Oregon Leads Small Brewers Caucus

Last month, 34 members of the House of Representatives formed the Small Brewers Caucus to monitor and effect issues of interest to craft brewers. The week after the Craft Brewers Conference, on May 15, the caucus held its first meeting just prior to a reception on Capitol Hill celebrating “American Craft Beer Week” hosted by the Brewers Association.

From the original press release:


The House Small Brewers Caucus, co-chaired by U.S. Representatives Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) and Greg Walden (R-Oregon), is currently composed of 34 Members of Congress who share an interest in the issues of importance to America’s small brewers. Brewers Association Board of Directors who were in Washington that day to participate in the American Craft Beer Week celebration, listened as Congressman Walden stated that the primary mission of the Caucus is to provide an interactive opportunity to learn about the dynamics of running a small business as a brewery, the brewing process itself and the quality and value of the beer and brewing activities. Several other Congressmen also in attendance spoke briefly to the group, among them Congressman DeFazio who is himself a homebrewer and a primary sponsor and leader in the successful effort to pass House Resolution 753 of 2006 commending American craft brewers and recognizing the first American Craft Beer Week.

“The fact that Members of Congress recognize the unique place small brewers and craft beer have in our society, is extremely gratifying and important,” said Brewers Association President Charlie Papazian also in attendance at the meeting. “There is a very real danger that the voice of the small members of the brewing community may not be heard over that of its larger brethren, so a group of legislators bound by a common interest in the history, tradition and excitement that are hallmarks of today’s small brewers, should help ensure our issues get fair consideration.”

The story is starting to get some attention in places where craft beer is closely tied to the local economy. For example, in Portland, Oregon, the Oregonian recently ran a story about the new caucus, focusing on the fact that both co-chairs are Representatives from Oregon. (Thanks Jim, for sending me the link.) Frankly, that makes sense given Oregon’s beer scene. With three other Oregonian members of the caucus from the Beaver State, that’s a total of five of the 34 members (or almost 15%). Most of the other members also appear to be from states with vibrant craft beer cultures. For example, California is the only other state with five members, including — I’m proud to be able to say — the Representative from my own District, Lynn Woolsey. She represents both Sonoma and Marin counties. New York and Pennsylvania have four members each, and there are three from Colorado, and two from Michigan. The eleven remaining members are each from a single state. Curiously, there’s no one from either Washington or Wisconsin. That seems surprising, since both states have quite a few breweries. It also appears to be a largely bipartisan group, with 20 Democrats and 14 Republicans.

It’s certainly nice to see our elected officials paying to least some attention to craft beer and the concerns of those who brew it.

The 34 members of the Small Brewers Caucus:

Rep. Peter DeFazio, co-chair (D-Ore.)
Rep. Greg Walden, co-chair (R-Ore.)

Rep. Harry E. Mitchell (D-Ariz.)
Rep. Vic Snyder (D-Ark.)
Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.)
Rep. Wally Herger (R-Calif.)
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)
Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.)
Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.)
Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.)
Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.)
Rep. Mark Udall (D-Colo.)
Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa)
Rep. Dennis Moore (D-Kan.)
Rep. Tom Allen (D-Maine)
Rep. Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.)
Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.)
Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.)
Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.)
Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.)
Rep. Mike Arcuri (D-N.Y.)
Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)
Rep. Randy Kuhl (R-N.Y.)
Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.)
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.)
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.)
Rep. Darlene Hooley (D-Ore.)
Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.)
Rep. Charles Dent (R-Penn.)
Rep. Phil English (R-Penn.)
Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Penn.)
Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Penn.)
Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas)
Rep. Virgil Goode (R-Va.)

If your representative isn’t on this list, consider writing him a letter and asking him or her to join the caucus and support small businesses such as craft breweries in their district.

Representative Peter DeFazio, Gary Fish, owner of Deschutes Brewery, and Representative Greg Walden — all from Oregon — enjoying craft beer at the Capitol Hill reception May 15.


  1. says

    Just to set the record straight, the Oregonian picked up a story from the Associated Press that I wrote a week earlier. The AP trimmed the story, as usual. Here’s the original:

    When beer and politics come to a head
    Legislators find craft beers good politics — and taste

    By Rodger Nichols
    of the Chronicle

    “Beer is a bipartisan issue.” -Rep. Peter DeFazio

    When it comes to beer, the Oregon House delegation is of one mind.
    The group dominates the newly-formed 34-member House Small Brewers Caucus. All five representatives from Oregon are members, and Rep. Peter DeFazio shares co-chair duties with Rep. Greg Walden.
    In the world of House caucuses, having co-chairs from the same state delegation is unusual, but, as Walden put it, “Yes, but if you have the best beer, you want the best co-chairs.”
    Oregon representatives are fiercely proud of Oregon’s craft breweries, and with good reason. There are 1,300 small brewers in the U.S., with “small” defined as producing less than 2 million gallons a year.
    “Oregon has been at the forefront of the movement,” said Walden, sliding in the statistics as smoothly as a cream ale. “Our small breweries have about 11 percent of the market share in Oregon, which is the highest of any state. They tell me 38 percent of the beer made in Oregon is consumed in Oregon. And we have four of the top 50 microbreweries in the United States: Deschutes, Full Sail, Rogue and McMenamins. That’s from an industry that didn’t exist 25 years ago.”
    Rep. David Wu agreed.
    “Craft breweries are very special to the Pacific Northwest, like interesting bookstores and coffee shops,” he said “I’ve always been a real fan of microbrews. In more recent times, I get less exercise and more calories, and I don’t get to enjoy them as often as I’d like any more.”
    They also are a “value-added” agricultural product, turning hops, malt, yeast and water into a sizable variety of beer and ale varieties, from the palest pilsner to the stoutest stout.
    Rep. Darlene Hooley has some first-hand experience with one of those key raw materials.
    “When we first moved to Oregon from North Dakota,” she said, “we had heard about being able to pick berries and beans and hops. So our entire family went out to pick hops. They told us to be very careful and just pick this little white fluffy thing off the vines, which we did. People all around were taking their sacks in to be weighed, and they were on sack two or three while we were still filling the first sack. At the end of the day, we made a total of $1.25.”
    Hooley said they later discovered that professional pickers were not nearly as selective as the Hooley family, cramming in branches and leaves along with the hops. They also hurried to fill sacks in the morning, when the dew would be weighed along with the hops.
    The Hooleys gave up their dreams of hop-picking riches on the spot.
    “I’m really glad they now pick them by machine,” Hooley said.
    Rep. Peter DeFazio has an even stronger connection with the industry; he’s a longtime home brewer himself.
    “Summers I brew IPA (India Pale Ale),” he said, “and I brew English ales in the winter.”
    As co-chair of the caucus, DeFazio takes a keen interest in the state’s industry.
    “I have a running debate with Rep. Mike Thompson in Northern California on who has the most microbreweries in his district,” he said.
    DeFazio has even persuaded Newport’s Rogue Brewery to sponsor his state in the Capitol Hill Challenge, a six-week friendly competition between the House and Senate to see which side of Capitol Hill can walk more steps in an effort to promote a healthy lifestyle.
    “We’re the ‘Brew Dogs,’” DeFazio said, explaining the name is a play on “blue dog” Democrats, a fiscally conservative group. He says his team enjoys wearing Rogue Dead Guy attire.
    But Washington, D.C. is a long way from tall timbers and tasty suds. “Historically it was true that Washington, D.C., fundraisers were known for bad beer,” DeFazio said, “but it’s changing.”
    A sign of the increasing thirst for good beer was evident May 15, when the caucus met for the first time, just before the official “American Craft Beer Week” reception held on Capitol Hill by the Brewers Association.
    According to one Oregon delegation staffer, the reception had 500 RSVPs, lured by the products of 23 breweries in conjunction with artisan cheeses and chocolates.
    Co-chair Walden described the scene:
    “The room was packed. It was the Ag Committee room we used, and the balcony outside. I know my predecessor, Bob Smith, would have been proud to know that his former committee room was appropriately used. But we had a big turnout. A lot of staff were there and at one point we asked, ‘How many of your Members are members of the caucus?’ and not many hands went up. So the next time we have one of these, you’re not going to get in unless your Member is a member.”
    Walden said the value of a caucus isn’t just in the enjoyment of celebrations. “In politics it’s good to have reasons for members of different parties from different states to get together to know each other. In many cases – or many kegs – that’s what these caucuses are about. Mostly it’s to learn about an industry or learn about an issue. This one’s the most lighthearted that I’m in, because how can you not be if you’re thinking about craft brewers?

    In the spirit of consumer research, we asked each Oregon delegation
    member if they had a favorite brewery or brew, and whether they preferred
    their beer on the malty or the hoppy side.
    Here are the results: Co-chair Walden: “I don’t know that I’d want to pick
    among such terrific breweries, but I am a fan of Mirror Pond Pale Ale and
    the Full Sale Amber Ale. I like a good Hefeweizen, and we’ve got great breweries.”
    Told one web page showed 20 microbreweries and brew pubs in his district,
    Walden said, “I’ve got some important work to do, doing investigations of
    each.” Preference: hoppy

    Co-Chair DeFazio: “Out in Eastern Oregon, I really like Terminal Gravity,
    Deschutes is opening a branch in my district,; and there’s a new brewery in
    Eugene, Ninkasi Brewing Company, making some wonderful stuff.
    definitely hoppy.

    Rep. David Wu: “My favorite was made by Deschutes Brewery, Bachelor Bitter,
    and when they became bigger, they rebranded, and it disappeared. But by
    attending the inaugural meeting of the caucus, they told me Bachelor Bitter
    is still sold at the brewpub in Bend. I look forward
    to enjoying it again.”
    Preference: very definitely hoppy.

    Rep. Darlene Hooley: “I like Widmer and I like Rogue. Rogue is very big in
    my district.”
    Preference: hoppy.

    Rep. Earl Blumenauer: He was traveling in Slovenia when we asked, but he
    passed this answer back through his staff: “I like a dark, chewy craft beer,
    and my favorite brewery is wherever I happen to be at the moment.”
    Preference: malty
    —Rodger Nichols
    And the sidebar, titled “Hops or malt?” that the AP didn’t run:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>