Prior to the Friday session of the Great American Beer Festival® (GABF), the Brewers Association hosted a press conference. On behalf of small and independent craft brewers and the Brewers Association Board of Directors, Scott Metzger shared what he wanted media to have top of mind while they attended the country’s largest ticketed beer festival and most prestigious competition. The presser was attended by over 180 journalists.
“Good afternoon. My name is Scott Metzger and I am the founder of Freetail Brewing Co. in San Antonio, Texas. I am also a proud board member of the Brewers Association and I sit on the association’s finance and events committees.
“At this 35th anniversary of the Great American Beer Festival, we truly have a fantastic representation of the American Beer Industry today.
“On the anniversary of the country’s most amazing of all beer festivals and most prestigious beer competition, it seems fitting that we discuss what has continued to bring us together for all of these years: brewer and beer lover shared passion. There are emotional connections between breweries and consumers that is unlike most other industries.
“One of the amazing elements of GABF is that it is a place where small and independent brewers stand side-by-side and on equal footing with global, brewing conglomerates. At GABF, the competitive advantages of the giant brewers, such as multi-million-dollar ad buys and consolidated distribution muscle, don’t carry any weight. What we witness is small and independent brewers are the ones with the longest lines. It’s the small and independent craft brewers that take home the vast majority of the medals awarded at GABF—a testament to the variety and quality of the beer that we are making. In this environment and level playing field, GABF attendees loudly proclaim one consistent message: WE WANT CRAFT BEER and we want choices! To ensure this we need to ensure all brewers large and small get fair and equal access to market.
“This message is more important than ever: as craft brewer acquisitions continue and the industrial brewers aim to use their newly acquired portfolios to push small and independent brewers off of shelves and out of tap walls… America’s beer drinkers are the last line of defense. When you’re out at the festival, you just need to take a look around… the defense is strong!
“Also on in the festival you’ll find our state’s guilds. These guilds are ground zero for ensuring a fair marketplace where small and independent brewers can compete on the merits of their beers. I invite you to check out the guild pavilion and ask around about what’s going at the state level. Many guilds have achieved big legislative and regulatory wins in their states, and it is these wins that are driving some of those economic impacts. But there are also many states where things aren’t quite as open for small and independent brewers; where they struggle more than they should because of restrictions placed on them. Up until law changes in 2013, I used to be able to say that I could sell more beer in my state, Texas, if I moved my brewery out of Texas! But since we changed those laws in 2013, the number of craft breweries has exploded, the number of brewing jobs has expanded exponentially, and Texas beer drinkers are living in a golden age of choice. This is a story that is not unique to Texas and can be repeated in more states, and it’s the state brewers guilds fighting every day to make it happen. With the support of craft beer drinkers and the economic benefits we create, craft brewers are growing as elemental parts of the fabric of American society and helping lead other manufacturing businesses to becoming more integral in their communities.
“Taking my BA hat off for a moment now, I invite you to devote some time to strolling the festival not as a journalist but as a beer lover. I challenge you to visit breweries from parts of the country that are new to you, and visit breweries you’ve never heard of. As a brewer, one of the most rewarding aspects of GABF is making new fans that previously had no access to our beers. This festival is literally the only time and place in the world where one can sample all of these beers under one roof! So seek out new breweries, ask them their stories as you enjoy their beers. The spirit of independence and entrepreneurship is on full display right here at GABF.”