The 17th century poet John Donne famously wrote, “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent.”
A modern craft brewing translation could be, “No human or brewery is an island unto itself; everyone is helped by others.”
Guilds Help Small Brewers Help Each Other
Just think of the people and organizations that have helped you. We all are connected to different groups which we contribute to. These groups benefit from the effort you put into them, and you benefit from them. Information, tips, opportunities, even words of caution – advantages that might be available to you simply by your association – flow through these concentric networks. Your state brewers’ guilds are excellent examples of one in a chain of islands that small brewers can share opportunities with. These types of advantages are plentiful for breweries savvy enough to leverage them.
While it might not be as obvious as taking a sales order, it is not hard to see why being part of a guild and engaging lawmakers as one voice has been beneficial to craft brewers.
“Our state guilds help ensure that small and independent craft breweries retain access to market and work to relieve excessive tax burdens that our industry often faces.”
Pamela Brulotte, Washington Brewers Guild
“Small breweries are often at a competitive disadvantage due to our scale, efficiencies, costs, access to distribution, among many other challenges,” says Pamela Brulotte, president of the Washington Brewers Guild. “Along with the Brewers Association, our state guilds help ensure that small and independent craft breweries retain access to market and work to relieve excessive tax burdens that our industry often faces.”
Ken Wilson of Lumberyard Brewing in Flagstaff, Arizona agrees, “In Arizona, our guild is part of the liquor omnibus bill every year. Having a presence at the capital helps to pass legislation that benefits our members and to be aware of threats that may impact our business.”
Ways to Get Involved
- Tell your story: Participate in a legislative hill climb organized by guilds to engage with lawmakers
- Participate in guild forums to familiarize yourself and your team about important issues facing our industry, and share the positive impact our industry has on your community
State guilds provide collective industry marketing reach and assets to broaden small brewers’ marketing reach. By participating, you can raise the identity of your brewery within the local community.
“Festivals are one way for guilds to showcase the state’s breweries, along with industry receptions,” says Brulotte. “Enthusiast programs are another way that guilds engage craft beer drinkers with our breweries. In Washington, our Washington Beer Lovers (WABL) club membership utilizes a passport, discounts, and promotions integrated into the free Washington Beer App, which also has a map listing our state’s breweries.”
Wilson adds that guild participation in philanthropic activities not only raises the awareness of your breweries, but also helps “bring awareness to your cause or charity.”
Ways to Get Involved
- Spearhead initiatives to elevate your state or region’s beer and breweries
- Work together with members within your distributor to help stand out from multinational brands
- Include mention of nearby breweries as a reason to visit in media talking points
- Leverage the excitement of your brewery and beer for good causes
Tapping into the market for craft beer takes know-how. More and more, guilds have become sources for critical information to help guide strategies. The exchange of ideas and sharing of expertise is made possible by engaging other islands that your brewery may not have connected with previously. Providing information and access to educational resources is done through guild forums and conferences that invite allied trade people in to educate.
“Thanks to the efforts of the Brewers Association ambassadors that spoke, along with informative keg and yeast workshops, and breakout sessions where peers shared valuable knowledge,” says Brulotte, “Attendees [at our guild conference] left with lots of valuable information about not just marketing and sales, but also quality, financing, employee training, regulatory issues, and more.”
Way to Get Involved
- Participate on guild committees to identify educational opportunities
- Support guild conferences
- Volunteer to share your expertise or the expertise of your staff at events
Whether it’s a guild, chamber of commerce, or national association, the creation of networks offer ample opportunities to help your brewery reach its goals. In fact, it may just be the networks themselves that end up being the most valuable for your business.
“Guilds create opportunities for regional independent craft brands to partner with local breweries on collaborations, market events, and sales opportunities.”
Ken Wilson, Lumberyard Brewing
“Guilds create opportunities for regional independent craft brands to partner with local breweries on collaborations, market events, and sales opportunities,” says Wilson.
He reminds us that there is strength in numbers and, together, organized guilds end up being a resource for all things in the industry. “Our members become the experts in our market and the go-to for distributors, retailers and customers,” he explains.
“Our guild provides many opportunities throughout the year for small and independent breweries to network and collaborate, which make our whole industry stronger and supportive of each other,” Brulotte says. “This helps strengthen our reach in the marketplace through shared connections and opportunities.”
As small craft brewers, it is important to recognize that despite our independence, we share an interdependence with each other and with a myriad of other organizations. Islands are not lonely places. Many are eager to help. The more effort you put into these network types the more you’ll ultimately get out of them.
“We hold each other to a higher standard,” says Wilson.
Want to know what can you do to help your fellow brewers and make connections? Find your state guild and get involved.