On Wednesday, July 16, Jeremy Evans, '11, Vice-Chair for the Entertainment & Sports Law Section of the San Diego County Bar Association (SDCBA), organized a continuing legal education course on “The Challenges of Working in the Craft Brew Industry.” The one hour and forty-five minute course was held at the Bar Center, with a mixer that followed at Ballast Point in nearby Little Italy. The event was attended by 100+ attorneys, law students, and brew enthusiasts.
The speakers for the course were: Matthew Botting, General Counsel of the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), who flew in from Sacramento CA for the event; Julie Buechler, '94, General Counsel & Government Relations at Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits; Candace (Michaux) Moon, '07, The Craft Beer Attorney, APC; and Giana Rodriguez, Program Director, SDSU College of Extended Studies ("Beer/Brewers Certificate Program).
As many of you may know, there has been a local explosion in the craft beer industry, with local brewers wanting to expand their business and start new businesses. Currently, there are 88 breweries in San Diego County, and what some refer to as the mecca of brewing beer.
The esteemed panel discussed the challenges of effectively starting and running a brewery in San Diego County. Topics included: How the Craft Brewery industry is different from other businesses and the need for more formal education for both attorneys and brewers. How to work with start-up breweries, educating clients, and working with do-it-yourself business owners, while getting paid. Brewer growth challenges were discussed, from small producers to having a tasting room, tours and pubs. Lastly, the common pitfalls of breweries and the service industry were discussed.
Ms. Rodriguez began the course by discussing the beer certificate program at San Diego State University. She mentioned that her student interests and needs vary tremendously based on the fact that the students come from all types of backgrounds, including attorneys and garage brewers. She offered terrific insight on the basics of brewing properly by starting with the basic and proper education.
Ms. Moon spoke next and gave an in-depth view of representing breweries and the challenges that she faces as an attorney in the industry. Some of these challenges include working with self-starters who rarely read contracts or want to hire attorneys to write or review contracts, while the registration requirements with the “alphabet soup” of government agencies is difficult.
Ms. Buechler, speaking from the in-house perspective, encouraged attorneys and their brewery clients to keep great records, to forecast brewing figures and plan ahead, while tracking progress. The audience shook their heads in agreement that this was solid business advice in any industry and especially the brewing industry where Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) agents monitor and oversee all breweries in California and enforce fines for violations.
Mr. Botting, closed the event with an overview of alcohol distribution and consumption dating back to before prohibition and why some of the laws are in books as they are today. He spoke of the “free lunch saloons” in the mid-late 1800's and how it was one aspect of over-consumption and safety hazards that led to prohibition laws. He debunked a lot of the myths regarding his agency, ABC, with some wit and a terrific New Zealander accent that the audience loved. His frankness regarding the industry was well received. Mr. Botting ended by posing a question as to what the brew industry would do as it grows up, mirror the wine industry, or take on a completely different role?
All of the speakers and 100+ attendees then walked over to the Ballpast Point Brewery patio for a mixer where Ballast Point provided appetizers. All had a great time enjoying their purchased Ballast Point beer selections, including seasonal selections: Grapefruit Sculpin, Habanero Sculpin, Even-Keel and others.
The event was the second installment of a “Beer, Wine, & Spirit Law Series” requested and enjoyed by many SDCBA members.The first event took place in July 2013 titled Beer and Wine Law: Transition from Hobby to Commercial event.