Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Michigan Distilleries Unite to Form Statewide Organization - Michigan Craft Distillers Association

Michigan’s craft distilling industry is growing at a rapid pace – ranking #4 in the nation in terms of overall number of distilleries (behind California, Oregon and Washington). To help unify the interests of the more than two dozen Michigan distilleries, a statewide association has been formed.

The Michigan Craft Distillers Association is a non-profit organization charged with marketing the individual member businesses, their products and events, but also help bring a voice for the industry when it comes to legislative issues that affect the overall beverage industry.

Founding board members for the Michigan Craft Distillers Association are:

• President: Rifino Valentine, Valentine Distilling
• Vice President: Kent Rabish, Grand Traverse Distillery
• Secretary: Don Coe, Black Star Farms
• Treasurer: Kris Berglund, Red Cedar Spirits & Artisan Distilling at Michigan State University
• Director: Brett Vander Kamp, New Holland Artisan Spirits

Dianna Stampfler of Promote Michigan will serve as the association’s part-time Executive Director.

“In 2012, I was approached by several of the Michigan distilleries to research and form an organization to represent the industry’s needs,” says Stampfler, who has also worked as the publicist for the Michigan Brewers Guild since 2008. “It’s been a time-consuming process and although no formal organization was in place, the distilleries have been communicating and working together to develop and enhance their industry.”

Earlier this spring, through its grass-roots connections, Michigan distillers were encouraged to contact their local State Representatives when a “Farm to Glass” bill was introduced that originally didn’t include distilled spirits. As a result, lines of communication between the distillers and legislators were opened. The association’s board and executive director have been asked to meet with other Michigan craft beverage producers in June to see where there are overlapping needs that the groups can work collectively to reach. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation has also reached out to the association for help in planning a business-to-business summit in November.

“Even though the association wasn’t officially formed, the board and many of our future members have been working on various levels to raise awareness for Michigan’s craft distilling industry,” Stampfler says. “Not only is there is regular communication among the distilleries, but our social media channels are full of news clips focused on this rapidly-expanding industry. We’ve been busy – and now, we can formally move forward as the state’s official organization.”

Within the first year of operation, the Michigan Craft Distillers Association will strengthen its ties with other Michigan associations as well as national distiller organizations like the American Craft Distillers Association and the American Distilling Institute.

A directory and map identifying distillery locations is in the works, aimed to boost visits the individual tasting rooms and distilleries. The guide will also serve to encourage residents and visitors alike to seek out, ask for and sample the many Michigan-made craft spirits that are available in the marketplace. This publication will be distributed statewide at the Welcome Centers, chamber offices and visitor bureau offices, and will also be available online at SpiritsOfMichigan.com.

The Michigan Craft Distillers Association will offer membership to any operation actively distilling craft beverages in Michigan, as well as suppliers and retail establishments such as pubs, restaurants and beverage stores. An Enthusiast level membership will be offered in the future, allowing individual members of the general public to support the craft distilling industry.


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