by Micah Cheek
Home brewing kits are becoming a popular gift for hobbyists, but marketing and selling the kits poses some unique challenges. Patrick Bridges, Vice President of sales and Marketing at Cooper’s DIY, notes that holiday sales for the Mr. Beer kit are reflecting strong interest in the hobby. “It was a tremendous response, we experienced better sell though this year than many past years. By really identifying with the craft beer movement, I think it really resonated with consumers,” says Bridges. “People do it because they can create new beers and share. Beer is made for special occasions, holidays and birthdays. Typically, the purchaser is the foodie, they’re interested in cooking and natural ingredients.”
Part of the appeal of these kits is premixed ingredient sets that not only allow home brewers to make classic favorites like IPAs and stouts, but replicate award-winning and hard to find brews as well. “Many craft beers, they can’t distribute outside of their state, with a commercial system that isn’t always able to bring beers to where you live,” says Bridges. “We took a couple gold medal winners and cloned their beers. It’s a collaboration. If you can’t get it, make it.”
Bringing home brewing to retail spaces has presented some unexpected insights. “We sell in liquor stores and they don’t do very well. People are there for instant gratification. Any kind of kit doesn’t do well at liquor stores,” says Bridges. “Our kits are usually sold in the kitchen or housewares department. They’re often in the top 10 selling products during the holidays.” But the brick and mortar space still presents some marketing issues. “It’s a long process. You can’t make the beer there, plus you can’t serve it. It has unique challenges in that regard,” says Bridges. “Where possible we have videos we can loop to show how easy it is. The way to get people interested is to taste the beer, but we’re unable to execute that at retail for obvious reasons.”
With expanding home brewing interests, options other than beer are getting attention. “Last year we introduced Hacked Root Beer. Things like that and some of these hard sodas are trending now. Those seem to be really driving the trends rather than ciders,” says Bridges. “The big trend now is barrel-aged beers. We add wood chips, so you don’t have to put it in a barrel.”
Dry Creek Vineyard announced the issuance of U.S. Patent No. D779,938, related to the design of printed sustainable sourcing information on its wine cork closures. This is the first patent issued to Dry Creek Vineyard, which is celebrating 45 years of family winemaking in Sonoma County, California.
The innovative closure is laser printed with ornamental and detailed information about the source of cork material, including the age of the cork forest, the harvest date of the trees and the sustainable habitat these remarkable forests provide to the Iberian Lynx and Spanish Imperial Hawk.
This revolutionary concept was introduced with the release of Dry Creek Vineyard 2013 Old Vine Zinfandel. President Kim Stare Wallace developed the idea in an effort to provide transparency and authenticity of the winery’s extensive portfolio.
“I wanted to provide valuable knowledge to consumers about our sustainability efforts and the benefits of cork closures,” said Stare Wallace. “Dry Creek Vineyard is one of the last truly private, family-owned, iconic wineries, and it is important to communicate our ‘no compromises’ philosophy on every aspect of our packaging.”
“We make wines with integrity and soul,” continued Stare Wallace. “No detail is overlooked, including when and from where our corks are harvested.”
Founded in 1972, Dry Creek Vineyard is 100 percent certified sustainable and a leader in the sustainability movement in the Dry Creek Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA) and the wine industry as a whole.
A group of leaders in the American spirits industry gathered this week for the first-ever California Brandy Summit and pledged to restore the perception of California brandy as ranking alongside the world’s most acclaimed spirits.
Top tier brandy producers, mixologists, and national influencers met for two days of discussions, seminars and tastings aimed at assessing the current perception of California brandy and at steering the future of the spirit.
The result was the pledge, formalized in a “Declaration to Raise the Status of California Brandy,” that said, in part, “We are committed to heralding the exceptional brandy crafted by California producers. We are committed to restoring the perception of California brandy as ranking alongside the world’s most acclaimed spirits.”
“We do need to raise awareness of the world-class quality of California brandy,” said Dan Farber, Founder and Distiller of Osocalis Distillery. “And that takes all of us. We producers have to keep putting the quality product in the glass, and we need the community to get the word out about what our DNA really is, and about how outstanding California brandy can be.”
The Brandy Summit featured discussions facilitated by F. Paul Pacult, Editor and Publisher of Spirits Journal and one of America’s foremost spirits authorities, with premium California brandy producers on the art and science of brandy making.
The group examined the best practices in brandy making, including distillation techniques, maturation and blending, and discussed whether there is a need for more production guidelines in California brandy.
Elite mixologists and summit participants demonstrated California brandy’s versatility by creating brandy cocktails ranging from new takes on modern classics to bright, refreshing spring and summer-style drinks. The group also got a preview tasting of the new premium Argonaut Brandy, which has four expressions ranging from a cocktail-oriented blend to sipping brandies to a collector’s brandy blended from rare, aged brandy lots.
“Because it’s made from wine, California brandy has completely unique flavor notes and qualities,” said Rita Hansen, Head Distiller for Argonaut Brandy. “A few decades ago, the world learned about the outstanding wines in California. We all think it’s time people also learned about the high quality and craftsmanship in California brandy.”
Led by the husband-and-wife team of Mary Pellettieri and Noah Swanson, Top Note Tonic, a three-year-old company based in Milwaukee, is introducing a line of ready-to-drink craft tonics that feature bold, notably complex flavors. The premium, non-alcoholic tonics include Indian Tonic Water, Bitter Lemon and Ginger Beer. All are available in four-packs of 8.5-ounce bottles with a suggested retail price of $6.99. Each bottle delivers approximately two servings per cocktail.
Pellettieri is a botanist and 20-year beer industry veteran who saw an opportunity to innovate in a category dominated by highly artificial, overly sweet products.
“Tonics had become commoditized. They’d deviated from their origins and didn’t taste good. I saw a need for better tonics that were balanced,” says Pellettieri. “In brewing, it’s about crafting a balance between bitter, sour and sweet. I wasn’t afraid to play with the bitter spectrum that ranges from a softer, earthier taste to a sharper, quenching hit.”
Calling on her botanist roots and knowledge of sensory science, Pellettieri developed herbal tonic recipes that pair crisp, clean layers of flavor with top notes that enhance the taste. Instead of dulling the senses by coating the tongue with sweet, all Top Note Tonic varieties begin with a forward element of bitter and finish with a soft hint of sweet/sour. The result is a uniquely modern take on classic mixers.
The Indian Tonic Water is like the IPA of tonics. It has an overall dry and refreshing taste with top notes of citrus peel and fresh grass and pairs well with premium gins. The Bitter Lemon is balanced and tart with top notes of lemongrass, lemon peel and spice and is a classic mixer for vodka. The Ginger Beer delivers a rich and earthy flavor that’s topped with notes of ginger and dried fruit and is particularly well suited for Moscow Mules and dark spirits.
Top Note is crafted with the highest quality ingredients. The line of RTDs is non-GMO and includes all-natural roots, fruits, herbs, spices and real cane sugar. No artificial colors or preservatives are used; all varieties are gluten free and contain half the sugar of standard mixers.
ITO EN is launching a lineup of new ice-steeped cold brew ready-to-drink teas across two award-winning beverage brands, matcha LOVE® and TEAS’ TEA® Organic. Each new beverage leverages authentic Japanese cold brew processes, ice-steeping the tea to bring out the smooth, naturally mellow sweetness of green and black teas. The new teas will begin shipping to retailers in May.
“Consumer demand for cold brew beverages is at an all-time high, and we believe the launch of our new matcha LOVE and TEAS’ TEA Organic Cold Brew teas will help us establish a new segment in the RTD tea category,” said Rona Tison, Senior Vice President of ITO EN (North America) INC. “Given ITO EN’s deep-rooted expertise in Japanese cold brew methods called Mizudashi, we feel there’s an enormous opportunity for us to take the leadership role for this innovative set. We’ve elevated the simple essence of our tea leaves and created a more delicate taste with a smooth, clean finish.”
ITO EN’s new cold brew creations provide an entirely new spin on conventional green and black teas. Ice-steeping the high-quality, premium tea leaves draws out a more nuanced, smooth taste that is refreshingly delicious. Product details include:
Matcha LOVE and TEAS’ TEA Organic are currently available at natural food stores and specialty supermarkets nationwide, to include Whole Foods Market, Sprouts Farmers Market, Wegmans and The Fresh Market. Products are also available at ITO EN brand retail stores and online at Amazon.com. For more information on the brands, visit matcha LOVE at www.matchalove.com and TEAS’ TEA Organic at www.teastea.com.
Beetology is a new line of delicious, organic, cold pressed juices from Kayco, and it’s offering the “clean” attributes health-conscious shoppers demand along with an amazingly delicious, crisp, and refreshing taste.
According to Charles Herzog, Chief Beetologist and Vice President of New Business Development at Kayco, “The movement toward simple, easy-to-understand healthy ingredients is now in the mainstream. Beetology beverages contain no more than five ingredients – nothing but organic, natural, cold-pressed juice. We’re especially proud of their pure, farm-to-table pedigree. You can taste the difference with our juices-we use only the best of the best in order to offer perfectly crafted blends for a crisp and uniquely flavorful difference in every sip.”
All five varieties are 100 percent non-GMO, USDA-certified organic, and certified fair trade. The 100 percent juice blends contain no preservatives, additives, artificial colors, or flavors. They are also non-soy, non-dairy, and certified kosher, making them perfect for anyone, any time.
As for those who balk at beets, Kayco says the trend is here to stay. “Beetology is out to prove just how sweet and tasty this misunderstood root vegetable is,” Herzog said. “We travel the world to find the best tasting beets, because we think that beet juice will be the next big craze since pomegranates.”
The myriad benefits of beets are well-documented. Dense in nutrients and high in antioxidants, they’re great for the heart, brain, and blood pressure. They help boost energy, aid in weight loss, support cleansing and detoxing, and have anti-inflammatory properties.
Best of all is the way beets harmonize with other natural juices. Every perfectly-crafted Beetology blend packs a delicious punch that’s refreshing, nuanced, and not too sweet. Varieties include Beet + Lemon + Ginger, Beet + Veggie, Beet + Tropical Fruit, Beet + Berry, and Beet + Cherry.
Refrigerated and merchandised inside the refrigerator, every bottle of Beetology is fresh and ready to grab and go. The new drink is distributed exclusively by New Jersey-based Kayco and will be available this spring at health food, specialty, grocery and kosher food markets .
Beetology is packaged and shipped in six 8-ounce bottles per case and retails for about $3.99 per bottle. Kayco, also known as Kedem, is headquartered in Bayonne, New Jersey, and is one of the largest manufacturers and distributors of kosher food products.
Wicked Joe Organic Coffees, the family-owned, 100 percent organic certified, Fair Trade™ coffee roastery known for its single origin varietals and blends such as “Wicked French,” has rolled out new packaging after more than 12 years in business.
The Wicked Joe product line – available at retail stores all over New England and in more than 1,500 grocery retailers nationwide as well as online – previously featured a black bag with a red and green coffee cup logo. Wicked Joe Organic Coffees now sports a cleaner, more modern look, including black and chrome brand elements and an array of accent colors indicating the individual blend, flavor or bean’s origin.
The company has grown and refined its operations significantly over the last decade, including increasing sales by 25 percent and growing capacity by 67 percent in 2016 alone. Owners Bob and Carmen Garver wanted a design that would more accurately reflect the roastery’s progress and focus on quality and professionalism.
“We are very excited about where we are with the business right now, and we think a fresh new look captures that feeling,” said Carmen Garver. “We worked collaboratively with our staff and explored many possibilities, and ultimately we wanted to communicate a vintage feel that could translate in today’s market.”
The colorful, lively nature of the new bags aims to stand out on retail shelves among dozens of competitors. Along with their ever-growing team of coffee experts, the Garvers have spent more than two decades – long before the Maine roastery opened – traveling the world in search of the highest quality coffee bean. From the beginning, the company has had a razor-sharp focus on quality, in addition to a commitment to community, farmers and the cooperative partners at bean origin.
“We are constantly evolving,” added Bob Garver. “Our close relationships with the farmers that grow our beans provide so many opportunities for sustainable business practices, education and above all else, inspiration for the next cup of joe.”
Wicked Joe’s new packaging is available in stores now. Visit www.wickedjoe.com for more information.
Talking Rain Beverage Company®, the maker of Sparkling Ice® flavored sparkling waters, has been recognized as a winner in the U.K. by the country’s largest consumer-driven award for product innovation, Product of the Year. Nearly 12,000 U.K. households responded to the survey designed to identify the top CPG products on the market, naming Sparkling Ice the winner in the “No Added Sugar” Drinks category.
Following the brand’s expansion to the United Kingdom and Ireland in 2016, Sparkling Ice has seen significant success in the marketplace, with presence in more than 15,000 stores. First year sales success has shown that the beverage market in the U.K. and Ireland present a wealth of opportunity as consumers shift away from full-calorie CSDs to healthier alternatives like Sparkling Ice.
“Since our launch in the U.K. and Ireland this past spring, we have been energized by the excitement surrounding our brand,” said Kevin Klock, President and CEO of Talking Rain Beverage Co. “This award is a special honor as it has been voted on by the U.K. consumer, and we are proud to offer a beverage free of added sugar, that delivers the bold flavor, fizz and refreshment that the marketplace demands.”
Having hit shelves in April 2016 at major grocery and drug store retailers, Sparkling Ice is now available in four flavors in the UK and Ireland: Black Raspberry, Orange Mango, Peach Nectarine, and most recently, Strawberry Kiwi.
Kantar TNS, one of the world’s leading research agencies conducted the research, offering an industry sector understanding and collating the survey from more than 11,600 people in the UK and Ireland.
For more information about Sparkling Ice, visit www.sparklingice.com.
Artisan winery La Crema has promoted Craig McAllister to the position of Head Winemaker. McAllister, who first joined the winery as the harvest enologist in 2007, has been a passionate steward of La Crema’s Monterey program and played a vital role in elevating the winery’s Sonoma Coast portfolio throughout his tenure. In addition, he has helped to further develop the winery’s collection of single vineyard Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines. In his new role, McAllister, who has most recently served as associate winemaker, will gain increased responsibility for the oversight of all winemaking operations.
“Craig’s long tenure with La Crema and passion for cool-climate winemaking make him a natural fit,” said Mitch Davis, Senior Vice President of Production for Jackson Family Wines. “In particular, his expertise on the Central Coast, in the Monterey appellation, a region in which we see tremendous potential for La Crema, coupled with his skill, experience and passion, will continue to enhance the strength of the La Crema winemaking team.”
“I couldn’t be more thrilled to hand the helm of La Crema over to Craig,” said Elizabeth Grant-Douglas, the company’s most recent winemaker. “He has been my partner and right hand at La Crema for so many years and has the passion and commitment to take La Crema to the next level,” she added.
A New Zealand native, McAllister earned a bachelor’s degree in viticulture and enology from Lincoln University in Christchurch, New Zealand. His deep passion for winemaking has taken him all over the world, from New Zealand to Australia, Chile and Cyprus. Since moving to California, McAllister has also made wine for Wild Ridge, crafting elegant Pinot Noir from vineyards on the rugged Sonoma Coast. In his expanded role, McAllister will continue to build La Crema’s portfolio, ranging from coastal regions as far north as the Willamette Valley, Oregon to as far south as Arroyo Seco, California, with a particular focus on raising the profile of the winery’s Monterey series, which includes Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and a soon-to-be-released Rosé of Pinot Noir. Previously only producing small batches of Rosé, La Crema will be releasing its first nationally-distributed bottling this spring.
“This is a dream job for a winemaker who enjoys the challenges and rewards of producing Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris from cool-climate regions,” said McAllister. “I am thrilled to be a part of this this special team and look forward to carrying on the legacy that has been entrusted to me by continuing to produce the stylistically elegant wines for which La Crema is known, while elevating the winery to new levels of success.”
For more information regarding La Crema, visit www.lacrema.com.
Sugarlands Distilling Company has announced Hazelnut Rum as the newest addition to its award-winning line of spirits. The east Tennessee distillery partnered with distilling legends Mark Ramsey and Digger Manes from the hit series “Moonshiners” to develop the spirit.
Hazelnut Rum meets the nose with sweet aromas of toasted hazelnut and brown sugar. It is a smooth, full bodied spirit that blends the tastes of vanilla, cinnamon and honey. At 80 proof, this brown spirit finishes with a sweet, oaky kick.
“Our Hazelnut rum really became a labor of love, mainly because our wives became the first big fans of it,” said Manes. “Because of them, we were determined to make it better than any other homemade liquor that anyone had ever tasted.”
Mark and Digger created hazelnut rum while filming for the Discovery Channel program. The duo combined real hazelnuts and rum in their backwoods still to create a one-of-a-kind flavored spirit.
“In the words of our mentor Popcorn Sutton, ‘this is some of the finest liquors that’s ever been,'” said Ramsey. “Now it is our pleasure to share it with the rest of the world. We’re really humbled that folks are eager to try it.”