Beverage Retailers Bring Together Alcohol Industry at ABL Convention

Bethesda, MD – More than 200 beer, wine and spirits retailers joined members of the alcohol industry in Milwaukee, Wisc., at the 9th Annual ABL Convention, June 12-14, 2011. For three days, convention attendees heard from featured speakers and top executives representing all three tiers of the alcohol industry, as well as continuing industry education events and business improvement information.


Beverage licensees heard from senior management in the beer industry, trade association executives, members of industry media, social media experts and some of their fellow retailers over the course of three days, culminating with the ABL Top Shelf Award Banquet honoring outgoing MillerCoors CEO Leo Kiely.


“At a time when each tier of the industry is focused on their own issues, the ABL was able to bring together retailers, wholesalers, suppliers and importers as well as brewers, distillers and vintners to celebrate and discuss our industry,” said ABL executive director John Bodnovich. “ABL is proud to provide a stage from which its members can learn more about their industry, become more successful business people and advocate more effectively for their issues.”

This year’s convention marked the first time ABL has held its signature event in Milwaukee, which has a long-standing brewing heritage and has a strong beverage alcohol industry presence. One of the convention’s two general sessions featured presentations by Jeff Colbert, senior vice president, sales and marketing for Tenth and Blake Beer Company and MillerCoors’ Manny Manuele who oversees technical insights and product development. Those presentations were followed by a hard-hat tour of the Miller Brewery.

The convention also focused on legislative and regulatory issues and social media as a tool for beverage retailers. General Session speakers included Joe McClain, President of the Beer Institute; Dr. Peter Cressy, President & CEO of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States; Craig Purser, President & CEO of the National Beer Wholesalers Association; Jim Rowland, Acting Executive Vice President for External Affairs for the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America; and a handful of other participants.

“The convention provided ABL members with an opportunity to hear from and interact with other segments and tiers of the industry,” said Bodnovich. “More importantly, it was a chance for beverage licensees to share what issues they find important with those whose products they serve and sell.”

On the final night of the convention, Leo Kiely, outgoing CEO for MillerCoors, was honored with ABL’s Top Shelf Award. The Top Shelf Award is the highest honor given by ABL and recognizes those who have demonstrated excellence over their careers in the beverage alcohol industry and have a successful history of positive influence in their communities. Mr. Kiely was joined by his friends, business colleagues and convention attendees to celebrate his award.

Also honored at the convention were the Brown-Forman Retailers of the Year. Nominated by ABL’s state and regional affiliates, the Retailer of the Year awards recognize dedicated ABL retailers who are the last to handle beverage alcohol products before they reach consumers, and are the face of the industry to millions of Americans.

The ABL Board of Directors met during the three-day event to conduct association business and elect new officers. Newly elected officers include President Chuck Ferrar of Bay Ridge Wine and Spirits in Annapolis, MD; Vice President Victor Pittman of Silver Leaf Wines & Spirits in Ridgeland, MS; and Vice President Bob Sprenger of Bubba’s in Marion, Wisc..

They join current Vice President Ray Cox of Elite Beverages in Indianapolis; Vice President Harry Klock of Stockman’s Bar in Harlowton, Mont; and interim Treasurer Jane Springer of the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association. Outgoing President David Jabour of Twin Liquors in Austin, Texas, remains on the Executive Committee as Immediate Past-President. Rob Swearingen of Al-Gen Dinner Club in Rhinelander, Wisc., joins Warren Scheidt of Cork Liquors in Columbus, Ind., as at-Large representatives.