Alphabet Soup: BAA, AOB Merge Into BA
The Brewers’ Association of America—which was founded during World War II to lobby for small brewers—will be history by the time you read this. The group’s board of directors voted to merge with the much larger Association of Brewers (AOB), which was chartered in 1979 to promote the fledgling craft brewing movement. The new organization will be called the Brewers Association.
If you enjoy sipping on a Yuengling Porter, a Schell Weiss, a Shiner Bock or a Saranac Pale Ale, you owe a debt of gratitude to the BAA. The regional breweries that make these beers might have called it quits if the BAA hadn’t pushed hard for a small brewers’ tax differential back in 1976. The BAA managed to preserve this tax break when the government doubled the excise on beer in 1991. As a result, brewers under two million bbl a year pay only $7 in federal taxes on their first 60,000 bbl, instead of the usual $18. The savings—a maximum of $660,000 annually—might have been the transfusion needed to keep financially strapped regionals brewing until better times arrived.
The BAA was run on a shoestring. “I was a one-man office. My wife was the typist, and our whole budget was $47,500,” recalls former executive director Lee Holland. Most of that money went to pay his salary, he recalled.
Merging the two trade groups will prevent duplication of efforts and will provide a larger base of support. The AOB brings to the table its daughter organization, the American Homebrewers Association, whose membership consists of over 9,000 of the most passionate better beer boosters in America. The board of the directors of the newly formed Brewers Association will include two homebrewers, to be selected by the AHA.
Charlie Papazian, founder and president of the AOB, will serve as president of its successor organization, to be headquartered in Boulder, Colo. The Brewers Association will continue to hold the annual Great American Beer Festival in Denver and the Craft Brewers Conference and BrewExpo trade show. The group will also open a legislative office in Washington, DC.
The BAA held its swan song on December 8… a Congressional beer tasting in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, DC, in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol. A horde of Congressional staffers, average age about 25, mobbed the foyer of the building for free food and holiday beers. The movers and shakers of tomorrow?
A month earlier, Bradford had delivered his farewell address in New Orleans at the BAA’s last conference. “Five years and two months ago I drove to Virginia in a rented van and picked up a bunch of boxes that was the physical presence of the BAA,” he recalled. “If stuff is a measure of power, this was pathetic. However, I had been hired by a board with vision. I have and still have a passion for the people behind the beer I love… ”
Bradford stressed the need for unity among small brewers and decried factionalism: “You need each other more than you need whatever pissing match is keeping you apart… To paraphrase one of our industries finest leaders and a predecessor, Henry King: This isn’t lobbying. It’s staying alive.”
Bradford concluded by offering his successor, Charlie Papazian, “not exactly the keys to the city, but the opener to the BAA. And it works!”
Many thanks for a job well done!
How did the beer industry make out in Election 2004? Despite record spending and endorsements by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, Pete Coors lost to Democratic candidate Ken Salazar in a heated race for Colorado’s open Senate seat.
The defeat was a blow to the National Beer Wholesalers Association, which had endorsed Coors. But NBWA president David Rehr could take comfort in the Bush victory. Rehr had stumped for Bush at the NBWA convention, charging that opponent John Kerry had “voted to deny beer advertising deductibility and supported giving the drug czar the authority to equate beer with illegal drugs.”
Rehr insisted that the NBWA is a non-partisan organization, but added, “We must make certain that anti-alcohol moralists, be they Republican or Democrat, are not elected or allowed to dominate their political party.”
Greg Kitsock is editor of Mid-Atlantic Brewing News, a long-time resident of Wahington, DC, and a frequent contributor to beer-related publications.