Support and development of State Brewers Guilds remains a major focus of the Brewers Association in 2012. The addition of Acacia Coast, the trade group's State Brewers Association Coordinator has helped the BA become more of a resource for existing and fledgling guilds. Acacia has been busy crisscrossing the country attending state brewers association meetings with many of them centered on initial guild formation.
Recently, Acacia provided an update on her trip to Connecticut and Rhode Island.
Over the 2nd week of March, I had the honor of attending the initial formational meeting for Connecticut's brewers guild. While I was in Connecticut, I made a quick trip over to Rhode Island to talk with their brewing community about a possible guild formation. I stopped in Providence to talk with Sean Larkin, brewmaster for Trinity Brewhouse and I was encouraged to hear that they have already filed for their state's non-profit status. I then went down to Newport to meet with Brent Ryan, of Coastal Extreme, where we discussed the details of how to move forward. I will work with Brent, Sean and the handful of brewing companies in Rhode Island to draft bylaws, develop a mission statement, and help continue the state's progress. It's a small community, but they are making award winning craft beer, and they're ready to unify their craft beer industry.
The next day, just outside of Hartford, Connecticut, Curt Cameron graciously hosted the state's craft community in the spacious tap room of the Thomas Hooker brewery. We crafted an ambitious agenda, and we effectively managed to discuss every single item. The room was full, with about 30 people and the brewery cat in attendance. Representatives joined us from three of Connecticut's five total pubs, four of the five production breweries, as well as a half dozen nano, contract, and in-planning brewers.
In addition to the strong brewery representation, two very important people to the CT craft industry came out. Bryon Turner, organizer of the state's successful enthusiast organization, Connecticut Beer Trail, has already proven to be a major asset to the craft community. He intends to continue helping with the guild on the initial formalization tasks, such as developing a distribution list, crafting bylaws, conducting board nominations, and setting up the upcoming meeting dates. Another Connecticut craft beer champion in attendance was State Representative Christopher Davis (57th Assembly District) who co-sponsored pro-craft legislation and continues to be a full supporter of the burgeoning craft beer industry in Connecticut.
The Governor has introduced and the Committee has signed H.B. 5021 which seeks to update state laws regulating the sale of alcohol. Changes would include allowing the sale of alcohol on Sundays, the elimination of minimum pricing, and adding the ability to sell beer by the glass in tasting rooms, as well as up to 9 liters for off premise consumption, for beer manufacturer permit holders. The proposed changes to the law were voted out of committee and referred to the full House of Reps Representatives. The bill will likely go to another committee, but this is a, "Good first step," according to Davis.
At the meeting, we discussed all of the foundational topics for building a guild. We started out the discussion with why the group even had interest in forming a guild. After concluding that the industry is ready to begin structuring the guild, we discussed aspects of communication, protection, promotion, and education. The group agreed on a steering guild of five different brewery representatives to work with Bryon to help complete the initial paperwork and logistics. The committee is in the process of organizing nominations for the board of directors and officers so the guild can legally operate. The group agreed to try and meet every other month to help keep the momentum moving forward.
It looks like Connecticut is ready to advance their state's craft brewing industry. The progress they were able to make in one evening and the large amount of support from many aspects of the industry is a testament to their enthusiasm. Though they have tried in the past to meet and organize, this time it looks like there's the support needed to get the state guild underway. With Rhode Island not far behind, that would mean every state on the entire eastern sea board of the US has craft brewers guilds! I'll make a toast to that!