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Colorado Brewers Guild Shake-Up

Upheaval In Colorado Symbolic of Other Parts of the Union?
Jonathan Ingram Connoisseur's Corner


It seems to me that two craft guilds will fare no better than one in the legislative process in Colorado when it comes to promoting the best interest of craft. The lobbying group that worked with the current guild is looking to switch to the new one, which only muddies the picture.

There's an interesting example taking place elsewhere when it comes to beer legislation. A somewhat curious joint effort is being made by the Brewers Association, the home of small and independent brewers based in Boulder, and the Beer Institute, the longtime representative of major brewers in Washington. The two rival factions have joined at the hip to promote a reduction in federal excise taxes for all brewers in a bill still wending its way through the halls of Congress. This effort stands in sharp contrast to the political times in general and specifically to events in Colorado, where paranoia about getting railroaded by grocers and big brewers – despite the huge success of craft – appears to have reached a Rocky Mountain high.

At the same time the BA is waging a very vocal campaign against AB InBev’s ability to own distributorships, joining with the Beer Institute is a testimony to how hard it is to get effective legislation sometimes without acknowledging that there are others involved in the democratic process. The proposed reduction in excise taxes is still circulating and has no guarantee of success, but the BA has decided its brewers will benefit from a reduction and isn’t going to worry about how the increase in revenues will also help the macros who comprise the Beer Institute. (Beware, of course, of how the numbers may get switched around in this bill if it becomes law…)

In other words, the BA believes its brewers' products and ability to maneuver in the marketplace will be more important than politically defeating the macro brewers and posting a complete victory on the legislative battlefield. I tend to believe the same thing – that craft brewers have the ingenuity and proven business savvy to deal with the ever-changing landscape and a call to arms is not needed every time a BA brewer gets bought by a big brewer or distribution rules are altered.

It's understandable that some craft brewers are now feeling the pressure, possibly self-imposed, when it comes to sustaining what has been an incredible revolution, one that is changing the world in many positive ways. Sometimes I think craft brewers are trying to fight the last war – the war they won 20 years ago when major distributors began carrying craft brands despite pressure from the macros. Somehow, in some quarters, there’s the ongoing belief that big brewers – and now grocers – will one day manage to take away our flavorful beer, which is absurd on the face of it. Perhaps the biggest threat is if craft brewers stop speaking out publicly about where they stand.