Florida Guild Secures a Seat at the Legislative Table

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Founded in 1996, the Florida Brewers Guild (FBG) has been a compass for Florida brewers for over two decades. Organized to unite the industry for advocacy and disseminating best practices, FBG continues to elevate brewing across the state.

Previously referred to as a craft beer wasteland, Florida was recently highlighted as a state with one of the fastest growing brewery counts, with 183 licensed brewers, according to Forbes (264 TTB brewery permits by end of 2016).

Steering the FBG, President, Kent Bailey, owner of Coppertail Brewing, is supported by Executive Director Melissa White, and Lobbyist and Chief Counsel Josh Aubuchon. Melissa, however, is moving on to support a family venture.

What seemed to be a never-ending battle, FBG finally secured brewers’ right to sell a 64oz growler last year. This year, the FBG is keeping a watchful eye on 18 alcohol bills currently on the docket.

(MORE: Guild Organizes 100 Meetings at Maryland State Capital)

Though this year’s FBG-sponsored Tallahassee hill climb was rained out, Josh says, “Brewers showed up in force and stormed the chamber like a pack of wet dogs, overfilling offices beyond capacity.” Brewers have been inviting policy makers to their breweries and developing relationships with representatives for years now. The guild’s advocacy efforts are robust, and the scene is clearly advancing in no small part due to FBG’s seat at the legislative table.

Most notably, FBG is supporting SB 554, which permits brewers producing less than 3,500 bbls per year and without a franchise agreement with a distributor, to self-distribute their product directly to retail accounts. Historically most small brewers must build a loyal customer base and eventually establish relationships with wholesalers in order to grow and succeed. Until distribution through an independent distributor becomes a good business choice for both brewer and independent distributor, small brewery self-distribution is often a small brewer’s only means to gain access to licensed retailers.

Indeed, many of today’s successful small brewers had to self-distribute in order to get their beer to market and might not be here today without the self-distribution option. Approximately 36 states currently allow some form of self-distribution by breweries to retail vendors. The lack of availability of a willing and/or viable wholesaler should not prevent a small brewer’s products from reaching a retailer who is willing to sell them.

To encourage comradery and collaboration within the state, the FBG sponsors member socials every month. This started in June of 2015, and has been a popular member benefit. Many other state guilds also offer monthly member socials, unifying the state and opening brewery doors for networking.

The inaugural Florida Brewers Guild conference and trade show will be held August 7-9, 2017 in Orlando, Fl. Hosted at the Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek, FBG’s goal for the conference is to provide brewery personnel and allied trade representatives with a high quality educational experience, plus an opportunity to network and share delicious Florida craft beers during a two-day trade show. Alongside numerous speakers yet to be announced, Brewers Association Chief Economist Dr. Bart Watson and Brewers Association Safety Ambassador Matt Stinchfield will be speaking. Visit the Florida Brewers Conference website to learn more.

Direct from the Florida Brewers Guild’s mission page, FBG continues to advocate for beneficial public policy that fosters innovation and creativity. FBG supports and recruits pro-craft brewery policy makers who stand up for small independent brewers. And, FBG continues to create an open dialogue between brewers, industry partners and beer lovers to further the success of Florida’s craft brewing community. Truly, a powerhouse nonprofit association dedicated to advancing the interests of Florida’s small independent brewers. Cheers to FL Beer!