The spring festival season is about to rain beer on Washington. American Craft Beer Week takes place from May 16 to May 22 (check here for a list of events), with SAVOR week starting after Memorial Day (check here for periodic updates on what’s happening).
But it’s not all fun and games for participating breweries. On June 3, before the Friday session of SAVOR, the Brewers Association is plotting a “Capitol Hill Climb,” during which more than 50 brewery owners and state guild leaders will visit at least 200 Congressional offices.
The beermakers are trolling for support for H.R.1236 and S. 534, bookend bills that would halve the federal tax on small brewers to $3.50 per barrel for the first 60,000 barrels as well as cut the tax rate to $16 per barrel for additional output up to 2 million barrels. According to the Brewers Association’s Chief Operating Officer, Bob Pease, the Senate bill currently has 25 cosponsors, while the House bill has 22.
By Pease’s estimate, the tax break would cost Uncle Sam about $56 million in lost revenues, which he describes as “peanut dust” compared to the billions and trillions that lawmakers bandy about in deficit reduction talks.
The tax cut would probably shave a few cents off a case of beer, but the BA is promoting the legislation primarily as a jobs creation bill. According to a Harvard study commissioned by the BA, the measure, if passed, would result in 4,400 new jobs during the first 12 to 18 months it’s in effect, and 300 new jobs annually for the next four years.
At a prep session at the Craft Brewers Conference in San Francisco in March, Pease urged attendees to stress to their lawmakers that small brewers generate 5 percent of the market by volume, but they account for 50 percent of the jobs in the brewing business. “That gets their attention.”
The lobbying effort will follow, by one day, the BA’s spring Capitol Hill reception that pairs gourmet cheese and chocolates with craft beer. The event tends to attract more staff members than actual members of Congress, but that’s all right in the opinion of Pease, who noted, “Don’t be surprised if you’re meeting with a 25-year-old staffer. They’re the ones running the government!”
Public News: Brandon Skall and Jeff Hancock of DC Brau fired up their canning line for the first time on April 23 and managed to fill about 200 cases of The Public Pale over the course of a 12-hour shift. Their five-head automatic filler is theoretically capable of spitting out 30 cans per minute (or 75 cases per hour), but they have to fasten the plastic holders by hand, and that slows the process considerably. “The six-packing really makes for a bottleneck,” commented Skall.
The silver-and-red cylinders have been selling briskly despite prices of $11-12 per six-pack. “Schneider’s of Capitol Hill went through five cases in three hours,” said Skall. (View the complete list of Washington and northern Virginia stores that sell DC Brau here.) Skall, who does 70 percent of his business as draft, says canning will be a sporadic task. He’s set the next canning run for the weekend of May 6.
Incidentally, The Public Pale in cans marks an adjustment to the original draft recipe. Skall and Hancock have been adding more specialty malts, which deepen the color to a brilliant copper and balance the hops with “a caramel rush up front.”