Mixing It Up With – Whisk(e)y, Wine, English Ale, Mixology, Chefs and National Hospitality Providers

Mixing It Up With – Whisk(e)y, Wine, English Ale, Mixology, Chefs and National Hospitality Providers

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Every once in a while, I take a step back and recognize just how cool this industry is and what a privilege those of us in the food, beverage and hospitality world have. This is not to say all of you in other industries are not cool or that ours is so much better. It is simply a fact that this one is a lot of fun.

I spent the past week mixing it up with celebrity mixologists, chefs and a whole bunch of smart industry people who are making their mark in their own ways. The Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego, CA did a fantastic job of hosting our group.   A special thanks to Director of Food & Beverage, Jocelyn Kraus and Executive Chef Carissa Giacalone.  Aside from the amazing food and beverage we experienced, one thing that struck me from these industry leaders is the appreciation of history and those who came before us.

In his excellent presentation on his journey in mixology, Tony Abou-Ganim “THE MODERN MIXOLOGIST” offered his insights on the industry as a whole, both past and present and how the industry evolved right before his eyes. I loved his personal stories of getting started bartending and his open appreciation for the individuals who helped him along the way. That’s really what makes the hospitality industry special. The people are what make great service and experience. The people who come before you and help you along the way, are the foundation for everything that you get to do and be.

Tony Abou-Ganim modern mixologistIMG_1317 IMG_1318

Tony gave thanks to the legendary Dale DeGroff “THE COCKTAIL KING” who gave him an early appreciation for loving what you do and taking pride in it. It was not so long ago that everyone bartending or waiting tables was doing it to get the next “real” job. Today, there are a whole generation of young people who are pursuing their passion with the explicit goal of being an excellent mixologist, brewer, wine maker, hospitality professional. Dale also recommended Tony for the newly created Director of Beverage role at the newly opened Bellagio way back when, that changed his life forever. Dale gave us a true appreciation for the great mixologists of the 1800s and pre-Prohibition era. His entertaining and spirited history of bitters was fascinating to experience, as we tasted 6 different modern bitters.

Craft of the cocktail by DeGroff Dale Degroff  IMG_5101

Tim Kirkland “THE RENEGADE SERVER” gave us incredible insights into the simple nuances of what separates truly exceptional hospitality service operations from merely good ones. His observations on customer service have direct application to training and inspiring front line crews to sell more and serve better. Michael “Bumby” Bombard “Straight Up Solutions” shared his learnings in cocktail menu development and presentation including a valuable discussion on glassware, ice and a drill down into garnishes. Its all about the presentation.

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We had the opportunity to share some of the finest beers in the world with my industry friends. Anyone who has visited an English pub would recognize Old Speckled Hen, the #1 English Ale.

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It was fun to introduce this quirky English brand to the hospitality folks in attendance. Judging from the response, there will be some Hen coming to a restaurant near you soon.

Chef Kathy Casey of Liquid Kitchen and Master Mixologist & Chain Accounts Manager for Beam Suntory Philip Raimondo shared a fun presentation of “Bar Redux” – in which they discussed new ways to train hospitality operator staff, jazz up your drink program and bring your bar layout up to date. Of course, Phil also served as lead pianist and singer for the groups late night escapades, all legendary, none reportable.

IMG_5111 D'Lish Eggs by Kathy Casey

In Whisk(e)y “Boot Camp” we took a tour around the world from Scotland to Ireland to Canada and the US and back to Scotland. Led by the knowledgeable William Grant & Son’s Whisky Team, this fun survey of different styles of whisk(e)y was enjoyable and informative. Interesting facts – top Scotch whisky export markets 1. USA 569$, 2. FR 330$, 3. Singapore 288$, 4. Germany 138$ 5. Spain, 6. Taiwan. Among my favorites were the Glenfiddich 15 Solera and The Glenfiddich 18, but there were many other excellent ones including The Balvenie 21 and Irish Tullamore Dew. Monkey’s Shoulder was interesting too.

Glenfiddich 12 Glenfiddich 15 Solera Glenfiddich 18 IMG_5112

After the whisk(e)y tasting, several chefs joined me to taste some Scotch along side some BELHAVEN beer, Scotland’s #1. The BELHAVEN BLACK was particularly popular among the culinary set as an accompaniment to the fine sipping Scotches. We all decided this would be an excellent way in which to offer guests an enjoyable and true Scottish experience.

IMG_5094 IMG_5096 Belhaven Best

Celebrity Chef Rick Moonen (rm seafood at Mandalay Bay) shared inspiration at the final dinner as he gave us a fireside chat tracing his culinary roots to the great NY French restaurants and today with his focus on sustainably and seafood. Rick shared his great successes as well as some of the tough times he experienced during the downturn and how he had to be resilient and reinvent himself and his restaurants to survive. I love what he is doing with mixology and cannot wait to go check out his newest iteration in Vegas (RX Boiler Room)! We played a tasting game, whereby we all tasted different ice cream creations of his and had to guess the flavors. It was quite difficult but enjoyable. Apparently he does this regularly with a group of sommeliers in Vegas but instead of 3 types, he gives them 16 types to guess. Yikes!

IMG_5113 rm ice cream creations RX Boiler Room

As always, “The DUTCHESS”, Jen Robinson was the hostess with the mostess and kept everyone moving and staying on track at the Executive Hospitality Exchange West #HEEWEST. Thanks Jen for an enjoyable experience once again and I look forward to our next adventure together!

HEEWEST Selfie selfie 2 HEEWEST

There are many other great stories, but alas, not for this post (not mentioning any names Mike Tolley “Beverage By Design”). It was great spending time with some of the leading hospitality accounts and learning how they are thinking about their businesses and how to compete and differentiate. There may be no more competitive environment than that of the restaurant and bar business. Many of the most successful in today’s environment are differentiating on service and their unique offerings. In many cases, the beverage side of the house offers the best opportunity to achieve this. I look forward to further discussions on this front with savvy operators and brands that want to activate their business.  My next such opportunity will be at the YPO Food & Beverage Roundtable in February where I have the privilege of being Co-Champion for the event. We expect 60+ F&B CEOs for an educational and enjoyable week hosted by Disney.

As Jack says… all work and no play, makes Smoke a dull boy …

 

Craft Beer Sales Boom Continues… Best Is Yet To Come.

Craft Beer Sales Boom Continues… Best Is Yet To Come.

This weeks release of the full 2013 numbers on craft beer by the Craft Brewers Association confirms something many of us already knew: this movement is accelerating.  I’d go a step further and say the best is yet to come.  Here is the info-graphic the CBA published this week:

Craft Breweries 2013 Growth-Small_HR

Pretty incredible numbers – going from 4.4% volume share in 2009 to 7.8% in 2013.  On a dollar basis, even more impressive with a 20% increase over 2012 to $14.3 billion, giving craft beer a 14.3% share of the $100 billion US beer market.  The number of breweries grew at a slightly slower pace (15%), giving slightly more sales per brewery.

This is a booming market and with that there are multiple new entrants and there will be inevitably, winners and losers.  That said, a growing market makes up for a lot of mistakes and there are a lot more winners right now than not.  The key is matching investment to real potential in any particular INDIVIDUAL business.   A growing market is good for everyone, but it does an individual aspiring brewery little good if they spend too much on their building, don’t brew great beer that people enjoy, don’t create a brand that resonates with consumers and market place, take too long to get up and running, hire the wrong time, don’t know what their numbers are or what the right things to measure are, run out of money, etc.  I could continue, but there are a ton of ways to be unsuccessful in this space, no matter what the growth is.

That is why I got together with a number of industry thought leaders to create the Beer Industry Technology Symposium (BITS) being held in Napa, CA June 30 & July 1 in conjunction with the Wine Industry Technology Symposium (WITS)

BITS logo small for web3                  wits logo

Yes, technology is in the name and there will be a bunch of things at the 2 day event that revolve around technology, but that is NOT the main point.  The main point is what I am talking about above.  There are so many challenges with running any new business and craft beer is no different.  With all the new players and the many existing players who are experience growth beyond their wildest expectations, these businesses need sound strategic thinking around what matters.   Technology is not “What Matters”, but it is the great enabler that in 2014, done right, can create the conditions for a successful business venture.  Thinking through the myriad of options and what exactly one is trying to do is critical before you even start your brewery.  If you already have one, and skipped this part of the planning, it is never to early to get on it and address these issues.

I really enjoyed the new Siemens commercial (that seems to be running on TV on every show I watch – which is not very many) profiling the Schlafly Brewery and American manufacturing. Here it is:

 

What a terrific message and a boost to the craft brewing industry at the same time.  I reached out to the Siemens team and they jumped at the opportunity to be a part of the first BITS.  How cool!    This is also true of the California Craft Brewers Association who joined us recently as a GOLD sponsor and are marketing the BITS event to their 200+ members in CA.

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BITS will be announcing these and many other great contributors in the form of keynote speakers and panels who are lining up to be a part of what we hope will become a must attend event for everyone in the industry who wants to be smart about running their business.  Please reach out to me directly if you’d like to get involved.  Registration will open up in mid April.

The craft brewing industry is in its preteen days… there is much growth in front of us and a lot of learning and growing up.  This is an opportunity for collaboration with fellow breweries and professionals and leading edge thinkers in technology on how to grow up and be successful in your beer business.  The best is yet to come!

Cheers!  jsw at NSB pub

 

New Beer Industry Technology Symposium™ “BITS™” Set For June 30 & July 1 in Napa, California

New Beer Industry Technology Symposium™ “BITS™” Set For June 30 & July 1 in Napa, California

Excited to announce the first Beer Industry Technology Symposium in collaboration with our 10th Annual Wine Industry Technology Symposium… it will be a technology extravaganza!

New Beer Industry Technology Symposium™ “BITS™”
Set For June 30 & July 1 in Napa, California

Craft Brewing Industry Leaders to Collaborate on Best Practices and Strategies
BITS to partner with the 10th Annual Wine Industry Technology Symposium® “WITS®” for First Event

For Immediate Release
February 20, 2014

(NAPA, Calif.) – Leaders of the brewing, distribution and technology industries have formed the new Beer Industry Technology Symposium, BITS, to create a dedicated industry forum where technology and strategy intersect. The first BITS will be held in Napa, California in conjunction with the Wine Industry Technology Symposium® – WITS® June 30 & July 1, 2014 at the Napa Valley Marriott.

The purpose of BITS is to address the unique information technology, and service needs, of the beer industry. BITS is dedicated to bringing the world’s leading beer industry professionals together with the world’s leading technology experts, to foster learning and discussion. Panels of experts will discuss specific examples and case studies that will deliver tangible take-home value and create relationships.

SteadyServ Technologies®, has built technology to help bars and restaurants, distributors and craft brewers — even patrons — keep track of the beer remaining in a keg and more effectively manage their beer inventories. SteadyServ’s Founder and CEO Steve Hershberger said, “Given the massive changes occurring in the beer industry, BITS is the right gathering at the right time. Getting the craft beer industry together, to discuss technology solutions and the strategies needed to ensure continued growth and success, is difficult due to both the high number of beer producers and the vast geographic differences in their physical locations. BITS will provide an important venue for the industry’s thought leaders to collaborate for the greater good of the industry. SteadyServ will be there in full force.”

The growth and importance of craft beer is widely documented. According to the Brewers Association, the number of craft breweries in the US has risen from a low of > 100 1977 to > 3,500 in 2013. Over the next 5 years, the growth in craft beer volume is expected to be greater than over the past 25 years combined. Given this explosion in consumer demand, and the number of new operations that have been formed, there is a specific need to understand best practices and strategies within the industry. Many new brewery owners are attempting to reinvent the wheel in terms of processes and systems to run their businesses. BITS aims to be the industry-wide resource to help educate beer industry members and unite them with best-of-class technology providers.

“After owning a rapidly-growing craft brewery from 2010 – 2013, and then working with a number of others to help build their beer businesses, I spent a lot of time networking with other breweries and observed their efforts to manage growth and establish systems that are vital to run an efficient and effective business,” said J. Smoke Wallin, BITS Chairman and Founder. “While there are many beer industry events such as NBWA and GABF, there has never been a forum focused on the technology needs of craft brew operators. BITS will fill that void.”

Expected attendees include craft breweries, distributors, retailers and on-premise and technology providers. There will be content for everyone from the Owner/GM/President to the Information Technology Manager or CFO to the Brewers to the Sales Managers. Building on the successful model of WITS, with cross-functional workshops and keynote speakers, BITS will draw from industry leaders to present tangible take-home value as a result of a focused gathering.

The agenda includes sessions on: Technology Leadership – Best-of-Class Tools, Consumer Direct Sales – Managing the Tap Room and Online Presence, Trade Sales & Marketing – Craft Beer Route To Market – Gaining & Managing Distribution, Brewery Operations – Hops to Kettle to Keg or Can

Interested sponsors and speakers can contact Waunice Orchid (Tradeshow Coordinator) Waunice@swgnapa.com (707) 261-8716 today. Registration will open March 1, 2014. Space is limited and BITS is expected to sell out, so register early.
www.beertechnologysymposium.com

ABOUT BITS:
The Beer Industry Technology Symposium (BITS) was created to address the unique information technology and services needs of the Beer industry. BITS is dedicated to bringing the world’s leading breweries, distributors and retailers together with the leading technology experts to foster learning and discussion. Expert panels and keynotes discuss leading edge case studies involving consumer direct marketing and sales, operations, financial management, trade sales and distribution, brewing and input management

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