Food Service & Agriculture and Retail

Distillers form industry association

Group will collaborate on marketing, events and legislative issues.

June 13, 2014
| By Pat Evans |
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As the Michigan craft beer industry continues to grow, so, too, does the distilling industry.

Craft distilling is a nationwide trend, but Michigan is one of the leaders, ranking fourth in the United States in number of operating distilleries, behind California, Oregon and Washington. More than two dozen distilleries operate in the Michigan and have unified into the Michigan Craft Distillers Association.

Grand Rapids is slated to see its first distillery this fall when Long Road Distillers opens on Leonard Street NW. Holland has two operating distilleries with New Holland Artisan Spirits and Coppercraft Distillery.

Michigan Brewers Guild represents the state’s brewers.

The new distillers association is a nonprofit that will market the individual distilleries, products and events, and represent the industry’s interests at the legislative level.

Dianna Stampfler, who runs Promote Michigan, will serve as the association’s first, part-time executive director. She also works as a publicist for the state’s brewers guild.

Stampfler said she was approached in 2012 by some of the state’s distilleries to form an organization.

“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,” she said.

The founding board members will be Valentine Distilling’s Rifino Valentine, Grand Traverse Distillery’s Kent Rabish, Black Star Farms’ Don Coe, New Holland Artisan Spirits’ Brett VanderKamp, and Kris Berglund from Red Cedar Spirits & Artisan Distilling at Michigan State University.

Earlier this year, the distillers helped open a line of communication between the industry and legislators when the state’s distilleries were left off the original “Farm to Glass” bill. The board and Sampfler will meet with Michigan’s other beverage producers this month to see if there are overlapping needs. The association also helped plan a business-to-business summit in November with the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

“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 said. “Not only is there 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.”

Goals in the first year include strengthening ties with Michigan associations and national distiller associations. A publication with a directory and map of the state’s distilleries will be distributed statewide and is available online at spiritsofmichigan.com.

Memberships to the Michigan Craft Distillers Association will be available to any operating distillery, as well as suppliers and retailers.

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