The purpose of the Brewers Association (BA) is to promote and protect craft brewers and the community of beer enthusiasts. In service of that purpose, the BA occasionally issues position statements on issues and policies that confront the industry. The BA Board of Directors periodically reviews and updates these position statements.
The Three-Tier Distribution System
The BA is committed to supporting the three-tier system of beer production and distribution in America. We wish to ensure that the three-tier system fosters competition and treats craft brewers fairly. The BA also believes that the three-tier system is not a static institution but rather a dynamic system that must constantly evolve to ensure that all three tiers in the system—brewers, distributors, and retailers—are treated fairly.
Independent Three-Tier Distribution System
The BA supports an independent and competitive wholesale tier of the industry. The BA is committed to the independence of America’s beer distributors, as independent distribution is critical to the existence of the craft brewing industry. This means supporting policies that ensure the continued independence of distributors from vertical integration by the largest suppliers, healthy and reasonable brand mobility for non-dominant suppliers, and flexibility to permit alternative routes to market like self-distribution by craft brewers. All these policies protect the current system and open opportunities for healthy competition.
Craft Brewer Contracts with Distributors
The BA believes that craft brewers should be able to develop contracts with new distributors that fairly value the beer brands the brewer is bringing to the new relationship. Beer brands have reputations based on previous performance and therefore have value. The brewer should be able to enter into contractual relationships with distributors that recognize this value.
The contracts might require distributor and brewer contributions to promotional efforts with upfront payments, commitments of people, or other methods. The BA disagrees with laws and policies that would artificially restrict or prohibit such arrangements.
Brewery Direct to Consumer Sales
The BA believes that legal age beer drinkers should have the right to purchase beer directly from licensed breweries, both at the brewery premises for both on- and off-premise consumption, and remotely for home delivery or shipment through a third-party carrier. Decades of successful and responsible retail sale and shipment by America’s wineries demonstrate that these channels can provide choice to consumers without facilitating underage consumption or undermining state revenues. America’s beer lovers should receive the same benefits.
Equal Treatment for Like Brewers
The BA represents the interests of America’s small, independent brewers. While we celebrate and promote diverse and vibrant local brewing communities, success of local brewers should come from community support and beer drinker demand, not discriminatory trade barriers. The BA accordingly does not support laws or policies that favor one state’s brewers over brewers from other parts of the country.
Transparency to Beer Drinkers
The BA recognizes that craft brewers owe their existence, above all, to their beer drinkers and the community of beer enthusiasts. We owe it to those drinkers and enthusiasts to be transparent about the ownership of our breweries. We believe brewers should be honest about any ownership by breweries that are not small and independent. Beer distributors too should be transparent about their ownership of and by breweries.
Franchise Laws/Access to Market
The BA believes that small brewers and wholesalers should be free to establish enforceable contracts between the parties that both parties agree are fair and equitable. Franchise laws were enacted to protect wholesalers from the undue bargaining power of their largest suppliers. Applying those laws to the relationship between a small brewer and the wholesaler is unfair and against free market principles. Where franchise laws exist, the BA believes that any brewer contributing a small percentage of a wholesaler’s volume should be exempted from those laws and free to establish a mutually beneficial contract with that wholesaler. Without the leverage inherent in being a large part of a wholesaler’s business, a small brewer and wholesaler can negotiate a fair contract at arm’s length.
The BA supports the independence of wholesalers and believes independent wholesalers are wholesalers who are contractually and economically free to allocate their efforts among the brands they sell without the undue influence of their largest suppliers. Each brand gets the attention it deserves on its own merits in the marketplace.
Alcohol Content in Beer
The production of beer naturally creates alcohol. The alcohol levels in beer are dependent on the amount of grain in a given volume of water and on the activity of the brewers’ yeast. Beer traditionally has been known as the “beverage of moderation” because the naturally produced alcohol is nowhere near the concentration that results from distillation. The BA believes that brewers should be able to brew and sell beers of varied alcohol levels and opposes laws that limit the alcohol levels achieved through the natural fermentation of beer.
The BA opposes excise taxes on beer as a matter of public policy. Excise taxes are regressive and unfairly tax beer drinkers of all economic classes. Brewers pay excise taxes regardless of whether they are profitable or not.
The Difference Between Beer and Liquor
The recognition that beer and liquor are fundamentally different beverages, necessitating distinct regulatory treatment, is a core tenet of alcohol regulation in the United States. Reflecting beer’s status as the beverage of moderation and its contributions to the economy, it has historically and correctly been subject to lower excise tax rates and less stringent distribution restrictions than liquor.
While recognizing that changes in society or technology sometimes merit changes in the law, nothing has altered the important differences between beer and liquor. Liquor companies have thrived in the current tax and regulatory environment, so the BA sees no need to change long-standing and successful policies merely to enhance the profitability of those companies. We accordingly support distinct beer and liquor excise tax rates and oppose efforts to treat liquor as if it were beer.
Underage Drinking and Driving Under the Influence
Responsible enjoyment of beer can be part of a healthy lifestyle. The BA strongly opposes underage drinking. We also oppose the operation of motor vehicles by persons over the legal blood alcohol concentration limit.
Water is the primary ingredient in beer. The BA recognizes that safe, clean, affordable, and readily available water is an essential resource to member breweries and that access to water is a basic human right. The BA supports actively protecting and conserving America’s water resources, which are critical to the long-term vitality of craft brewers and our supplier partners, as well as the health and safety of every community.
Climate change poses current and long-term environmental, social, and economic risks to craft brewers, our supply chains, and our communities. The BA provides resources to facilitate member initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to support science-based policies and actions aimed at averting irreversible global temperature change and moving towards a low-carbon economy.