In 2011, the Utah Brewers Guild (UBG) annual meetings was the first I attended after starting at the Brewers Association (BA). The guild gradually became more active, and now, seven years later, UBG has hired their very first executive director, Cassie Slattery.
Utah is now home to at least 27 breweries and ranked 40th in the nation for brewery count. Utah ranks 27th in the nation for beer production with just over 200,000 bbls produced in 2016. They are revered in the community by consumers and struggle to keep up with the demand.
(FIND: U.S. Brewery Directory)
Utah brewers face a unique regulatory environment. Challenges in the conservative legislature, mean they must continue to fight for basic privileges, often losing a few with each legislative season. With the hire of Slattery, the UBG will now have the opportunity to elevate their impact at the capitol—they will now have a unified voice to advocate for their interests. Slattery’s focus will be on educating policymakers on the contributions of Utah brewers to the state’s economy and communities.
At the recent annual meeting at Uinta Brewing, the guild’s then-president and CEO of Uinta Brewing Co, Steve Mills (now past president/past CEO) introduced Cassie Slattery as the new director. Originally from Michigan, she has a passion for locally-made craft beer. More importantly, she has a strong nonprofit fundraising and lobbying background. Utah’s legislature began January 22, the same day Slattery started at UBG, and she has already proven to be an immense asset to the brewing community. The board of directors is excited to have hired Slattery, and Mills shared, “It’s exciting to me where the guild is and where the guild is going to be. We now have this force behind us, and that force is Cassie.”
On the docket for 2018, state legislators are looking at a couple very important issues. First, they are once again discussing the 4.0 percent alcohol by weight (ABW) mandate for on-premise draught and off-premises grocery sales. The guild advocates for eliminating the cap altogether, similar to every other state in the U.S. Unfortunately, a bill was filed to very minimally raise the cap to 4.8 percent ABW, which would only benefit the large multi-national breweries, to the detriment of the local craft beer producers.
Second, on the alcohol-related docket, Utah’s Governor Herbert signed into law last session (2017) a bill reducing the DUI blood alcohol content (BAC) from .08 to .05. Set to go into effect in December 2018, the bill was framed as a “safety issue” by referencing what some have claimed to be dubious studies, partnered with questionable comparisons to other countries’ laws. The law could be exceptionally harmful to the restaurant and tourism industry, and possibly create an unmanageable burden on Utah courts and jail systems. Concerns have also been raised with the cost of enforcement and that the focus of law enforcement officials will be taken from addressing repeat and high BAC offenders. Current discussions include lessening the penalties for a .05 BAC from criminal to administrative or civil penalties instead. Rep. Karen Kwan introduced House Bill 345 to delay the implementation to 2022, to more fully explore the policy’s potential impact.
There’s plenty of lifting to do, but the more of us that lift, the less we each have to carry.” —Steve Mills, UBG Past President
Slattery will also focus on brewery member promotion, fundraising, and event orchestration. She is leading the first-ever initiative to declare April as Salt Lake City Craft Beer Month. Salt Lake Mayor Jackie Biskupski is supportive, and this would be an excellent recognition of the city’s numerous craft brewers. Other guild events include Fluid Art at Salt Lake’s Modern Art Museum, SLUG Magazine Beer Fest, and Pie & Beer—held July 24 each year, and is the guild’s biggest fundraiser.
(RESOURCE: Industry Defense for Guilds)
In 2017, UBG launched an enthusiast membership program called IPUB, or I Protect Utah Brewers. Developed to promote awareness and defend the vital interest of the Utah brewing industry, all member funds go directly to the guild’s advocacy efforts.
Outgoing UBG president Mills gave his regards to the guild, and encouraged brewery representatives to come forth to be of service to the UBG. “There’s plenty of lifting to do, but the more of us that lift, the less we each have to carry.”
Slattery is developing partnerships with allied associations in the state, including the manufacturers association, various restaurant associations, tourism CVBs, and the wholesaler association. Building membership, orchestrating events, finding new funding sources, and advocating for Utah’s brewers will surely keep her occupied all year round, and she will prove to be of great benefit to everyone who loves to enjoy an award-winning Utah craft beer.