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Helping brewers for almost 20 years, Florida Brewers Guild holds first conference

For updates and information from the Florida Brewers Conference, keep an eye on the Folio Weekly Pint-Sized Facebook page.

brewers_Guild_conferenceThe art of brewing beer is more than just combining a few ingredients, boiling them at the proper temperature for the appropriate amount of time and allowing the resulting liquid to ferment. Brewing requires knowledge of what is legally allowed to be brewed, of who can supply ingredients and packaging and how beer can be distributed. In addition, brewers must be savvy small businessmen with a handle on how to keep books, how to manage employees and who to turn to for legal assistance.

That is where the Florida Brewers Guild comes in.

“The Guild,” explained Florida Brewers Guild Executive Director, Sean Nordquist. “First and foremost, exists to help support Florida brewery’s rights and interests.”

Formed more than 20 years ago by Tampa area brewers, the Florida Brewers Guild is the trade organization for the state’s breweries. They exist to help brewers by promoting and sponsoring events, educating consumers and insuring the Florida legislature hears craft brewery’s voices over the thunderous din of macro-brewers, distributors and other special interest groups.

In a time when some experts and industry insiders are opining that the breakneck speed of craft beer’s growth is beginning to slow, Nordquist remains optimistic.

Statistics compiled by the Brewers Association, the national trade organizations that represents craft brewers, show that Florida is 10th in the nation for number of breweries, but only 43rd in breweries per 100,000 persons. That gap, Nordquist believes, leaves a lot of room for more breweries to open and thrive in the Sunshine State.

“We are going to continue to see new breweries popping up seemingly every week,” Nordquist enthused. “Some will make it, some will not. It’s going to come down to those that have a combination of a great product, good business practices and local consumer support.”

He also sees a trend for hyper-local nano-breweries like the recently opened Hyperion Brewing Company and the soon-to-open Main & Six Brewing Company, both in the Springfield National Historic District.

“If you are not packaging, your tasting room is your bread and butter,” Nordquist said of the nano trend. “You have to have a great product. And that extends to making community an extension of the brand. It brings in more local consumers who may not ordinarily go to a brewery by making it a local gathering place.”

This year, for the first time, the Guild is hosting a conference August 7-9 to bring the state’s brewers together in Orlando for three days. Activities include panel discussions on topics ranging from brewing with Florida ingredients to trademark law, guest speakers like Garret Oliver of Brooklyn Brewing Company and Jim Koch of Samuel Adams Brewing Company and mingling with industry leaders in an expo hall filled with more than 30 vendors.

“Breweries in the state have grown exponentially,” said Nordquist of the conference. “Just a few years ago Florida only had something like 40 breweries. Now we have over 200. We want brewers to learn from each other, to learn about services that are out there and to have an opportunity to meet with their peers.”

Nordquist expects the Conference to draw as many as 300 attendees drawing brewers and others like distributer representatives, suppliers, legal and other allied brewing services.

“I think you’re going to see more companies wanting to do business with Florida brewing,” he says of what he expects to see after the conference. “I also hope we will see breweries taking the things they learn at the conference and adopt them to make better beer.”

That is a sentiment we can all get behind.

 

 

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Posted by on August 4, 2017 in Beer, Beer Industry

 

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Brewers Association seeks to differentiate craft beer with Independent Craft seal

Brewers-Association-Independent-Craft-stamp-badge-logo-BeerPulseThe landscape of craft beer has gone from one of unfettered growth to that of a battleground for small, independent brewers fighting to eek out a place in the now crowded marketplace. To make the fight more difficult, the two mega brewers that control 90% of the  United State’s beer production — Anheuser-Bush/InBev and Molson Coors — seem to be on a tear to snatch up as many craft brewers as they can, muddying the field and confusing consumers as to who actually produces the beer they are drinking.

According to a blog post dated July 19 on the Brewers Association’s (BA) website, as the craft beer movement started to reach its crescendo and begin slowing, brewers began speaking out regarding the need for a way to differentiate their products from those produced by the mega brewers or breweries owned by them. An idea that had been kicked around for decades came to the forefront again and, on June 27, 2017, the BA announced the creation of the Independent Craft Brewer seal.

The seal is a logo designed to be displayed on packaging and advertising on products brewed by breweries that conform to the BA’s definition of a craft brewery. To qualify, a brewery must produce less than six million barrels of beer annually and be less than 25% owned by alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer. It depicts an upside-down beer bottle that symbolizes how the craft brewing movement turned the beer brewing industry on its head.

During the design of the seal, research showed that almost all beer lovers have some interest in a “certification badge” or seal to identify independently owned craft breweries believing such a seal would support small businesses. Indeed, a Brewbound/Nielsen Harris Poll of 2,000 beer lovers conducted in May 2017 indicated overwhelmingly that beer drinkers want to know who is making the beer they drink.

“People want to know when they are supporting locally owned and operated businesses, in this case breweries, that are independent from the big corporations,” said Sean Nordquist, Executive Director of the Florida Brewers Guild. “People want to know that their money is going towards local businesses rather than multi-national corporations.”

 

With the seal, the BA hopes to clarify who is making the beer consumers are drinking. Especially as the mega brewers continue to purchase craft brewers and introduce “crafty” beers to the market that mimic craft styles.

Since the announcement of the seal, nearly 25-percent of the independent craft brewers in the United States have adopted it in some form.

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2017 in Beer, Beer News

 

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Flying Dog leaves Brewers Association over censorship accusations

unnamedIn April 2017, the Brewers Association (BA), a trade group that serves the craft beer industry, enacted a set of rules designed to stem the use of sexist and offensive brewery and beer names (see Brewers Association standing up to breweries, beers with offensive names, labels). But, Flying Dog Brewery sees the move by the BA as an overt attempt at censorship. And, to protest the move, Flying Dog CEO Jim Caruso has severed ties with the industry group.

In a letter dated July 14, 2017 and addressed to BA CEO Bob Pease, Caruso says that the policy, “… is an attempt by the BA to censor beer names that offend the sensibilities of some at the BA, primarily by trying to intimidate breweries into censoring themselves.”

In the BA’s policy, a procedure is laid out on how brewers can police their peers — Caruso reads this as competitors — by lodging a formal complaint. Should the offending brewery cease advertising or using a name that is considered offensive by the reporting brewery within 30 days of the complaint, the matter is considered closed. But, if the name and/or advertising is not ceased, a sort of tribunal is convened. The final decision of the tribunal — in reality a group of three BA appointed representatives — is published on the BA’s website for all the world to read. In addition, names found to be offensive will be banned from being spoken at BA sanctioned events like the Great American Beer Festival, Savour and more. If a brewery or beer with a name deemed offensive happens to win a medal in a competition at one of these events, they will not be publicly identified. Winners are also banned from using Brewers Association intellectual property such as identifying a banned beer name as a medal winner in a BA sanctioned event.

Caruso sees all this as forms of censorship, thought policing and just plain creepy.

No stranger to the fight to end censorship, Caruso fought the the Michigan Liquor Control Commission in 2009 for similar reasons. In the landmark case, Caruso alleged that the commissioners could not legally reject a label just because they didn’t like it. It took six year of battle in federal courts, but ultimately Flying Dog won the suit and set a federal precedent that freedom of speech applies to beer, wine and spirits labels as well as individuals.

In the six-page letter to Pease, Caruso goes on to explain why he so strongly opposes the BA’s stance on so called offensive name sand labels. He brings to the forefront the specters of McCarthyism, communism, Leninism, Marxism, Stalinism and socialism. He holds the example of Lenny Bruce’s persecution that drove him to suicide for doing nothing more than telling jokes using vulgar language during midnight shows attended only by paying adults.

“The insurmountable problem with what the BA is attempting to do,” Caruso says. “Is that the term “offensive” is not definable in any objective way or with any precision. Offensive to whom? Everyone finds something offensive.”

Caruso goes on to point out that in numerous cases, the Supreme Court of the United States has agreed that “offensive” is undefinable. Why then, he asks, does the BA think that it can be the champion of consumers by regulating via policy what some may deem offensive. Government regulation and approval, he argues, is sufficient.

“Consumers,” elaborates Caruso. “Vote with their hard-earned dollars billions of times every day. It’s called a free market. The BA believes consumers need a nanny.”

For its part, Pease simply says to Caruso, “Not all members agree with every policy” and that “we’ll just have to agree to disagree.”

In addition, an article on beer news site Brewbound.com, Pease is quoted as saying he is “disappointed” in Flying Dog’s decision to withdraw from the organization. However, he defended the policy changes as “reasonable” and “responsible.”

“The BA and its members absolutely support the First Amendment,” he wrote in an email to BrewBound. “Invoking the First Amendment in this instance is misplaced and inaccurate. The Brewers Association has no intention nor ability to censor any market initiatives by any brewing industry member.”

“To us,” Caruso explains in his letter. “The BA’s anti-free expression stance is offensive, and we are exercising our freedom to choose by rejecting the BA.”

Consumers have the power to decide whether they side with the BA or with Flying Dog. Caruso is a proponent of this dynamic and prefers the power of the free market to what he sees as tyrannical suppression of expression and overly political correctness.

“Sometimes,” he concludes. “It is a matter of principle.

“This is one of those times.”

Read the entire letter to the BA from Jim Caruso here.

 

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2017 in Beer, Beer News

 

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Beer It Forward this American Craft Beer Week

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Credit: Brewers Association

Monday, May 15 marks the beginning of American Craft Beer Week 2017. The week celebrates the diversity of the American craft beer scene and strives to educate the uninitiated to the many joys of craft beer. In addition, this year the Brewers Association
— the trade organization dedicated to supporting craft beer brewers — have launched a #BeerItForward campaign.

Simply put, Beer It Forward is a way to do something extra with beer. Its a means to make someone’s day, say thank you for a job well done or just an anonymous gesture that shares the craft beer love with someone else. Beering It Forward could be something as simple as buying a pint for a stranger while at a taproom, bringing a six-pack of special brews to a friend or including extra beer in a trade.  Anything that “pays it forward.”

When someone Beers It Forward to you, document their generosity on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and tag it with #BeerItForward.

Get more information about the concept in the infographic produced by the Brewers Association below.

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Credit: Brewers Association

 
 

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Beer taxation here to stay

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Credit: The Beer Institute

Alcohol, and beer in particular, has always had a target of sorts on its back. Historians note that the first records of taxes levied on beer date back all the way to the days of the Egyptians. German brewers in Hamburg were taxed so harshly in the 1600s that the number of breweries dwindled from over 1500 at the beginning of the century to only 120 by 1698. And, whoa be to the brewer who did not pay his taxes in Aix-la-Chapelle, France where the city council of 1271 mandated chopping off the brewer’s right hand should he fail to pay his taxes.

Yes, the taxman has not been kind to the poor brewer throughout history. And, in a startling case of history repeating itself, governments – local, state and national – have once again taken notice of the bustling beer industry and the tax dollars it can generate.

As it stands now, beer is federally taxed at $18 a barrel equating to about 58 cents per gallon according to the Boulder, Colo.-based Brewers Association craft beer industry group. Extrapolating that out even further; that 12-ounce bottle of beer you enjoy so very much is taxed about 5 cents by Uncle Sam. But, that rate only applies to the largest of breweries that produce more than 60,000 barrels of beer per year. Smaller breweries that produce less than 60,000 barrels – and the first 60,000 barrels produced by larger brewers – pony up just $7 per barrel or about 2 cents per can or bottle. That may seem like a deal comparatively, but in a competitive market of more than 5,000 breweries, every penny counts. And, that is just the feds. You might be appalled at what brewers have to pay in state excise taxes.

Florida is middle of the road with their tax on beer at 48 cents per gallon, but try to peddle beer in Tennessee and you will have to pony up $1.29 per gallon between state excise taxes and wholesale taxes. That is nearly a whopping $40 per 31-gallon half barrel. Compare that with Wisconsin where beer is taxed at a mere two cents per gallon.

Fortunately, there is a group in Washington that wants to see some of these taxes reduced on the federal side at least. The Beer Institute, an industry lobbying organization, and the Brewers Association rolled out the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (CBMTRA). The goal of the act is to reduce the federal excise tax on the first 60,000 barrels a brewery produces in a year from $7 to $3.50 as long as the brewer produces less than two million barrels annually.

In a statement made after the bill was introduced, president and CEO of the Beer Institute Jim McGreevy said, “Today, the beer industry supports more than 1.75 million U.S. jobs and generates nearly $253 billion in economic activity, which is equal to about 1.5% of the U.S. GDP.”

If passed, the legislation would represent a savings to America’s brewers of $131 million as estimated by the Brewers Association using 2015 figures.

While the federal bill will not affect how states levy taxes, it could provide a welcome respite to brewers besieged with taxes. But, in the end, short of a Boston Tea Party style revolt, beer is going to be taxed. Whether the rate equates to an arm (or hand) and a leg will depend on where you buy the beer you enjoy. And, I for one do not plan to stop enjoying a cold one because of a few pennies in taxes.

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2017 in Beer, Beer Industry

 

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Brewers Association standing up to breweries, beers with offensive names, labels

BA_logoThe Brewers Association, a trade group that serves the craft beer industry, has taken a rather harsh stance on beer names and labels that straddle or cross the line of good taste.

At a press briefing held during the Craft Brewers Conference on Wednesday, the BA it would ban breweries that use offensive or sexist names and labels from using BA intellectual property such as World Beer Cup and Great American Beer Fest awards and medals in advertising.

“We want our members to be responsible corporate citizens,” said Bob Pease, Brewers Association president and CEO. “We want to err on the side of tolerance.”

The policy comes at a time when the United States is at a heightened sense of political correctness. Gender-shaming, racist remarks and innuendo are no longer acceptable in this country.

Pease does allow that there is a vast “grey area” that the move will have to navigate.

“It’s not going to be black and white,” he explained. “There’s a subjective element to that. And the Association… we’re going to find ways to be inclusive. But at the same time, we do think this step is the right thing to do and shows the leadership that is needed. But it’s gonna be sticky. It’s going to be hard.”

Breweries with names or labels that could be found lewd, offensive or demeaning will undergo a review conducted by an independent panel. The alleged name or label will be examined and a decision will be issued in a report that will be published to the BA website.

If a name or label falls outside of the BA’s acceptable policy, the brewer will be banned from using BA intellectual property in advertising of any sort. In addition, should the brewery win a medal at a BA sanctioned event such as the World Beer Cup or Great American Beer Festival, the name of the beer or brewery will not be announced publicly.

 

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2017 in Beer, Beer News

 

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Smithsonian chooses American Brewing History Initiative historian

A few months ago the beer circles were all atwitter about the Smithsonian Institute’s announcement that it was creating a position to research and document the history of beer brewing in the United States. Underwritten by a grant from the Brewers Association, the position was to pay $63,000 per year and last for three years.

Beer-lovers everywhere waxed poetic on the announcement and many with starry eyes applied. Yesterday, the Smithsonian and the Brewers Association announced the name of the applicant that won the much-coveted position.

Read all the details in the press release below:

The  Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has appointed Theresa McCulla as historian to oversee its American Brewing History Initiative. McCulla, a social and cultural historian of food in the U.S. from the early 1800s to today, has focused on the role of food and drink in generating ideas about history, culture and identity in America, and her experience and expertise in research, writing and collecting oral histories is extensive. She will work out of the museum in Washington, D.C., conducting research and new collecting, with special emphasis on homebrewing and the craft brewing industry.

The three-year brewing initiative is part of the Smithsonian Food History program and was created in 2016 to collect, document and preserve the history of brewing, craft brewers and the beer industry and explore how brewing connects to larger themes in American history. The museum’s current collections reflect the early history of breweries established in cities in the late 1800s.

“Brewing history connects us to stories of tradition and innovation, agriculture and industry, and other broad strands of the American experience,” said Paula Johnson, food history curator at the museum. “Theresa will focus on brewing in the 20th and 21st centuries, including the history of consolidation and the tremendous rise in home and craft brewing since the 1970s.”

McCulla will receive a doctorate from Harvard University in American Studies in May 2017 and holds a culinary arts diploma from the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts’ Professional Chefs Program. Between 2007 and 2010, McCulla directed the Food Literacy Project for Harvard University Dining Services and managed Harvard’s two local farmers markets.

As brewing historian, McCulla will design a research plan, using material and archival sources, conduct oral histories and publish for both scholarly and popular audiences. She will document technological, agriculture and business innovations in brewing, advertising history and the role of beer in consumer culture and community life, building on the existing collections and collaborating on public programming within the museum and outside partners.

The American Brewing History initiative is made possible through a donation from the Brewers Association of Boulder, Colo., the not-for-profit trade association dedicated to small and independent American brewers.

The project will feature two annual public programs, one at the museum during the Smithsonian Food History Weekend, which runs Oct. 26–28 this year, and the other in various brewing communities around the country. The museum will also participate in the Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America presented by the Brewers Assiciation held in Washington, D.C., April 10–13.

For updates on the project and upcoming programs, visit http://s.si.edu/BrewHistory. For information about all of the Food History projects and to sign up for the newsletter, visit http://s.si.edu/FoodHistory

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2017 in Beer

 

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