All agreed that last month’s Brews by the Bay festival was a grand time — it drew over 1,000 people to the Cape May terminal of the Cape May-Lewes Ferry.
Michael Halfacre, former Director of the New Jersey Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and current Guild lawyer, sponsored the meeting, and gave a rundown of the step-by-step process for new breweries looking to obtain a licence.
The Garden State Craft Brewers Guild has hit a record high of 85 members.
November’s meeting will see nominations for the Guild’s Board of Directors. Stay tuned…
Trying to get a bill signed into law is like trying to conceive a baby. There are many, ahem, swimmers in the running, but most do not stand a chance.
Take the 2012 law that allowed for tasting rooms at Jersey breweries. It was a huge deal for the industry, and a major factor in our expansion from one employee to 37. But according to Eric Orlando, VP of the Kaufman Zita Group which handles lobbying for the Garden State Craft Brewers Guild, the original bill had only a 4.6 percent chance of surviving the legislative process and getting an a-okay from Governor Christie.
“There are so many ways a piece of legislation can short-circuit,” Eric says. “And because the alcohol industry is so highly regulated, there’s an added layer of complication when dealing with beer-related bills.”
For many of us, knowledge about the legislative process comes largely from watching House of Cards. And while “there are definitely elements of that show that are true,” Eric says, Netflix fails at providing us with a clear idea of logistics. We’re talking about the step-by-steps of the law-making process we first heard about via Schoolhouse Rock.
Given the three bills sponsored by Senators Kean and Barnes and Assemblymen Coughlin and O’Scanion — the ones that would allow, respectively, for the sale of food at Jersey’s tasting rooms, the sale of beer at farmers’ markets, and the ability of brewpubs to self-distribute their product — we thought we’d put together a flowchart that explains the timeline. Keep in mind, the meat of the process detailed below can take anywhere from one week to several years.
Presenting: how a bill becomes a law in New Jersey, because it’s not as simple as you think…
(Our nifty chart will get bigger if you click on it.)
America’s best-known beer writer, Don Russell, will become first Executive Director of the Garden State Craft Brewers Guild this month.
Just in case you need a refresher: the not-for-profit association that advocates on behalf of Jersey’s artisanal beer makers started out in 1996 as a small collection of passionate volunteers. “There was a time,” says leader/CMBC President Ryan Krill, “when the entire group could fit around a single restaurant booth.” But as the industry has boomed – it now pumps $776.9 million into the local economy annually — the Guild has expanded, too.
“Our board has always done an excellent job of steering the ship,” Ryan says. “But they’re also busy running their own breweries. With a membership that’s more than tripled in the last couple of years, it’s become clear: we need a captain. Don will help bring Jersey craft beer to the next level through advocacy and education, and we’re thrilled to have him on board.”
Russell brings with him 40 years of experience as an award-winning newspaper reporter, including 20 years as Joe Sixpack, beer columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News. He’s the founder and creator of Philly Beer Week, America’s first city-wide beer festival, and the author of three books, including Joe Sixpack’s Philly Beer Guide: A Reporter’s Notes on the Best Beer-Drinking City in America; Christmas Beer: The Cheeriest, Tastiest Most Unusual Beers of Christmas; and What the Hell am I Drinking? He’s also worked as a traveling ambassador on behalf of the US Department of State, and as a brewery tour guide throughout Europe and America.
But, Don says, he couldn’t be happier about landing this position in Jersey.
“The state’s been the punchline of many jokes,” he says. “But Jersey Fresh is one of the great slogans. The concept has become institutionalized, and it applies to the beer. That reputation is a source of pride for the craft drinkers here. We’re at the beginning of an explosive growth, and I love being on the cusp of that surge.”
Don says his goals include bolstering the Guild’s presence not just amongst brewers but within the beer-drinking community, spreading the good word about the positive effects of craft beer on the state’s economy and tourism industry, and growing a brand that’s separate from the influence of Philadelphia and New York.
But first thing’s first.
“My initial order of business,” he says, “is to crack open a Jersey beer.”
We’ve been writing quite a bit about the Small BREW Actcurrently before Congress, and why it would go such a long way toward helping small brewers create jobs. (Cough, reduction of the federal excise tax applied to barrels of beer, cough.) We’ve also been writing about potential roadblocks, including lobbying by multinational breweries for their own, competing bill.
Well, good news!
A third horse has entered this race in the form of the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act. It’s a compromise bill in that it should appease the big guns, but it contains all of the elements of the Small BREW Act… in fact, it takes that bill one step further.
In a statement issued this week, Brewers Association President Bob Pease says: “Not only would this legislation recalibrate excise taxes—an issue for which we have long advocated—it would ease a number of burdens for brewers, including simplifying label approvals and repealing unnecessary inventory restrictions.”
Thanks to the man behind the plan, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), for fighting the good fight, and to our own President Ryan Krill, leader of the Garden State Craft Brewers Guild, for advocating on the Hill.
… No, we’re not talking about the iconic Milton Bradley game, although that would be cool. We’re talking about something potentially even more fun that. What could possibly be better than the most nostalgic pastime involving pretend naval strategy the world has ever seen, you ask? How about the longest-running beer festival in New Jersey, where CMBC will be pouring on June 27. Happening from 12:30-4:30pm, the 19th annual event is run by the Garden State Craft Brewers Guild and held along the Camden waterfront on the nation’s most decorated battleship, the BB-62.
“More than at any other beer festival in the state, the people serving here will be brewers and brewery owners, as opposed to event reps,” says Guild/CMBC President Ryan Krill.
And they’ll be serving in a pretty kickass location. The ship has seen every war and major conflict from World War II to the Persia Gulf, and she’s been home to over 55,000 sailors. The beer event will take place on her fantail, aka the one-time launchpad for propeller planes and helicopters.
“To sample delicious New Jersey craft beer from such a unique location is truly memorable,” says the ship’s VP of Marketing, Jack Willard. “Plus we offer some amazing views of the Philly skyline and Delaware River. It’s truly inspiring to be aboard.”
Guests will have the option of taking a tour, which means checking out the tomahawk missile launchers in the Combat Engagement Center, strolling through the officer quarters, and learning about life aboard a “floating city.”
“But this has to take place upon arrival,” Jack says. “We don’t want people walking around a 16-inch gun turret after a few beers.”
Added bonus? The world’s largest rubber ducky will be on site for the festival as well. Clocking in at 11 tons, it stands six stories tall and “spreads joy around the world.” You can’t make this stuff up.
For more information, see here, or watch the recap below of years past, courtesy of battleshipnewjersey.org. Nothing pretend about it…
Last Wednesday, Ryan Krill put on both of his leadership hats – President of Cape May Brewing Company and President of the Garden State Craft Brewers Guild – and advocated for David in a very David-and-Goliath-style fight. Along with 150 craft beer industry peers, he attended Washington DC’s annual Hill Climb, where the goal was simple: garner support from our nation’s legislators for the Small BREW Act.
You might remember there being buzz about the Small BREW Act immediately following last February’s Super Bowl. A $9-million-dollar Budweiser commercial aired during the game, raising the collective hackles of the craft-drinking world by suggesting “real” beer is the macro stuff, and everything else is for fussy girly-boys. The ad ignited a firestorm on social media, with bloggers likening Bud to Mardi Gras runoff and Twitter users calling out the beer’s parent company, Anheuser-Busch In-Bev, for its hypocrisy: poo-poo’ing microbreweries while simultaneously engaging in a “microbrewery buying binge.”
But it did more than that.
The commercial also angered legislators on Capitol Hill from all sides of the political spectrum. Less than 24 hours after the ad cracked wise about pumpkin peach ales, lawmakers reintroduced The Small BREW (or Brewer Reinvestment and Expanding Workforce) Act, meant to protect the little guys who make innovative beers. If passed, the legislation will drop the federal excise tax per barrel from $7 to $3.50 for the first 60,000 barrels a small brewery makes. And it will save that brewery an extra $2 on every barrel after that, up to two million.
It’s an important savings when you consider that, as of now, current taxes equal a whopping 40 percent of a craft beer’s retail price (and only 21.5% of a macro beer’s retail price). A new calibration will allow start-ups to invest in local communities by allowing them to invest in more people.
“As you know, craft beer is labor intensive,” says Barb Fusco, spokesperson for the Brewer’s Association, which sponsors the Hill Climb. “An economic impact study reveals that the Small BREW Act would generate over 5,000 new jobs in the first 12 to 18 months after implementation, and this number will grow to 6,400 after five years.
And these numbers aren’t just good for the country’s economy, but for its spirit.
“As mainstreet USA businesses grow, so does entrepreneurialism,” says Barb.
So what’s the problem?
In a recently published Congress Blog piece, brewery owners Scott Newman-Bale, Bill Covaleski and Bill Butcher put it this way:
“Threatened by our small breweries’ increasing – but still minor market share – big brewers are actively engaged in a mission to slow our growth and stifle us competitively. We recognize that such activities are part and parcel of doing business, but this time the drama isn’t playing out in the expected venues, bars and store shelves, but rather in the halls of government.”
Backed by The Beer Institute, the National Beer Wholesalers Association, and the four major, multinational beer corporations, a competing bill called the Fair BEER Act has been introduced.
“It mirrors our bill, but it’s designed to muddy the waters,” says Ryan. “It’s designed as a roadblock, so that senators think, ‘OK, we have two similar bills, so why can’t everyone involved just work it out amongst themselves?’”
But the bills only look similar on the surface. The BEER Act legislation would extend the aforementioned benefits to all of the big-gun breweries who already pay lower taxes, who’ve cut thousands of jobs in recent years, and who send much of their profits overseas. If The Beer Institute is successful in its lobbying, the BEER Act could split the vote. (An iconographic comparison between the two pieces of legislation can be found here.)
But take heart.
During the Hill Climb, 315 congressional offices were visited by craft beer advocates, and 153 of these were member-level meetings, meaning an actual member of Congress – as opposed to a support staffer – was present. Ryan, along with Gene Muller of Flying Fish, visited 10 congressional offices and met face-to-face with Senator Donald Norcross and Congressman Bill Pascrell.
“I’m pretty confident we might be able to pull this off,” he says. “There’s a lot of positive energy surrounding this bill.”
In the meantime, if you’d like to help the cause, visit brewersassociation.org and click the brown support tab at the top of the screen in order to contact your congressman.
“It only takes a moment,” Barb says.
And if the Hill Climb has taught us anything, that’s a moment well spent.
They say that political discussions have no place at the dinner table.
Welp, we hope you’re not eating dinner, because this week’s been a doozy.
On Monday, there was a meeting of the Garden State Craft Brewers Guild, and on the agenda was a discussion of current beer-related legislation, including Bill S2910, which would allow breweries like to CMBC to sell beer at farmers markets and, ultimately, “grow the state’s agriculture and tourism economies,” according to Senator Tom Kean. Another current bill, S2911, would allow customers to bring their own food to tasting rooms.
“Only in New Jersey do you need a law permitting something that’s already allowed,” says CMBC/Guild President Ryan Krill, referring to the fact that bringing food into a tasting room isn’t technically prohibited under current legislation. “The laws are just murky.”
So, for several months, Ryan and other members of the Guild’s board have been meeting with legislators across the state in order to open a dialogue that will, hopefully, lead to some clarification.
“The lawmakers have been receptive,” he says. “They know bills like this will create jobs, and we have the stories and people to back that up. Beer is a bipartisan issue.”
Then, later in the week, Ryan met with New Jersey’s Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno and Assemblyman Sam Fiocchi in order to talk economic sustainability and share some pretty swell statistics about how small brewers contribute. For instance: More than four million pounds of spent grain from Jersey breweries are recycled annually, and used by state farmers for high-quality animal feed.
Finally, Ryan left for the annual “Hill Climb” happening now in Washington DC. Here, over 200 industry leaders will fight the good fight for the Small BREW Act, legislation that would lower the federal excise tax for America’s small brewers, allowing for greater job creation and “reinvigoration of local economies.”
We’ll keep you posted on how it all turns out. In the meantime, back to your regularly scheduled dinner conversation.
Our President, Ryan Krill, made his television debut last week, appearing on What’s On Tap, the simulcast program hosted by beer expert Gary Monterosso.
Over a glass of our Tower 23, Ryan fielded questions about his role as President of the Garden State Craft Brewers Guild, why the advocacy group is so important, what’s exciting about craft beer right now, and what the pace of Cape May Brew Co is really like:
“It’s just been four constant years of seeming chaos,” he said. “We recently hired a marketing girl, Alicia, and someone asked her what it’s like to work at a brewery; they think it must be so chill, everyone sipping beer all day, and no, it’ not… it’s constant chaos. We write plans every year and look at budgets, but you just don’t know what’s going to happen next. We try to look in our crystal ball but we have no idea what’s going to happen next. When we started, we had no idea that we’d end up here.”
To watch the full show, click here… or skip to the 10-minute mark for Ryan’s segment.
Remember that scene in Game of Thrones where King Joffrey Baratheon gets married to Margaery Tyrell and everyone pretends to be a big, happy family while secretly scheming their respective takedowns and the whole thing ends with a murder and some dancing midgets?
Sure, HBO may have House Stark and House Lannister, but Jersey’s got House Craft Brewers Guild and House Restaurant Association and about 14 other special interest groups, all with a lot riding on access to the kingdom’s alcohol. No one blames any of them for being passionate about their respective agendas.
But there are those – let’s call them three-eyed ravens – constantly chirping that one house or another is usurping too much control. Gaining an unfair advantage. Operating outside of the law. Having incestuous affairs. (Wait – scratch that last one; that really is just GOT.)
The Guild agrees that no one industry should unnecessarily infringe on any other, or get more than its fair share of, uh, magical dinosaur eggs. And we’d never want to be accused of doing so.
So, under the direction of CMB leader and association president Ryan Krill, the group’s board began working last December on a Best Practices document. By clearing up some of the murky legalese regarding limited brewery tasting rooms, it should go a long way toward appeasing those who aren’t keen on Jersey’s current tasting room boom.
At the meeting, this finely-finessed document was unveiled to the membership.
What, exactly, does it say?
Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children…
It says that tasting rooms will not offer bar games or sports on TV, that they will close by 10pm unless the local municipality dictates earlier,
and that no food vendors will be allowed inside for on-premise consumption. But tasting rooms will be allowed to offer free bar snacks to patrons and, perhaps most importantly, customers will have the option of bringing in their own outside food. Finally, none of the aforementioned restrictions apply to private events.
Some braced themselves for a Red Wedding-style fight. After all, the document is effectively self-regulation – and rules are about as popular a topic as imps in Castlery Rock.
But the reaction was largely positive, with many vocalizing their agreement on the need for reiteration: tasting rooms are not traditional bars, and should not operate as such.
“I wish we had this when I was starting out,” Ryan told the group of 50, the largest turnout in Guild meeting history. “It’s going to clean up some gray areas, allowing us to better promote craft beer tourism, while maintaining a positive rapport with other alcohol-related businesses.”
Added Mark Edelson of Iron Hill: “We’ve taken the initiative, rather than leaving it up to someone else to regulate for us.”
And Jeremy Lees of Flounder Brewery agreed. “This will guide new start-ups,” he said. “We want to make sure everyone understands the nuances of the law.”
As always, we’ll keep you updated on those nuances. In the meantime, remember – summer’s coming.
9:30: Chatter about the weekend ensues. Fearless leader Ryan Krill was in DC for the 78th Annual Walk to Washington where legislators had opportunity to mingle with Jersey’s craft beer makers. “Those senator guys can drink,” says Ryan. “I felt like an old man.” Meanwhile, Brew Master Brian Hink discusses his trip to Colorado, where he visited Avery Brewery. “They collect and repurpose CO2 with what looks like a fucking nuclear reactor,” he says. “Very impressive.” Both men are wearing the same CMB hat, complete with puff ball on top.
9:31: Production meeting commences. Brian has not yet had time to update the white board on which the brew schedule is usually written. “What the fuck?” jokes Ryan, although its hard to take him seriously in said puffy hat.
9:33: About the tap room, Brian says: “Everything’s kicking on us!” So, on deck for brewing is Cape May IPA, followed by Cape May Saison, and the new Take Five Session IPA. Bottling of Coastal Evacuation will happen on Friday.
9:42: New brew house update: it ships next week!
9:43: New brewer update: Jake Smith starts training tomorrow! “We’ll give him a raise to $.08 an hour,” says Ryan. But in all seriousness, Brian is pumped for the help; last Tuesday he had a 14-hour day that started at 4am — ah, the life of a brewer.
9:44: Time to talk about this week’s Wednesday one-off, Devil’s Reach Gone Wild, which is theDevil’s Reach IPA fermented with wild yeast from grapes that grew right outside of the brewery. “I’m really excited for this one; it’s a beer geek thing,” says Brian. As for taste, expect it to be very wine-like, super dry, and not at all oaky.
9:47:AC BeerFest is coming up! Discussion ensues over whether it’s best to transport CMB brews there via firkins or pins. (If you’re wondering what the firk a firkin is, or if you’re too pin-headed to know what a pin is, click here.)
9:51: Speaking of pins, one of ours “blew up” last Friday. “It was in an outside cooler, and it was so cold it froze,” explains Brian. “As things freeze, they swell. It made a hot mess.”
10:30: Full staff meeting begins! Ryan shows everyone the plans for CMB’s next, next big expansion, coming at you spring of 2016. If all goes well, added on to our new 15,000 square foot-building will be another 5,000 square-foot tasting room, plus beer garden and 120-space parking lot. Bartender extraordinaire Jim Zolna wonders aloud which parking spot is his. “You’re over here,” says Ryan, pointing to the blueprint. “Can’t be too close to a school or it violates that law…” (We kid, we kid.)
10:33:Richie Rallo, Justin Vitti, and Justin Vitti’s mustache update everyone on new clients, including farm-to-table friendly Red Hen restaurant in Swedesboro and Red Robin in Mays Landing. That brings the total number of accounts up to — drum roll, please — 149 in Jersey and 71 in Pennsylvania.
10:56: Ryan adds that Cape May’s own Congress Hall is installing a new draught system and putting CMB on tap. Also, a new shipment of kegs is a-coming, and that will “effectively double our inventory.”
10:57: Logistics guy Andrew Ewing confirms that Nugget, the official minivan of CMB, got an oil change last week.
10:59: Because fearless leader Chris Henke is out of town, Brian updates everyone on what went down at the morning’s production meeting, including a statement on how “crushable” that upcoming Session IPA is going to be.
11:05: Richie reviews Beats, Brews, and BBQ, which took place at World Café Live in Philadelphia over the weekend: “It wasn’t a drunk fest at all,” he says. “Good music, good people. It was the first event our two new employees were working, and I was trying to stress to them how much they were being spoiled. They’ll get a rude awakening at AC Beer Fest.” [Insert maniacal laughter here.] For all upcoming events, click here.
11:07: Jim and tap room coordinator Ashley Sundstrom update everyone on the weekend at the tasting room (“Smooth, no issues”) as well as the movement of merchandise (sweatshirts are selling like hot cakes. Or maybe cold beer).
11:12: Ryan, President of the Garden State Craft Brewers Guild, tells everyone to stay tuned for updates from the guild next week, because exciting things are… brewing. In the meantime, meeting is adjourned. Cheers!