State brewers guilds and associations play an instrumental part in promoting and protecting the interests of their members and in unifying the larger community of brewers. This is true both in their respective states and in terms of the nationwide community of brewers. The importance of the protection aspect of small state brewers associations has been successfully exemplified by two recent state issues.
Because of the strong advocacy and swift organization of the Massachusetts Guild, the state’s Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission called off a licensing rule change that would have hurt more than two dozen Massachusetts craft brewers and put several out of business. Many of the state’s breweries have what are known as farmer-brewery licenses, which are less expensive and less cumbersome to obtain than a full manufacturer license. The licenses also allow breweries to distribute their own beer locally, sell beer on premises, and operate tasting rooms. The new rule would have required brewers operating under a farmer-brewery license to grow 50 % of the grains or hops they use to make malt beverages, or get them from a domestic source, which many brewers interpreted to mean Massachusetts. That, they said, would be impossible for most brewers, because the state doesn’t produce enough of the necessary ingredients. The Massachusetts Brewers Guild wrote in an email to members that a manufacture’s license can cost upwards of $10,000, as opposed to the far less pricey farmer-brewer license.
In California, Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher announced his legislation to allow beer tasting rooms to follow the same health and safety regulations as wine tasting rooms has become law. The bill, which was unanimously approved by the Legislature, was signed by Governor Brown, August 1st.
With strong support from the California Small Brewers Association, the bill received unanimous, bipartisan support in both houses of the legislature. It exempts brewery tasting rooms, which only serve beer and snacks, from stringent regulations designed for restaurants and food production facilities. Instead, the bill allows beer tasting rooms to comply with the same basic health requirements currently required of wine tasting rooms.
The two instances of succesfull outcomes for small brewers cannot be discounted in referenceing the need for small brewers to have an effective, active brewers guild. The Brewers Association has made developing and strengthing guild in all states a major priority. The addition of Acacia Coast to the BA to help guide small brewers, where guilds are not currently active, is one example of this commitment. Read more about Acacia’s experiences with fledling guilds on BA.org as she provides her trip notes for each meeting. Currently available is her trip to Tennessee, and the effort brewers in that state are making to create their guild.