California Craft Brewers Association Update

Support and development of State Brewers Guilds remains a major focus of the Brewers Association. Acacia Coast, the trade group’s State Brewers Association Coordinator, continues to help 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.

California Craft Brewers Association (CCBA) hosted their largest meeting recently at UC San Diego. The CCBA membership has grown so large that they were forced to find a space outside of a brewery for this spring meeting. This was the first meeting without stainless steel in sight.

The award winning Executive Director of the CCBA, Tom McCormick, offered a jam packed day of informative seminars. He introduced the CCBA, outlining its purpose for advocacy and legislative support to craft breweries. Tom then clarified that California’s seven plus regional guilds, present in cities such as San Francisco and San Diego, are promotional extensions of the CCBA. Also, surrounding the meeting space were vendor sponsors presenting their products and services.

Changes for the CCBA

The association is moving into new offices this June in downtown Sacramento, 3 blocks from the state capitol. They’ll be housed in the California Restaurant Association (CARA) building, where unused office space was offered to the CCBA. The CARA will now be offering California craft beer on tap at the Restaurant Association’s hospitality receptions.

In March the CCBA hired Scott Marks as the new CCBA Manager. Scott will assist with membership and the huge number of inquiries that come in to the association. While Scott handles day to day operations, Tom can focus more of his time towards the legislative issues impacting craft brewers. The CCBA also intends to offer educational webinars on ABC regulations, insurance, employee policies, and spend more time on craft brewer education.

There is now a vastly diverse set of needs with a tremendously different level of pressure on the industry in Califonia. With 367+ breweries, plus 130 known breweries-in-planning, we are almost certain to see 400+ craft breweries in California by the end of the year. Startup time five years ago took approximately 24 months plus. The responsibilities of having a brewery license have gone a bit by the wayside as startup time has decreased to only a few months. The rules of the road aren’t nearly as researched prior to opening time. It is, however, incumbent on all of the CCBA members to elevate and maintain the industry regulation for the betterment of the entire state’s craft brewing community. The institutional knowledge needs to be passed along in order to keep current privileges.

Industry Presentations

Craft brewery attorney, Candace Moon, Esq, started the meeting with powerful dialogue on employment law, making sure folks were drinking strong coffee.

Roger Hanney, principle of Roger A Hanney & Associates, gave a stern talk to new brewery owners on trade practices and ABC laws. Hanney’s consulting company targets the alcoholic beverage industry in California, specializing in ABC licensing and regulatory compliance for brewers, wholesalers and retailers.

Roger began, “I do not have a sense of humor for people that violate the laws.” He clarified, the ABC did not write the non-retail laws – they were written by our industry members to help brewers make good products and profits.

While outlining all the reasons the ABC is not happy with the craft brewers these days, he emphasized ignorance is NOT a defense of the law. He cautioned: “Don’t brew beer if you don’t know the laws. Brewing beer is not an alienable right. It’s a privilege bestowed upon you by the state of California, as long as you agree to abide by all the rules of the state. Little-guy upstarts aren’t going to get a ‘get out of jail free’ card when the ABC comes knocking.”

Roger came back after lunch for the members’ session where he was more encouraging to the established brewers about their newfound political clout. He sang praises about the CCBA, reiterating multiple times “You have an incredible team in this association. Everyone has to become a member of this association! Becoming a member of the CCBA should be a prerequisite for applying for a brewery notice!” With festivals in full swing, he spent time further elaborating on special event issues.

Natalie Cilurzo, Secretary of the CCBA and co-owner of Russian River Brewing Co, simplified the significant growler confusion in the state. She prepared and presented a CCBA Growler Clarification statement, with many best practices valuable to other states.

In recognition of individuals in the California craft brewing industry that have supported and contributed to the CCBA and advancement of the industry, Tom gave out his “Rock Awards”. CCBA Lobbyist Chris Walker, and CCBA past board member, Lee Doxtader of San Diego Brewing Co, both accepted the beautiful engraved granite awards for their years of dedicated service to the CCBA.

The Brewers Association’s Chris Swersey, Technical Brewing Projects Coordinator & Competition Manager, presented sobering news on the state of our supply pipeline. He also shared more information on the BA’s new Sustainability Manuals,, keg safety initiatives, barley research, hop crop and contract monitoring, and draught beer quality issues.

Dan Wandel presented national and California-specific beer statistics. Craft in NorCal currently owns 24.5% share, where in SoCal craft has 10.5% share. No surprise, IPAs are the top craft style in California (surpassing pale ales). By the end of the year Dan sees craft exceeding 15 dollar share in California supermarkets, with IPAs likely getting to 30 share of total craft dollar in California supermarkets by EOY 2013.

Closing out the meeting with a captivating presentation was JB Shireman, Director of Craft Services for First Beverage Group, a trusted advisor focused exclusively within the beverage industry. Revealing insights on all tiers of the industry, JB detailed issues surrounding beer drinker demographics, political trends and the ongoing battle of intense competition among retailers, wholesalers and suppliers. “Without questions, this is the most competitive time in our industry and I don’t see that going away.” Additionally, because of the ongoing threats that constantly emerge with this explosive industry competition, JB also emphatically stated “Craft brewery members HAVE TO STAY INVOLVED in their CCBA!”

Indeed, the CCBA is vital to the craft brewing community of California. It’s crucial that the CCBA’s message reaches far and wide to all California brewers, as this is a state where we commonly see legislation that sets further precedence nationwide. The CCBA: “Empowering the craft brewers of California through protection, education and communication.”

Find your state guild contact here!