Tuesday, May 19, 2009

2009 American Distilling Institute Conference

This year's American Distilling Institute conference was a bit of a blur, and already a month has passed since I got home. Before any more time passes, here's a quick rundown of the conference.

Friday night - Tour of Anchor Distilling
I wrote about this in another post. Suffice to say, it was a treat to see the stills and meet up with some of my blogger friends. After the bus ride back to the hotel (on which I was sampling one of Anchor's fine beers), I was exhausted. My car (with me in it) was rear-ended by a drunk driver the night before (a bit ironic, since I was leaving my distillery), and I only got about 30 minutes of sleep before my flight that morning. So I went to the restaurant across the street for dinner and called it a night.

Saturday - Distilling Conference
We convened at St. George Spirits at a fairly early hour, and followed along on a schedule of sessions on a variety of topics. This year's theme was brandy/eau de vie/grappa, so the presentations were about distilling spirits from fruit. We heard from many great craft spirit producers, including Dan Faber from Osocalis and Hubert Germain-Robin. We also had a panel session on marketing craft spirits, and lobbying legislators for changes to arcane state liquor laws that many of us confront.

Awards were also given out in a variety of categories, and we had an opportunity to taste the entered spirits. We didn't enter anything, since we don't have anything out from fruit (yet).

That night, I had both bad and good tiki experiences - more on that here.

Sunday - Crafts Spirits Public Tasting
For the first time at one of these ADI conferences, we had a public tasting event. This was a welcome addition to the conference, and provided many of us a great opportunity to interact with consumers in the Bay Area about our products. Members of the general public were invited to come out to St. George and try spirits from all the distilleries present, and in most cases, meet the distiller/founder. We had a pretty good turnout, and it was a lot of fun. I hope to see more of these types of events at future conferences, ideally with more publicity to increase the interest & turnout, but this was a great start.

The only beef I had with the event, which I voiced to the powers that be, was that there were some products that do not meet my definition of American craft spirits, so I wouldn't have allowed them to be poured. For instance, there were some imported spirits.

At any rate, we went on a proper cocktail crawl on Sunday night in San Francisco - more on that in a post coming soon.

Monday - Meet the Mixologist
On Monday, Bay Area bartenders and mixologists were invited to come out and taste spirits and talk with the distillers/founders. Unfortunately, the turnout was fairly light, but this was also a fun event and a good idea. As my friend Gabriel over at Cocktail Nerd noted, bartenders and mixologists are an essential partner for small distilleries.

Bring on the Bloggers
One of the highlights for me was to meet some of my blogging friends. It was fantastic to have them at the conference, and I was very happy they were invited to participate and write about our group and our industry.

Thanks to St. George!
The folks at St. George were wonderful hosts, and a lot of fun too. Thank you to Jorg, Lance, Andie and the rest of the team at St. George for hosting us and letting us invade their distillery for three days!

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