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Association Bisnow
October 14, 2008

The Beer Man

Biggest party of the season—and it's free: Bisnow's Democrats v. Republicans Hip Happy Hour. 1,500 people from all Washington industries. The great Park at Fourteenth. Oct 15, 6-8 PM, stay and watch the debate. No charge, but you must sign up!


Since 1988, the Beer Institute's Jeff Becker has been serving 92% of the beer makers in America, from obscure micro-brews to the giants (think Anheuser-Busch, Miller and Coors). But it's not all about the beer. Jeff says the Institute also serves hops growers and bottle manufacturers and has helped shepherd a national underage drinking law through Congress.


One of Jeff's proudest achievements was helping pass the STOP Underage Drinking Act in 2006 that calls on the HHS Secretary to collect data on underage drinking and the community programs that help stop it. He says it required the industry to learn how to come to the table with one voice. (Collaborators included the National Beer Wholesalers Association and the Brewers Association, among others.) Having been in the beer industry for most of his life, Jeff says it is "competitive but collegial." Teamwork also paid off when developing an industry-wide marketing code limiting ads to where 70% of the audience is 21 and older. Jeff says a recent positive FTC review of industry marketing backed his belief that self-regulation works.


Jeff received the first beer mug in his collection from his mother when he was 16. Of course, for the record, he didn't drink out of it until he was of age but since then he's never met a beer he doesn't like. His next challenge is repealing the 1991 Alcohol Excise Tax, which he says is really a tax on blue collar Americans earning less than $50,000 (the demographic that purchases more than 50% of all beer). The bill to repeal has 239 co-sponsors in the House. Jeff started his career at the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association where he helped develop an alcohol management training program that was adopted by the national association.


Staffers Doris Dunn and Lester Jones (back row), and Merideth Mu?oz, Susan Haney, Rick Goddard and Carmen Weston join Jeff at the bar, which is located in the conference room (and yes, of course, the taps work). Jeff says one of the most important parts of his job is letting people know how "Beer Serves America," from jobs in brewing and wholesaling, to agriculture where the beer industry consumes hops, wheat, barley and is the largest purchaser of rice in the country. He also notes that members have contributed $750M over 25 years to responsible drinking campaigns, like DC's WRAP (Washington Regional Alcohol Program), which offers free cab rides during the holidays.

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