How to arrange Congressional Visits to your Brewery

Brewers visiting Capitol Hill

The following guidance is provided to assist Brewers Association (BA) members in arranging Congressional visits to your brewery facilities. It does not cover fundraising events. If you have any specific questions on these issues, please contact the BA staff.

Schedule a Meeting at your Brewery

  • Call or e-mail the district or state office of your House member or Senator.
  • Ask to speak to their district scheduling secretary or whoever is in charge of the calendar. (Put “ATTN: Scheduling or Invitation” in subject line of e-mails).
  • If you have a brewpub, or if your brewery is open evenings or weekends, invite them to visit in the evening or over a weekend, as they are often attending meetings or events seven days a week and well into the evening.
  • If you are successful in getting your Senators or Representatives to plan a visit, make some basic preparations with your employees.
  • Think through a quick tour of your facility that will enable them to see the scope of your business activities and your employees at work (production, packaging, transportation, offices, kitchens, etc.).
  • Make sure your employees are aware of the visit. Urge them to be respectful whether or not they agree with every vote or position taken by their elected officials. Tell them not to be intimidated, and to describe their role(s) in your business. Members of Congress need and want to hear from constituents gainfully employed in their state or district.
  • In the course of the visit, you should feel free to explain your excise tax payment process and seek support for S. 917 and H.R. 494.
  • At the end of the visit, you may invite the Senator or Representative to join you for a beverage and snack keeping in mind the guidance below.
  • You can suggest to the District or State staff that press or a photo may be appropriate to publicize the visit.

It’s Easier than You Think

The invitation can be made with a quick phone call or email. The visit itself will only take an hour of your time, but will keep paying returns on the local and national levels. And, it’s easy. Here’s how to reach them through Vote Smart website.

Step 1: Enter your brewery’s nine digit zip code (this is important because some five digit zips can be covered by several legislators) in the “Search” box in the upper right hand corner of the Vote Smart home page.

Step 2: You will be taken to a results page where you will expand the “Congressional” option, thereby displaying your two U.S. Senators and your U.S. Representative. By clicking on the individual names, you will be taken to a page devoted to that individual legislator where you will need to scroll down to find office and contact information on the right hand side of the page.

Step 3: Identify the district office contact information for arranging the visit. Please phone the office to make your request, asking to speak with the scheduler. If there is more than one district office, determine which is the nearest to your brewery and call that one.

If you have any questions or if you need help with contact information for state/district directors or schedulers, please email one of us for assistance. And finally, stay in touch and let us know how your visit goes.

Bob Pease | Chief Operating Officer | Brewers Association

Pete Johnson | Programs Manager | Brewers Association

Contacting your Representatives

Congress Schedule

Members of both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate will be back in their districts and home states in early August for their annual month-long recess. For members of Congress, August means getting out of D.C. and getting back home. It’s a chance for them to reconnect with constituents in their districts and begin to prepare for the campaign season.

These work periods provide excellent opportunities to meet your Senators or Representative in their district offices or to invite them to visit your business. For brewers with facilities in the vicinity of summer festivities or Labor Day events, a cold craft brew might be a welcome respite. While many people make light of Congressional recesses, they are an important tradition, particularly for House members whose terms expire at the end of every even-numbered year. Americans expect to see their elected officials and constituent contact is critical for a Senator or Representative to be effective.

For you, these four or five weeks are your best opportunity to get them into your business, face to face with your employees and educated about what’s important to small brewers. Now is the time to invite your members of Congress to visit your brewery for a personal tour and for them to see first-hand what you do as a small brewery business.

And while you’re discussing your business and the value you bring to your local community and economy, it’s also an opportune time to discuss ways your federal representatives can directly support you and all small brewers. This Government Affairs section of the website is filled with all the resources you will need.

If your members of Congress are already Caucus members and/or co-sponsors, please thank them!

There are two very important “asks” for you to make:

  • Support small brewer graduated excise tax legislation H.R. 494 or S. 917 by becoming a co-sponsor.
  • Join the House Small Brewers Caucus or the Senate Bipartisan Small Brewers Caucus. Joining is an easy way for them to show meaningful support for you as their constituent and to build the strength of our collective voice in Washington, D.C.

Contact Information for Elected Officials

Be Loud and Proud: Invite the Media

A visit from a member of Congress is also a great local media opportunity. Invite the press to join you and your elected officials on the visit—members of Congress love getting local ink (especially if they are up for election in November) and you get great exposure for your brewery. Take a look at this example of the kind of exposure that’s possible when a U.S. Senator visits a local brewery.

Ethics Rules on Food and Novelty Items

The House and Senate have rules that generally prohibit free meals. The rules also apply to Congressional staff. The rules do include some exceptions that are applicable to visits to constituent businesses.

Senate Rules include the following exceptions that would allow you to provide a sample of your products, a snack, and/or a specialty item:

  • Food or refreshments of a nominal value offered other than as a part of a meal; and
  • An item of little intrinsic value such as a greeting card, baseball cap, or a T-Shirt.1
  • The Gift Rules of the House of Representatives include an identical food or refreshment provision and a very similar rule permitting acceptance of items of “nominal value such as a greeting card, baseball cap, or a T-Shirt.2

The House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct has informal guidance suggesting that an item of nominal value should be less then $10. The Committee also provides the following additional guidance, which recognizes certain situations where a “meal” may be included:

  • [t]he Committee has granted a general waiver of the gift rule to enable a Member, officer, or employee to accept the following items incidental to legitimate official activity:
Food or refreshments, including a meal, offered by the management of a site being visited, (1) on that business premises, and (2) in a group setting with employees of the organization…”

Some members of Congress choose not to accept any type of gift and may politely decline. There is no rule, however, against showing them to a good table if they want to stay and buy themselves dinner at your establishment!

1Senate Rule XXXV(c). 2House Rule 25, clauses 5(a)(3)(U) and (W). (accessed through http://ethics.house.gov/Links/Default.aspx)