Support and development of State Brewers Guilds remains a major focus of the Brewers Association. Acacia Coast, the trade group's State Brewers Association Coordinator, continues to help 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 Wyoming.
In response to a legislative proposal to cap self-distribution in Wyoming, the state’s brewers have agreed to organize their small craft brewers association to uphold their access to market. I was not entirely certain that I would be able to convince Wyoming there was reason to organize, but I am happy to announce the discussions have launched. With only two states left without at least a foundation of a craft brewers guild, North Dakota and Wyoming are both now engaged in discussions to close the gap in the nation’s network of craft brewers associations.
Wyoming craft brewers have the most challenging part of running any association out of the way: cooperation! The state’s 15 brewers have been coming together for the past two years to brew a Wyoming state collaboration beer, to promote the great talent possessed by Wyoming brewers. Despite being the least populous state in the nation, and with only Alaska claiming fewer residents per square mile, Wyoming has collected a highly respectable 46 Great American Beer Festival medals, and 18 World Beer Cup medals. Golds for some of the largest, toughest categories (American-Style Strong Pale Ale, American-Style Wheat Beer, and Double IPA) have been claimed, sometimes in multiple years, by this talented state.
On Thursday May 16th, I flew in to Casper. All the brewers were gathering for the Harmony Hops & Hopes festival, put on by 307 Magazine. The 307 Magazine family has been hugely supportive of the state’s craft brewers and Jim MacKearney, owner/editor, helped us secure a meeting spot in a Casper conference center for the initial guild gathering.
Nine of the 15 breweries were in attendance and we discussed all of the foundational topics for building a guild. We started out the discussion with why the group had interest in forming a guild. Thankfully, the craft brewers concluded that they are ready to take control of the future of Wyoming craft beer and thus the fate of their businesses. We discussed aspects of communication, protection, promotion, and education.
The group agreed on a steering committee of five brewery representatives to complete the initial organizational logistics and paperwork. I will work with the steering committee to draft bylaws, develop a mission statement, and assist in continuing the state’s progress. The group agreed to meet at the next few upcoming events, across the state, in order to help keep the momentum moving forward.
Wyoming's craft beer community is modest but they are making award winning craft beer and are ready to give the industry a unified voice. With North Dakota not far behind, this would mean every state in the U.S. will have a craft brewers guild by 2014. I’ll make a toast to that!