One of the most recognizable figures in Illinois craft beer is heading to Capitol Hill to push Congress to pass the Brewers Association-backed Small BREW Act.
Should small brewers pay less in taxes than major players like Anheuser-Busch or MillerCoors? Or should taxes be lowered across the board for all brewers, large and small? That’s the question facing Congress as lobbying firms and brewers alike converge on Capitol Hill to state their cases for two different bills: the Brewers Association backed Small BREW Act or the Beer Institute’s Fair BEER Act.
While the premise behind either Act isn’t new, the resources being pumped into the efforts of both sides are.
Both the Beer Institute and National Beer Wholesalers Association have lobbying firms working the halls and talking with lawmakers. The Brewers Association, meanwhile, recently hired someone to head up their lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill and is bringing brewers guild reps for a “Hill Climb” on March 23rd and 24th to lobby Congress.
Enter Church Street Brewing Company Brand Manager Chet Brett and Katie Long, coordinator for the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild. The two will be heading to the nation’s capitol later this month to join their brewing brethren to push for passage of the Small BREW Act. They’ll be joined by members from 25 other state craft brewers guilds in hopes of putting a face to their plight for lower federal excise taxes, according to Brewers Association CEO Bob Pease.
“The Brewers Association believes facilitating interaction between craft brewery owners and guild leaders with Members of Congress helps tell the story of American Craft Beer and American Craft Brewing,” Pease tells Guys Drinking Beer. “We want to make sure that Representatives and Senators know the differences between the global multinationals and small and independent craft brewers.”
Brett tells Guys Drinking Beer passing the Small BREW Act would mean big things for small craft brewers in Illinois and across the country.
“With the tremendous growth In our first two and a half years [at Church Street] we are intimately familiar with the many issues, challenges and concerns that our friends from the ICBG also face,” said Brett. “Church Street is part of the explosion of craft beer in Chicagoland and we are passionate and willing to be part of finding solutions to help other breweries from around the country continue to grow.”
ICBG Executive Director Justin Maynard echoes the call for growth, noting the Small BREW Act would allow brewers to put money back into their operations.
“The main goal is to have American brewery owners use the savings from the Small BREW Act to re-invest in their breweries,” said Maynard. “The opportunity to expand employment in Illinois, as well as invest in expanding in production capacity to meet the demands of the consumers is huge.”
However, Beer Institute CEO Jim McGreevy tells Guys Drinking Beer the Fair BEER Act will provide small brewers with the same tax breaks too and level the playing field from a tax perspective for other brewers.
“By eliminating the excise tax completely on barrels 1 through 7,143, the Fair BEER Act steers the bulk of the relief to small brewers, which will open pathways for new entrants to the marketplace and allow for all brewers to reinvest in their businesses,” said McGreevy. “Major suppliers only get pennies of relief per barrel, while the very small brewers receive a significant $18 dollar per-barrel tax advantage.”
He also defends the extension of the tax breaks to importers, noting they — along with the other major brewers in the U-S — employ 26,000 people across the country.
“Beer tax reform must be comprehensive and inclusive, or it would create new barriers to growth by altering the industry structure,” said McGreevy.