Avalanches have caused less confusion than the flurry of words, notions, and half-formed plans that leap from his tongue. “You know what somebody ought to do is…” and he’s off again, ideas tumbling one after another down a steep slope of logic until somehow, at the bottom, he’s convinced others that they are just the right people to implement his ideas.
Owens is president of The American Distilling Institute and from his office in Hayward, California, he’s emailed and called most every commercial distiller, rectifier, and merchant bottler in the United States. He is an indefatigable proponent of artisan, small-volume distilling. In a series of roadtrips, he’s traveled tens of thousands of miles, visiting as many craft distilleries as he could, meeting distillers, taking photos, making short videos, and convincing a lot of them that his organization ought to be the voice of artisan distilling.
As ADI takes on that mantel, Owens’ influence becomes apparent—undeniably at the center, he is surrounded and in touch with distillers, interns, manufacturers, and journalists across the United States who pick up the challenge of “You know what somebody ought to do is…” Then they do it. They form committees, they set up a website, they write for his magazine Distiller, and they lobby legislature for tax reform on distilling.
Some of the ADI’s activities include an internship program for aspiring distillers to pair with more experienced mentors in the field and working to define micro-distilling though the ADI Forums with input from artisan distillers around the country so that the practitioners may define their craft before legislatures do.
But the big event of the year—the one that brings so many distillers face-to-face—is ADI’s annual distilling conference. This year’s theme is brandy and is hosted at St. George Spirits in Alameda, CA. You can bet I’m going to be there. With 40 craft distilleries represented at the conference, there’s rarely a better time to get an insider’s take on the industry and where it’s headed.
Sessions this year include American Eau de Vie (with Jorg Rupf, Steve McCarthy, and Ted Huber); California Alambic Brandy (a discussion between Dan Farber and Hubert Germain-Robin), and The Classic French Brandies: Armagnac, Cognac and Calvados (Charles Neal).
- Meet the Maker craft spirits festival open to the public beginning at 2:00pm, Sunday April 5th—a chance to meet distillers from around the country and sample their whiskeys, absinthes, gins, rums, vodkas, and, yes, brandies ($40).
- “Meet the Mixologist” (for those in the industry only) for tasting artisanal spirits and learning how they may be used behind the bar
- A two-day, hands-on brandy distilling workshop at Osocalis in Soquel, CA ($525)
What: The American Distilling Institute's Brandy Conference
Where: St George Spirits/Hangar One, Alameda, CA
When: April 3-7, 2009
Cost: $500 for the conference. Extra events additional (see above), but an extra person may register for $350
Regrettably, I won’t be in on the workshop. I’m sure Bill will find something for me to do.