While Colorado may be making headlines as the self-proclaimed “State of Craft Beer,” the sun continues to shine on Arizona’s craft beer culture, and breweries, brewers and beer connoisseurs across the state are enjoying their taste of the national spotlight.
While states like Colorado, Oregon and California engage in a public battle for craft beer supremacy, Arizona is taking a more subtle approach to prove its worth, and evidently, it’s working quite well. The tremendous escalation of Arizona’s craft beer scene is evident in everything from the expansion of the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild itself (it has nearly doubled in size in as many years, and now boasts 54 breweries) to the statewide sales figures that continue to explode year after year, and it’s all played a role in helping Arizona achieve its new designation as the Rising Craft Beer Star of the West.
While the growth of the American craft beer scene is not exclusive to Arizona, (sales are up 17.2 percent nationally, while overall beer sales have fallen 1.9 percent) the Grand Canyon State has certainly made its presence within the industry tough to ignore. From events like the Strong Beer Festival that draw thousands of beer fans to the Southwest each year, to breweries like Four Peaks Brewing Co. and SanTan Brewing Co. consistently scoring wins at the world’s biggest and best beer festivals, the industry’s statewide expansion shows zero signs of a slowdown.
The guild continues to look for more ways to educate the public on craft beer and for craft beer lovers to realize, “It is always sunny on Arizona’s beer scene.” And with breweries like Four Peaks that have won a record number of awards at the Great American Beer Festival and Lumberyard with its gold-medal-winning Pinecone Pale Ale, it isn’t hard to do. The guild boasts a wide array of top breweries including Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co., which was voted as the No. 1 new brewery in the world by RateBeer.com.
Arizona’s craft brewery scene has great growth potential and that is what has brewers and craft beer lovers flocking to our state. Arizona beer drinkers are finding that what we’re producing on our home soil is on par — if not exceeding — what’s being produced in the most powerful beer-producing cities in the world. While we may not have given ourselves the ‘State of Craft Beer’ moniker, it’s our hope that as the industry as a whole continues to grow, Arizona’s production capabilities and distribution footprints will grow right alongside it.
That is, if the upcoming vote on the Arizona Beer Bill passes, allowing breweries nearing their production limits to continue to operate their restaurants and tasting rooms once the limit is reached.
Our product is undeniably competitive with what Colorado and the country’s other top beer-producing states are putting out, but now it’s time to ensure that our laws don’t shoot our brewers in the foot by limiting our ability to expand outside our own borders. It comes down to Economics 101 — it’s a simple matter of supply and demand. The demand is there — now we just need to ensure we do everything possible to provide the supply, so we can continue to experience the tremendous success of one of Arizona’s fastest-growing industries.
The mission of the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild is to advance the understanding and appreciation of the Arizona craft brewing industry, and maintain the quality and image of beer produced in the state through the education of consumers, retailers, distributors and brewers. Among its many objectives is to ensure that our breweries and distributors are able to maximize production and profits without compromising the quality of their craft products — something that can only be done through the adoption of new legislation at the state level. Its most recent legislative success involved the passage of SB 1397, which expanded the available materials from glass to all sanitizing materials such as stainless steel, ceramic and non-porous plastics.
While the passage of SB 1397 was a win for the guild, it still has a long way to go, and it starts with the next legislative session. The guild looks to implement changes to help beer producers compete on a regional and national level — without upsetting the current regulatory scheme of producer, wholesaler and retailer. Proposed changes to Microbrewery Statute A.R.S. § 4-205.08 will allow a microbrewery to grow without having to shut down highly successful restaurants that have proved instrumental in establishing and promoting the products of Arizona’s microbreweries
Rob Fullmer is the executive director of the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild.