California Craft Brewers Association Fall General Meeting

Support and development of State Brewers Guilds remains a major focus of the Brewers Association in 2012. The addition of Acacia Coast, the trade group’s State Brewers Association Coordinator has helped the BA become more of a resource for existing and fledgling guilds. Acacia has been busy crisscrossing the country attending state brewers association meetings with many of them centered on initial guild formation.

Recently, Acacia provided an update on her trip to California.

With 356 breweries, and a state that’s 840 miles long, it’s a bit of a challenge to organize an all-inclusive California Craft Brewers Association (CCBA) meeting just once per year. So instead, the award winning Executive Director of the CCBA, Tom McCormick holds two meetings per year, with numerous smaller regional meetings in more remote locations, ensuring all CA brewers have an opportunity to be involved and engaged with the association. The spring meeting is hosted by breweries in Southern California, the fall meeting is held up north.  It’s vital that the CCBA’s message reaches far and wide to the majority of CA brewers, as this is the state where we often see precedence-setting legislation.

Surrounded by hundreds of wood barrels at the Drake’s Barrel House in San Leandro, California, the CCBA conducted their fall California General Membership meeting in October. Starting at 9 am, it was a full day filled with valuable information, lively speakers, delicious lunch, and of course, top quality beers. Industry allied sponsors set up booths to showcase their products. Speakers included Jacob Appelsmith, the Director of the California ABC, CCBA Lobbyist Chris Walker, multiple craft beer centric lawyers, and finished off with JB Shireman, Director of Craft Services for First Beverage Group.

Session One: Know Your ABCs

Tom started the day with his ABC book in hand, reviewing trade practices and licensing basics for the handful of newly opening California breweries. Tom emphasized that “the ABC is our friends”, but because they are law enforcement, he encouraged the group to be on their “best behavior” for the Director, coming to talk in the afternoon. Craft brewery attorney, Candace Moon, Esq, covered some important employee issues all breweries should know. Though the discussions brought a lot of heavy information for the early morning, Tom’s humor kept the conversation entertaining and his assistant, Janet Caisse kept the coffee flowing. The crowd was entirely engaged, asking sharp questions and many later remarked they were quite grateful for the significant insights.

Session Two: Members Only

After lunch, the voting brewery members-only session gave Tom the opportunity to provide the Association updates. Tom congratulated the community on the astounding results of the CCBA’s economic impact study. He also updated everyone with good news on the confusing and frustrating California growler law. It is a common misperception that breweries cannot fill a growler from any other brewery in California. This would mean that I have to have 356 different growlers! Turns out, with ABC clarification, this is not true – breweries can fill any growler (any container, actually) as long as all visible reference to any other brand is completely covered and breweries affix their own ABC approved label.

Chris Walker, the association lobbyist, provided an overview of legislative environment and activities through the year. He talked about the many successes in Sacramento the craft brewers and the CCBA had this year:

  • SB 778 allows manufacturers or suppliers of beer and wine to conduct consumer sweepstakes and exempts contest prizes from established gift limits.
  • AB 2184 allows brewers to autograph bottles for consumers at promotional events.
  • AB 2349 allows for online listings of on-sale accounts of 2 or more on-sale retailers selling beer so long as they are “bona fide public eating places”.
  • AB 1812 ensures that beer aged in used re-purposed empty wooden barrels will continue to be taxed, licensed, regulated and labeled as “beer”.
  • AB 1583 prohibits junk dealers and recyclers from purchasing or receiving pallets marked with indication of ownership from anyone except the owner.
  • SCR 66, proclaiming February as California Craft Beer Month.

Tom underscored the critical need for breweries to promptly respond to CCBA/ Support Your Local Brewery alerts. Tom said ALL elected officials have Facebook and Twitter accounts, and encouraged everyone to ‘like’ those pages, follow their members/senators, and be plugged in to what’s going on with their elected officials.

Session Three: Open Meeting

Although legal in 49 states, California finally joined the nation and legalized sweepstakes. Eugene Pak and Dan Myers gave an overview of SB 778, outlining the dos and don’ts and answering questions about the limitations.

Next up, Director of the California ABC Jacob Appelsmith, and ABC staff, Tim Gorsuch and Lori Ajax took their place in front of the barrels. In a candid and humorous manner, Jacob spoke about the how California breweries and the California ABC can most optimally work together to better the craft brewing industry. He stressed that the ABC is entirely aligned with the brewery businesses and that NOONE wants rogue breweries giving a bad name to the industry.  There were numerous questions and it was a superb dialog.

In recognition of individuals in the CA craft brewing industry that have supported and contributed to the CCBA and the advancement of the industry, Tom gave out his “Rock Awards”.  Joyce and Sean Turner of Mammoth Brewing, and Tom Dalldorf, Celebrator Beer News, both accepted the beautiful engraved granite awards for hosting successful fundraising events for the CCBA.

Candace Moon presented information on trademark issues, addressing solutions to the challenges of finding a unique brand name with over 10,000 brands already registered. She provided three key links to databases where breweries can look up COLAs to ensure their brand names are unique.  After Candace, JB Shireman shared his insights on The Beer Industry Landscape. He presented loads of insights on all tiers craft related: consumers, suppliers, distributors and retailers. He finished by saying this industry has the most creative brightest entrepreneurial people he’s ever worked with, and by 2025, we’ll be able to drive 100 miles down any road in America to get good quality local craft beer.

We find huge value in attending the CCBA meetings, they are always overflowing with superb information in a most professional and engaging atmosphere. On behalf of the Brewers Association, thank you, Tom and Janet, for all you do for the California AND national craft beer industry!

Find your state guild contact here!