Beer Unites (Except in the Maryland State House)

To borrow from my friends at Union Craft Brewing, beer unites us all. Take for example the United States Congress. It could not be more divisive, or partisan. It is akin to warring factions from distant galaxies fighting for control of the Universe at all costs. Despite these disparate agendas, they have still found a way to come together over beer. The Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act, better known as CBMTRA has united both factions of our bicameral congress. This legislation, well covered by Tom Cizauskas at Yours For Good Fermentables, is a once in a generation legislative reform act for the United States craft brewing industry that also provides benefit to wineries and distilleries.
Here are the nuts of bolts of what it does for breweries:

  • Reduces excise taxes from $7 per barrel to $3.50 per barrel for domestic breweries producing less than 60,000 BBLs per annum.
  • Reduces excise taxes from $18 per barrel to $16 per barrel for domestic breweries producing 60,000 to 2 million BBLs per annum.
  • It simplifies beer formulation and label approval by expanding the list of ‘common beer ingredients’ (like fruit).
  • It encourages collaborations by removing regulatory hurdles like enabling tax free transfers, removing restrictions on both inventory and expansion for packaging and storage.
  • It levels the playing field between domestic and international producers.
  • It expands TTB program integrity to crack down on those circumventing the rules.

With 54 Senate co-sponsors, and 299 House co-sponsors this Bill had incredible bipartisan support, and was heavily promoted by both the Brewer’s Association of America, the National Beer Wholesalers Association, and the Beer Institute, among several other industry associations. Since the wording of the Bill was exactly the same in both houses of Congress when approved, there is little doubt it will make it through the conference committee and be signed into law in coming weeks. This will be a grand and much needed victory for craft beer manufacturers across the country. Apparently beer was the only thing capable of uniting this most combative 115th Congress.

Perhaps the political factions within the Annapolis State House should take note. If the federal government is willing to sit down and listen to the concerns of craft brewers, and their need for the modernization of existing, incredibly antiquated laws, why shouldn’t the elected representatives serving in Annapolis? Say what you will about swampy, pay to play Washington politics, but nothing holds a candle to Maryland particularly if the Reform on Tap Act of 2018 does not get a FAIR and IMPARTIAL hearing before the legislature this session. Politicians must pay at the polls in 2018 if they do not heed the demands of their constituents (as a whole); not just the select group lining their campaign coffers.

Make your voices heard! Call your representatives and tell them (as a voter) what you require of them. If you have questions ask your local craft brewer, the Brewer’s Association of Maryland, or the Comptroller. Sign the petition HERE to make the Reform on Tap Act of 2018 a crucial component of the 2018 legislative session in Annapolis. Always remember they serve at OUR pleasure.

#SaveMDBeer
#BreweriesSaveMainStreet

Autumnal Splendor and Things that Inspire

As the weather turns cooler, and the leaves crunch beneath your feet thoughts often stray to hearty stews, cozy fires, and good company sharing a delightful libation. Fall often evinces thoughts like this, inspired no doubt by the splendor of the season, and the crisp breeze carrying the scent of autumn through the air. I find that I become more selective with regard to the beverages chosen to mark the season, and those moments that take on a greater significance. Many people intentionally pair their beer with the evening’s planned victuals, and often do so with painstaking precision. I am perhaps not that particular, but I do enjoy the process of merging flavors in a way that elicits the best qualities of both the food and accompanying brew. What I have more recently taken note of is the story behind both, and how much that factors into my decision.

Cooking heals, and the process has an almost meditative power. Selecting a recipe is more than meeting a list of dietary restrictions, and flavor preferences; it also involves the history of the dish. How, why, and for whom was it created? Granted there are not always answers to these questions, but it certainly is intriguing to embark on the voyage to uncover them. The national dish of Cuba, Ropa Vieja is a perfect example of this. Legend has it that a peasant had no meat to feed his family, so he decided to take his old clothes and put them in the stew pot. While it cooked, he thought about how much he loved his family. When he uncovered the stew, the threadbare garments magically transformed into the delicious shredded beef stew (resembling tattered clothing.) Miracles, inspired by love, created this dish. Fanciful? Perhaps. Delicious? Definitely!

This wee tale leads me back to the accompanying beverage. What inspired a brewer to make a particular beer? Was it love? Was it history? Was it something more? Not all brewers share the muse behind the conception of a brew, but when they do I find myself intrigued and more inclined to give it a go. Make no mistake, a well told story behind a creation will not make up for lack of quality, or cleanliness in the process. Will consumers select beers with no significant story? Absolutely- if they are well crafted. Often however, one can tell when a brew was uninspired, as it shows on the palate. Similarly, a thirsty connoisseur of malted beverages can taste the inspiration behind it. Brewer’s Alley Wedding Alt is an example of an extremely well-crafted alt beer with an equally inspired story. Brewer Tom Flores created this very personal beer to mark the most auspicious occasion of his very own wedding. It was brilliant, and so well received that it became an (annual) seasonal offering, much in demand.

Other breweries in Maryland have also created beers motivated by personal stories, or historical events; just take a gander at Union Craft Brewing’s Duckpin Pale Ale. Duckpin bowling was invented in Baltimore, and neared the point of extinction (if you can use that terminology for a dying sport) when Union Craft released their homage to the Baltimore institution. The sport was invented around 1900 by a couple of Baltimore Orioles Hall of Famers while drinking beer in a billiards hall (although the specifics of this are open to historical debate.) Union wanted to get in touch with what made Baltimore great, and its rich history of craft brewing was a perfect analogy to the once thriving sport of Duckpin bowling. The sport and the beer have both surged in the past five years, and it would be impossible to separate the revival of one from the success of the other!

To have a muse behind the crafting of a fantastic beer may not be a significant factor to some consumers, but for many it will most assuridly lure them to open their wallets and give it a try!

Beer for thought!

Collective Craft Industries

Inspired by the new Union Collective and the future…

Recent activity in Maryland craft brewing (legislatively and otherwise) has engendered new thoughts regarding the future of the industry in the state. As the Union Collective forms there is much to discuss, particularly now that the Baltimore Whiskey Company has chosen to relocate to the Union property. When complete (2018) the Union Collective in Hampden-Medfield will house Union Craft Brewing, Baltimore Whiskey Company, and the Charmery (ice creamery), among other retail operations. This is a potential winning combination of craft beer, craft spirits, and handcrafted ice cream in one location for shoppers- a portent to success. This is something we have seen before and it has a pretty good track record.
One look at St. Michaels on the Eastern Shore and any person interested in locally crafted beverages takes the drive. Why? A very short walk down S. Talbot Street will introduce a consumer to Eastern Shore Brewing, St. Michaels Winery, and Lyon Distilling (along with a bevy of shops filled with locally made items) all in the same block. This brilliant locational strategy aided in the success of all three craft libation companies in addition to the surrounding restaurants and retail shops. Perhaps St. Michaels provides a template for the future. It certainly draws a crowd that is potentially more diverse- as those that consider themselves wine drinkers or predominantly spirit specialists will be more willing to entertain an experience in locally crafted beer when it is a mere few feet away. It also invites a host of available possibilities from beer/spirits/wine bus tour stops, to detours for drivers on their way to/from other localities on the Eastern Shore. All businesses complement one another and reap the rewards from the marketing campaigns of each. It in essence becomes a shared responsibility to draw the crowd and sell a quality product, hopefully ensuring success for all. That is what building an industry in a local community is all about, growing both the business and community it resides in, deriving benefit for all.
In Howard County beginning on Saturday July 1, Hysteria Brewing opens its doors on Berger Road, right next door to Lost Ark Distilling. A shared parking lot, with food trucks, entertainment, and critically consumers that will reap the benefits of both craft manufacturers in one place. While many new breweries are slated to open in the next two years in Maryland, some have chosen their locations, while others are still seeking suitable space. Perhaps, when possible, and as the number of distilleries continues to climb. Maryland craft (alcohol) can continue building together in collective spaces to the enrichment and advantage of one another and the thirsty consumers in the region 9and beyond) eager for these locally crafted, quality beverages.
As for the Union Collective? Well let me just remind everyone of how Union started- a union of Kevin and Jon, and the community. Union has always focused on giving back to the neighborhood that welcomed them through jobs, revitalization, more business, and a shared sense of community responsibility. That is not something that will change with their relocation, in fact they have only gotten started. Craft breweries in Maryland like Union Craft have a huge impact on the local economies in which they operate. Make no mistake (regardless of what macro breweries and their representatives might tell you) local breweries in Maryland foment economic development. We need them as much as they need us, and together Maryland gets stronger, and a heck of a lot tastier!
Sláinte!