Oregon Brewers Guild Annual 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 Oregon.

My guild travels brought me to Portland, OR at the end of November for the annual Oregon Brewers Guild (OBG) meeting. As is typical for our nation’s larger guilds, Brian Butenschoen, guild director, organized multiple sessions for the multiple membership tiers of the OBG community. Educational seminars followed a voting members meeting, and everyone came together for a dinner and social at the end of the evening.
There were over 270 RSVPs for the educational seminars and dinner at the OBG Annual Meeting this year. The voting members meeting attendance was light, but Brian offers 4 annual meetings, to include Bend, Eugene, and Corvallis, giving the State’s craft industry multiple opportunities to stay connected. Managing all the aspects of a guild in a state with over 90 breweries, and more than 140 brewery/pub locations, Brian is understandably ready to hire an assistant. There are a handful of guilds in the nation with 2 paid staff, and the OBG is discussing the logistics of this inevitable necessity.
During the members meeting, Brian covered the OBG’s 2012 year of activities. The OBG organizes and/or sponsors multiple successful fundraising events throughout the year.  Zwickelmania is a free statewide event that offers visitors a chance to tour Oregon breweries, meet the brewers and sample their favorite beers. Cheers to Belgian Beers offered brews from over 40 brewers, and had 1600 attendees, bringing in over $10k for the guild. In July, Oregon Craft Beer Month included over 420 events statewide and increased visits to the guild site by 28%. Almost 11,000 attendees participated in the five Fresh Hop Beer Fests around the state. Brian has also brought the OBG to the Great American Beer Festival, Support Your Local Brewery Guild Pavilion the last four years.
For guilds looking for high-quality event ideas to raise funds, Oregon certainly exemplifies great success.
During the government affairs overview, Brian covered the Federal Excise Tax bills, a request for comments on TTB regulations, a call for participation in the 2013 Craft Brewers Conference Hill Climb, OR legislative election results, water supply issues in various OR cities, brewery registration with the FDA, the impact of Washington’s privatization, and a shift in leadership at the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. He provided resources for folks to learn more in printed handouts, complete with links and contacts for members to follow up.
The OBG has much in store for 2013. I counted at least 15 events that will be supported or sponsored by the guild. The marketing committee has been working hard to rebrand the guild, preparing to launch a whole new marketing campaign, to include a new logo, merchandise, events, a mobile app, and a refreshed website. The new graphics were crisp and classy; the campaign will undoubtedly bring much more awareness to the significance of Oregon Craft Beer.
I was able to attend only a couple of the offered educational seminars. I learned quite a bit in the enlightening Brand Registration seminar led by Sheila Fox from Morrison-Davis Wright Tremaine and Mike DeKalb of Laurelwood Brewing. When talking about naming a beer, a process I’ve always found interesting, and certainly a contested topic at our Sierra Nevada Beer Camp, Sheila said “$500-$2000 for a lawyer to conduct a brand search is cheap insurance when a single lawyer letter response to a cease and desist order is $2000.”
Even more fascinating was the panel on Distributor Contracts with Ben Love of Gigantic Brewing, Jesse Lyon from Davis Wright Tremaine, and Christian Ettinger of Hopworks Urban Brewery. These fellas came to the table with much experience, offering lots of great best practices for how to craft a wholesaler contract that benefits both parties. Even though a contract is not a good way to build a relationship with a distributor, not having a contract, or just a minimal contract is not ideal because distributor franchise law in OR is extremely distributor-friendly.
The guild meeting was held alongside the Portland Holiday Ale Festival, where “more than 17,000 gathered in Pioneer Courthouse Square over five days to raise a mug to the big, bold craft beers of winter,” according to event coordinator, Chris Crabb. I met lots of industry colleagues at the fest, including Santa (who was drinking a delicious Christmas ale) and Professor Jeff Dense, from Eastern OR University, who conducts the economic impact survey of the festivals in OR.
The Oregon Brewers Guild is an outstanding example of a well-established, prosperous guild. The OBG plays a vital role in the Oregon craft industry as an invaluable resource to its associate and brewery members. The OBG also positively educates Oregon’s elected officials, craft beer enthusiasts, and the public through its high-quality promotional events. OBG members are working hard to continue Oregon’s world class reputation for excellent craft beer, and for all of the above, we are grateful.

Find your state guild contact here!