Last week, at its first regular membership meeting since getting reorganized last fall, the West Virginia Craft Brewers Guild experienced greatly increased participation.
In large part due to the hard work of Guild President Sam Mauzy (Big Timber Brewing), the guild is starting to come together as an effective trade association that can influence legislation and regulation, increase visibility, and help the industry reach its true potential in the state. This is really good news for brewers and craft beer fans alike.
Membership growth achieved
“We had 11 breweries represented at the meeting,” Mauzy said. “We had two breweries-in-planning.”
Mauzy reported that 23 of the 26 fully-licensed breweries in the state have now committed to membership in the Guild. That’s a much better membership penetration than most other trade associations can claim. It illustrates the deep interest our brewers have in boosting their businesses and their industry.
The meeting agenda was full of topics that included both prospective legislation and internal housekeeping.
Pete Johnson, state and regulatory affairs manager for the national Brewers Association, reported on federal legislation and on a number of important issues facing independent craft brewers. Some of these issues were brewery taproom limitation initiatives and the 0.05% blood alcohol proposals.
State legislative priorities
The group discussed 2018 state legislative priorities of interest to the members. These included eliminating the per-person growler sales limit, allowing free beer samples at bars and restaurants, more flexibility in the alcohol content determination and state label-approval rules, more flexibility in distributor franchise agreements, and raising or eliminating the maximum alcohol content cap for beer.
Chris Hall, director of governmental affairs and business operations for Orion Strategies, reported on the 2017 WV legislative session and the status of the governor’s barrel tax increase proposal, which failed this year, but could be resurrected next session. Orion Strategies is assisting the Guild with association management and legislative advocacy.
Something the Guild would like to get established are periodic meetings with the WV Alcohol Beverage Control Administration Commissioner to discuss regulatory issues and build better communication. They are also working on getting a Guild logo designed, developing a website, boosting social media, and keeping the momentum going.
New enthusiast membership category approved
One measure that came out of the meeting, which is of great interest to the beer enthusiast community, was the approval of new non-voting Guild member categories for enthusiasts and non-brewing businesses, Mauzy said they would release details on this new effort soon.
The group also encouraged its members to participate in West Virginia Craft Beer Week this August 12-19 by holding events and promotions. The next Guild meeting was set for September 22 in Morgantown.
In other activity, the Guild added Abby Kopischke of Short Story Brewing to its board of directors. Other directors include Dan Cutis (Parkersburg Brewing), Ken Linch (Bridge Brew Works), Bill Rittenour (Chestnut Brew Works), Karl Wagenbrenner (Berkeley Springs Brewing), Cindy Robeson (Stumptown Ales), Wil Laska (Greenbrier Brewing), and Mauzy. In addition to Mauzy, other Guild officers are Cindy Robeson, vice-president, and Karl Wagenbrenner, treasurer.
Our brewing industry contributes to a better West Virginia
For your pleasure and consideration, Brilliant Stream offers these thoughts on the WV brewing industry:
- It’s the fastest growing manufacturing sector in the state.
- It’s employing more people every year.
- It’s helping revitalize sections of towns by drawing a steady stream of customers to their areas, foot traffic that also benefits other small businesses there.
- It’s adding to the tax roles of the many counties and cities in which the breweries are located.
- It’s boosting the tourism economy by providing new, popular tourist destinations all around the state.
- It’s encouraging WV beer drinkers to substitute a locally-made product for an out-of-state made one. That’s a real point of pride.
- It’s making some very tasty beverages for our drinking pleasure.
If you have other benefits of our brewing industry, send them to us.