Aside from the awesome BrewExpo that showcased tons of great products and insightful speakers, the Craft Brewers Conference (CBC) brought together some 6,400 brewing professionals and approximately 440 exhibitors in the nation’s capital for conversation and collaboration about America’s ever-growing craft beer culture. One of the biggest, and most important industry events, was the Craft Brewers Hill Climb, which took a record 233 small and independent American brewery owners and brewers, representing 215 craft breweries and 46 states, to the top of United States Capitol steps. They met with Congressional staff to tell their success stories and discuss legislative issues of concern to the craft brewing industry. One of the biggest issues discussed was taxes, which is an issue that, if left unchecked, could bury the American craft beer industry as we know it.
One of the biggest issues in the past 18 months was the Center for American Progress (CAP) including an alcoholic beverage equivalency tax in its Tax Reform and Deficit Reduction Plan that calls for tax on alcoholic beverages at a uniform $16 per proof gallon.
“The Brewers Association had a meeting with CAP. We said that we understand the need for additional revenue, but you’re going to devastate an American manufacturing and servicing industry if you do this,” the Brewers Association explained in a teleconference last week during the Craft Brewers Conference and BrewExpo America.
In order to tell their side of the tax story, brewers took to Capitol Hill, visiting 90 leadership offices in the Senate and 240 in the House of Representatives to get the word out about American small craft brewing business. Bob Pease, Brewers Association chief executive officer, explained that one of the big reasons the CBC was held in Washington, D.C., this year was for a big push on the government affairs side.
“The BA goal, as a relatively new entity in government affairs, is to go in and tell the story of American craft beer and educate the staff of the challenges of running a small business and a small brewery. I invited every brewery owner and CEO and state guild leaders in our database. The Brewers Association organized meetings for the attendees with their respective offices.”
Policies aren’t made over night, but the big focus on this D.C. visit was on building relationships with congressional representatives. Although Congress was in recess last week, the BA capitalized on a more relaxed, attentive congressional staff that was able to spend more time talking with the brewers and understanding their businesses.
Craft beer support is growing in Congress. There’s even a Congressional Small Brewers Caucus chaired by Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Dennis Rehberg (R-MT), that is dedicated to educating Members of Congress and their staff about legislation, regulations and other unique issues faced by small American breweries. Nevertheless, the Brewers Association plans to continue spreading the word of lower taxes for craft brewers. For more on the association’s plans this year, don’t miss our interview with Paul Gatza.