Bob Pease announced his retirement and plans to step down from his role as the chief executive officer of the Brewers Association (BA), the trade organization representing small and independent craft brewers. Pease will leave his position in early 2025, once his successor is in the role.

“After careful consideration, I believe it is time to help this great association transition to new leadership and for me to move on to new endeavors,” Pease wrote in a press statement released by the BA. “Over the last three decades, I have witnessed the Brewers Association grow from a small, narrowly focused association to one that is now a power player on important issues facing the industry domestically and internationally. Throughout my time at the helm of the Brewers Association, we have helped our members navigate explosive growth and unprecedented challenges. In doing so, we have put the BA on the map as a political force. Representing this iconic community, its brands, and the incredible people who embody passion in their craft has been an absolute honor. I look forward to seeing continued success in the industry.”

Pease started with the BA in 1993 as a customer service manager, working through various positions in the organization before his promotion to vice president in 1999, COO in 2010, and CEO in 2014. During his tenure, the organization turned its focus to creating a stronger relationship with federal regulatory authorities and representatives. Pease helped create the House and Senate Small Brewers Caucus in 2007, which is one of the largest member caucuses in Congress. He also helped advocate for federal excise tax relief for craft brewers through the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act, which became law in 2017 and made permanent in 2020. Pease also helped establish the association’s export development program, which promotes craft beer outside of the United States. 

During his tenure, the organization has also seen struggles. The COVID-19 pandemic hit the association hard. It laid off nearly a quarter of its staff in April 2020, including many long-time employees including Julia Herz. She was later re-hired to run the American Homebrewers Association (AHA). The BA’s signature event and primary source of revenue, the Great American Beer Festival, has experienced diminished attendance even before the pandemic, hitting a peak of 60,000 attendees in 2018 over four sessions. In 2023, the GABF saw attendance of less than 40,000. The association announced this year that it would reduce the number of GABF sessions to three. Attendance has similarly dropped at its Craft Brewers Conference events in recent years. In 2024, the BA through its AHA announced that it would put its annual Homebrew Con on hiatus in favor of smaller events and demonstrations located within the GABF.

In response to this article, the BA, through its public relations firm, reached out to provide additional comments. “The BA intentionally scaled-down GABF post-pandemic as a result of many factors, including the evolving festival landscape, and has met those benchmarks year after year,” says Ann Obenchain, the BA’s vice-president of marketing and communications. Additionally, “the decision to eliminate the Saturday evening session was based on feedback from the brewers and attendees,” she said. “For brewers, it allows them to reduce their travel costs or participate in in-market collaborations on Saturday night. For attendees, this means fewer kicked kegs and an ample supply of samples.”

Pease has also come under criticism by some for the share of attention the association pays to the interests of its larger members. In 2020, Pease and the BA also received substantial criticism for the lack of diversity within its organizational structure and for a perceived lack of broader efforts to promote diversity and foster inclusivity in the craft beer industry. In an interview with BeerEdge in 2020, Pease addressed these criticisms in an interview that gained substantial attention. 

The association plans an extensive search for a new CEO, including outside candidates. There are also internal candidates, including Chief Economist Bart Watson, who are under consideration.