The National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) welcomed many to the 80th Annual Convention and Trade Show, which took place Oct. 8-11 at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.

During the convention, the association awarded its highest honor to Joe LaMantia Jr. in recognition of his lifetime of service to the beer distribution industry and his South Texas community.

LaMantia is the general partner of L&F Distributors, a company he purchased in 1978 with one location in McAllen, Texas, and fewer than 20 employees. The company slowly expanded distribution to cities and counties along the Texas-Mexico border, including Harlingen, Alice and Laredo. In 2001, L&F branched out into Corpus Christi and, seven years later, had a presence in El Paso and Roswell, N.M. Today, L&F consists of eight distribution warehouses, services 35 counties throughout Texas and southeastern New Mexico and employs more than 1,200 people.

When L&F started, it focused on selling Anheuser-Busch brands. Today, it represents more than 150 craft and imported breweries.

“When I think about beer distributors who have worked their entire life to build a strong family business and have given back to their community time and time again, there’s nobody who embodies these qualities quite like Joe LaMantia,” NBWA President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Craig Purser said in a statement.

In other news, the NBWA Brewer Partner of the Year Award went to Bell’s Brewery of Kalamazoo, Mich. Now in its third year, the Brewer Partner of the Year recognizes brewers for building strong partnerships, providing valuable education and growing their brands through supportive partnerships with beer distributors.

Catawba Brewing Co. of North Carolina was recognized with the Brewer Partner Sales Execution Award, and Titletown Brewing Co. of Wisconsin was presented the Brewer Partner Marketing Innovation Award during NBWA’s 80th Annual Convention and Trade Show.

The association also announced its Board of Directors officers for the 2017-2018 term. Jim Matesich, president and CEO of Matesich Distributing Co., Newark, Ohio, has been appointed as chairman of the Board.

Matesich will drive the association’s advocacy efforts for licensed, independent beer distributors and educate elected officials, regulators, media and the public about the importance of effective state-based alcohol regulation and the regulatory, economic and commercial value of independent beer distributors.

“Jim is a true leader in the beer distribution industry and at NBWA, and we are honored to have his expertise guiding the association’s goals and agenda,” Purser said. “His extensive knowledge and experience on state issues from his years of leadership roles in Ohio business groups will benefit NBWA and its members as we navigate a changing landscape in our industry.”

Other officers joining the NBWA’s Board of Directors are the following:

  • Vice Chairman: Michael Schilleci, executive vice president of Supreme Beverage Co. Inc., Birmingham, Ala.
  • Treasurer: Brian Gelner, president of Heart of America Beverage Co., Springfield, Mo.
  • Secretary: Pat Blach, president of Blach Distributing Co., Elko, Nev.
  • Immediate Past Chairman: Paul J. Bertucci, executive vice president of F.E.B. Distributing Co., Gulfport, Miss., and Capital City Beverages Inc., Jackson, Miss. BI