At the close of March, I traveled to my old stomping grounds, Albuquerque N.M. to check in on the New Mexico Brewers Guild (NMBG) and attend their third annual technical conference. Hosted by the local community college, Central New Mexico Community College (CNM), in conjunction with their brewing education program, over one hundred brewing industry colleagues from 35 member breweries came together for a day of learning.
New Mexico is now home to 56 active brewery licenses, up from about 20 when I moved from Albuquerque in 2011. The local beer industry’s growth has been on the fast track in the Land of Enchantment—the accumulating accolades from the Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup have caught the attention of enthusiasts.
The NMBG has a staff of one, Executive Director John Gozigian, and a board of 7 including breweries across the state. Guild President Skye Devore is also a professor at CNM’s brewing program, and co-owner of Tractor Brewing Co.
The guild conference kicked off with an annual membership meeting. The conference Keynote, Neil Witte, BA’s new Quality Ambassador, emphasized the need to produce clean beer and offered quality resources available to brewery businesses.
Other conference speakers included Stan Hieronymus, renowned writer and educator, Jeff Erway, owner of La Cumbre brewing with a panel on sales and distribution, and multiple brewing operations topics including human resource compliance, trademark law, responsible alcohol service, and federal and state tax compliance.
The NMBG lobbyist, Karin Foster, offered an overview of the legislative landscape in Santa Fe. It wasn’t expected to be an active session for beverage alcohol this year, but then two major tax increase bills were introduced that raised the $.41/gal beer excise tax rate to $3.08/gal for breweries that produce more than 15,000 barrels a year.
With a massive unified industry resistance, and a very loud public outcry, the 651% tax increase bills were tabled for this year, but with budget shortfalls impacting not just New Mexico, but most other states as well, brewers are confident this harmful legislation is likely to come up in the next session and future sessions as well.
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Karin reassured the community, “The legislature really appreciates the local craft brewing industry. You guys are the darlings. You guys are one of the only growing industries here.” The governor is a champion of small brewery businesses, and promises to veto any single piece of legislation that proves harmful to these valued main street businesses.
Fundraising was successful for NMBG in 2016, and numerous events are lined up for 2017. The guild offers multiple unique opportunities to promote local beer, including a fest in Las Crucas, a Golf Tournament, New Mexico Craft Beer Week coming up in May, the state’s annual IPA Challenge, and also participation with a collaboration beer for the state fair.
The guild director and board have also been conducting a membership road show, touring around the state, visiting with breweries, creating comradery, building trust, and a developing their united community.
The New Mexico Brewers Guild continues to work faithfully to foster the growth of the state’s renowned breweries, and keep a watchful eye to ensure the sustainability of the industry. The scale of newly opened breweries, partnered with a seat at the head of the legislative table, undeniable prove the guild’s strength and solidarity.