Virginia Craft Brewers Guild Focuses on Government Affairs

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With a full understanding of the importance state legislators and regulators have for the brewing industry, members of the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild (VCBG) recently spent a morning visiting their elected officials to advocate on issues important to small brewery businesses and an afternoon hosting a variety of state agency representatives on regulatory issues affecting the brewing industry.

Headlining the guild’s legislative efforts in the State House is House Bill 859, which would clarify an existing sales and use tax exemption for machinery, tools, equipment and materials used in the commercial production of beer and materials such as labels and boxes for future use in packaging the beer for shipment or sale. The guild is also actively supporting a bill that would allow brewery tour guides to consume samples while engaging with tour attendees and legislation establishing the Virginia International Trade Authority to promote international trade in the Commonwealth and to stimulate the international trade segment of the state’s economy. Finally, the VCBG has taken a position of “opposed as written” on legislation that would strictly limit the allowable zoning classifications for land on which limited breweries (i.e., farm breweries) could be located.

Virginia Governor

(l to r) Secretary of Agriculture Todd Haymore; Eric McKay, Hardywood Park Craft Brewery; Governor Terry McAuliffe; Neil Burton, Strangeways Brewing; First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe.

Following the legislator visits, guild members reconvened for a number of educational presentations and a members meeting. On the regulatory side, a representative of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality spoke about the related issues of wastewater treatment and the permitting process; two representatives of the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control discussed off-site beer warehousing, banquet license limitations in tasting room settings and multi-manufacturer banquet licenses, all issues of current interest for VCBG members; and representatives of the Virginia Department of Health and Virginia Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services spoke about a recent memorandum of understanding between the two departments concerning food service operation inspections of breweries and distilleries.

Other educational sessions included an update on the malt and hop industries in Virginia and information on a workforce training program for breweries. Add to this updates from various guild committees on marketing, best practices for breweries in planning and tasting room standards, and it was a very full day of education, relationship building and networking.

And to cap it all off, the evening closed with a VCBG Craft Beer Caucus reception at a local brewpub, which featured very special guests Governor Terry McAuliffe and First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe. The Governor is an avowed and unabashed Virginia craft beer supporter with plans to visit every small brewer in the state before his term ends. With currently over 142 licensed breweries and breweries in planning in Virginia, we wish the Governor all the best in reaching that goal. Now that’s a campaign promise we can raise a toast to!