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 Wisconsin.
For the very first time, four state guilds came together for a regional guild meeting the Friday prior to the Great Taste of the Midwest. Held in Madison, Wisconsin every August, the Great Taste is wonderful event claimed to be the second longest running beer festival in the nation. The guild meeting was organized by Dan Justesen of Vine Park Brewing Co and Minnesota Craft Brewer's Guild and Jeff Hamilton of Sprecher Brewing Co and Wisconsin Brewers Guild. Leadership from the Iowa Brewers Guild and the Brewers of Indiana Guild also joined the historic meeting.
Dan and Jeff began conversations with the BA and other neighboring state guild leaders on the regional meeting concept at the June SAVOR National Guilds Meeting. When Erin Glass, BA Membership Coordinator, and I were invited to attend, we were thrilled at the prospect of such an immense opportunity to meet with multiple guilds, in addition to the 142 breweries at the festival.
With leaders from four state guilds in attendance, and additional state guilds intent to join us in 2013, the Midwest guilds are setting an exemplary precedent for building communication across the region. This was an excellent occasion for guilds to network, collaborate, share challenges, best practices, and legislative successes. By my count, there are eleven states accepted into the festival, so I hope to see everyone next year!
After a brief discussion on projects, resources, and upcoming initiatives the Brewers Association is working on to support state guilds, Dan opened the meeting up for guild leaders to provide a summary and update on their state associations. There were many common threads among the state updates. It was a huge relief to the guild leaders from every state to hear their neighbors are facing similar challenges. There were a handful of ‘ah-ha’ moments for ways to move new initiatives forward.
One example of a common issue where many guilds struggle is finding some way to communicate and develop commonalities among brew pubs and production breweries. It’s also challenging to find common ground between all the new entrepreneurial breweries opening that find cause to challenge the status quo, and the established production breweries that are mostly comfortable working within the state’s constraints. This causes great anxiety amongst the “industry elders” who are worried this will lead to tax increases.
Non-consensus amongst these groups can lead to detrimental paralysis for a guild, particularly in the legislative arena.
With many new state guilds getting started, and older guilds ready to step up their game, there is much shift going on in leadership. Boards and officers are reassigning. Many of the guilds are hiring, or have just recently hired, a new Executive Director. I am very encouraged by the positive future prospects with states hiring a dedicated paid guild employee.
Some guilds have developed strong relationships with their elected officials, with individual members hosting legislators for tours or meetings. In other states, craft brewers continue to face challenges every year, where the costs of protecting their interests can be high. One brewery owner was told by their elected officials that craft brewers simply are not visible enough in the Capitol, while other beer industry lobbyists were there every day. But there are other ways, in addition to hosting legislators for brewery visits, to build those relationships. Barnaby Struve of Three Floyds Brewing Co. shared that the brewery has held several receptions for the state legislators. This definitely raises visibility and provides an opportunity to have the small brewer voice heard.
Overall the meeting was superb. The guilds in Illinois, Ohio, Nebraska, and Michigan all have expressed full intentions of coming in 2013. There were such valuable conversations; we hope all eleven state guilds plan to join us next year. And of course, Erin and I had a fabulous time at the Great Taste. There is so much amazing craft beer coming out of the Midwest, and it was truly an outstanding festival.