One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. We quote Plato, and we know the Greek mathematician, philosopher and founder of the Academy in Athens (the first institution of higher learning in the Western world) had seen some pretty ugly politics in his day (just look what happened to his pal Socrates).
Sticking to a similar Platonic philosophy, CBB has learned that the real secret to politics is to simply act, get involved, have a voice and know what’s going on. That’s why every day we keep our readers up to date on the latest legislation news impacting the industry. Today is only slightly different. Today, we’ve asked four of the top political minds in the country to discuss a topic affecting the U.S. craft beer industry. We actually asked a lot more folks to participate, but not many had much to say, which is a little concerning. So we truly thank the four below. Follow their example and get involved.
California, beer and legislation
Nico Freccia, co-founder
21st Amendment Brewery (San Leandro, Calif.)
California’s alcoholic beverage laws have been a major factor in the growth of the craft beer industry and a primary reason why California has more craft breweries than any other state. But these laws, like alcoholic beverage laws in most states, are constantly changing. In California, brewpubs with a small beer manufacturer’s license are allowed to also hold a retail liquor license, something that is not legal in many states. This exception has helped brewpubs to flourish in California offering more choices to their customers. In addition, California allows small and large beer manufacturers alike to self-distribute, again something that is not legal in many states. Self-distribution has allowed many small, local microbreweries to open with a clear path to market and an immediate high margin revenue stream.
Most of these small breweries later go on to sign with local distributors, completing the three tier circle. The three tier system in both of these instances is not threatened, but rather enhanced for the benefit of the consumer, the brewer, the wholesaler and the local economy. While small brewers in California benefit from our state liquor laws, these laws are always under attack from a variety of outside interests. In California, and across the country, small brewers must get involved and remain vigilant about protecting the rights we have and that allow us to succeed in a crowded marketplace dominated by bigger and better financed players.
Trade groups can help you tackle politics
Katie Marisic, federal affairs manager
Brewers Association (Boulder, Colo.)
“There are more than 3,400 craft breweries in the United States. As small business and economic engines, their political influence is growing along with the industry. A strong, educated, passionate and motivated membership is what helps to open doors on Capitol Hill. The Brewers Association knows that its members are an invaluable asset when it comes to moving the needle on all things government affairs. So far in 2015, members of the Brewers Association had over 600 meetings with their members of Congress, more than 2000 individuals affiliated with craft brewing sent emails about legislation to the hill and multiple elected officials have visited their local craft breweries, including presidential candidates. These tactics are key to building relationships with Congressional leaders. There isn’t an association out there that wouldn’t love to have that same level of participation. It is thanks to the active engagement of the brewery owners, brewers and their staff that officials in state and federal governments know their local breweries and know just how impactful they are. The people who own and work at craft breweries love what they are do and are proud of what they create. They care about the communities that they live in and it shows through their charitable involvement and their political action. It’s these qualities that make the craft brewing community such a stand out on Capitol Hill.”
Why should you become a lobbyist?
Bill Covaleski, brewmaster (and president of Brewers of Pennsylvania)
Victory Brewing Co. (Downingtown, Pa.)
We craft brewers treasure our independence and respect the independence of others. Therefore, the thought of putting on a suit and coercing others should rightly sound repulsively slimy and detestable to us. But lobbying need not be coercive. The ambitions and objectives of your regional brewers group don’t necessarily impact other groups negatively. Lobbying is simply advocacy and advocacy begins with education. So, if you have topics on which you don’t feel your legislators understand the issue or how a certain outcome could negatively impact your business and your employees, well, you are obligated to begin the process of lobbying by educating those folks. You’d be surprised if you could see the appointments on your legislator’s calendar – just about every business interest is represented there. So, if brewers are not represented how can you expect your interests to be known and your preferred outcomes achieved? I’ll close with a silver lining … you really don’t have to wear a suit to be a success at this.
Brewers and distributors working together
Jason Ebel, co-founder
Two Brothers Brewing Co. (Warrenville, Ill.)
I’ve always subscribed to the rising tide lifts all boats philosophy. I support any sort of legislation that is passed to help local Chicago and Illinois craft breweries grow. With new legislations for the state of Illinois on the horizon, pending an agreement between the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild and the Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois, craft brewers will soon be allowed to yield 120,000 barrels of beer per year while also operating as many as three retail facilities, such as taprooms and brewpubs. This legislation will open the doors for many local Chicago and Illinois craft breweries to map out successful growth plans for their long-term future. While this may create more challenges in an already highly competitive market, I’ve never been one to worry about what our fellow brewers are doing. I’m concerned with what Two Brothers is doing and ways that we can grow and be creative. The craft beer market is exploding, and this new legislation will allow our industry to continue to grow and profit.