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Yellowstone Bourbon Debuts Select Landmark Edition Bottles

limestone branch Yellowstone Bourbon Landmark Edition Bottles whiskey bottle label

Limestone Branch Distillery celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Yellowstone bourbon brand with the Yellowstone Select Landmark Edition Bottle series.

This new line features six different scenes from the national park that inspired the brand.

Available now at retail, bottles of Yellowstone Select Bourbon include:

  • Lower Yellowstone Falls (original image)
  • Old Faithful
  • Grand Prismatic Spring
  • Minerva Terrace
  • Roosevelt Arch
  • Lamar Valley

Named after the country’s first national park, Yellowstone bourbon originally rolled out in 1872. Limestone Branch Distillery later relaunched the brand, and continued the tradition of supporting the park through an ongoing partnership with the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA).

To date, Limestone Branch has donated nearly $210,000 to the organization, the company says. From Jan. 1 to Nov 30, 2022, Limestone Branch will donate $1.50 to NPCA for each bottle of Yellowstone Whiskey sold, representing a guaranteed donation up to $30,000.

“We’re proud of our brand’s long history honoring its namesake national park, and we are thrilled to pay further tribute through our Yellowstone Select Bourbon Landmark Edition Bottle series,” says Limestone Branch Brand Manager Caitlin Palmieri Jackson. “Our iconic label featuring the Lower Yellowstone Falls has created a connection with fans of both our brand and the park. The Landmark Edition Bottle series was created to expand upon that connection, as the different landmarks are likely to inspire different memories among consumers of the brand, who are now able to choose the bottle/label that is most special to them.”

Limestone Branch Distillery produced a limited number of cases with a random assortment of all six Landmark Edition Bottle labels.

Yellowstone Select Landmark Edition bottles are available nationwide at a suggested retail price of $39.99 per 750-ml. bottle, until supplies last.

This new series follows the release of the 2021 Yellowstone Limited Edition Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.

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Kentucky Bourbon Festival Names New Board of Directors Members

Kentucky Bourbon Festival Names New Board of Directors Members bardstown 2022 dates tickets attend

The Kentucky Bourbon Festival has announced three new board members for 2022. The board recently updated its bylaws to include more representatives from across the bourbon industry. 

The new members include Jane Bowie, director of innovation at Maker’s Mark; Dan Callaway, vice president of hospitality and product development at Bardstown Bourbon Company; and Cordell Lawrence, chief operating officer at Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co.

“We could not be more excited to have such a creative, qualified and enthusiastic group of new Board members joining us,” says David Mandell, chairman of the board and head of the nominating committee. “The Kentucky Bourbon Festival is constantly evolving and these new board members will help us continue to produce the best bourbon experience for our customers.” 

Bowie, alongside Rob Samuels, introduced Maker’s Private Select, a single barrel program. Bowie spearheads every aspect of the Wood Finishing Series Experience. Bowie was the first international employee at Maker’s Mark and became its Global Brand Ambassador, introducing bourbon across five continents. 

Callaway enjoys “crafting immersive experiences for guests that highlight both cuisine and distillation,” the organization says.

Lawrence brings knowledge from working with heritage brands and a craft distillery. From global marketing and strategy to operations at Peerless, Lawrence is the first craft representative to join the board. His family’s Kentucky roots date back nearly 250 years.

The new board members join existing members including Randy Prasse, KBF president and COO; David Mandell, president of Kentucky Owl Real Estate and co-founder of Bardstown Bourbon Company; Melissa Horton, senior manager of corporate events at Heaven Hill; Donald Blincoe, president of Buzick Construction Inc.; Tony Kamer, distillery operations manager at Lux Row Distillers; Samantha Brady, executive director of the Bardstown-Nelson County Tourist and Convention Commission; and Andrew Wiehebrink, director of spirit research at Independent Stave Co.  

The 2022 Kentucky Bourbon Festival is Sept. 14-18 in Bardstown, KY. This year, the festival expands with the addition of the Bourbon Capital BBQ Challenge at Dant Crossing June 10-11, 2022.

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10 Craft Beer Trends in 2022

craft beer trends 2022 pandemic covid-19 covid how will perform state of

Covid-19 significantly upended the craft beer industry. Before the pandemic, one of the top craft beer trends was the rise of taprooms as a primary source of profits. Suddenly, the industry did not seem so overcrowded. The escalating number of breweries became less worrisome, because every local brewery could operate as a neighborhood bar, relying on taproom sales rather than fighting for limited space on retail shelves.

Then Covid arrived. National lockdowns incluided taprooms. What had been the lifeblood for so much of the industry — and a vital source of customer feedback on new beers, driving innovation — abruptly disappeared. Staff layoffs began. The outlook grew grim. Breweries scrambled for new business models.

Ecommerce, curbside pickup and direct-to-consumer delivery all proved vital during the pandemic. As did increased canning for off-premise sales, both through the brewery and retail.

The industry adapted quickly, and impressively.

But the health crisis still did significant damage. Craft beer consumption shrunk by 8.6% in 2020, according to Beverage Information Group’s 2021 Beer Handbook. And it’s unlikely that 2021 saw significant improvement.

“Craft beer was certainly soft in 2021 vs. 2020, due to large comps from pantry-loading behavior and competition from RTDs, seltzer and cannabis,” says Founders Brewing Co. Director of Market Development Chad Atherton. “Supply chain and cost of goods affected profitability, and logistics have presented significant challenges.”

“Craft beer was certainly soft in 2021 vs. 2020, due to large comps from pantry-loading behavior and competition from RTD’s, seltzer and cannabis,” says Founders Brewing Co. Director of Market Development Chad Atherton.

So what happens next? The industry will continue to evolve with Covid.

Taprooms have come back online, albeit in limited form. Meanwhile, new threats have emerged.

The aluminum shortage squeezed canning lines. Staffing declines crimped businesses. Inflation increased the cost of everything. Perhaps most imposing is the spirits category, with the modern whiskey boom, and the meteoric rise of ready-to-drink cocktails.

This industry has experienced a tumultuous past few years, defined by rapid adaptation. The future appears similarly challenging, but with lots of rewards for breweries that navigate correctly.

With all that in mind, here are 10 craft beer trends we see for 2022.

Brand Building Remains Critical

This dominant trend from recent years has only grown in importance since the pandemic. Breweries across the country have cut down product lines in order to put considerably more marketing efforts behind a small core set of brands. Building these flagship products remains key in 2022 for standing out among the crowd — especially as more consumers embrace ecommerce.

“Brand building is the whole game, now,” says Sam Hendler, co-founder of Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers. “When consumers shop online, they only see an alphabetical list of beer inventory on retailer websites. There’s nobody there to sell consumers the next new thing in a digital environment like that.”

“If you’re brand is not top of mind for the consumer, it is what it is online,” he adds. “You need someone to type in your brand into a search engine. Brand building has become the number-one weapon with the closures and limitations of taprooms.”

Without pre-pandemic levels of customer experimentation happening in taprooms, brand building has also become an important way to spur consumer trial.

“These brands have name recognition,” says Bill Covaleski, co-founder of Victory Brewing. “When you have consumers who already enjoy the original version, that customer is going to be intrigued by the same brand name on a variant.”

“Brand building is the whole game, now,” says Sam Hendler, co-founder of Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers. “When consumers shop online they only see an alphabetical list of beer inventory on retailer websites. There’s nobody there to sell consumers the next new thing in a digital environment like that.”

IPAs Remain King, But Cracks Emerge

There is no doubt what beer style is most popular in America. IPAs, in their manifold forms, are still out in front.

“IPA’s are here to stay,” says Atherton of Founders. “Hazy and Imperial styles are leading the charge, and creating a lot of room for innovation. Hop profiles have become a prominent attribute that consumers gravitate towards, and can also add significant nuance to flavor profiles.”

However, the IPA craze of recent years has perhaps cooled off just a little bit.

“IPA’s make up more than 40 percent of the total craft beer industry, and until recently were growing at a rapid clip. That growth has largely stalled out recently, with most remaining growth in the Hazy IPA and the Imperial/Double IPA styles,” observes Brooklyn Brewery CEO Eric Ottaway. “While I don’t think the consumer love affair with hops is going to disappear any time soon, there does seem to be a bit of a shift to lighter drinking styles like pale ales or pilsners.”

That said, there’s no end in sight for consumers’ overall embrace of IPAs.

“What’s the future of IPAs? That’s like asking, ‘What’s the future of red wine?’ Hop-forward beer is thousands of years old . . . there’s an enduring future for IPA,” says David Walker, co-founder of Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

Agreeing with him is Dogfish Head Founder and CEO Sam Calagione.

“The IPA category will continue to grow faster than all other styles,” he says, “and it will continue to fragment into sub styles, like Hazy and Imperial, which I think will continue to be the fastest growing sub styles next year.”

“What’s the future of IPAs? That’s like asking, ‘What’s the future of red wine?’ Hop-forward beer is thousands of years old . . . there’s an enduring future for IPA,” says David Walker (left), co-founder of Firestone Walker Brewing Co, seen here with co-founder Adam Firestone.

Low-cal/No-cal Beers

The “healthier for you” drinking trend has extended into craft beer. More breweries now offer low- or no-alc options.

“We’re continuing to develop new beers in the easy-to-drink, lower-alc area,” says Sean Lawson, CEO and founder of Lawson’s Finest Liquids, in Vermont. “We have a new low-cal pale ale. We’ve never even had a pale ale in our lineup. It’s 5% ABV, made with all Vermont ingredients.”

Helping fuel this trend is a big leap forward in the quality and variety of flavors in nonalcoholic beer. Partake is a craft brewer out of Canada that specializes in this style, with a full array of craft offerings: IPA, DIPA, Pale Ale, Blonde, Stout, Gose, Red (AKA: an amber ale) and more. 

“When we started, we began with two constraints,” recalls Partake Founder and CEO Ted Fleming. “We had to get our beers below that 0.5% ABV threshold to be considered nonalcoholic, and we wanted to get correct taste profiles outside of lagers, as before all of this, most nonalcoholic beers were lagers.”

“We dug into the category and helped make it a lot better,” he adds. “The varieties you see now in nonalcoholic beer are reminiscent of where the craft beer category was 10 to 15 years ago. There’s more innovation and imagination in this category right now than there has ever been before.”

As more consumers enter this category — either through experimentation or healthier diets, or both — look for product innovation to continue. Brooklyn Brewery recently released what they call the first nationally available nonalcoholic beer variety pack.

“We’ve seen this culture of trial and experimentation around all beverage consumers but especially those who are interested in the low/no alcohol space,” says Samantha Itzkovitz, VP of marketing at Brooklyn Brewery. 

The Fight for Ecommerce and DTC

Ecommerce has become crucial for breweries. The ability to sell beer online — whether for onsite or curbside pickup, or shipping directly to consumers (DTC) — has allowed producers to move beer even during the worst parts of the pandemic. This required legislative changes for the benefit of the industry. To their credit, state politicians across the country quickly passed these new laws to grant the lifeline of craft beer DTC.

But as vaccines roll out and new Covid variants (hopefully) lessen in severity, what becomes of these laws? After all, politicians proposed them as temporary — only necessary due to the severity of the pandemic. With the world reopening, and many retailers and distributors opposing DTC, will these laws survive?

Expect craft beer to put up a fight.

“There will be a huge push for DTC,” says Hendler of Jack’s Abby. “Those battles have already begun in state houses nationwide. It’s going to be different, state by state. It’ll be ugly. Hopefully we’ll be adding flexibility through DTC, but it’s going to be choppy depending on the state.”

Agreeing with him is Covaleski of Victory.

“Ecommerce is a massive opportunity, but the middle tier has legally established privileges,” he says. “Ecommerce is still a long game, to say the least. In the near term, consumers appreciate the convenience and assurance of DTC. We like Drizly and Gopuff, which both operate legally within the three-tier system.”  

However, the economics of craft beer ecommerce do not necessarily translate on a national level.

“Beer is heavy, so that the shipping cost-versus-value equation is pretty difficult,” says Ottaway of Brooklyn. “So the idea of shipping beer all across the country from a central warehouse somewhere for the most part doesn’t work, either legally or financially.”

“That being said, various home-delivery models have developed that are connecting local retailers with consumers,” he adds. “Those models are having success and really benefited from everyone being at home during Covid.”

“Ecommerce is a massive opportunity,” says Bill Covaleski (right), co-founder of Victory Brewing, pictured here with co-founder Ron Barchet. “Ecommerce is still a long game, to say the least. In the near term, consumers appreciate the convenience and assurance of DTC.”  

Taprooms Remain Important, Limited

As we learned to live with Covid-19, and standardized safety measures, more people returned to taprooms.

While not matching the boom times before 2020, these on-premise sales do help the bottom line, while nurturing new products. Producers can pour their latest innovations fresh, and judge consumer response before brewing bigger batches and/or scaling for retail.

“Trial happens on-premise,” says Covaleski. “Off-premise volume happens thanks to trial at on-premise. Without on-premise, it’s a challenge for all beverage businesses.”

For this reason, the industry needs consumers to return in strong numbers at all on-premise channels.

“Pubs and restaurants are the ‘live theatre’ of our world; it’s where we tell our stories and showcase our beers,” says Walker of Firestone Walker. “Without them we are somewhat weakened. We need them back strong and healthy.”

On-premise is just as crucial now as before the pandemic.

“Taprooms remain critical to the survival of breweries,” says Hendler of Jack’s Abby. “On-premise is coming back. I don’t see it coming back to 2019 levels, but I do think it largely comes back.”

And what does that look like? After all, consumers have spent years now shifting their buying habits online.

“It’s changed the experience of dining out,” says Hendler. “It puts a challenge on us. Hospitality is something that’s real. Customers still want impactful, positive experiences. They don’t want the beer hall to be purely interactions between people and their phones.”

Inflation and Shortages

Among the most daunting challenges for craft beer, and global business in general, is lingering inflation and product/packaging shortages. Both follow the economic fallout of Covid-19 and our shaky financial rebound. Packaging materials of all kinds — especially cans, labels and glass — remain in short supply while their prices spike.

“Disruption from inflation and shortages really is the big story right now,” says Lawson of Lawson’s Finest Liquids. “There’s really higher cost pressure on everything right now, from raw ingredients to packaging to the cost of labor.”

Complicating matters, one of the leading can producers in America, Ball Corporation, has significantly changed its prices and procedures. Costs of cans rose greatly beginning Jan. 1, while warehousing and shipping services narrowed in a way that may squeeze out smaller breweries.

“It looks like they’re getting out of working with craft breweries not doing large volumes,” Lawson suggests. “I think smaller breweries may have to move to more-expensive forms of packaging, like shrink-sleeve cans. But those already cost three times more than printed cans from Ball. And who knows what the pricing on shrink-sleeve will look like moving forward. That could go up, too.”

It’s hard to imagine these price increases not passing onto consumers. Especially in a time of mass inflation.

“We’re getting letters of annual price adjustments, and pricing will be a major issue in 2022,” says Hendler of Jack’s Abby. “We have items going up 30 to 50%. These are not marginal pricing issues. A lot of this is tied to the current shipping rates. So if that eases, then prices could go down. But the reality is that there’s no end in sight.”  

Another major shortage in 2022 is staffing. Unfortunately, this, too, shows little sign of correcting in the near future.

“Restaffing has not been easy,” says Hendler. Jack’s Abby operates a 7,000-square-foot beer hall and 6,000-square-foot beer garden in Framingham, MA. “The employment market was tight pre-Covid, and then there was a colossal event where hospitality employees were laid off or furloughed. Then those people were hired by other industries not as affected by Covid. On-premise couldn’t hire until the vaccines began, and that was spring 2021. Every other industry got a nine-month start on hiring.”

“Disruption from inflation and shortages really is the big story right now,” says Sean Lawson, CEO and founder of Lawson’s Finest Liquids. “There’s really higher cost pressure on everything right now, from raw ingredients to packaging to the cost of labor.”

Lagers: Slow But Steady Growth

The breakout of craft lagers has long been predicted. While a number of consumers have consistently loved this style, it has always taken a back seat to IPAs. And not for nothing, IPAs are generally more profitable and easier to brew than lagers.

But as modern drinkers continue expanding their palates, lagers have gained momentum. Their popularity has steadily continued in recent years. There’s no doubt they remain relevant in 2022. Many breweries now offer classic German and Eastern European styles like helles and pilsners, which can act as a gateway into craft for drinkers of macro beer.

“Lagers will continue to grow,” says Hendler of Jack’s Abby, which only produces lagers, (their sister brewery, Springdale, makes ales.) “Beer drinkers like drinking golden lager. There’s still more golden lager sold than any other style, and that will always be so.”

Sours: Still a Profitable Niche

Take a time machine back before Covid-19, and nearly every brewery at beer fests in 2019/early 2020 poured two IPAs and a sour. While that second IPA would now likely be a lager, the appeal of sours has only risen in the past few years.

“We have one of our bigger bets in 2023 on a sour expansion of our Golden Monkey line,” says Covaleski of Victory. “It will have the standard 9.5% ABV of our Golden Monkey line, and will be driven by a raspberry flavor. It’s an exciting launch for us.”

Sours typically have light and fruity flavors similar to wine or cocktails, which helps expand craft beer’s demo. These beers have generated sales nationwide.

“Fruited sours have been popular recently,” says Atherton of Founders. “We are also seeing a shift back to high-ABV beers, especially those that have added flavor components such as fruit, coffee, chocolate, spices and barrel-aged.”

Sours also fit into the low-cal, less-abv movement in craft beer. With appeal across multiple demos and trends, this category is well-positioned for 2022.

Diversity and Inclusion

Mirroring the alcohol industry and our country overall, craft beer has recently considered its own ranks and consumer base, and recognized the need for improved diversity and inclusion. Progress has followed.

“The Black Lives Matter movement was a wakeup call for craft brewers to the need to do more to actively promote diversity and inclusiveness in what has been an overwhelmingly white, male-dominated industry,” says Brooklyn Brewery CEO Eric Ottaway.

“The Black Lives Matter movement was a wakeup call for craft brewers to the need to do more to actively promote diversity and inclusiveness in what has been an overwhelmingly white male-dominated industry,” says Ottaway. “While we at Brooklyn Brewery have always been more diverse than many, still we were motivated to do more and we launched two new initiatives. The first was started by our Brewmaster, Garrett Oliver.  He launched the Michael James Jackson Foundation for Brewing & Distilling to support technical educational and career advancement for BIPOC people.”

“The second big initiative that had already been in the works for a while was through our partnership with the Stonewall Inn,” he adds. “Together we launched the Create Space program to support grassroots activists fighting for LGBTQ+ rights around the world. The Create Space program has been launched globally through many of our international partners as well.”

Black is Beautiful is a collaborative effort in the brewing community to bring awareness to injustices that people of color face daily.

In Connecticut, Jamal Robinson, director of sales at New England Brewing Co., working with Sacred Heart University, helped launch NEBCO African American Brewers Scholarship and The Connecticut Brewers Guild African American Brewing Scholarship. Both aim to bring more people of color into the industry.

“Craft beer represents a huge part of American culture, and billions of dollars in economic impact, that only a very small percentage of people of color get to benefit from,” Robinson says. “This scholarship provides an equitable opportunity to diversify who is brewing and drinking craft beer. It also diversifies what the space looks and feels like as a whole. This creates an industry that is more comfortable and welcoming to everyone, while creating more drinkers, more qualified employees and, best of all, an even bigger economic and cultural impact that benefits more people.”

It’s an important cause with much further to go.

“Craft beer traditionally has a diversity and inclusion problem,” says Nico Freccia, co-founder and COO of 21st Amendment Brewery. “Women and minorities are highly under-represented in both craft brewery ownership, production, and as a targeted consumer. While there is more and more attention on this every day, and things are improving, craft beer has a long way to go to appeal to more drinkers and to be more inclusive in its workforce.”

“Craft beer represents a huge part of American culture, and billions of dollars in economic impact, that only a very small percentage of people of color get to benefit from,” says Jamal Robinson, director of sales at New England Brewing Co. “This scholarship provides an equitable opportunity to diversify who is brewing and drinking craft beer.”

The Fight Against RTDs

Are RTDs an existential threat to brewing? Certainly they pose a problem. Many stores stock RTDs at or near the craft beer section. Worse, the pandemic-fueled spike in RTDs has these products eating into craft beer space.

Do RTDs even belong in this section? Or should these premade drinks find room elsewhere?

The answer to this question, defining this grey area, will significant impact the craft beer industry. After all, RTD cocktails grew 35.1% in volume in 2020, according to IWSR Market Analysis, which also predicts that RTDs will reach 22% market share of total alcohol in the U.S. by 2025.

“Seltzers and RTD’s are here to stay,” says Freccia. “The alcohol beverage consumer wants more choice, and wants different beverages for different occasions. Craft brewers will need to pivot and be more nimble about bringing products to market that are in the beer-adjacent space. And whoever stumbles upon the next big thing will catch lightning in a bottle.”

Other brewers concur.

“RTDs are very important,” says Calagione of Dogfish Head. “The beyond-beer space is growing faster than traditional beer, and craft breweries have the creative recipe development experience across all kinds of grains, fruits, spices and fermentable sugar sources to be impactful in these fast growing sectors.”

“Seltzers and RTD’s are here to stay,” says Nico Freccia, co-founder and COO of 21st Amendment Brewery. “The alcohol beverage consumer wants more choice, and wants different beverages for different occasions. Craft brewers will need to pivot and be more nimble about bringing products to market that are in the beer-adjacent space.”

What’s Next for Craft Beer in 2022?

Despite these challenges, craft beer remains a resilient, dynamic industry.

“The future is bright,” says Walker of Firestone Walker. “Small brewers have been the most enduring brewing model in the history of brewing. It’s been like this for centuries: great beer, locally made and freshly consumed in the community it was brewed. Hard to beat.”

Sharing his sentiment is Ottaway of Brooklyn.

“The days of big double-digit growth every year are gone, but that doesn’t mean craft beer won’t continue to be an important part of the beer conversation,” he says. “In many ways, what craft brewers brought to the table 35-plus years ago, which was the reintroduction of flavor into the beer conversation, is what will continue to drive the segment. It’s just that those flavors will range further and farther than ever before, and they will cross all kinds of boundaries both within and outside of traditional alcohol.”

“It’s a more challenging environment than in a long time,” Ottaway adds, “but it’s also more exciting.”

Craft beer may have suffered during the pandemic, but should be in good shape for recovery as Covid-19 recedes in earnest.

“Craft beer has had a lot of challenges during Covid: Loss of craft volume, changing consumer habits, and increased competition in the alcohol beverage space,” says Freccia of 21st Amendment Brewery. “But retailers are already talking about how they’re looking to devote more shelf space to craft beer in 2022. And as more and more on-premise outlets open up post-pandemic, we should see craft make a strong rebound.”

Photo by Jon Parry on Unsplash.

Kyle Swartz is editor of Beverage Dynamics magazine. Reach him at kswartz@epgmediallc.com or on Twitter @kswartzz. Read his recent pieces, 12 Beer and Beverage Products to Watch from NBWA 2021 and What if the Future of Beer . . . Isn’t Beer?.

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Dogfish Head Launches Where the Wild Hops Are IPA

Dogfish Head Where the Wild Hops Are IPA craft beer
Dogfish Head Where the Wild Hops Are IPA.

The latest release from Dogfish Head is Where the Wild Hops Are IPA, part of their annual Off-Centered Art Series.

Where the Wild Hops Are IPA is an unfiltered, hazy IPA made with four hop varieties. It’s available now, nationwide.

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery’s Off-Centered Art Series is a yearly collection of four limited-edition beers featuring artwork by a different collaborating artist. The brewery’s featured artist for 2022 is Max Mahn, a printmaker and illustrator from Missoula, Montana. His work includes gig posters for My Morning Jacket, Ween, Wilco, Disco Biscuits and more.

“I’ve been drawing weird things for as long as I can remember,” said Mahn. “Most of my posters are based off lyrics or the general sound/aesthetic of that specific band. Those things don’t exist for a beer. For beer, I’m personally creating the aesthetic for that specific drink. So, it was fun to think up different imagery and stories that would in the end define the beer itself.”

Where the Wild Hops Are is 6.5% ABV. The hops bill included Zappa, Amarillo, Comet and Sabro, blended with a touch of wild ale aged for four years in French Oak barrels.

The result is a blend of citrus meets dank, the company reports, rounded out by a bit of wild funk. The beer has a hazy pale gold color, slightly tart-yet-juicy fruit flavors and dry, oak-tinged finish.

Mahn’s label artwork for Where the Wild Hops Are features an old-school box trap baited by a large hop cone.

“Here at Dogfish Head, we see brewing as a work of art; the creative interaction between traditional brewing, off-centered techniques and high-quality culinary ingredients being our medium and drinkers, our muse,” says Sam Calagione, Dogfish Head Founder & Brewer. “We were so excited about Max’s interpretation of Where the Wild Hops Are that we decided to create a limited-edition, long-sleeve T-shirt and a gig poster of our own, so drinkers can not only taste the art through the beer, but they can also wear it or display it in their home.”

Dogfish Head’s 2022 Off-Centered Art Series includes Where the Wild Hops Are, the brewery’s existing Punkin Ale and two other all-new innovations, Mandarin Orange & Mango Crush and Crimson Cru.

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11 American Whiskey Trends in 2022

What whiskey trends will define the new year, as American consumers continue evolving with the long-term effects of Covid-19?

The pandemic has left its marks in all industries, distilling included. Numerous trends have emerged in American whiskey during the crisis. Perhaps most important was consumers, sheltering at home, who had more time to research and explore through everything this category has to offer. Suddenly, everybody became a bourbon aficionado.

Our thirst for whiskey has spiked to historic highs. But how long will this new golden age continue? And what does this elevated consumer enthusiasm portend for the year ahead? Below are 11 whiskey trends that we believe will define 2022.

Single Barrel Picks

Perhaps the hottest trend in whiskey last year was single barrel picks. These gave clubs, influencers and retail stores the ability to buy and bottle their own juice. Consumers and fans flocked to these picks, which often came waxed and dressed in a silly sticker.

“We’re doing more single barrel picks now than before Covid,” says Woodford Reserve Master Distiller Chris Morris. “This program provides high-quality whiskey with an aspect of personalization and uniqueness to it.”

That uniqueness is key in a time when finding and buying the trendiest brand-name whiskeys has never been harder. Good luck getting anything Buffalo Trace these days. If you cannot acquire these kinds of “unicorns” or “taters,” but still want something unique, then single barrel picks are an easy-to-find special bottle for your collection.

After all, these are rarer than any allocated product. Coming from a single barrel, they’re one-of-one, never repeated. And you do not have to break the brank.

Beyond providing uniqueness at an affordable price, single barrels also allow retailers to highlight their skills.

Single barrel store picks are “a great way for retailers like us to show off our palates,” says Caroline Paulus, whiskey historian at Justins’ House of Bourbon and senior editor of The Bourbon Review.

“They’re a great way for retailers like us to show off our palates,” says Caroline Paulus, whiskey historian at Justins’ House of Bourbon, and senior editor of The Bourbon Review. Justins’ House of Bourbon is among the leading retailers of whiskey picks in the country. “And usually these picks are reasonably priced, and something different to drink.”

“Every single time, these are bourbons you’ve never had before,” she adds. “And that’s what many consumers want these days.”

‘Sourced Whiskey’ is Sought After

Not long ago, words like “sourced” and “MGP” were vulgar terms. Looked down upon in whiskey culture. Not anymore. In a 180-degree turn, consumers now hunt down brands that source good whiskey. People now know that “MGP” and other sourcing houses mean “quality,” which in turn has fueled a rise in new brands.

“Sourced whiskey is a necessity for young brands,” says Mike Montgomery, CEO and cofounder of Blue Run Spirits, which launched in 2020 with several sourced offerings. “It fills a void while the distillate we’re distilling becomes mature.”

Handled properly with transparency and creativity, sourced whiskey has proven a popular product.

“There are creative approaches that companies like Blue Run can take on sourced whiskey that the distilleries themselves might not,” Montgomery says. “For instance, we launched a 13-year sourced bourbon at 113 proof. You’d be hard-pressed to find a distiller proofing those bottles anywhere above 95 proof.”

A big part of the backlash against sourced brands years ago was a distaste for any dishonesty about where the product was distilled. Modern brands now know better.

“We’ll be as transparent as we can legally be,” says Montgomery. “We can’t disclose the exact distillery it came from, or sometimes even the mash bill. But on our most recent release, we could disclose the mash bill. That was a first for us.”

Penelope Bourbon is another fast-emerging sourced brand. Again, transparency is at the heart of their operations.

“We only work with MGP, and they’re great partners and mentors,” says Penelope CEO and Cofounder Michael Paladini. “We’ve got nothing to hide. These people make great whiskey. We look at this as an advantage, not a negative.”

Like Blue Run, Penelope is creative with products they source. “We always wanted to be viewed as blenders,” Paladini explains. “We’ve tried to put our own spin on what we’re doing with the MGP juice. When you can take good juice and give it a unique profile, that’s how you build a strong brand.”

“We only work with MGP, and they’re great partners and mentors,” says Penelope CEO and Cofounder Michael Paladini. “We’ve got nothing to hide. These people make great whiskey. We look at this as an advantage, not a negative.”

Whiskey Consumers Grow Smarter

Consumer knowledge of whiskey has never been higher.

For everyone who doesn’t understand the difference between “bourbon” and “whiskey,” there’s now another who can name and describe each Four Roses mash bill. Stuck at home during the pandemic, whiskey fans studied like prepping for a final exam in bourbon. Their enthusiasm for fine details is unprecedented.

“I think it’s fantastic. There’s so many avenues now for people to learn from: YouTube, podcasts, social media, magazines,” says Paulus of Justins’ House of Bourbon. “More and more bourbon consumers are making the pilgrimage to Kentucky. They come in ready to learn, and they’ve already learned so much.”

Whiskey Tourism Explodes

Want to know how much longer is left in our current whiskey golden age? Look to Louisville. The number of new distilleries has grown exponentially, while existing producers have enhanced their tourism capabilities considerably. During the lockdowns of 2020, Buffalo Trace quadrupled the size of their visitor center. Heaven Hill snipped the opening ribbon on their own $19-million visitor center expansion this summer.

Even during these later stages of the pandemic, people have flocked to Kentucky for distillery tourism. Louisville and Bardstown have become the new Napa and Sonoma valleys. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail expands continuously. Visitors pack into buses that stop at nearly every distillery. Bachelor and bachelorette parties crowd Louisville bars. Business is booming.

“Kentucky is within a day’s drive of a huge portion of the U.S.,” Paulus points out. “Whiskey tourism was exploding for us before the pandemic. We had guests coming from all over the world. And we’ve bounced back, stronger than ever. I’ve seen huge numbers of people rolling through. It’s crazy how many people come to Kentucky and want to buy a bottle of bourbon — or 20 or 30 bottles.”

Of course, American whiskey also attracts strong tourism beyond the meccas of Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee.

“Whiskey tourism will continue to grow,” says Paul Hletko, founder and distiller at craft pioneer Few Spirits, in Evanston, IL. “Something about whiskey gets people really excited to learn more about it. And there’s no better way to learn than to see it firsthand, smell the stills and understand where the products come from.”

“Whiskey is a story in a glass,” he adds. “Whiskey can transport you to a different place, and that inspires people to dive deeper.”

More Barrel Finishing

With so much demand for American whiskey, brands have expanded their lines through barrel finishing. These different takes on a distillery’s core products provide what consumers crave most: variety.

However, many distillers and blenders do urge caution about over-innovation through finishing. You can risk turning away customers with too many different options, as happened in craft beer some years ago.

“They’re a lot of fun, barrel finishes, but you can fall down a rabbit hole with that stuff,” says Paladini of Penelope. The company’s recent cask finishes include grenache and rosé wine. “As a company, you’ve got to be different, but there are different scales of that. I think finishes work better as limited releases. If that goes well, then you introduce them as a core expression.”

Echoing his concerns is David DeFazio, cofounder of Wyoming Whiskey.

“What concerns me is the distillery that has not mastered their base product and then use barrel finishing to mask imperfections,” he says. “That does the industry a disservice. A ‘sherry bomb’ finished whiskey that masks mistakes — that’s a Band-Aid. Consumers who pick up that bottle, it’ll make them turn away from the category.”

However, for distilleries that have already fine-tuned their base spirits, DeFazio sees finishes as a natural extension.

“Now they’re looking for a barrel that can enhance their product,” he says. “They want to show off a level of sophistication that the distillery has, and a point of differentiation. People today are looking for something different. These distilleries are saying, ‘If you already like our base whiskey, pick up this double barrel release to see what Oloroso does to our whiskey’.”

“People today are looking for something different,” says David DeFazio, cofounder of Wyoming Whiskey. “These distilleries are saying, ‘If you already like our base whiskey, pick up this double barrel release to see what Oloroso does to our whiskey’.”

Premiumization and Innovation

Barrel finishing and innovation are part of a bigger trend that has fueled the modern whiskey boom from the beginning. That is: premiumization. Consumers are willing to pay up for pricier bottles.

“Customers are telling us that that’s what they want,” says Nicole Austin, general manager and distiller at Cascade Hollow Distilling Co., maker of George Dickel Tennessee Whisky. “People have a taste for affordable luxuries to treat themselves. And something like a nice spirit fits right in that. So I think that part in particular, premiumization, is going to continue to grow.”

This “treat yourself” mentality has only grown during the challenging years of the pandemic. Affordable luxuries have helped us endure this difficult time.

“As a former liquor retailer, we learned firsthand that new products are the lifeblood of retail,” says Jay Erisman cofounder and distiller at New Riff Distilling.

Interesting, premium innovations have also driven growth in the industry. “As a former liquor retailer, we learned firsthand that new products are the lifeblood of retail,” says Jay Erisman cofounder and distiller at New Riff Distilling. “But there’s a difference between truly innovating and just pushing SKUs on retailers. That’s not innovation.”

The Whiskey Boom Continues

Burying the lede here for whatever suspense is possible, but the consumer enthusiasm explored above has likely already given away this 2022-defining trend. Ask around the industry, and everyone — everyone — predicts more good times ahead for American whiskey.

“I think we’re still in the meat of it,” says DeFazio. “It certainly seems like whiskey — bourbon in particular — has hit the mainstream. Educated consumers and tastemakers led the initial charge. We’re past that stage now. Those initial people have folded in their friends, who have picked it up and liked it and it’s spreading.”

“It also seems to that investment from major suppliers has not slowed down,” he adds. “We’ve upped our own production, based on our bullish view of the future.”

To his point, leading distilleries around the country have invested many millions in operations in recent years. Both Buffalo Trace and Woodford Reserve are currently amidst expansions that will double production. Beyond its new visitor center, Heaven Hill also invested $106 million in production, including new barrel warehousing, a bottling line and equipment upgrades.

The craft side of the industry also sees sunny skies ahead.

“I don’t see any signs of things slowing down,” says Hletko, former president of the Board of Directors for the American Craft Spirits Association. “I think we’re going to continue to grow for a while. We’re still below the high-water mark for whiskey volume in America. That mark was set 50 years ago, and with 50 years of population growth, I think whiskey volume can continue to go up.”

“Calendar year ’22 should be a great year for craft spirits as more consumers collectively discover what we’re about,” Hletko adds. “We are offering what people want. Whiskey is far from the only category that’s hot — I’m looking at you, agave — but so far you don’t really see that heat in other categories.”

Additionally, with tariffs against American whiskey dropped as the European trade war concludes, U.S. distilleries can have even more avenues for continued growth.

Diversity and Inclusivity

The whiskey industry — like much of the country — has made great strides in recent years to improve diversity and inclusivity. More work remains, but this category seems ready to shed old, false stereotypes in favor of the realities and benefits of a broader group of participants.

On one hand, this is about justice. This is about offering equal opportunity for all employees and consumers in American whiskey. Opportunity that did not always exist.

On the other hand, this is another avenue for growth.

“There’s so much diversity growing in the category now,” says Austin of Dickel. “We’re not just adding same on top of same, but widening the category in a way that I think is going to bring a lot of people into it. So there’s still tons of growth ahead for American whiskey.”

This includes leadership growth, as a diverse, new crop of decision-makers like Austin move into prominent roles. For instance: Elizabeth McCall, who in 2018 was named Assistant Master Distiller at Woodford Reserve.

“It is a joy to have someone like her who wants to come in and contribute her own ideas,” says Morris of McCall. “Elizabeth is really passionate about grains. She’s interested in the different corns, and initiated our small grains program, working to bring rye back to Kentucky. She has taken off on a whole new avenue that I couldn’t do myself. That makes our bandwidth so much broader.”

“There’s so much diversity growing in the category now,” says Nicole Austin, general manager and distiller at Cascade Hollow Distilling Co. “We’re not just adding same on top of same, but widening the category in a way that I think is going to bring a lot of people into it. So there’s still tons of growth ahead for American whiskey.”

Pain from the Glass Shortage

Covid-19 has roiled production and shipping industries worldwide, including American whiskey. Distribution remains disrupted. Perhaps even more threatening is the lingering glass shortage. Obtaining bottles for product is no simple task.

“The glass shortage is definitely a challenge,” says Hletko of Few. “It’s one of the things we’re going to get over. The marketplace will equalize with time, but there will be short-term pain.”

“Nobody wants to buy extra glass, but you have to now, and that delays everybody else,” he adds. “It’s a non-virtuous cycle. It’s real, and it’s going to affect product availability and pricing.”

Compounding matters, the costs of buying and shipping glass have risen significantly during the pandemic.

“Suppliers can’t eat all those costs,” Hletko says. “That stuff does have to get passed on.”

Nobody foresees an imminent fix.

“People keep saying that the supply-chain issues could be felt for years, and I do think so, myself,” says Paladini of Penelope. “I think we’re still in the first inning of wild and crazy times.”

To his point, paper labels, cork and other closures all remain in short supply during this time of disruption.

“The glass shortage is definitely a challenge,” says Paul Hletko, founder and distiller at Few Spirits. “It’s one of the things we’re going to get over. The marketplace will equalize with time, but there will be short-term pain.”

Social Media Shapes Whiskey Culture

Influencers on social media already held large sway over consumer sentiment. Now, another growing area of the online ecosystem has gripped whiskey culture.

The size and number of whiskey groups on social media has spiked during the pandemic. People stuck at home and passing time on their phones and computers joined these groups in droves. Across the country, groups for cities, regions or states have doubled, tripled or even quadrupled in membership. Reaching thousands of people in a single group has become common.

“New Jersey is a great showcase,” says Paladini (Penelope is based in the Garden State). “Before Covid, Jersey had maybe one bourbon group. By the middle of 2020, I think there were 20 and 30, each with 300-400 members. And the groups continue to explode in numbers.”

Naturally, this affects local whiskey markets. When a bottle becomes trendy in a group, posted by everybody, it disappears from retail shelves. Good luck finding Blanton’s, E.H. Taylor, JD 10 or A Midwinter Night’s Dram. Want a Weller? Wish upon a star.

At the same time, social media has allowed brands to grow faster, and connect personally with consumers unlike ever before.

“We want to get to know and have real interactions with our consumers,” says Montgomery of Blue Run Spirits. “I personally answer people on social media. I’ll include a personal detail. If I see they recently took a trip, I’ll say, ‘I hope you enjoyed your vacation’. We’re trying to be part of the family.”

That family is increasingly comprised of hard-core fans on social media. Savvy brands tap into these collective consumers, as the social media groups grow in size and influence.

Whiskey Prices Continue to Rise

Follow any of these groups and it’s among the hottest talking points: whiskey prices are going up, up, up, up, up.

Retailers increasingly stock trendier brands for prices that people pay on secondary. On social media, these shops have received the derogatory nickname, “museum.” Enter to see the rare, dusty exhibits — behind glass, and at prices you couldn’t possibly afford — and then exit the museum. (But someone must be buying, right?)

These “museums” now skip the middleman: the lifeblood of the secondary market: the flipper.

In defense of flippers: It should come as no surprise that whiskey has developed a robust secondary market. Wine has had one for a long time. Same with countless other hobbies with high-end, limited products: cars, knives, watches, Pokémon cards. Big demand with limited supply means that sought-after-items naturally rise in price. And people look to profit.

Yes, it’s unfortunate that the secondary market prices more people out of obtaining trendy bottles. But this is not a sign of a broken system. Much the opposite, a big secondary market indicates that whiskey is flourishing.

And are higher prices even that bad? Mocking “museums” can be fun, but these stores do reflect the massive demand for American whiskey. And that demand would not sustain if products failed to meet expectations. The best of American whiskey showcases world-class quality and consistency. Like Grand Cru wines, it’s worth the higher cost. Watch someone who shelled out $400 for Weller Full Proof take a sip (as I once did at a charity auction) and you will not see disappointment in their eyes.

“Some Scotch bottles can fetch $50,000,” says Paulus of Justins’ House of Bourbon. “With bourbon, only a few brands can fetch those prices right now. Looking at MSRP alone, bourbon is still so far behind the rest of the world. I’d like to see more bourbons valuing themselves at that I think bourbon is worth. A lot has changed. Paying $3,000 for a whiskey was inconceivable 20 years ago, when there were only nine distilleries in Kentucky, struggling to stay afloat.”

And yet, not all whiskey is highly priced.

“It’s real mixed depending on where you are,” says Austin of Dickel. “You’re seeing rising prices on some whiskeys. That’s us as consumers of high-end whiskeys looking at it narrowly. In the category in general, there’s still a lot of affordable whiskeys out there.”

“That’s something I personally take pride in, trying to provide whiskey at a fair price,” she adds. “Of course, I don’t control what happens at retail. And I definitely don’t control what happens in the secondary market. So I think regardless of my thoughts on the subject, they’re all going to go on and continue to do what they do.”

Add in continued disruption of shipping and production, and whiskey prices will almost certainly head higher in 2022. Some retailers may still stock trendy bottles at or near SRP, but these “honey holes” are drying up fast.

That’s because the product is amazing, everybody wants it and there isn’t enough. The quality of American whiskey has never been better — and consumer demand never greater — with no end in sight. Long live the modern golden age of American whiskey.

Kyle Swartz is editor of Beverage Dynamics magazine. Reach him at kswartz@epgmediallc.com or on Twitter @kswartzz. Read his recent pieces, 7 Craft Whiskeys to Watch From the Kentucky Bourbon Festival and Interview: Picking Whiskeys with Justins’ House of Bourbon.

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Navy Hill Cocktail Mixers

Navy Hill has added two new flavors to its lineup of half-tonic half-soda mixers.

The new flavors, Blood Orange, and Grapefruit Soda, are on shelves now across the country and available online. Navy Hill Sodas are available at more than 3,000 retailers nationwide including: Whole Foods, Publix, Amazon and navyhill.com

Navy Hill Co-founders Jenny Lucas and Katie Williams describe their mixers as the first “sonic” (blend of club soda and tonic) on the market, as well as the first cocktail mixer with electrolytes for hydration. The mixers are 17 calories and 5 grams per cocktail (Blood Orange has 40 calories), are all-natural, with no artificial sweeteners and no high fructose corn syrup, the company says.

Blood Orange is made with agave, real blood orange juice and a hint of lime. Pair the tangy citrus flavor with rum, tequila, vodka or enjoy it on its own over ice.

Grapefruit Club Soda has tart flavors and a hint of sweetness, the company reports. With 5 calories per bottle, drink it over ice or use it to make a Paloma.

Other flavors include Original, Ginger and Juniper.

Each case contains 16 bottles. Bottles are 8.45 ounces. A 16-pack makes 32 cocktails, and retails for $49.99 or approximately $1.50 per cocktail.

Founded in 2017, Navy Hill is named after one of the seven hills of Richmond, Virginia.

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Sierra Nevada Hop Splash

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Sierra Nevada Hop Splash.

In time for dry January, Sierra Nevada has released Hop Splash.

Hop Splash is a sparkling water with 0% ABV.

Sierra Nevada designed this product for consumers who enjoy the taste of craft beer IPAs but want to avoid alcohol.

Sierra Nevada Hop Splash also has 0 calories and 0 carbs.

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Interview: A Look Into Brown-Forman’s Sustainable Practices

Organic, carbon neutral, sustainable, green, renewable, earth-friendly. These terms and practices have come to the forefront for consumers and companies like never before as climate change threatens the way we live and do business.

Sustainability is a key initiative for many beverage alcohol producers as they and their customers become more interested and aware of how things are made and the impact on the environment. Here’s a closer look at the sustainability strategies and corporate cultures of one industry leader. We recently spoke with Suzette Anne Carty, director, global environmental sustainability, Brown-Forman Corp.

BD: How does sustainability fit into your company culture?

Suzette Anne Carty: Here at Brown-Forman, across our brands, sustainability has long been an integral part of our culture, as we execute our vision of growing our brands responsibly while protecting the environment on which we depend. This past summer we launched our 2030 Sustainability Strategy with new environmental commitments that serve as a roadmap to advance sustainability, reduce the company’s environmental footprint and increase our positive impact on the community and environment.

We have broadened our focus beyond owned-business operations to include our supply chain, where the majority of the company’s environmental footprint resides. Our commitments are centered around four pillars:

1) Climate Action: Reducing greenhouse gas emissions

2) Water Stewardship: Protecting the health of key watersheds and create net positive water impact

3) Circular Economy: Maintaining zero waste and integrating circular economy principles

4) Supply Chain: Reducing the environmental impact of our product packaging; creating a resilient and agile agricultural supply chain; conserving existing hardwood forests.

This has caused much excitement for us as this new strategy gives all of our business a roadmap to further integrate sustainability into the way we work. Our Global Travel Retail group recently used this strategy to develop their own plans, including removing 100% of single-use plastic from promotions by 2023, and a reduction of 50% in gift packaging by 2027.

We also recently launched a Sustainable Packaging Council to collaborate across brands on sustainable packaging projects, identify sustainable innovations, engage in continued education to internal and external stakeholders, and ensure sustainability remains a focus throughout the organization.

Suzette Anne Carty, director, global environmental sustainability, Brown-Forman Corp.

BD: What recent initiatives have you undertaken to promote sustainability?

SAC: One of the most exciting projects we’ve recently undertaken is at our Jack Daniel Distillery. We have partnered with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Duck River Electric Membership Corp. and Nashville-based solar power producer Silicon Ranch to provide our Lynchburg, TN, operations with 20 MW of solar energy. The agreement will provide nearly three quarters of the distillery’s electricity needs, and will make Jack Daniel’s the first distillery to participate in TVA’s Green Invest Program. This project complements the company’s renewable energy investment in wind power, and continues to demonstrate our commitment to renewable energy and to our community.

In Europe, for our Slane Irish Whiskey brand, we are collaborating with Slane Estate in Boyne Valley, County Meath, Ireland, the Conyngham family (who own the estate) and forest management consultancy Veon on a sustainable forestry project. This will improve existing woodlands on the Slane Estate through an active management plan, and plant additional woodland area and hedgerows to protect barley fields and connect existing woodland stands.

BD: In what ways are your practices sustainable?

SAC: We are on a journey to reach 100% renewable electricity by 2030. We’ve invested in solar at the Jack Daniel Distillery and Sonoma Cutrer Winery. Our Benriach operations in Europe purchases 100% renewable electricity from the grid.

We invested in a wind-power project through a power purchase agreement, which is now adding renewable energy to the U.S. grid. The wind power generated represents more than 98% of our U.S. operations’ electricity needs. The renewable energy credits support our renewable energy goals.

Zero waste continues to be the foundation to crafting our spirits and wines. Distilling continues to be a low-waste process as we find beneficial use for our byproducts. Agricultural byproducts like agave fibers and wood chips are burned for fuel. Spent grain is used as animal feed. Materials like cardboard and glass are diverted for recycling.

We achieved our zero-waste-to-landfill goal across our production facilities and now our next priority is to integrate circular economy principles into our business that will allow us to go beyond zero-waste to a regenerative approach where resources are continually reused.

BD: How do you partner with the beverage community to promote sustainability?

SAC: We continue to engage with others in the beverage community as we share best practices and develop solutions together. Our peers have similar goals to ours, and so we’ve been a part of groups such as the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable, Kentucky Distillers’ Association, Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. and the Scotch Whisky Association.

Most recently, as a part of our actions on climate, we joined the Race to Zero with the Scotch Whisky Association, committing to work together to achieve net zero greenhouse gases in our operations. Race To Zero is a global campaign to rally leadership and support from businesses, cities, regions and investors for a healthy, resilient, zero carbon recovery that prevents future threats, creates decent jobs and unlocks inclusive, sustainable growth.

Melissa Dowling is editor of Cheers magazine, our on-premise sister publication. Contact her at mdowling@epgmediallc.com, and read her recent piece, Why Brandy is on the Upswing.

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Interview: What is Sustainably Grown California Wine?

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The Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing (CCSW) certification is among the top accreditations for sustainably produced wine in the country. Introduced in 2010, the CCSW is administered by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA), a nonprofit leader in promoting sustainable winegrowing practices within California’s wine industry.

For a deeper dive into the topic, we recently spoke with CSWA Executive Director, Allison Jordan.

Beverage Dynamics: Why is sustainable winemaking so important?

Allison Jordan: Sustainability, in general, is important because it allows us to continue on as socially responsible winemakers, making high-quality wines for generations to come. It allows us to be good neighbors and employers. It really is good on so many levels, protecting our natural resources while promoting climate-change mitigation.

BD: What does a CCSW certification mean for a wine?

AJ: It means that the winery and vineyards continues to operate sustainably within stringent requirements. It means that an annual third-party audit confirms 144 vineyard and 105 winery best practices using the CCSW. The audit also checks for 60 vineyard and 41 winery prerequisite practices, with a requirement of exceeding an overall score threshold of 85% of all scores being ‘Category 2’ or higher on a 1-4 scale.

For instance, there are certain restrictions on crop protection materials. Our metrics measure and track water, energy and greenhouse gas emissions for wineries, and water and applied nitrogen for vineyards. We identify impacts and find areas for improvement.

BD: How do you educate people on this topic?

AJ: We’ve always focused on industry communications. Although the program officially started in 2001, it wasn’t until 2010 that we first allowed wineries and vineyards to use our certification. We walked the walk before we talked the talk.

We offer a one-hour, free California Sustainable Winegrowing Ambassador Course, which educates the people who work in tasting rooms, sommeliers, retailers, media and more about what sustainability means.

In the simplest ways, retailers can provide information and shelf talkers in-store to educate consumers.

We launched a new website in April 2021 — californiasustainablewine.com. This explains what our certification means. It has a searchable database of certified wineries, wines and vineyards, plus a ‘visit’ function to see which places are open to visitors.

BD: What’s the consumer demo for sustainable wine?

AJ: Right now I’d say that Millennials and Gen X are most interested. Gen X is often overlooked, as it’s a smaller generation, but they certainly understand the importance of how things are grown and made.

There was a Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) study conducted that found only a small percentage of the population doesn’t actually care about sustainability. With the rest of us, we each fall on a different part of the spectrum.

Some consumers are more likely to pay more for sustainable products. Others think more about personal health, what they ingest. There’s another group that cares about sustainability because they’re trendy and practical. But most people consider sustainability important.

Another study found that one-third of active wine consumers are interested in or have recently purchased sustainable wine.

BD: What’s next for this category and cause?

AJ: More visibility is needed for climate action. We’ve reached an industry tipping point where climate change is always in the conversation. 

As for right now, 80% of California wine is made at a certified sustainable winery The CCSW covers about one-third of total California vineyard acreage. If you include other certifications, it’s more than half of vineyards that are certified. We’re really proud that our certification — and sustainability — have been so warmly embraced. 

This interview was edited and condensed for publication.

Feature image by Maja Petric on Unsplash.

Kyle Swartz is editor of Beverage Dynamics. Reach him at kswartz@epgmediallc.com or on Twitter @kswartzz. Read his recent piece, What Will Alcohol Retail Technology Look Like in 2022?

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How Much Do Consumers Care About Sustainable Alcohol?

As part of our quarterly industry surveys, the Beverage Information Group asked readers of Cheers, Beverage Dynamics and Beverage Wholesaler about their own sustainable products and practices, as well as how environmentally conscious consumers truly are. We’ve chosen a few highlights from those survey results here:

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