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November 17, 2008

Drinking Beer
at Work


Who other than the National Beer Wholesalers Association to remind us that this year marks the 75th anniversary of the end of Prohibition? (Or, as NBWA says, “75 years of Effective Alcohol Regulation.”) But drinking beer with journalists on a Friday afternoon at the National Press Club was also meant to teach us some lessons about a new era of lobbying.


Tulsa, Okla. native and NBWA President Craig Purser says the days of partisan lobbying are long over, and his team is made up of both D’s and R’s. He says, “In the past there was a more confrontational political style.” Now, in this “post-partisan” era you have to be careful what you say. So, no talking dirty about one party or the other. He’s even increased his communication with his most important lobbyists—2,750 member distributors around the country—to make sure they are cautious and respectful of opposing political viewpoints.


NBWA General Counsel Paul Pisano and beer pairing luncheon sponsor, Capital Eagle Distributing’s Tom Mangels, get ready to enjoy a brewskie. Paul says in the past NBWA would take a firm stance against groups with a different view about alcohol policy issues. For example, Mothers Against Drunk Driving recently called for an ignition interlock device to be installed for all second DWI/DUI offenders, requiring a driver to blow into it before the car can be started and at random times thereafter to ensure a legal blood-alcohol level. Instead of coming out against the device altogether, Paul says NBWA tried to understand MADD’s position by supporting IIDs for repeat offenders and those arrested with very high blood-alcohol levels.


Craig says there are 13,000 beer labels in the U.S. and 91,000 people working for beer distributors with liveable wages and employer-sponsored health insurance. Across the country, they deliver cases like these samplings at Premium Distributors’ warehouse in northeast DC. With the closing of Belgian brewer InBev’s buy-out of Anheuser-Busch expected this week, even more tasty European beers from InBev’s portfolio will reach your corner watering hole.


Sixth-generation brewer Wendy Yuengling drove down from Sinking Spring, Penn. and Dogfish Head’s joined Craig from Rehobeth Beach, Del. for a beer tasting. Wendy says you bet Yuengling was served every day in her house as a child—she and her three sisters had the job to change the kegs when the taps went dry. She also told us in these hard economic times, people don’t seem to be drinking more, but manufacturers like Yuengling can offer customers a lower-priced label to keep them loyal. With the imminent foreign ownership of Anheuser-Busch, Yuengling will be the largest family owned and operated brewery in the U.S., producing 1.8 million barrels a year. And when she and her sisters take over the company from pops, it will also be the first time the company has not passed from father to son.

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