Members of Congress and elected officials spent a significant portion of February showing their love for their local small and independent breweries. Governors, senators, and representatives stopped by to visit their favorite breweries to celebrate lower federal excise taxes and the positive impacts that craft breweries have on their local economies.
The month started off with Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) visiting Castle Island Brewing in Norwood, Mass. to speak to more than 130 members of the Massachusetts Brewers Guild and commend the growth of the brewing industry in the state. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D), who has his own tap handle and beer, was the next to meet with the brewers of his state, joining Virginia Craft Brewers Guild members after their lobby day in Richmond.
(MORE: Economic Impact by State)
Both governors were excited to tout the growth of the brewing industry and its impact on their states’ economies. One of Baker’s comments stands out in my mind: “Downtowns used to want a Starbucks to help with (economic development); now they all want a brewery.” I am paraphrasing, but the sentiment is the same. Small and independent breweries are economic drivers, and legislators across the country are taking notice.
Grassroots Effort Pays Off
One only has to look at the legislative wins of the past year to see that breweries aren’t just having an impact on their state’s economies—they’re also having an impact on politics. A great example is the federal excise tax reduction signed into law at the end of 2017. Our members and association successfully advocated for lower federal excise taxes (FET) for small and independent brewers. The FET for American breweries that produce fewer than two million barrels of beer a year went from $7 to $3.50/barrel on their first 60,000 barrels, and $18 to $16/barrel on everything above that. Breweries that import and produce more two million barrels a year will see their first six million barrels go from $18/barrel to $16/barrel. The legislation went into effect January 1, 2018 and is slated to sunset on December 31, 2019. During these visits brewery owners made sure to share their stories about how lower FET is impacting their breweries and advocate for making the reductions permanent.
This accomplishment was made possible through hill climbs, grassroots action, and brewery visits, which are showing no signs of letting up. Recently, Colorado Senator Cory Gardner visited Left Hand Brewing. The visit was organized by the Colorado Chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business—the largest small business association in the country and is headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, with offices in Washington, D.C., and all 50 state capitals. Colorado’s Senior Senator Michael Bennet also made a brewery visit to Upslope Brewing in Boulder. During his visit he learned about Upslope’s history and how the brewery has grown over the years from Matt Cutter, Dany Pages and Henry Wood who cofounded the brewery in 2008.
Here’s a sampling of other notable brewery visits from members of Congress.
Encouraging legislators to visit your brewery can have a massive payoff in both the short- and long-term. Brewers Association board member Larry Horwitz, an Ohio Craft Brewers Guild board member and owner of Four String Brewing in Columbus, Ohio, recently joined guild executive director Mary McDonald and 10 Ohio brewing colleagues for a tour of Seventh Son Brewing (Columbus, Ohio) with Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH). Horwitz shared this account.
“Members of the Ohio Craft Brewers Association had the opportunity to meet with Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) at Seventh Son Brewing in Columbus, Ohio last Friday to have a beer and discuss the business of craft brewing. The senator was especially interested in how the lower federal excise taxes are affecting brewers in Ohio. Sen. Portman was a leading force behind the passage of the provisions, and everyone at the table was able to thank him for his work on the bill on behalf of small, independent breweries.
(FIND: U.S. Brewery Directory)
We shared that the tax savings will help small, independent businesses put more money back into the economy in the form of more people employed, higher wages, and infrastructure investment in Ohio facilities. Almost all members at the table told the senator that they would be reinvesting the tax savings into their businesses. Craft beer is a capital-intensive, narrow-margin business, and as the conversation moved around the table, it was clear that the savings are going to be spent hiring more workers, improving facilities in Ohio, and purchasing more brewing equipment.
I was able to directly share with the senator that our tax savings could be as high as $40,000 in 2018, that we have already hired two new cellar employees, and that we are purchasing tanks to expand our capacity.”
Horwitz’s story is a fantastic example of the value of inviting your legislators to visit your brewery. Brewery visits provide face-to-face time to interact and talk about the issues that are impacting you and other breweries as well as the opportunity to build and grow your relationship with your elected officials.
We strongly encourage all of our members to reach out to their state and local legislators and invite them to visit your brewery, meet with your guilds, and join you for a tour/brew day/roundtable. The Brewers Association has resources to help you. Visit BrewersAssociation.org to learn how to connect with your elected officials.
If a member of Congress has already visited your brewery this year, or if you have an event scheduled, let the Brewers Association know by completing this form. This information lets us share these visits on social media, follow up with legislators in D.C., and learn who has connected with which elected officials. If you have any questions or want to learn more, please reach out to me.