Smith Tea

How Steven Smith Teamaker Changed the World

Not so long ago, there lived a great tea whisperer named Steven Smith, who knew the story of every fine tea garden across the globe. After founding Tazo Tea and selling it to Starbucks, he had retired, but he knew his work wasn't done: In America, tea drinkers often felt like second-class citizens, compared to coffee drinkers. So he set out to create America's finest ultra-premium tea company, to bring the tea industry into the 21st century and the farm-to-fork era.

Over hundreds of cuppings, he worked to develop his line of teas. "Think about tea the way one tastes wine, with an entry, middle, and finish," he told his associates, envisioning tea drinkers with an interest in complexity and a product that expresses place and soul. Each tea would be rooted in transparency to share the provenance of its ingredients, right down to the specific garden and harvest date.

Steve showed with ease how his teas would disrupt the American tea industry, and his crusade to change the world resonated with food writers and investors alike. Today, Americans know the date their Smith Tea was harvested, the place from which it comes, and the source of the blending. Steven Smith Teamaker is now owned and operated by a management team that believes the brand is the best in the world.

Aviation Gin

How Aviation Gin Defined American-Style Gins

Late one night, a celebrated writer named Cynthia Nims had a house party in Seattle, and star bartender Ryan Magarian was among the faux palm tree fronds and volcanoes of her home Tiki bar. As the night progressed, he happened to meet a woman with gin in her purse and took a sip from the bottle. It was marked "Aviation Gin," and he realized he'd tasted something entirely new.

As soon as he could, Ryan journeyed to Portland, Oregon, to meet the gin's maker, Christian Krogstad. Ryan told Christian how much promise he tasted in his product, and, together, they turned what was already good into something great: They designed a truly new American-style gin, by cutting back on the juniper and amping up the botanicals.

The collaboration between Ryan and Christian was such a success they sold the brand to an investor who truly believes in their mission. And today, Ryan Reynolds, one of the world's greatest actors and celebrities, is a part owner of Aviation Gin.

Virtue Cider

How Virtue Cider Launched the American Hard Cider Revival

Once upon a time in an English pub, the longtime master brewer of Goose Island Beer, Greg Hall, had a cider epiphany: The English have drunk hard cider for more than 2000 years and love it. Shouldn't Americans also enjoy its virtues?

Waiting until his father sold Goose Island to Anheuser-Busch InBev in 2011, Greg founded Virtue Cider in Michigan—a land where heirloom apples like the late-harvest Northern Spy grow. His natural abilities as an educator and subject matter wizard would make it easy to generate publicity. But the cider’s national launch would have to be positioned just right to set the new brand up for category dominance.

Virtue Cider burst onto the national scene with swagger, launching in the now notorious third floor of April Bloomfield's The Spotted Pig, America's first gastro pub. Twenty-five journalists, many of whom hadn't known The Spotted Pig even had a third floor—or that Jay-Z, et al were co-owners —convened in New York City. Greg paired his hard ciders with each dish, including the night's main course, suckling pig. Saveur, Bon Appetit, Martha Stewart Magazine, and more all published coverage, spreading the gospel of hard cider near and far. Four years later, Greg sold 51 percent of Virtue Cider to Anheuser-Busch InBev and lived happily ever after, knowing he'd brought craft hard cider to America.

Oregon Beer

How the Oregon Brewers Guild Revealed the True Story of Oregon Beer

In a remote and hidden part of Oregon, rain falls onto an old-growth forest, tumbling through 400-year-old Douglas fir trees. The forest floor is covered with fir needles, which filter each drop, and the rainwater fills the Bull Run Watershed, the reservoir that supplies the City of Portland's water. No one is around. In fact, the public is not allowed here, which is a shame, because this is where the story of Oregon craft beer begins.

“We want Oregonians to be as proud of their beer as they are of their Pinot Noir,” said Jack Joyce, the founder of Rogue Ales and a member of the Oregon Brewers Guild.

Then a novel idea appeared: To share the story of Oregon beer with more journalists, they needed to show, not tell, how it fit into Oregon economy. So the Guild invited writers to experience the ecosystem of Oregon beer. They arranged a trip to the Bull Run Watershed, visited Wyeast Labs to understand innovative beer yeasts, and toured the oldest malting company in the Western U.S., Great Western Malt.

Now each year Oregonians drink more Oregon beer. In 2016, of all the beer drunk in the state, 23.3 percent was made in Oregon.


CA Marinated Goat Cheese

One day, far, far away in Australia, a global cheese expert named Gerard Tuck was eating some olive oil-marinated goat cheese and filling out an application to the Executive MBA Program at Stanford University. Anticipating the birth of his third child, he was excited by the prospect of an international adventure to the United States.

But once fully acclimated at Stanford, Tuck discovered a sad state of affairs: Americans couldn't enjoy marinated goat cheese, because it didn’t exist there. Gerard and his wife Susan had never developed a product before, or started a company, but lovers of fun and adventure, they quickly realized their destiny involved introducing one of their favorite cheeses to a huge country.

Surrounded by serene dairy farms, Gerard and Susan laid the foundation of their brand with intention. First, they perfected their origin story. Next, they prepared playful and educational presentations for potential investors. And then they won awards, including three prestigious accolades from the American Cheese Society in 2018.

With such sturdy positioning, Gerard and Susan had gone from thoughtful students to savvy teachers. They had built strategy into everything—even their event-booth swag —with a sophisticated ease. And today, the happy citizens of America slather hand-blended chèvre, marinated in extra virgin olive oil infused with botanicals, on just about everything.