IF YOU READ LOBBY BLOG regularly, you know that even groups within the same industry don’t always get along when it comes to legislative issues. That’s the case in the fight that’s brewing between craft brewers and large “macrobreweries” such as Miller-Coors and Anheuser-Busch InBev. According to the OpenSecrets blog, the fight centers around two competing bills: The Small BREW Act and the Fair Beer Act, both of which offer differing definitions for how beer producers should be taxed.
The Small BREW Act is supported by the Brewers Association, a trade association which represents more than 10,000 key stakeholders in the American beer industry, with a focus on craft brewers. The association is relatively new to lobbying, with its first lobbying expenditures taking place in 2008. Currently, it spends 14.9% of membership dues it collects on lobbying on issues such as The Small BREW Act. The Act limits tax breaks only to beer producers headquartered in the United States and excludes importers; this would leave out such notable producers as Anheuser-Busch InBev. Further, it would expand the definition of small brewer to any organization that produces six million barrels of beer or less per year, again excluding the industry giants.
This restriction on overseas-based producers and importers is the key difference between the Small BREW Act and the BEER Act, which is supported by the National Beer Wholesalers Association and the Beer Institute, which represents both macrobreweries such as Miller-Coors as well as smaller producers and microbrewers. Both organizations reject the Small BREW Act in favor of the Beer Act, which the organizations claim is more inclusive and fair in its application of excise taxes.
But the fight between craft brewers and industry giants moved from Congress to the living rooms of millions of Americans when Budweiser ran an ad during the Super Bowl that was critical of craft beer, claiming that beer shouldn’t “be fussed over.” PBS notes that even as beer sales as a whole have fallen, craft beer sales have grown exponentially in the past three decades, even though they still represent a small portion of overall beer sales.
While it remains to be seen which (if either) bill prevails, it’s clear the legislative and public relations conflict between large and small beer producers is far from over. If craft beer continues to grow at its current rapid pace, the fight will only intensify.