Beer Man

Colorado Brewers Guild Cuts Off Voting Rights for Corporate Breweries

As the Colorado Brewers Guild struggles to hold itself together in the wake of the defection of fourteen craft breweries — including the state’s four largest — its membership has elected to change the Guild’s bylaws so that representatives of large breweries will no longer be allowed to hold voting privileges.

That means that Breckenridge Brewery, which was acquired late last year by Anheuser Busch InBev, can still belong to the organization but won’t hold any sway in committees or on the board of directors.

Guild boardmember Tim Myers, of Strange Craft Beer, says the change could be a starting point for a reconciliation between the Guild and Craft Beer Colorado, which formed as an alternative trade group about a month ago that “aspires to be open, responsive, proactive and effective on issues that impact its members,” according to that organization. CBC founding members Wynne Odell of Odell Brewing and Eric Wallace of Left Hand Brewing cited Breckenridge’s previous leadership position in the Guild’s board as one of several reasons that they decided to head in a different direction.

The members of the new group also said they are seeking stronger legislative, regulatory leadership and vision, and more transparency from CBG executive director John Carlson.

“One of the biggest sticking points was Breckenridge being on the board. That’s not an issue anymore,” says Myers, who was elected last weekend along with Upslope Brewing’s Matt Cutter to fill two board positions being vacated by Breckenridge Brewery chief Todd Usry and Lone Tree Brewing co-founder John Winter. “Hopefully this will go a long way toward satisfying the membership.”

The Guild now follows the model used by craft brewing’s major trade group, the Boulder-based Brewers Association, which also allows corporate breweries to be members, but without voting rights.

Before the vote, Breckenridge and its owner, AB InBev, released a statement saying that are comfortable without voting rights but that they want to remain active members of the organization.

But Myers and executive director John Carlson both understand that many problems remain — and later this week, they plan to discuss with the rest of the Guild’s board ways in which they might be able to satisfy the problems that the members of Craft Beer Colorado have pointed out (read CBC’s full letter to the Guild from June below, as well as Carlson’s response) in hopes of a reconciliation.

“The board wants to consider its options and reach out to the other group in a conciliatory manner,” Carlson says. “We want to move forward in a positive fashion and do what is best for the Guild.”

“[The Guild] hasn’t evolved over time as the industry has. Now we are trying to play catch-up. Hopefully, it’s not too late,” Myers says. “Negotiations will not be simple, but we’re not going to sacrifice 200 breweries to save fourteen. Hopefully, we can find some middle ground.”

Laura Long, a former Guild lobbyist who now works with the new group, says the CBC will have its own meeting later this week before considering any future moves. Its membership consists of Odell, Left Hand, Oskar Blues, New Belgium, Funkwerks, Renegade, Great Divide, Grimm Brothers, Epic Brewing, TRVE Brewing, Wibby Brewing, Bristol Brewing, Mountain Sun and Four Noses Brewing.

Here is Craft Beer Colorado's statement letter:

June 10th 2016

An Open Letter to the Colorado Brewers Guild Board of Directors

Dear Colorado Brewers Guild Board of Directors:

We are founders of and longtime advocates for both our industry and the Colorado Brewers Guild. We
have spent countless hours, dollars, and resources supporting and advancing the Guild. We, the
undersigned brewers, have formed Craft Beer Colorado a new, effective, and transparent state trade
organization to advance the agenda of Colorado's independent craft brewers. Our new organization has
been filed with the Colorado Secretary of State, we have secured funding from organizing committee
members, are working with Weist Capitol, and are committed to raising additional funds as needed.
There are three core issues that lead us to this action:

1. We need legislative and regulatory leadership and vision. Historically the CBG has reacted to
changes; we need a proactive agenda.

2. There has been, for many years in the CBG, a culture of information control and director
behavior that is the opposite of transparent. This is not healthy for our trade association and we
are no longer willing to condone this management style.

3. With the changing landscape of craft where multinational brewers are buying craft brewers and
blurring the lines, our by-laws and articles of incorporation don’t reflect what we believe to be
membership’s wishes.

We believe the CBG is broken enough that it isn’t fixable. We are building a dynamic, proactive,
visionary, transparent and welcoming trade association for Colorado’s craft brewers and we invite you
to join us.

The Guild has relied upon individual brewery members and the lobbying team for representation at the
Capitol and with the Liquor Enforcement Division. We believe a healthy organization relies on its staff in
collaboration with the board and members of committees to take the slings and arrows inherent in
these negotiations and conversations. In addition to this, the resignation of the Guild’s long time
partners and lobbyists at Weist Capitol signals the end of an effective relationship with the current
organization and staff. The culture of the Colorado Brewers Guild has ingrained these unhealthy
patterns of behavior.

Another troubling piece of the Colorado Brewers Guild’s culture is favoring single point control of all
communication, a lack of transparency from staff, and unwillingness to confront difficult issues.
Transparency and openness should be the hallmarks of a trade organization – they are the defining
characteristics of the community of brewers at its best. Craft Beer Colorado intends to nurture these
qualities among our members, leadership and staff.

We are now faced with a situation where the world’s largest brewer is a voting member of the Colorado
Brewers Guild. Launching Craft beer Colorado by and for Colorado’s independent craft brewers allows us
to establish membership criteria that align with our needs.

This letter is an invitation to independent craft brewers across the state: large and small, new and
seasoned who share our desire to build a forthright, positive and decisive state trade organization. We
will hold an organizational meeting in July. Please join us in this new effort to work for the common

Tommy Bibliowicz and Dustin Ramey, 4 Noses Brewing Company
Mike Bristol, Bristol Brewing Company
Dave Cole, Epic Brewing Company
Kevin Daly, Mountain Sun Brewing Company
Brian Dunn, Great Divide Brewing Company
Grimm Brothers Brewhouse
Kim Jordan, New Belgium Brewing Company
Brad Lincoln, Funkwerks Brewing Company
Nick Nunns, Trve Brewing Company
Brian O’Connell, Renegade Brewing Company
Wynne Odell and Doug Odell, Odell Brewing Company
Oskar Blues Brewing LLC
Ted Risk and Ryan Wibby, Wibby Brewing Company
Eric Wallace, Left Hand Brewing Company
  Here is Guild director John Carlson's response to the CBC:

June 11, 2016

Dear Brewery Members,

We are disappointed some of our members have elected to establish another organization as an alternate voice for the Colorado brewer. With the explosive growth of craft beer and the current legislative and regulatory issues before us, now is not the time to diminish our efforts but to strengthen them. Doing otherwise will result in less than optimal results. Multiple trade associations for Colorado craft beer will only confuse legislators and regulators, especially if they have different or competing asks. There is strength in numbers and we have the numbers. A strengthened Guild is the best way to remain an effective force in the industry.

Success - we have had many successes and are building momentum including more transparency, accountability, member out-reach, and additional communication. We have a demonstrated track record of success on legislative and regulatory matters including spent brewers grains, tasting room licensure, state health department inspections, strong federal delegation support, state tourism grants, enhanced marketing efforts, attractive merchandise, and beer education. In addition, we provide a quick reaction force for specific member needs based on the situation at hand.

New Changes - we recently announced the selection of a full-time executive director and the implementation of a schedule of additional Guild meetings throughout the year. Staff is beginning work to make these things happen. We are evolving based on the needs and desires of the greater membership.

Guild Election - the upcoming Guild election will provide Guild members an opportunity to refresh the Board. Please vote. Working with staff, the newly elected Board will revise our strategic plan. Once that plan has buy-in from the membership it will be executed by the Director and staff. Since our membership is wide and varied some compromise may be required. We should be mindful that a vocal minority should not chart the direction of the entire organization. The Articles and By-laws can be changed regarding membership qualifications, but it requires the membership to vote. As the industry changes, we have looked to other organizations as a reference point and have before our members a question on the ballot to update our Articles and By-Laws to reflect their collective interests. Participation in the electoral process is the key to success. We have a field of ten excellent people to fill four open positions. The Director serves at the pleasure of the Board and always has. If the Board feels a change in direction is desired the Director defers to the Board.

Inclusive - the Guild has always strived to be inclusive, and we support all efforts to better support all of our brewery members. As we work with policymakers and the Liquor Enforcement Division to implement the latest legislative compromise, we look forward to learning about what other legislative agendas might be put forth, and will work together to better Colorado, the state of craft beer.

Advocacy - as our collective resources and member interest in policy and regulatory matters have increased, we have evolved. This is a continuous process and is a collective effort of engagement with multiple views culminating in the best direction for the organization as a whole.

Participation - we strive to be transparent and always value member interest in industry and Guild matters. Communicating complex matters to a wide audience is always a challenge but we know it is paramount to our mission. Every member must feel they have the opportunity to be heard and contribute regardless of their brewery size or license type. To effectively engage, we encourage our members to participate in Guild meetings, activities, committees, and the Board.

We believe in a positive, open, and participatory organization the serves the collective good of our membership. We have worked hard to promote these principles and will continue to do so. We value the input of others and want to move forward together for Colorado, the state of craft beer.


John Carlson
Executive Director
Colorado Brewers Guild

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes