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 the Oklahoma Brewers Guild.
Over the second week of April, I had the opportunity to attend the inaugural guild formation meeting for the state of Oklahoma. The meeting was held in the vibrant Bricktown district of Oklahoma City in a multi-story tap house called Tapwerks. Brewery reps and industry supporters drove from around the state to participate in the conversations. After sending an email to all the breweries in the state that I had contacts for, I was contacted by JD Merryweather at COOP Ale Works who offered to help organize this initial gathering.
A crowd of 35-40 folks gathered to talk about the reasons why they wanted a guild. Promotion of the state’s craft industry, and education of the burgeoning craft beer enthusiast community were of utmost importance. Putting on a festival, or an Oklahoma craft beer week will help develop the market’s palate for craft beer, and bring in the needed income for pursuing more pro-craft laws.
Revising the state’s laws to protect and promote craft beer is paramount to the group. They were all in agreement that organizing a non-profit state guild will help unify the community’s brewers, bringing forward a stronger voice in the ears of the state’s elected officials. Just having fair access to market would be an excellent win. Currently, production breweries in Oklahoma still cannot legally allow people to sample beer from their brewery. In addition, pubs cannot produce beer higher than 3.2% to put on tap in their restaurant, but they can put production breweries’ stronger beers on tap right next to the pub’s 3.2 beers. I encouraged the group to start small with some easier projects in order to develop relationships, trust, and camaraderie in this rising craft community.
A steering committee, including representatives from brewpubs, production and contract breweries, was organized to begin the initial tasks necessary for formation. We discussed all things guild-related, including how to shape membership, which state guilds are good models for success and partnering with the incredibly effective Support Your Local Brewery (SYLB) network. A question was posed inquiring how the Brewers Association (BA) is involved and what dues are charged for a guild’s membership in the association. As the BA board and government affairs team are seeing more and more issues arising at the state level, the development of the state craft brewers associations has become strong priority. As such, the BA does not charge dues for state guilds. We instead offer a reciprocal membership, with the BA holding associate membership in the state guilds, and state guilds holding similar membership with the BA.
There were many great questions asked, and much support expressed for starting Oklahoma’s craft brewer’s guild. With strong leadership, a dedicated follow-through, and regular communication, the state will excel at organizing their association. They already have an established successful festival in Oklahoma City that could be of benefit to the guild, which is a huge help for a guild in the early stages of forming. They have numerous professionals that can be of assistance legally and politically, and the administrative tasks of formation will hopefully go quite smoothly.
Oklahoma has continued its development despite the nation's economic recession and the local craft brewing industry has paralleled this growth. With a strong state association, the small brewers in Oklahoma will be able to play an influential part in the state’s brewing industry!