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United we stand?

With the formation of the Century Council, the American alcohol beverage industry has built another dike against the rising tide of neo-prohibitionism. Simultaneous with its launching, the Century Council announced a series of programs designed to stem alcohol abuse and underage drinking.

There is no question that the Century Council, which is inspired by Europe's proven Portman Group, can serve a worthwhile purpose in the ongoing battle against the prohibitionists.

However, the Council would be even more effective if the American brewing community were more strongly represented. Although the Stroh Brewery Co. and Guinness Import Co. have signed on, other larger players have demurred.

The poor attendance by American brewers reflects a number of long-standing problems. First, brewers are wary of the distillers that make up the bulk of the Council's membership. Distillers may talk about unity now, but many in the beer industry recall divisive calls for equalization in the recent past.

Then too, the beer industry is already represented by effective industry groups, notably the Beer Institute and the National Beer Wholesalers Association.

Finally, American brewers have a right to feel they've been doing a pretty good job on their own. All three of the largest American brewing companies have launched visible campaigns to discourage abuse of their products.

Despite these facts, it remains that the Century Council is the first organization to attempt to represent all alcohol beverage interests. The inherent strength of such an approach is beyond question.

The first step would be a resolution of the recurring "equalization" stumbling block. It's possible that such a resolution could even occur through the forum of the Century Council itself. If brewers and distillers began to work together more closely on an issue, perhaps it would become clear that broader common ground exists.

While this resolution might not come, it might be necessary to forge ahead regardless. When an industry is besieged, it is necessary for all to discard parochial concerns and man the barricades.

The Century Council would not be a replacement for existing industry groups, far from it. The Beer Institute and the NBWA devote all their efforts to furthering the interests of the brewing community. In that, they serve a purpose that the Century Council never could, and this makes them essential. The Century Council will only serve to bolster their efforts, focused as it is on a relatively narrow agenda.

Finally, while it is true that individual brewers have done well in their anti-prohibitionist efforts, a more unified approach would be a stronger approach. Individual efforts could continue, but the combined resources of brewers, distillers and vintners would be a powerful tool. With one voice, these groups could reach more people more effectively.

Beer wholesalers are beginning to discover the merits of a unified approach. A recent NBWA legislative conference was the best attended ever, allowing more effective lobbying. This success was made possible through the strong support of the brewers.

This kind of unity is required more than ever. However, although brewing industry figures talk frequently of unity, it has proven elusive, even within the bounds of the brewing industry itself.

The Century Council offers brewers the opportunity to join a broad-based coalition, a group that is prepared to tackle the problem of neo-prohibitionism from the roots up. At this stage of the game, more than lip service to the idea of unity is required.
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Title Annotation:formation of Century Council by the American alcohol beverage industry to counter neoprohibitionism
Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Article Type:editorial
Date:Jul 15, 1991
Words:562
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