The State of Virginia has been taking some big steps to support the local craft beer movement in recent years, making it easier to dispense brews-and leading to more manufacturing, agriculture and tourism jobs.
There are regulations that can still make it a challenge for breweries to get off the ground-but today, in part two of our continuing series, a look at the lobbying efforts of the state’s craft brewers:
Virginia’s Craft Brewers aim to be active on both the federal and state level by advocating the industry for what they say it is - an economy-boosting job creator. according to the Manufacturers Association, the industry makes an estimated economic impact of more than $622-million in Virginia, and more than 8,000 jobs.
For the past few years, Virginia brewers have made their way to Washington in an effort to foster relationships and make the case on the issues they face.
Mark Thompson is founder and Master Brewer of Starr Hill Brewing Company in Crozet. He says their visits to The Hill have been fruitful:
"Within the last 3 years, the winds of change seem to have shifted, and the legislators seem to be on our side. Again, we are in many ways - I’ve said this a thousand times - craft brewing in Virginia is the poster child for what all legislators want to see. We create high-paying jobs that give health insurance, that have tourist components - hospitality components - our jobs cannot be outsourced."
Thompson is also chairman of the Virginia Craft Brewer’s Guild. At the state level, he points to new legislation that recognizes breweries on FARMS, allowing them the same privileges as farm wineries.
"Thirty years ago - twenty-five years ago, it was a nascent, nothing industry. The legislature passed some positive laws for tasting rooms and things to allow the Virginia wine industry to get off the ground and sure enough later - twenty years later - you’ve got close to a couple hundred wineries in Virginia. Virginia is the fifth largest wine state behind Oregon, Washington, California, and New York so - I see similar paths to what happened with the wine industry in Virginia to what’s beginning to happen with the craft beer industry. "
Recent years have also seen the passage of other legislation in Virginia-such as Senate Bill 604....which allows for on-premise retail sales, sampling and serving beer, leading to the rise of brew-pubs in the state -
Another law says manufacturers can now lease space in their brewhouses to smaller-scale brewers. And tourism officials are also pointing to the increasing popularity of craft breweries as destinations…..celebrating suds on trails of liquid gold. KP.