Illinois Guild Update

Support and development of State Brewers Guilds remains a major focus of the Brewers Association. 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 Illinois.

What do tacos, rice pudding popsicles, mucha cerveca, a piñata, and a Mariachi band have in common? I found them all at the 2013 annual Illinois Craft Brewers Guild (ICBG) meeting, hosted by the new 5 Rabbit Cerveceria facility in Bedford, IL. During the guild meeting, 5 Rabbit owners Andreas & Mila Araya, and Brewmaster John J Hall kept the 100+ attendees refreshed, hydrated and musically satiated.

The Illinois Craft Brewers Guild, founded in 1997, is a non-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting and protecting Illinois craft breweries. The guild is led by a nine-member board, with support from Executive Director, Justin Maynard. Serving as President is Pete Crowley, owner of Haymarket Brewery. The gentlemen started the meeting by welcoming the voting members for an early session of ICBG business. This was followed by a social hour and sponsored taco dinner. After tacos and mariachi music, the ICBG general meeting commenced with a warm welcome to the associate members, updates from the ICBG’s lobbying firm, and 5 Rabbit’s Illinois General Assembly Representative, Michael J. Zalewski.

The ICBG has been slowly growing over the years, but with Maynard on board, the guild has progressed exponentially. The ICBG growth stems out of the necessity to keep up with the explosive growth of the Illinois craft brewing scene. There are now 70+ breweries in IL, and another 85 in-planning. Eighteen breweries opened up in the state over the last year, and even though there were only 20 RSVPs for the voting member meeting, it was entirely obvious the group wouldn’t fit in the designated space for the meeting when over 50 people showed up for the early session.

This industry growth lead to a move to amend the ICBG bylaws and add 2 board members to the previously seven-member board. The guild welcomed Andreas Araya, Jim Ebel (Two Brothers), and Gabriel Magliaro (Half-Acre Brewing Co) to the board (pictured above). Crowley welcomed the new brewery and associate members, noting that there will be a LOT of new voting members next year.

Maynard has been working hard to quite successfully build the ICBG membership. There are now 51 voting members, an unprecedented 89 associate members, and 350 IMBIBE (acronym for “I’M a Big Illinois Beer Enthusiast!”) members (an increase of 290 brewers from 2012). Developing membership and continuing to build member benefits will be one of Maynard’s many initiatives continuing into 2014.

The ICBG hosts many successful guild fundraising events. The Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beer is extremely popular, with breweries from all over the U.S. and tickets selling out in minutes. Chicago Craft Beer Week (CCBW) in May was the guild’s largest fundraiser to date. This year’s CCBW counted over 500 events spanning over 300 venues, almost tripling participation from 2012. Complete with a comprehensive CCBW mobile app, the guild successfully enticed thousands of craft beer enthusiasts to explore Chicago’s booming craft brewing industry.

The ICBG partners with multiple organizations throughout the state to put on additional fundraisers, with proceeds benefitting both associations. Oak Park Microbrew Review, coming up in August, is a major benefit for Seven Generations Ahead, and models Zero Waste best practices. The CCBW kick-off event, Beer Under Glass, raises funds for the Garfield Park Conservatory. Through these and other various partnerships, the guild can offer unique spaces for beer enthusiasts to enjoy Illinois craft beer, staff to help manage the event, and funds to go toward the ICBG expenses.

The Illinois brewers have experienced some legislative trouncing recently, with their access to market being limited through the self-distribution caps and franchise law restrictions. They intend to work to gain some of these rights back through clarifications and an increased 2014 legislative effort.

In May, Illinois legislators passed HB 1573, a bill that blocked wholesaler branches for breweries over 15K bbls. The Illinois General Assembly overwhelmingly approved an amendment allowing craft brewers to manufacture up to 30,000 barrels of beer and maintain their exemption to self-distribute 7,500 barrels. It is now awaiting the Governor Pat Quinn’s signature, prior to the August 16th deadline.

Josh Deth, founder of Revolution Brewing Co, said he and other brewers will surpass the current 15k cap this year. The Illinois Craft Brewers Guild had sought to push the ceiling to a more modern 200,000 barrels. Unless otherwise changed, however, Deth and other small brewery business will either need to sell off their brewery or brewpub unless law changes.

Representative Zalewski noted the guild picked the hottest day of the year to represent their product. Although he was not aware of the 5 Rabbit business in his district until he was invited to the guild event, he was happy to hear of their success and growth. He encouraged brewers to reach out to their Members both where they live, and where they own businesses, to educate the Members on the Illinois craft beer businesses.

To wrap up 2013, the ICBG will be making a big push to formulate an aggressive schedule of brewery visits for Illinois state elected officials. This will be in preparation for the ICBG’s lobbying goals slated for the Spring 2014 session. This next year is shaping up to be one of the ICBG’s best unified efforts to make changes and impact legislative reform in small brewers’ favor.

And in conclusion: I am now certain there is no guild meeting that is wholly complete without a Mariachi band.

Find your state guild contact here!

Acacia began her career with the Center for Creative Leadership, a world-renowned non-profit executive leadership and research organization. Currently, Acacia works with the BA's government affairs team as the state brewers associations coordinator, traveling the nation in support of America’s craft brewers guilds.

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