DETROIT (AP) — A legal trade group has been formed for the makers of craft beer and other alcoholic beverages, recognizing the rapid rise of the industry and a desire to deal with a thick brew of regulations across the U.S.
The Craft Beverage Lawyers Guild launched this week to represent mainly small, independent breweries, but also wineries and distilleries. The guild's governing committee consists of about a dozen lawyers specializing in the craft beverage industry, including attorneys working directly for some of the nation's biggest brewpubs and microbreweries.
The idea grew from a conversation between two attorneys: Eugene Pak in Oakland, California, and Joe Infante in Grand Rapids, Michigan. They say the group can help craft beverage suppliers get a handle on differing and often complicated state and federal laws governing the industry.
Industry officials say there are roughly 4,200 U.S. breweries operating today — an all-time high that surpasses even pre-Prohibition levels. According to the Brewers Association, a trade group representing independent brewers, the number of regional craft breweries increased by about 32 percent over the last two calendar years.
"Our group reflects that this industry is growing and ... taking market share away from the big breweries," Pak said, adding that members of the guild's governing committee represent many beverage makers, including New Belgium Brewing Co., Dogfish Head Craft Brewery Inc. and the Craft Brew Alliance, whose brewers include Redhook Brewery, Widmer Brothers Brewing and Kona Brewing Co.
Infante said the founders liked the idea of incorporating "guild" in the name. It's a term many brewers use that conveys greater connection than "association," he said.
Pak noted the collaborative nature of craft beverage makers, citing the Beer Camps organized by Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. that invite craft brewers from across the country. He'd similarly like his guild to produce and share resources for all attorneys representing craft beverage makers.
"There's definitely a collegiality in the industry — we're hoping to do something analogous with our guild," Pak said.