A strong brewers' guild/association can be an effective voice for promoting the interests of all brewers in a given state or region. Whether promoting local beer or fighting for favorable laws and lower excise tax rates, the collective voice of a guild/association can speak louder than that of individual brewers alone. Guilds are also a great forum for networking among brewers of all sizes.
Forty-six U.S. states have some form of brewers' guild/association. Their contact information is presented on the Find a Guild page. For those states without a formal organization, this guide will walk you through some of the steps involved in starting a state guild.
The first step in forming an organization is determining the level of interest among your state's brewers. A successful guild/association requires a commitment from brewers to pull together for the common good. A great way to test the level of interest is to hold an organizational meeting to discuss the proposed guild. Hold your meeting at a central location where the greatest number of brewers from around the state can attend. Invite every brewer in the state. Chances are that there will be a core group of leaders who emerge at the meeting, and may be excellent choices to form a steering committee in charge of initial work until a board of directors can be elected by the membership.
Here's an example agenda for this initial meeting:
Determine a Mission and Structure
Once you know there is sufficient interest in forming a guild, you will need to determine its mission. Will you exist solely for promotional purposes? Will you take a strong advocacy role in state politics? Or, will you be a combination of both?
See examples of some state guild mission statements:
Example mission statements
Initial Legal Considerations
See the Legal Considerations page for more information on bylaws, non-profit filing, antitrust laws, and other legal considerations for the association.
Determine Leadership Structure
Leadership within the guild often involves a steering committee to start, and then develops into nominations for a Board of Directors and Officers. To support this small group of people, committees can be established to carry out the goals of the association. It is vital for every guild to eventually hire paid staff, often in the role of Executive Director or Guild Coordinator, to report to the board and manage much of the guild’s day to day activity.
See the Structure page for more information on nominating leadership for the association.
Consider when crafting your bylaws the types of membership classes you will maintain and the dues for each class of membership. All brewers guilds, obviously, contain brewery members. But, some also recruit associate members or allied trade members. These are suppliers to the brewers who want to forge a stronger relationship with the state's brewing community.
Some guilds have added retail members (i.e. bars, restaurants, and stores that sell beer) who want to be identified with the state guild. Many guilds have enthusiast members (beer drinkers) who want to be associated with the guild.Visit the Dues/Membership page in the Funding a Guild section for more detailed discussion.
The guild bylaws will include specific information for each class of membership. More about Bylaws on the Legal Considerations page.
Regular Meetings, Communication and Outreach
Meetings and communication are key to the success of any brewers' guild. Monthly or quarterly meetings help brewers stay up-to-date on issues affecting membership and any activities. They also create great networking opportunities for brewers and a chance for associate members to meet the brewers.
The frequency and location of your meetings will be determined by the situation in your state. But, holding meetings around the state at various member breweries is a great way to foster communication and cooperation. Meeting minutes will be important for protecting the organization and the members involved. Read more here.
You will also need a way to communicate outside of meetings. A newsletter, whether monthly or quarterly, will serve this purpose well. Establish a phone and e-mail distribution list for communication amongst members, and most importantly, contacting members in a hurry when situations, such as a proposed tax increase, arise.
Many guilds use their website domain/host service for their distribution list (MI, MT, IA, MD, & more).
Some guilds use Yahoo groups (NM,WA, TX) or Google groups (RI).
Of note, New Mexico specifically designates two different lists: a 'pro brewers' list and an 'all brewers' list (that includes the state's homebrewers as well).
For newsletters and updates, guilds use different programs:
- CA Craft Brewers Association uses Mail Dog.
- The Garden State Craft Brewers Guild website and email newsletter are produced by Mighty Lab.
- New Mexico and North Carolina use Mail Chimp.
- Wisconsin uses Emma.
See the Promotion page for information on the importance of an association website, social networking, and other tools for public outreach.
Paying for Your Guild/Association
Fundraising for a brewers guild is essential to keep the organization running and vital for protecting the brewing community in that state.
See more about fundraising here on our Funding a Guild page.
The Brewers Association is committed to helping your state guild/association not only get formed, but also thrive. Pete Johnson, BA Programs Manager, and Acacia Coast, State Brewers Associations Coordinator, work with guilds on development issues and liaison activities. There is also a guild listserve available for use by both formed guilds/associations and those in the fomative process to facilitate communications between guilds/associations.
BA Programs Manager
State Brewers Associations Coordinator