A strong brewers guild or association can be an effective voice for promoting the interests of all brewers in a given state or region. Whether promoting local beer or fighting for favorable laws and lower excise tax rates, the collective voice of a guild can speak louder than that of individual brewers alone. Guilds also provide great networking opportunities for breweries of all sizes.
In the U.S., all 50 states have some form of brewers guild or association. For those states without a formal organization, this guide will walk you through some of the steps involved in starting a state guild.
Organize a Meeting
The first step in forming an organization is determining the level of interest among your state’s brewers. A successful guild requires a commitment from brewers to pull together for the common good.
A great way to test the level of interest is to hold an organizational meeting to discuss the proposed guild. Hold your meeting at a central location where the greatest number of brewers from around the state can attend.
Invite every brewer in the state. Chances are, there will be a core group of leaders who emerge at the meeting. This group may be excellent candidates to form a steering committee to take charge of initial work until a board of directors can be elected by the membership.
Resources: Initial Start a Guild Agenda
Determine a Mission and Structure
Once you know there is sufficient interest in forming a guild, you will need to determine a mission. Will your guild exist solely for promotional purposes? Will your guild take a strong advocacy role in state politics? Or, will it do a combination of both?
Resources: Mission Statements
Know the Law
The Brewers Association works to provide information on bylaws, non-profit filing, antitrust laws and other legal considerations for your guild
Resources: Legal Considerations
Determine Leadership Structure
Leadership within the guild often involves a steering committee which develops into a board of directors and other officers. To support this small group of people, committees can be established to carry out the goals of the association.
It is vital for every guild to eventually hire a paid staff, which often includes an executive director or guild coordinator, to report to the board and manage much of the guild’s day to day activity.
Resources: Structure walks you through nominating leadership for the association.
Create Membership Classes
When crafting your bylaws, consider the types of membership classes you will maintain and the dues for each class.
All brewers guilds offer brewery memberships, but some also recruit associate members or allied trade members. These suppliers want to forge stronger relationships with the state’s brewing community.
Some guilds have added retail members (i.e. bars, restaurants and better beer stores) who want to be identified with the state guild.
Many guilds also have enthusiast members (beer drinkers) who want to be associated with the guild.
Make a plan for Meetings
Meetings and communication are key to the success of any guild. Monthly or quarterly meetings help brewers stay up-to-date on issues affecting membership and activities. They also create great networking opportunities for brewers and a chance for associate members to meet the brewers.
The frequency and location of your meetings will be determined by the situation in your state. Holding meetings around the state at various member breweries is a great way to foster communication and cooperation.
Resources: Meeting Minutes Tips will help you organize your meeting session.
Communications and Outreach
You will need a way to communicate outside of your meetings. A newsletter, whether monthly or quarterly, will serve this purpose well. Establish a phone and e-mail distribution list for communication amongst members. This is especially helpful when contact with members needs to be made quickly (ex. a proposed tax increase).
Many guilds use their website domain/host service for their distribution list (MI, MT, IA, MD), while others use Yahoo Groups (NM,WA, TX) or Google Groups (RI).
New Mexico specifically designates two different lists: a “pro brewers” list and an “all brewers” list (that includes the state’s homebrewers).
Suggested Communication Platforms
- Mail Dog: the CA guild uses this email service.
- Mighty Lab: produces the Garden State Craft Brewers Guild website and email newsletter.
- Mail Chimp: used by both the New Mexico and North Carolina guilds.
- Emma: the Wisconsin guild uses this email service.
Resources: Promotion has more information on the importance of an association website, social networking and other tools for public outreach.
Fund Your Guild/Association
Fundraising for a brewers guild is essential to keep the organization running and vital for protecting the brewing community in that state.
The Brewers Association is committed to helping your state guild not only get formed, but also thrive.
Acacia Coast, state guilds manager, and Pete Johnson, state & regulatory affairs manager, work with guilds on development issues and liaison activities. There is also a guild list serve available for use by both formed groups and those in the formative process to facilitate communications between guilds and associations.
Acacia Coast | State Guilds Manager
Pete Johnson | State & Regulatory Affairs Manager