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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.

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