daddy'

You've heard that Secret deodorant is strong enough for a man, but made for a woman? Well, after that woman freshens up her underarms and heads out for an evening on the town, Vanessa Braxton hopes she'll be drinking Black Momma Vodka.  Braxton is CEO and President of the new label, which launched in 2013 as a division of B4MC Group Inc.  On the homepage of her website, she describes Black Momma as "made by a woman for women and still strong enough for any man ... OKAAAY!"

Yes, indeed.  This vodka comes with some sass and five different variations.  There is the popular Straight Vodka, which is filtered from corn through crushed diamond lava rocks; along with a Sour Sop Tea Vodka; a Chai Tea flavor; a Green Tea infusion; a Pomegranate Tea infusion; and, finally, a Peach Tea variation. Braxton stated, during a recent Beverage Journal interview "Women are different, and I wanted to make something that is for us and by us.  It's a male-dominated industry, and that's fine.  I love men!  But our palettes are very different.  I'm a tea drinker, and I always have been.  At the same time, I love vodka.  This is THE product!"

All of the Black Mommas are five times distilled and five times filtered, giving the finished product a clean finish and a most pleasing taste.  "A lot of people think that vodkas all taste the same, but they don't!" Braxton noted.  "We don't add any sugar, there aren't any chemicals, it's all-natural. So, you get that natural sweetness.  I suffer from headaches.  Our process is such that it minimizes headaches that sometimes comes from drinking vodka.  Also, the corn base helps it to be naturally gluten-free."

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Posted by on in February 2015 Editions
SweetWater 420 Extra Pale Ale

Freddy Bensch and Kevin McNerney founded the SweetWater Brewing Company.   The two became friends while attending the University of Colorado.  During college, they developed a passion for beer, and after graduating they headed to California to attend brewing school at the American Brewers Guild.  They then worked at various craft breweries before opening their own brewery in February 1997 near SweetWater Creek outside of Atlanta, Georgia.  In April of that same year, they produced their first brew, SweetWater 420 Extra Pale Ale, and it remains the brewery’s most popular beer.

American Pale Ales are made from U.S. ingredients and are brewed for a careful balance of sweet malt and bitter hops.  They are typically a brilliant gold color, are approachable, and are often considered to be session beers because of their easy drinkability.  They are in complete contrast to the older British style ale, which is darker and has a bitterer flavor profile.

SweetWater 420 Extra Pale Ale perfects the American Pale Ale style with its aromatic and full flavor that is equally weighted in both directions.  The beer pours a rich gold color and has a generous head of foam that sticks around and provides plenty of lacing inside the glass. It gets its gold color and sweet flavor from a blend of Munich malt known for its robust malt flavor characteristics, L40 malt which imparts caramel notes and two row barley malt that supplies the majority of carbohydrates and sugars for brewing and fermenting.

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Active Marketing and Sales

Movie fans are definitely looking forward to Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher reprising their "Star Wars" roles after 32 years when "The Force Awakens" hits theaters this coming December. And just this past week, Sylvester Stallone took to social media to confirm that he would not only be playing Rocky Balboa again, but also John Rambo in a sequel to be subtitled "Last Blood."

Well, the local beverage business has a similar tale of longtime heroes returning to action to tangle with today's young guns. They are Emery Coccia and Larry Brookman. The former has never left. He has been running his Maryland-based independent brokerage, Active Marketing and Sales LLC, since 2005. Overall, he has been active in the beer, wine, and spirits industry since 1971. Brookman, meanwhile, was basically retired after career stints at several companies, the last being Constellation Brands where he was a part of their Spirits Division for 10 years. But late last year, he bought into Active Marketing, and now the two are full partners.

Brookman stated, "God willing, if we stay healthy, Emery and I can do this for at least the next 10 years or however long we want. We're a lot alike. We do business in much the same way, and we know a lot of the same people. His and my goals are very similar. It's not all about the money, especially at our point in the business. We can still make a difference. Emery and I have cloned ourselves. We've duplicated. If both of us are working effectively, we should be able to cover a LOT more territory and build a LOT of brands!"

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Protect Your Livelihood, Get Involved

The Maryland 2015 Legislative session begins in less than a week (it is January 9th as I type this … very much looking forward to the Industry Opening Day Legislative Reception being held on January 14th; look for full coverage in the March edition of the Beverage Journal).  

I recently attended the Baltimore County Licensed Beverage Association’s (BCLBA) ‘Meet & Greet’ at Hightopps Backstage Grille in Timonium (see page 34 for coverage of this event). The Meet & Greet offered Baltimore County licensees an opportunity to meet with their elected officials (many newly elected). There is no doubt that chain store legislation is a concern of the entire industry … it was the topic du jour of many conversations.  Chain stores being allowed to enter the Maryland marketplace is a dangerous prospect to the independent beer, wine and liquor retailer.  I was told over and over again 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 a quick ‘How To’ …

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’ livelihoods.  They do this right at their web site, www.mslba.org.  

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The hardest skill to teach a new bartender is how to bite your tongue.  I can teach you how to stir, I can teach you how to shake, and I can teach you drink recipes.  But there are customers who are, by their nature, just plain difficult.  You could make them the perfect drink based off of what they said, and it's just not going to be good enough."

So laments Trevor Frye, Beverage Director for the Jack Rose Dining Saloon in Washington, D.C.  But that's about the only lament Frye has these days.  According to him, he is in his dream job.  "I'm one of the lucky people," he stated, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "I actually feel happy when I'm going to work."

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Posted by on in January 2015 Editions

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At this time of year, retail shelves are stocked with brightly packaged Christmas Beers. The packages, the labels and perhaps even the name contain the word Christmas, but what is Christmas Beer?  It’s one of those questions open to interpretation and opinion to which there is no definitive answer.  Some might reason it is a beer for drinking during the Christmas Holiday.  Others might suggest that it is a spiced beer with aroma and flavor common to holiday desserts; and, still others might say it is a higher alcohol beer brewed especially for the Christmas Season.  Regardless of the definition, Christmas beer has a long and interesting history.

Whether it was pre-Romans, the Druids or Scandinavians celebrating the Winter Solstice, holiday beers have been around for a very long time –thousands of years in fact.  Strongly brewed beer intended to be shared with friends and family became the norm in Europe during the late Middle Ages.  The beer of the time often contained spices, herbs or fruit and plenty of alcohol.  It was a special brew made for the season and to make common folk feel both warm and happy at the same time.  This idea is not entirely new, and could have been a storyline in a Charles Dickens’ novel.

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Posted by on in January 2015 Editions

At first thought, the idea of sour beer seems neither appealing nor appetizing.  But, to the contrary, the sour beer style has gained popularity among sophisticated beer and wine drinkers who appreciate the complexity of its many flavors

Just as the nuances of single malt Scotch are too difficult to appreciate the first time, learning to enjoy the flavor of any complex beverage often requires certain background information before it becomes an acquired taste. But once acquired, it is a taste to be savored and enjoyed over and over again.  It is much the same with sour beer.  In order to appreciate the sour notes that range from tart to puckery to darkly sour, it is important to know something about the subject before embarking on the sour beer journey.  Although it may seem an unusual analogy, it may come as no surprise that a first attempt at enjoying sour beer is much like attending an opera being sung in a foreign language. Without a libretto in hand, it is difficult to follow the story line. Similarly, it is useful to have reference points to guide you as you sip one of the many sour beers now available in the marketplace.

Belgium
The Home of Sour Beer

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The next Maryland General Assembly Session is scheduled to convene in January, and it will be one marked by change.  Big change, in fact, as a very large turnover of elected officials is about to happen.  Yes, indeed, Annapolis is getting an influx of new faces, not the least of which is Governor-elect Larry Hogan.  The Republican defeated Anthony Brown back in November, running on a platform in which he promised a new era of hope and bipartisanship in the Old Line State.

Beverage industry interests are hoping also for a new era of cooperation and recognition of their contributions to Maryland.  The Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association (MSLBA) is poised to be especially active in tugging the ears of Hogan and others.  In a recent interview with the Beverage Journal, attorney and MSLBA lobbyist Steve Wise acknowledged, "There is going to be a 'settling in' period.  We have a lot of new legislators.  We have a new governor, and there will definitely be some turnover on the various committees that we deal with.  The first thing we'll be doing is assessing all of that."

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People tell me all of the time that I have a great job, writing about beer, wine, and spirits for the Beverage Journal each month.  No argument there.  But do you know who has a REALLY great job?  Tim Herlihy, the National Brand Ambassador for Tullamore D.E.W. Irish whiskey.  And he knows it.

“I am in the very lucky position that I get to travel from coast to coast, city to city, and always with a bottle of Tullamore D.E.W. in my hand,” he stated, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  “It’s a nice way to travel, by the way! I’ve been lucky enough to go to 27 states and [Washington, D.C.] in my three years in this role, and I’m still absolutely baffled that I’m fortunate enough to get paid to enjoy my favorite Irish whiskey. My role is basically to introduce and re-introduce people to our liquids.  So, I host a lot of different tasting events. Unfortunately, although I am an ‘ambassador,’ that doesn’t mean I have any diplomatic immunity.  So, I have to behave!”

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Marcus Notaro (l) with Kevin Bonner; The Center Club.

Pretzels and beer are an unbeatable combination.  So, too, are whiskey and rye.  And certainly wine and cheese.  Just before Thanksgiving, another unbeatable combo hit the Maryland-Washington, D.C. market in the form of Marcus Notaro of Stag's Leap Wine Cellars and our own Fran "Pineapple" Schmitz.  Schmitz ushered Notaro around to several major accounts to press the flesh and talk up the Stag's Leap label.

"Every time I've come to the market," stated Notaro, during an interview with the Beverage Journal, "I've had the privilege of working with Mr. Pineapple. He has never failed to deliver me to some world-class establishments. When I have done wine dinners here, the folks who attend are very passionate wine consumers. They are very knowledgeable, and they travel. People in the D.C.-Maryland area not only know about Napa Valley wines, but wines from around the world.  There's also a surprising number of our wine club members here.  So for me to be out in their market and to be able to tie them back closer to our winery is pretty special."

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Posted by on in January 2015 Editions

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This past November market the 100th anniversary of the first bottling of Freixenet, a name known as one of the world’s leading producers of sparkling wine made in the traditional méthode champenoise (and accounts for 80 percent of all cava exports). The Ferrer family has been behind the Freixenet name from the beginning and has shaped their family-owned company, the Freixenet Group, with the promise to produce and share uniquely-crafted, quality wines, and has successfully done so while utilizing innovative winemaking techniques and unique marketing strategies throughout the past century. The Ferrers’ approach in the global marketplace and emphasis on quality in all of their wines have helped mold their legacy of excellence in the United States, one which is exemplified by the recent launch of their new luxury cava, Casa Sala Grand Reserva Brut.

A vintage cava hand-crafted using century-old techniques, Casa Sala is a passion project of José Ferrer Sala, President of Honor of the Freixenet Group and has been released as a tribute to the centennial of the first bottling of Freixenet . All aspects of production are managed by hand—from harvesting by hand and manual pressing, to riddling and disgorgement.

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The Center for Alcohol Policy (CAP) recently commemorated the 81st anniversary of the ratification of the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution.

On December 5, 1933, Prohibition ended in the United States when 36 states (the requisite three-fourths majority of the then 48 states) ratified the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution, thereby repealing the 18th Amendment which began Prohibition in 1920. For 80 years, the United States and its citizens have benefited from a state-based system of alcohol regulation, put in place following ratification of the 21st Amendment, which gives each state the primary authority to enact and enforce alcohol laws consistent with the desires and needs of its citizens.

“It’s important for citizens to understand that the repeal of the failed, one-size-fits-all policy of national Prohibition was not the end of the story – it’s where the story of today’s successful system began,” said Patrick Lynch, CAP Advisory Council member and former Rhode Island attorney general. “The 21st Amendment recognized that alcohol is a unique product that is best controlled by individual states, and it provided a solution that continues to be effective today.”

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Lucien Smith didn't come to Annapolis in 2003 to be a bartender. He came because he was accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy. But a sailor's life was not for him. He ended up voluntarily resigning from the Academy to pursue other interests. But there was something about Maryland's capital city that kept this former Californian around. He took a job as a catering bartender in Timonium, then found work right back in Annapolis as a bar-back at the Castle Bay Irish Pub on Main Street. By then, he was hooked on the biz!

In 2007, he was hired at Osteria 177 to be their service bartender. He's been there ever since. "It was here I began to extend my cocktail knowledge through self-study and a desire to continue on this career path and to excel in it," he recalled, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal. "I'm now a Certified Mixologist through Bar Smarts and Pernod Ricard. "

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Posted by on in December 2014 Editions

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With the launch of Guinness American Blonde Lager, the Guinness Brewery is taking a page straight out of a college marketing textbook.  When a mature product begins to decline, the brand owner has the option of trying to rejuvenate an iconic brand, or it can add a new product to the product line and trade off the strength of the existing brand.  Guinness wants to accomplish both objectives.

Sales of Guinness Stout, similar to other popular global beer brands, have been on the decline in recent years.  Younger beer drinkers who haven’t actually tried the brand have a perception that it is heavy, filling, too alcoholic and loaded with calories.  Although none of these perceptions are entirely accurate, it is a short leap from perception to reality.  Unfortunately for iconic Guinness Stout, the brand is also burdened with a stigma of being “my father’s beer”.  And, as consumer goods manufacturers are beginning to learn, Millennials want to be different from their parents’ generation.

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MarcZTeddyBullyBar 12.jpg - 216.54 KBMarc Zahorchak, Beverage Director at the Teddy & The Bully Bar in Northwest D.C. didn't come to the nation's capital in the early 1990s to tend bar.  He had an MBA degree and found work as a management consultant.  But then the recession that ushered in the Clinton era hit, and he suddenly found himself downsized and unable to find a job.

"A buddy of mine suggested that I get involved with the restaurant business at night to keep the cash flow going while looking for another job," he recalled during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "I absolutely fell in love with the business!  I was hooked from the first day I got behind the bar and have been doing it for more than 20 years now."

He tended bar at Charlie Palmer Steak on Capitol Hill for nine years and also served as the original bar manager for Hook in Georgetown.  He has been full-time at Teddy since August 2013.  " I came in about two months after they opened up," he stated.  [Proprietor] Alan Popovsky  was looking for someone to kind of corral and bring bar costs in line.  More importantly, I think he wanted someone with my experience to come in and teach the younger mixologist-types."

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Hard cider has emerged as one of the fastest-growing segments in the alcoholic beverage industry, and among the fastest-growing brands in that segment are Pennsylvania-based Wyndridge Farm's Crafty Ciders. Now available in Maryland, the two Crafty Ciders -- original apple and cranberry flavored -- are naturally gluten free with a refreshing taste.

Crafty Ciders separate themselves from other hard ciders by making ample use of the local bounty of quality apples found in the Keystone State's central region. Wyndridge Farm President Steve Groff says he and his full-time cider master, Scott Topel, keep their ingredients simple. Chiefly, Wyndridge Farm prides itself on not adding any excessive amounts of extra sweeteners.  Groff stated during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal, "Many of the commercial hard ciders start with either apple juice concentrate rather than full juice or their alcohol is made with sugar. We simply use fresh apple juice.  We source local apples just a few miles down the road.  We carbonate and package on the farm.  So, the whole process takes place right here." 

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Posted by on in December 2014 Editions

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Tequila doesn’t circumscribe the entire range of Mexican spirits. Paralleling the growth of tequilas is the resurgence of artisanal mezcal, bacanora and sotol. As the points of distinction between the multitudes of tequila brands diminish, consumers are discovering the profound nuances in flavor and levels of complexity in these traditional agave spirits engaging.

“I think the ongoing renaissance of mezcals to be directly related to the phenomenal success of tequila,” says Barbara Sweetman, vice president of ultra-premium Scorpion Mezcal. “Certification has greatly helped to advance the reputation of mezcal by requiring that it be made from 100% agave and produced under strict quality guidelines. Mezcal is also protected under Denomination of Origin status. The spirit now can be consumed with confidence and complete enjoyment.”

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Mike Rizzo is in charge of all things baseball for the Washington Nationals.  Chuck Hagel is in charge of all things defense for our country.  And what about that other great Washingtonian, Jon Arroyo? "In a nutshell, I am in charge of everything that is liquid for the Founding Farmers Restaurant Group," he stated.

As the company's Beverage Director since its inception six years ago, he truly is responsible for not only all of the beer, wine, and spirits served at Farmers Table D.C., MoCo's Founding Farmers in suburban Potomac, Md., and a soon-to-open location at the upscale Tysons Galleria II mall in Northern Virginia, but also the three restaurants' coffee program, their tea program. "Everything!" he exclaimed, "Every liquid product. I love the juggling act that is my job. There are lots of moving parts, lots of chess pieces."

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Patrón Spirits has inaugurated a buy-the-barrel program called "Patrón Barrel Select" where spirits retailers and on-premise accounts are able to taste and choose their own bespoke barrel (about 27 cases) of aged Patrón tequila unique for them. Each barrel has been in the company's aging room for a specific period of time.  As a result, no two are alike.

Greg Cohen, Vice President of Corporate Communications for Patrón Spirits, recently sat down with the Beverage Journal to discuss the program.  "The way that tequila is produced and aged and blended from different barrels is such a challenge," he stated.  "Our master distiller and his team blend different barrel types, different wood, different lengths of aging to create those products.  We thought it would be really interesting if we gave people an opportunity to sample those different tequilas that are aging in those different barrel types over the different lengths of time, on their own ... just straight out of the barrel. Each is very unique. When they are blended together to create reposado, for example, that's the taste that people know is Patrón.  But when you taste those barrels individually, and there are so many different combinations, you get really distinct and different tastes.  It's still Patrón.  It's still very recognizable.  But you get a lot of different flavors and a lot of different complexities."

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Where do you stand on the debate? Some contend that the best results are obtained by educating bartenders, not training them, that the days of training people stops at the potty. They suggest that what bartenders need is a steady diet of education. Others argue that while some aspects of the job require continuing education, technical proficiency is a strict matter of training and guidance.

Then there’s the third possibility, that being they’re all wrong. The practical reality is that bartenders require training, education and a healthy dose of something called applied leaning, or savvy.

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