At a recent meeting of the Oklahoma Craft Brewers Guild, a second organization advocating on behalf of the state’s small brewers was further solidified. Once formally organized, the Craft Brewers Association of Oklahoma will act to spearhead legislative efforts and generally advance small brewer interests in the state legislature. It was determined that a second, separate organization was necessary due to considerations relating to tax exempt status and the ability to engage in and fund certain activities. With several of the state’s brewers serving on both the guild and association boards, it’s anticipated that communication and coordination between the two groups will be regular and effective.
The formation of the Craft Brewers Association of Oklahoma is particularly timely, as state legislators are gearing up for a comprehensive review of the state’s alcohol laws in the upcoming 2016 legislative session. An issue of particular import for small brewers is the consideration of moving to a system of single strength beer rather than continuing with the current bifurcated high-point and 3.2 (4% ABV) beer system with its varying sales and regulatory schemes. The new group plans to meet as soon as they are formally constituted to begin discussing legislative strategy in anticipation of what will be a unique opportunity when the legislature reconvenes.
Other issues discussed at the guild meeting included the ownership by large breweries of wholesale operations and the potential impact on small brewers, how to deal with the continuing expectation of festival organizers that brewers will simply donate beer for such events, the formation of an advisory board for a new Beer Certification Program being implemented by Central Oklahoma University, and the potential for that same University to work with the Guild on an economic impact study of craft brewer contributions to local communities and the state.
As craft beer culture continues to blossom across Oklahoma, the state’s craft brewers are positioning themselves to be a force both in the promotion and protection of Oklahoma-brewed beer.