Maine's Wine and Spirits Part 1

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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) Gregory Mineo is the director of the Maine Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations in Augusta. He says locally made alcohol products are becoming more and more popular state-wide.

"There are 113 breweries, there's 55 wineries and 18 in-state distilleries. That's a lot.

"I feel like Maine is on the vanguard of in-state manufactures. I really think we are. And we, as a government entity, really support what they do."

Maine's government regulates the sale of all alcoholic beverages. But a key decision following Prohibition has allowed the state to cash in on the sale of spirits.

"Maine is one of 18 of what we call control jurisdictions throughout the US and that goes back to Repeal 1933 when the federal government basically gave each state the opportunity to regulate alcohol sales the way they wanted to."

"In license states, you have independent wholesalers who take title to the product from the supplier. In control states, the state is the wholesaler and they take title to the product."

The state handles all distribution under the name Maine Spirits. In 2014, they signed a contract with Pine State Trading to become the sole warehousing and distribution center. The streamlined process cuts down on certain costs for manufacturers.

"It gives them a better shot and a better opportunity of getting their products in front of consumers and retailers."

"We can distribute our wine. We're a small winery. Under fifty thousand gallons a year, you can self-distribute and we do and that means we know where our wine goes. We don't know where our spirits go."

"On the other hand, we don't have the distribution expense of our spirits. If somebody wanted a bottle of absinthe up in Presque Isle, it'd be really hard-pressed to drive that up there."

Part of the business model relies on Mainers staying local when they choose to buy their products. Maine Spirit has worked hard to combat lower prices from out of state.

"If you consume it in Maine, we ask that you buy it in Maine. And we're discouraging you from going across the border and shopping in New Hampshire. That's really what this is all about. And we've gotten our business model to the point now where our pricing is competitive enough to where it doesn't make sense for you to drive "X" number of miles to save a dollar-fifty."

Mineo says the business model is working and that the continued success of Maine Spirit helps the state grow in other ways.

"Fiscal '17, which ended June 30, we sold about 168 million dollars in spirits. That goes right into the Maine Municipal Bond Bank which has paid off the hospital debt."

And with craft alcohol becoming ever more popular in the state, Mineo is expecting the business to become even bigger.

"I don't see this slowing down much. I really don't. Our business model now, in our evolution, we're just kicking into gear. We would certainly expect at least a two... three.... four percent growth in the out years."