The Distilled Spirits Council (DISCUS) hosted its 4th Annual Craft Distiller Policy Conference on Capitol Hill this week, featuring 30 craft distiller members from across the country. The group participated in legislative Hill visits and roundtable discussions on state, federal and international issues with DISCUS policy teams. It also hosted two tasting receptions, including one with the American Beverage Licensees, the nation’s leading retail-tier association, and a second for key Hill staff and local hospitality industry representatives.
“This year’s conference had three basic themes: how to be politically effective, how to deal with the regulatory environment, and how to enhance commercial success,” notes DISCUS President Peter Cressy. “It was a great opportunity for small distillers to meet and interact with their Members of Congress, top regulators, government officials and important leaders in the hospitality industry.”
The attendees heard presentations from government experts as well as commercial leaders on how to navigate complex regulations and expand their businesses, respectively. Speakers included Charles Merinoff, Chairman and CEO, Charmer Sunbelt Group; John J. Manfreda, Administrator, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB); Sara Fasolino, Senior Manager for Alcohol Procurement, Brinker International; and, Eric Wenberg, Director, Cooperator Programs Division, Foreign Agricultural Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
“This was a terrific opportunity to exchange ideas with likeminded distillers,” said Andrew Webber of Corsair Artisan in Nashville, Tennessee. "It’s the one shot all year where we can see everyone at the table and meet face-to-face with all our regulators, then network directly with our home-state legislators."
In the afternoon, craft distillers participated in over 100 Congressional visits with their home-state senators and representatives to lobby against any increase to the federal excise tax.