California Craft Brewers Association Update

Support and development of State Brewers Guilds is a major focus of the Brewers Association in 2011. The addition of Acacia Coast, the Brewers Association’s new State Brewers Association Coordinator has helped the BA be more of a resource for existing and fledgling guilds. Acacia has been busy crisscrossing the country attending 17 state brewers association meetings in 14 states, thus far, with 5 of them centered on initial guild formation.

Recently, Acacia was in California to attend the CCBA meeting. Below is her description of how things went.

California Small Craft Brewers Association Meeting
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co, Chico, CA

Oct. 11, 2011

CCBA MeetingAs Glynn Philips and I reflected on the number of years of experience represented in the brewing and beer industry at the recent CCBA meeting, we came to the conclusion that there was easily at least 1,000 years!  It was the largest CCBA General Meeting ever with over 100 brewers and about 20 allied trade sponsors attending.  With so many of those brewers with 20+ years, it was easy to come to that supposition. There are so many attendees at the CCBA meetings now, Tom has decided to “copy Charlie [Papazian]”, simply conducting a show-of-hands to questions on location and years of experience, instead of asking participants to introduce themselves individually.

The California Craft Brewers Association (formally the California Small Brewers Association) is truly a treasure to the craft industry, advocating and promoting the advancement of the California breweries in every single city and town throughout the massive state. They also bring immense benefit to the entire nation, as a prominent guild setting pro-craft advantageous precedents on countless legislative issues.

With over 50% membership, out of about 275 breweries, Tom McCormick, CCBA Executive Director, never stops being amazed when he finds another brewery has opened, and it already has 800 Facebook “Likes” before he catches wind of their blazing success. Tom and his delightful assistant, Janet Caisse, organize some of the most informative, proactive, enlightening guild meetings that I’ve attended. With ample time for suppliers to demonstrate their wares, brewery tours led by Ken Grossman and his Sierra Nevada family, a delicious lunch, beer socials, and guest speakers with captivating presentations, I listen knowing that someday all of our nation’s guilds will follow in the CCBA’s robust footprint.

CCBA MeetingTo open, Tom gave a CCBA update, presenting the new website and playing quite a moving video advocating the Support Your Local Brewery grassroots movement. The CCBA has introduced new levels of membership, commissioned a study to conglomerate all the studies on the health benefits of beer,  and is beginning the process of a new social media outreach.  The video is due to be available on the CCBA’s soon-to-be live website before long.

The CCBA employs a contract lobbyist, Chris Walker, who keeps a close eye on the industry issues and legislative affairs. Though similar to the BA in that they do not have a PAC, the CCBA is able to stay abreast of the increasing pressures on the craft industry and take action proactively under Chris’s watchful eye. California brewers, assisted by the CCBA, were able to win favorable legislation on high alcohol flavored malt beverages (HAFMBs), 4-MEI, tasting rooms, and beer maker dinners this year. They successfully defeated tax increases, a bill to ban stimulants, and a bill that allowed alcohol suppliers to advertise on digital displays.  Prop 26 passed, a huge win for the industry, requires a 2/3 vote on any new fees on alcohol.

There are, of course, many new and challenging issues looming. Chris encouraged the membership to stay involved in the CCBA, read the blogs, forum, and industry news, engage consumers and participate in outreach and education with local and state policymakers by offering brewery tours, Capitol beer tastings, etc for elected officials.

Dan Wandel, with Symphony IRI, had an overwhelmingly informative presentation on the craft industry specific to California. With mostly rosy stats, it was an uplifting report. Craft continues to sell exceptionally well despite the Beer Category sales being down in California and also despite the strong presence of wine and spirits in this state. Native CA state brewers (42 tracked by SIG) command nearly a 50 share of Craft Dollar Sales in CA supermarkets. IPA Style has increased from 62 IPA’s selling CA Supermarkets in 2008 to 102 selling in 2011. In addition, the Craft Segment has gained 2.3 Dollar Share points in Supermarkets over the past four years in California and is now up to a 12.1 share of total beer dollar sales in CA supermarkets.

CCBA Meeting TourFollowing Dan, the CCBA hosted a panel on “The Future of Craft: Where Are We Going?” The panel was made up of Erin Glass, with the Brewers Association, Glynn Philips, owner of Rubicon Brewing and Pres of the NorCal guild, and Joe Whitney, who travels the nation extensively as Sales and Marketing Director of Sierra Nevada. They answered questions and provided insight on the booming craft segment and what it might look like in 3-5 years.  Erin reported on the exponential growth, and all agreed that craft is only going to get stronger, more abundant, and more creative moving forward.

After the panel, Sierra Nevada hosted a beer social and sponsor showcase, with more time to peruse the vendors, network, reconnect with colleagues, and share stories.  It was truly an excellent meeting, and I am so grateful I had the opportunity to take part! The impact the CCBA is making on the state of California, and the nation as a whole, is inspiring and hugely valuable for our industry. The years of experience in that meeting will only grow, and the impact is tangible. Thanks California Craft Brewers Association for all that you do!