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Microbrewers tackle neo-prohibitionism in Denver.

Microbrewers tackle neo-prohibitionism in Denver

A large contingent of America's small-scale brewers recently gathered in Denver, CO, for the 7th annual Microbrewers Conference. The conference, which focused on the theme of "operating the successful small brewery," was organized by the Institute for Brewing Studies, an arm of the Association of Brewers. In addition to providing microbrewers a forum for discussing the mechanics of brewery operations and product marketing, the conference also provided an opportunity to discuss some of the pressing issues confronting America's brewers.

A new consciousness of the perils of neo-prohibitionism was evident among the small-scale brewers, a concern delineated in the opening address by Jeff Mendel, Director of Research for the Association of Brewers.

"The brewing industry is being targeted by both legislators and people you might call moralists about restrictions on our activities," Jeff observed. "Issues like warning labels, excise taxes and ad bans will change the way that brewers, both large and small, go about their business--and may actually threaten the existence of some businesses."

The industry threatened

Other speakers focused on the individual threats to the industry in some detail. The conference included an articulate address on the subject of neo-prohibitionism by Daniel Bradford of the Association of Brewers.

"The heart of the neo-prohibitionist movement lies in the desire to solve a very real problem," Bradford said, "that of alcohol abuse. Alcohol abuse measures its toll in highway deaths, broken families, ruined careers, costly welfare programs and emotional scars that go on generation after generation. There is no disputing it.

"Along with AIDS, gang warfare and drug abuse," Bradford continued, "alcohol abuse is in fact one of society's diseases. However, neo-prohibitionists would have the public believe that through restriction of consumption, of availability and of marketing, the problem of alcohol abuse will vanish."

Micros `in a unique position'

Bradford went on to suggest a pro-active strategy for American microbrewers.

"The new brewers of America are in fact in a unique position," he said. "Amidst the rediscovery of the depth and variety of beer and the reinvigoration of the community of brewers, brewers can move forward to form local consortiums of interested parties to deal directly at grass-roots level with the very real problem of alcohol abuse. Health-care providers, social workers, concerned families and law enforcement officials--all share the same desire you have to end the ravages of alcohol abuse.

"Because you own community-based businesses," Bradford observed, "you are in a position to move forward and help build a consortium creating community programs that will actually affect the overall level of alcohol abuse.

"Your challenge is not to ignore the tide of neo-prohibitionism," Bradford concluded, "nor to ignore the reality of alcohol abuse. Your challenge is to create grassroots strategy to protect your livelihood and help the problem."

A message to Washington

Gary Nateman from the Beer Institute also spoke to the assemblage of brewers, and complimented the Association on its growing strength and influence. He also sounded a clarion call for action on the taxation issue.

"The major issue today is the federal excise tax," Nateman said. "At the Beer Institute we're doing the best we can to kill it or reduce it to a reasonable amount, but if a tax is imposed at manufacturing level, whether you're Anheuser-Busch or the smallest microbrewery in the United States, this is something you'll have to pay. And, if taxes go from $9 a barrel to $45, it may raise price as much as a dollar a six-pack.

"I don't think anyone knows what will happen in Washington on this issue," Nateman continued, "particularly as a result of the Middle-East conflict. The conventional wisdom is whatever they come up with at the budget summit is what we'll get.

"It's important to individually contact your members of congress if you haven't done so already," Nateman said. "Petitions can't replace individual letters and phone calls to your representatives.

"You're small businessmen," Nateman stated. "You have a message that could be made that the bigger brewers can't deliver. They may have larger plants, but micros are a heck of a lot more diversely located, with 170 micros and brewpubs located in the U.S."

In addition to the formal day sessions, Daniel Bradford organized a casual evening gathering for discussion of the taxation and neo-prohibitionist threats. A small group of microbrewers and suppliers attended to discuss possible strategies in the battle. The fact that so few microbrewers chose to attend the optional sessions indicated to some in attendance that microbrewers were treating the threat cavalierly. Although a definitive answer to the challenge proved elusive, all agreed that microbrewers must join united, or risk perishing individually.

PHOTO : CHARLIE PAPAZIAN, the Director of the Institute of Brewing Studies, welcomed brewers to the 7th annual Microbrewers Conference.

PHOTO : JUST FOR OPENERS--One of the opening addresses was delivered by Daniel Bradford of the Association of Brewers. Bradford warned microbrewers that their "businesses are endangered and futures put at risk" by the rising tide of neo-prohibitionistic sentiment.

PHOTO : GARY NATEMAN of the Beer Institute gave his insight into the Washington legislative process, discussing measures microbrewers can take to fight impending taxes.
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Title Annotation:Microbrewers Conference, Denver, Colorado
Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Date:Sep 17, 1990
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