Cover image: Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot shares a toast with Reform on Tap supporters at Crooked Crab Brewing Co. in Odenton April 18.
The bill that had been proposed to deregulate Maryland’s archaic brewery laws was rejected by the Economic Matters Committee on March 19.
It’s the end of a chapter, but as far as craft beer legislation is concerned, it’s far from the end of the book.
On Wednesday, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot met with Reform on Tap supporters in Odenton brewery The Crooked Crab, to recap heir efforts from the past few months and looked forward at the future of Reform on Tap.
“It was a niche issue four months ago,” said the Comptroller’s Chief of Staff Len Foxwell. “And it is now the top issue heading into the 2018 election.”
The Reform on Tap task force asked the bill’s supporters at the event what actions they — those who work in the craft beer industry as well as the general populace — could take to help improve the craft beer industry for “the next round” of the movement in 2019.
One especially vital sentiment was heard loud and clear across the brewery.
Education is the most powerful weapon.
For those who don’t work specifically in the craft beer industry, educating the public is one of the most important step an activist could take, and it might just lead the state to better beer laws next year.
While the issue, for all its controversy, did gain momentum in the months leading up to the vote in March, many industry workers noted that their general clientele had largely not heard of Reform on Tap, House Bill 518 or the ramifications of HB 1052.
The craft beer industry, one local bar owner said, “is important on some level to these people, [but] the general public just didn’t know.”
So how can you educate the public on these issues?
- Write op-eds in the local newspapers. (You can write for Shore Craft Beer, too.)
- Post pro-reform content on social media.
- “If you use social media and out signs up in a legislative district,” Franchot said, “I say this as an elected official, that terrifies them the most.”
- And first and foremost, if you haven’t already, call or visit your state legislator. (You can also send them an email here.)
Of course, the Maryland brewers can’t rely on their loyal customers to do all the work for them. Brewers, whose very livelihoods could be on the line, must also take action.
“Don’t go in there and grovel. Go in there and demand what you deserve.” –Comptroller Peter Franchot
What breweries can do.
- Host rallies and happy hours to open up a dialogue and bring in the community for support.
- Use branding to promote reform. (Reform on Tap Lager, anyone?)
- Post pro-reform content on social media, and reach out to local media outlets for coverage.
- Post signage in the tasting room, and help customers easily contact their legislators. Set up an iPad where they can quickly send out an email to lawmakers, or provide them with information on how to reach legislators otherwise.
The movement to save Maryland’s craft beer industry, manufacturing, jobs and good beer isn’t over! Don’t lose hope, but as Franchot said, don’t grovel, either. We’re coming back smarter and stronger, and Maryland won’t be ranked 47th in the U.S. for craft beer impact per capita forever.