With the California Craft Beer Summit on the horizon for early September, it was time to check in with Tom McCormick, the Executive Director of the California Craft Brewers Association (CCBA) to ask a few questions about the state of craft beer here in California.
Sean Inman: What can be done on the state and local level to make opening a brewery easier? I recently was talking with a brewer, here in L.A., who had an easier time getting permitted than a brewer who was a mere 10 blocks away.
Tom McCormick: On the state level it is actually quite easy to become licensed as a beer manufacturer in California. The CCBA has a close working relationship with the California Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) which issues and approves the license to brew beer. Local jurisdictions each have their own set of requirements and regulations that vary from one city and county to another. With 58 counties and close to 500 incorporated cities in the state, this creates a patchwork of local regulations. The CCBA often works with individual breweries in the permitting process to help guide them through any local issues they might have.
SI: What legislative bills in 2015 and 2014 do you think will have the longest impact for brewery owners and what is on the agenda for 2016?
TM: There were a number of bills that the CCBA sponsored over the last two years which will benefit our members and the beer consumer. Just some of these new laws include allowing breweries to set up and sell beer at farmers markets, allowing breweries to hold special events in their parking lots, a massive reduction in paperwork for brewers by eliminating the ABC label approval process, a new law that makes it much harder to sell stolen kegs to recycling centers, a new law that grants more freedom for breweries to sell food in tasting rooms and a new law that makes it easier for breweries to hold special events inside the brewery. These are just a few of the many bills the CCBA worked on in 2014-15. It is too early in the 2016 legislative session to know with certain which issues we will be addressing this year.
SI: Will there be any legislation regarding water and drought issues that the CCBA is monitoring?
TM: None that we are currently aware of, but again, it is early in the legislative session.
SI: Are there any sizes of breweries that the State of California is lacking right now? And what are the issues that the CCBA is hearing from smaller breweries vs. larger, regional players?
TM: Our membership includes commercial breweries as small as one barrel brewing systems all the way up to Sierra Nevada Brewing, which is one of the largest craft breweries in the country. That covers the full spectrum of brewery sizes! Each size of brewery has its own unique set of issues, but very rarely do these issues conflict with one another. The CCBA represents all of our members equally so we delve into all issues that surface and do our best to protect the craft brewing industry as a whole here in California.
SI: Does the CCBA have any programs promoting women in the brewing industry?
TM: Not specifically. Four out of nine of the CCBA Board members are women and three out of five of the CCBA staff are women.
SI: What was the response to the Craft Beer Summit last year?
TM: Fantastic! We had virtually no complaints and a ton of compliments. It was challenging being a first year event, but we learned a lot and will have a number of improvements for Summit 2016. It was really fun event which met all of our objectives to be educational, experiential and inclusive of all layers of the craft brewing industry and the community of craft beer drinkers. I can’t wait for this year
Beachwood Brewing ties together both the interview above and the Homework below. They have brewed a CCBA Pale Ale for the upcoming Sierra Nevada Beer Camp mega-collaboration that is showing up in variety boxes and taps around SoCal, but I have chosen their LBC IPA, which is “brewed to celebrate our famous home in the City of Long Beach by way of C-Hops. Long Beach also being the SoCal stop of the Beer Camp 2016 tour and closing event of L.A. Beer Week.
You can buy the variety box from Sierra Nevada or you can taste what Beer Camp 2016 is about at Select Beer Store in Redondo Beach this Saturday, May 14, and have even more tap choices because there will be not only all six Beer Camp ales but six more Sierra Nevada beers on draft + six beers from individual breweries involved in this years Camp.
Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.