Ten State Brewers Guilds Convene at 2014 Great Taste of the Midwest

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Each August in Madison, Wisconsin, adjacent to the Great Taste of the Midwest, 11 state guilds are invited to participate in a regional guild gathering. In 2012 the Wisconsin and Minnesota craft brewers guilds determined that with so many small brewers in once place, this would be a great time to rally the neighboring guilds. That year, four guilds came together for the first Midwest regional guild gathering. Last year seven guilds convened. This year, 10 of the 11 state craft brewers guilds came together to share ideas, brainstorm over common challenges, network and develop their associations. States that had guild participation at the gathering included:

  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • Ohio
  • Wisconsin

In addition to myself, Art DeCelle, of McDermott, Will, & Emory also joined the meeting, representing the Brewers Association (BA) counsel in Washington D.C. Art brings a historical perspective to these meetings as well as possibilities from a legal standpoint that the guild leaders may never have considered.

Midwest Guild Members

During introductions, I requested that each state guild present a haiku on how the BA can be of further support to guilds. Chris Altmont of Fat Head’s Brewery and guild vice president won Best Haiku of the Day:

We make awesome beer

You make connections for us

Together we thrive

There were many common threads among the state guild updates. It was a relief to guild leaders from every state to hear their neighbors are facing similar challenges. There were a handful of ‘ah-ha’ moments for ways to move new initiatives forward.

I provided a brief update on projects, resources and upcoming initiatives the Brewers Association is working on in support of state guilds. The meeting yielded a productive dialogue, especially in the open forum, which included discussions on direct shipping, growlers, franchise laws, self-distribution, membership, festivals, paying for beer fest brews, third-party promoters, concerns on proposals to lower the blood-alcohol level, PAC funds and many other topics that commonly challenge small brewer associations.

There was much discussion around planning and executing events. The group addressed how to most effectively sanction festivals, garner sponsorships and develop other fundraising programs. A major issue was raised concerning exposure for a guild if a lawsuit arises out of some poorly executed legislative initiative or fest.

The group was able to gather outstanding insights and resources from Art, from neighboring guild leaders and from the Brewers Association. The next Midwest guild gathering will be at the 2015 Michigan Brewers Guild Winter Conference in Boyne Highlands Resort, Harbor Springs January 14-16, 2015. Art and Pete Johnson of the Brewers Association will be there and all guilds are invited to attend. Email me for more info.

Jeff Hamilton, past Wisconsin Brewers Guild president affirms, “The exchange of experiences and ideas with other state guilds is a very valuable tool to guide the development of your state guild.”

I want to encourage other guilds nationwide to meet with their region’s guild neighbors, as we’ve found it to be immensely beneficial in the Midwest. Contact me for more information on how we can organize this opportunity in your area.