It’s one thing to sit down over a beer and try to solve the world’s problems. It’s quite another to sit down and try to solve the craft-brewing world’s problems.
But that’s what boardmembers of the two-decade-old Colorado Brewers Guild and the upstart breakaway group, Craft Beer Colorado, will try to do on October 7 — during the Great American Beer Festival — when they discuss the possibility of patching up their differences and creating a new organization that would endeavor to meet the needs of all the craft breweries involved.
“We have an opportunity to create an efficient organization from the ground up, one that represents all of our memberships,” says Guild boardmember Chris Wright, the founder of Pikes Peak Brewing in Colorado Springs. “We’ve all agreed that a single organization representing craft beer is the right way to move forward.”
If both sides agree, the new group would continue to be called the Colorado Brewers Guild, but would equally represent the interests of the Guild and of Craft Beer Colorado, Wrights says. It would be formed with new bylaws and with input from hundreds of breweries all over the state.
CBC spokeswoman Laura Long says she is hopeful that "it will work out and we can bring them over," but also cautions that her group is "moving forward as planned with our own organization and agenda."
“Potential unification discussions between the two organizations have been very positive,” Wright wrote in a message to the Guild’s membership yesterday. “Both organizations agreed that the primary goal of a new organization, which could retain the name Colorado Brewers Guild, should be to work to the benefit of all of Colorado's craft brewers with strong legislative, regulatory and marketing agendas. The two groups also expressed desire for a high degree of transparency with membership and for member engagement in the new organization's work.”
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He urged the membership to attend a discussion of the new group and give feedback at a gathering slated for the Colorado Convention Center on October 7. “We want to be open with membership about what a new organization would look like and how it would act,” he says.
The breakthrough comes two months after fourteen craft breweries — including the state’s four largest — left the Guild to create a new organization with similar goals but different leadership. Those breweries include Left Hand, New Belgium, Funkwerks, Renegade and Odell.
The breweries cited several reasons for their action, including frustration with the leadership of longtime Guild director John Carlson, the continuing presence of Breckenridge Brewery (which was purchased by Budweiser parent company AB InBev last year) in the group, and a lack of effective advocacy and transparency in the Guild.
In July, the Guild voted to cut off voting rights for Breckenridge, which is no longer considered to be a craft brewer, according to the Boulder-based Brewers Association. In early August, Carlson stepped aside as director, taking an indefinite leave of absence.