Policy affects our everyday lives not only as people in the craft beer industry but as Americans hoping to craft better beer in a better world.
As professionals and consumers, the intersection of craft beer and voting can sometimes be ambiguous. Nonetheless, our industry is affected by real issues decided on by people in power who impact people’s livelihoods and quality of life.
Additionally, while taking a deeper look into voting advocacy in the craft beer industry encourages people to get out and vote, it also reveals the policies that affect our industry and the issues and political stances associated with breweries and their communities.
For November, BIFE is highlighting breweries that advocate for people to get out and vote.
We’re also going to be highlighting those legislation issues presented by the Brewing Industry Guide that directly impact the craft beer industry as a whole.
Lastly, we’ve provided voting resources like sample ballots, policy information search engines, and 411 voting guides to get you up to speed for this upcoming election.
Our industry is not free from the nation’s volatile political landscape. With conscious buying by consumers at an all-time high, voting advocacy is a great place to inform, encourage, and promote positive change. In today’s world, the pressure to understand how policy affects our everyday lives is paramount, not only as people in the beer industry but as Americans hoping to craft better beer in a better world.
Crafting Better Beer in a Better World
The craft beer industry’s trade group: The Brewers Association (BA) held a Craft Brewers Conference earlier this year, breaking down the federal affairs into three distinct channels: Direct-to-Consumer, On-Premise Taproom, and Brew Hub and Chain Retail.
These three channels are an attempt at an objective framework for evaluating the upcoming legislation policies affecting the craft beer industry.
Keeping this in mind, we’ll highlight some of the legislation under consideration at the conference.
Restaurant Revitalization Fund
If you’ve had the pleasure of walking around a farmer’s market recently, you’ve probably been approached by someone with a clipboard to “help save our restaurants.” That is because The Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) has people calling for its extension or revitalization – as the fund directly supports hospitality businesses affected by the pandemic.
In 2021, the fund provided $460 million to over 1,500 breweries last year, a number that seems impressive but, in reality, left many breweries and hospitality vendors without help. Created under the American Rescue Plan Act in March 2021, the RRF had an original fund of $28.6 billion, which was depleted just two months later, with only one-third of eligible applicants receiving any support.
Craft Beer advocates call on Congress to approve the rest of the money to assist small businesses (including breweries) still suffering from on-premise sales declines due to the pandemic. The House approved an additional $42 million for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund in April, but the relief package has yet to pass in a GOP Senate; additionally – its Senate counterpart bill, the Small Business Covid Relief Act of 2022, includes $40 million for the RRF. You might be able to guess which political forces are voting not to supply that relief. So BIFE encourages you to consider which Congress representatives to vote for.
The USPS Shipping Equity Act
Remember what we mentioned earlier about how the Brewers Association broke these issues into three channels? The first is Direct-to-consumer shipping of beer, which has been a lifeline for breweries during the pandemic – currently is restricted to only being legal for out-of-state producers to ship beer to customers in just 12 states. Even with that being the case, the U.S. Postal Service has been left out of the equation. For 85 years, the postal service has not been allowed to deliver alcohol. We might not be math experts, but it seems clear the critics of this policy are correct when they accuse the policy as a leftover relic of prohibition. Adults should be able to receive adult beverages, right?
However, opponents to any reform continue to lobby that inevitably these drinks would end up in underage hands. Still, it’s challenging to concur when FedEx and UPS are allowed to deliver alcohol to legal-age drinkers who show ideas. So this year, the USPS Shipping Equity Act, introduced with bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate, proposes to put the USPS on equal ground with their private carriers counterparts.
At the Brewers Association Conference, advocates explained how the measure is critical for customers living in rural areas who do not have access to private carriers and also revealed a projected $50 million to postal service finances in the first year of implementation. The idea for the craft beer industry is that better shipping rates will emerge with more competition, and as more people can deliver craft beer, our industry only grows to reach more people. The USPS Shipping Equity Act should be on everyone’s radar this election month.
Opposition to Spirits-Based RTD Tax Equivalency
Out of the legislation reform we’ve covered in this article, the opposition to spirits-based RTD Tax Equivalency might be the most important – as it affects consumers and the craft beer industry as a whole.
Essentially, you need to know this: Distilled spirits are generally taxed at a higher rate than beer, both at the federal and local levels and even when they produce the same alcohol content. Because of this, the spirits industry is pushing for a “tax equivalency” – arguing that the excess taxes should be the same for a 5% ABV seltzer produced by a brewery and a 5% ABV spirit-based canned cocktail made by a distillery. While this might seem reasonable to the ordinary consumer, the BA is united with other beer trade groups like the Beer Institute and the National Beer Wholesalers Association in opposing the tax equivalency.
The Beer Association’s Conference conveyed how tax equivalency would have the most significant impact on chain retail, with a concern that the lower taxes on ready-to-drink cocktails would make them more profitable and desirable than beer products. To add more context, beer has been losing market share to spirits for decades. And while seltzer-based ABV products skyrocketed for the beer marketplace, spirits in a similar fashion have moved onto the shelves with equal success.
While the craft beer industry knows it can’t completely stop the spirits industry from taking space in its market share, what the BA and beer trade groups are advocating is vigorous opposition to the tax-equivalency bills at the federal and state level. So far, the group effort appears to have more wins than losses, with states like Arizona and New Jersey voting down tax-equivalency bills.
More bills are on the ballot this year in states like Kentucky, Minnesota, and Ohio. The BA and beer trade groups hope the consumer’s point of view leads to the common sense suggestion that a 5% ABV drink is a 5% ABV drink regardless of its fermentable base.
Brewability & Developmental Pathways Partner to Encourage People with Disabilities to Vote
Brewability is a non-profit founded in 2016, serving inclusivity for pizza and beer lovers with developmental disabilities (and their advocates). Founded by a lifelong special education teacher, Brewability is a brewery slash pizzeria staffed primarily by people with developmental disabilities.
Located in Englewood, Colorado, the establishment brings together good food, good drinks, and good times that are designed to be accessible to everyone. In the past, they’ve hosted events featuring their delicious handcrafted brews, from local breweries to bone-conduction, vibrational dance floor parties, to hosting voter registration and voter education events for the disabled [sic] and developmentally disabled community.
If you remember the current president’s inauguration address, President Biden specifically thanked the disabled community, a large population of voters that are often overlooked and unrecognized. Brewability partnered this November with New Belgium, Magnolia, Cantwell, and Lambic brew houses in their mission for voting advocacy. Well done!
Fat Tire’s Digital Action Center Encourages 60 Million Americans to Vote
Simply put, Fat Tire urges beer drinkers, regardless of partisanship, to understand this simple yet profound truth: If the climate crisis continues unabated, beer drinkers everywhere will pay more for beer that tastes worse.
Fat Tire, America’s first carbon-neutral beer, is calling on 60 million Americans (about everyone who drinks beer in the US) to join their movement to protect the only planet with beer by signing the Beer Drinker’s Climate Declaration.
The campaign and declaration represent the start of a long-term Fat Tire effort to encourage civic engagement and participation to increase climate change awareness and get people out to vote on the issue at hand. Fat Tire believes that the “Beer Voter” may have the actual power to make a positive impact in the election.
“In backyards, ballparks, and bars across America, people enjoy spending time together with a cold beer in hand,”New Belgium CEO Steve Fechheimer said in an interview. “But the role beer plays as a spark for stronger human connection and a central part of so many traditions could disappear entirely if we don’t successfully confront the climate crisis, destroying the crops and water required for brewing. Beer drinkers have an opportunity to become a powerful force for protecting our planet if we can raise our voices together.”
What’s at Stake this November?
As we said at the start of this editorial, the intersection of craft beer and politics can seem like an ambiguous one. For the consumer, one might wish their beer consumption to be utterly free from political affiliation. In contrast, the craft beer owner or worker is left wondering what measures on the upcoming ballot affect their livelihood.
If there’s anything we’ve learned from our mission with Beer is for Everyone, it is that our industry, our craft, and our people don’t exist in a vacuum. We are not associations, organizations, and a community unaffected by Congressional policy or the mind-baffling arena of American politics.
Our industry tends to forget how much Congress has influenced our industry–the Prohibition era had a profound effect on America’s political discourse and our relationship with beer and alcohol. We’ve seen state and federal laws mold the craft beer landscape in sales in physical taprooms and across state borders. And now, our country faces pressing issues trapped in a cultural crossfire – abortion, borders, crime, schools, inflation, the environment, Covid-19, police reform, and gun law reform.
While culturally, these issues arguably hold precedents like never before, the economy becomes a baseline for working-class Americans to keep their political affiliations in place. Rising costs of food, gas, electricity, groceries, and rents have voters wondering what policies and representatives affect them most.
Craft Beer is a part of these issues whether we want to be. Our industry and people are some of the most diverse, adaptable, progressive, and pioneering. From our editorial efforts, we’ve done our best to tell the stories of these people and what we’ve seen is just how special each brewery is—each with its unique reasons for why they began brewing beer.
We’ve covered POC opening up breweries in Black Neighborhoods. We’ve covered Indigenous breweries reclaiming alcohol through their heritage. We’ve covered LGBTQIAA+ groups using beer as a platform to protest. We’ve watched thousands of beer consumers use their dollar power to support beer brands advocating for social justice, addressing climate change, and crafting better beer in a better world.
So, in addition to amplifying voting advocacy and addressing some of the issues we’re facing in this upcoming election cycle, we’re providing additional BIFE resources for Voting Advocacy.
Additional BIFE Resources for Voting Advocacy
Vote 411 – From the League of Women Voters Education Fund
Vote 411 is an excellent resource for all the election information you need. Brought to you by the League of Women Voters Education Fund, the goal of Vote 411 is to empower citizens to make a voting plan, verify voter registration, and find out exactly what’s on your ballot. Alongside FAQ directed at local candidates, Vote 411 has you enter your address to receive personalized voting information – including your district’s polling place and even upcoming debates in your area.
Legal Defense Fund 2022 Election Research Guide
Profoundly put, the Legal Defund Fund (LDF) is America’s premier legal organization fighting for racial justice. The LDF uses the power of law, narrative, research, and people to defend and advance the full dignity of citizenship for Black people in America. While this is incredibly awesome, the LFD website has an Election Research Guide addressing everything from local elections to state and federal policy.
Ballotpedia Sample Ballot Tool
To be an influential voter, you have to be an informed voter. Viewing the elections, you will be voting in with a sample ballot lookup tool is a great way to inform yourself on the issues at hand. This is especially useful for first-time voters, who might be worried about the political jargon or ballot-filling process. This sample ballot tool asks you to enter your address and select an upcoming election date. From there, a list of candidates will appear on your sample ballot, with comprehensive election information for the largest 100 cities by population and all state legislative, statewide, and congressional races across the nation.
Brewers Association Political Action Committee
The BA’s Political Action Committee (PAC) is a transparent, legal, and federally monitored way for trade associations like the Brewers Association to pool campaign contributors to support federal office candidates who champion small independent brewers’ interests. Founded in 2019, the Brewers Association PAC prides itself on supporting candidates regardless of political affiliation but instead focuses on the issues they support that promote the well-being of the craft beer industry. Under federal election law, the Brewers Association PAC can only accept personal contributions from individual employees of BA member companies. The Brewers Association PAC does not receive corporate funds and is required by law to abide by the rules and regulations of the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
Brewers Association Current Issues Resource Hub
The fine people over at the Brewers Association have been curating the latest national and state-level government affairs issues on their resource hub page. Including news and announcements from the Brewers Association and House and Senate Small Brewers Caucus members. They have a filter option for courts, national, international, or by your state. You can also download the latest monthly legal update and discover everything you want to know about supporting small and independent craft brewers this November.