The Tasting Panel magazine

August 2016

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34  /  the tasting panel  /  august 2016 EXHIBITIONS L ike many great things, the Indie Spirits Expo started out small. Only three brands, in fact: Founder Dave Schmier's orange-flavored vodka brand that he was working on at the time, a cachaça brand— owned by Dave Catania who was instru- mental in creating the event—and, oddly enough, a rum from Nepal. Ten years ago, the three brands held an expo in New York and were surprised when over 200 people showed up. "There was interest not just in the spirits themselves, but in how the actual brands were created," Schmier remembers. "I've owned a lot of brands and met a lot of like-minded passionatepeople. I've had some success and failures along the way." As for what constitutes an "indie brand," Schmier leaves it open to interpretation: "The expo tends to curate itself. If you think you're indie, we're okay with that!" Schmier started the Indie Spirits Expo to bring brand recognition to companies who couldn't afford the exorbitant costs of traditional trade shows that often brought no new business. The second year the expo hosted 20 brands, and pretty soon the event had expanded to New Orleans and Chicago. The Chicago expo—which began in 2011 and is co-produced by Marty Duffy—is the biggest event, with over 100 exhibitors, a mix of importers and brand owners and 800–1,000 attendees. However, for Schmier, bigger is not necessarily better. "We're trying not to make things too overly com- mercial, which goes against the creation of the Indie Spirits Expo. Our main object is to keep the cost to exhibitors low, have people come out who work with the brands, whether it be owners, distillers or brewers, not just hired spokespeople." The attendees are varied, with about half of them being consumers and the other half involved within the spirits industry, but one of Schmier's goal is to be aggressive in bringing trade to the events. "It's important that these smaller brands are seen and have the face time they might not normally get in such a saturated market," Schmier explains. "It doesn't matter whether or not consumers love a product if the product doesn't have a distributor and isn't being seen on shelves." The next event is in Chicago on September 21, 2016. Find more info and buy tickets at Against the Grain INDIE SPIRITS EXPO CELEBRATES SMALL BUSINESS IN THE SPIRITS INDUSTRY by Jesse Hom-Dawson Mat Garretson of Pence Rum and Dave Schmier, founder of the Indie Spirits Expo and co- founder of Redemption Rye. PHOTOS COURTESY OF INDIE SPIRITS EXPO

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