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 Illinois.
After a smashing Chicago Beer Week success, the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild is busy preparing legislation, organizing their Oak Park festival, and already making plans for 2013’s Beer Week. In mid-July, I had the pleasure of joining the Illinois Brewers Guild at their annual meeting, hosted by Revolution Brewing Co at their new production facility. The guild’s long-running president and owner of Haymarket Brewing Co, Pete Crowley, moderated the meeting, with additions from the guild board.
In preparation for the meeting, the new executive director, Justin Maynard, produced an impressive spiral bound, full color Illinois Craft Brewers Guild Annual Report for the members. This was a super professional publication, complete with a letter from the president, a list of current guild members, and updates on the guild events, initiatives, and financials. I found this to be a very nice addition to the voting members meeting, worthy of replication in other state associations.
The meeting format worked well, and is common with many associations. After a voting brewery members’ social hour, the annual meeting was held in a conference room above the brewery, and then the guild hosted a catered combined gathering in the beer hall for all of the allied trade and brewery members. Engaging associate/ allied trade members and offering an informal social hour is a fantastic way to open up communication in the industry, providing much needed opportunities for networking for the businesses and fund raising for the association. See more about Associate Membership here.
After introductions to start off the annual meeting, Revolution’s Josh Deth and DESTIHL’s Matt Potts gave an update on the fallout from last year’s AB lawsuit, the subsequent Illinois legislation, and new licensing challenges that have emerged as a result.
Though the guild is opposed to S.B. 3399, they didn't devote resources to stopping this bill currently before the Governor for action after passing both chambers of the legislature. The bill provides that certain compensation requirements applicable to the termination of an agreement between a brewer and a wholesaler apply if the total annual volume of beer products supplied by the brewer to the wholesaler represents 10% or less, rather than the current 15% or less, of the wholesaler's business for all beer products supplied by all brewers.
Through the outreach of the guild’s lobbying firm, Stricklin & Associates, State Representative Deb Mell (D-40th district) came to the meeting to learn about the breweries in her Chicago district, and how she can be of support to the growing industry. She appreciates hearing about the booming industry’s job creation and is fully supportive of her district’s breweries, including Revolution Brewing Co, even though she doesn’t drink alcohol. Representative Mell said she’s always looking for good bills and is considering sponsoring a bill the guild is currently drafting. She absolutely loved Josh’s brewery boots and quite seriously asked where she could get a pair for herself.
Both Representative Mell and the guild’s lobbyist, Danielle D’Allessandro encouraged the group of Illinois brewers to visit their representatives, and certainly gather together for a Capitol Hill day each year. Josh wisely articulated to the group that the way to make things happen on the Hill is not to sue entities in court, but to instead bridge gaps, open communication, and create champions out of the elected officials. Danielle offered to make appointments for the guild members to visit with their state representatives, and we certainly hope Illinois brewers take advantage of this opportunity!
During the all-member gathering, Pete asked each newly opened brewery member to stand up and introduce their brewery, giving the crowd a good idea of just how many new entrants there are to the Illinois craft industry. By Brewers Association counts, Illinois has 57 licensed breweries and approximately 67 in planning!
Hoping to revitalize the guild’s enthusiast membership program, IMBIBE, they are going to be updating the membership benefits and creating a new plan of outreach. Boosting membership with voting breweries and allied trade partners is also high on their list of goals in 2012. For the Oak Park Micro Brew and Food Review, 16 of the Illinois brewers will be working on a collaboration beer to debut at the festival. Most of the funds from the event and brew will benefit the guild.
Illinois has a thriving and vibrant craft beer industry, with a guild that is working tirelessly to support, promote, protect, and educate the booming businesses. I had a most enjoyable visit with Pete, Justin, and the Illinois brewers, and am grateful for their outrageous hospitality. Cheers to the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild!