Brewery Guilds Know the Value of Local

• It Isn’t About Globalization
• Responsible Beer Tourism

Colorado's brewers' guild is the latest to announce a membership program to benefit fans of local beer.

Oregon has SNOB. Illinois has IMBIBE. The Green Mountain state created the Passport program, also called DRINK VERMONT. And now Colorado has created the SOCIAL Drinker program. No, these aren’t state college hazing rituals – they are ingenious collective marketing strategies executed by state brewery guilds.

What’s a brewers’ guild and where do I find one? Firstly, a guild is a trade association of brewers, typically from within one state. At last count, thirty states have brewers guilds. California has no less than four. The Brewers Association provides a current list. What you’ll find with each guild is a little different. Some guilds list every brewery in the region, while others will only promote their own membership. The few breweries that have decided to sit out from guild membership should rethink that decision. Guilds today are very active promoters of local beer, act as legislative watchdogs, and organize innumerable events.

Guilds usually use websites and brochures to convey to the public what they do and to galvanize local brewers to become members. The San Diego Brewers Guild provides a mission statement that could work for most any:

  • The mission of the San Diego Brewer’s Guild is to promote awareness and increase the visibility of fresh, locally brewed beer through education and participation in community events. To that end we are providing you, the discriminating beer lover, with a handy place to find info about our fresh local beers and the breweries that make them.
  • Most guilds offer a website with a map, or at the very least, a listing of member breweries. The New York State Brewers Association offers a downloadable Brewery Trail Map. Maine uses a google map.

    Googling breweries in Maine.

    Indiana has an interactive online map, while Hawaii lets you play find-an-island-with-a-brewery.

    Guild sites will have calendars, adverts, specials, and some fun photo galleries. But the best treat of all is the growing number of guilds with various customer appreciation benefits. Take the new Colorado SOCIAL Drinker program (“social” = “supporter of Colorado’s indigenous ales and lagers”). For an annual membership of 25 bucks you get a shirt, discounts, special invites, and whatever else social networking can get you (LOL – you saw it coming, didn’t you?). SOCIAL Drinker is based on Oregon’s SNOB (“supporters of native Oregon beer”), one of craft beer’s most well known consumer membership programs.

    With the Vermont Passport program, you get a free card listing all of the state’s breweries. All you have to do is visit all of them and collect a little “Drink Vermont” rubber stamp from each. Send in the card and get a bundle of schwag. Visiting only some at least lands you a hat or a shirt. Let’s face it, it can require daring do, with Trout River Brewing only open two days a week up there in the boonies known locally as the Northeast Kingdom. Do I hear banjos?

    Next time you see a brewers guild set up at a beer fest, be sure to tell them what a great job they are doing. And above all, local beer supports local producers and retailers. Cheers! TPJ

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