The Virginia Craft Newsmaster

2020 Wrap Up
Dear VCBG Members,

I know everyone is ready to see 2020 in the rear view mirror. We started down this road in March and there has been one barrier after another placed in front of us, but the inventiveness of independent craft breweries could not be beat. Together, we cleared obstacles and charted a safe path forward, even if it was a white knuckle ride.

The VCBG's own surveying estimated that 22% of the industry may not be viable with prolonged tasting room and restaurant restrictions. Yet, today, albeit sad for the owners, brewers and employees of those breweries, only six breweries have closed their doors due to COVID-19. But, unimaginably, 20 new breweries have started! Couple this information with the BA's recent report that Virginia has now surpassed all Southern states for breweries per 100,000 21+ year old citizens and the view ahead is a bit more promising than it was in March.

Surviving COVID-19 didn't happen by accident. Your unrelenting pursuit of great craft beer, flexibility in getting it to customers through curbside/delivery/shipping/distribution, and constantly adapting your tasting rooms to provide a safe environment for customers has paid dividends. The independent craft beer industry has maintained the public and our regulators' trust. The VCBG staff and your Leadership Council have spent hundreds of hours working to maintain regulatory flexibility and economic opportunity for all members. This has resulted in everything from expanded outdoor usage, to curbside delivery, to consolidated delivery permitting, delayed sales and excise taxes, new novel containers for delivery, and training to ensure compliance with COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards, just to name a few successes this year.

My wife always says, "Comparison is the thief of joy!" But just for a minute, take a look at the alarming restrictions still placed on breweries in CA, NY, OR, and PA to fully appreciate the view from Virginia.

Looking ahead, we have completed all VCBG Committee meetings and the VCBG Leadership Council has adopted a workplan for 2021 that is a celebration of independent craft beer. We are going to start by launching our 10th Anniversary Beer Collaboration. Yes, the VCBG celebrates 10 years in 2021! We are also going to expand the Virginia Craft Beer Cup and Gala. Since all live events, except Gala, will not be possible, we are working on a new webinar series focused on best-practice sharing and solutions to operational challenges. In fact, the Leadership Council is announcing the reform of the Quality Committee to become the "Quality and Operations Committee." Details coming soon.

Our 2021 journey will begin with a "virtual" Day on the Hill. We will also adapt our successful "Craft Brewer for a Day" program into a virtual format. This will specifically support our legislative agenda which will include a half-dozen projects to reform VA ABC, including labeling and distribution, as well as a bill to provide tax relief for machinery and tools taxes on your brewery equipment, and tied-house reforms that will allow employee sharing between tiers.

The bottom line is that 2021 will are going to focus on expanding independent craft beer awareness across the Commonwealth, help members with productivity and operational excellence, provide cost-saving resources ranging from workforce training to insurance, elevate digital media coverage of award-winning breweries, expand Virginia grown ingredient sourcing, provide regulatory relief, and celebrate 10 amazing years.

On behalf of the staff and Leadership Council, I want to thank you for persevering through an unprecedented health and economic crisis. I also want to thank you for supporting the VCBG. It is an honor and a privilege to work with such amazing people every day. I wish you all a joyful holiday season!

Brett A. Vassey
VCBG President & CEO
Government Affairs News
Legislative & ABC Brewery Issues

COVID-19 Response
The VCBG pivoted quickly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This action resulted in the allowance for curbside delivery, eliminated the delivery permit fee and license, expanded novel containers allowable for off-premise sales, expanded outdoor seating regulation flexibility, delayed ABC license fee collections, delayed state sales tax collections, delayed beer excise tax collections, ensured that there is no outside “occupancy permit” mandate on breweries (just social distancing), and provided COVID-19 training to members to ensure compliance with the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) mandate.

This work has required weekly meetings with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, VA ABC, and Virginia Secretariat of Commerce & Trade since March. The VCBG also developed theVA Craft Brewery Pledgeto assist members with their COVID-19 public notice mandates. This was a member request and the association has kept it updated regularly to demonstrate solidarity and commitment to the public as well as assist members. These are just a few of the COVID-19 regulatory issues that the VCBG has led in addition to keeping breweries open unlike many other states.

The VCBG Government Affairs Committee met on November 19, 2020. The committee is working on a large legislative and regulatory agenda with the General Assembly and VA ABC. Highlights include:

General Assembly Bill Proposals
  • ABC Labeling Reform
  • CBD Ingredients & Labeling
  • COVID-19
  • Curbside Delivery
  • Fulfillment Center Authorization
  • Machinery & Tools Tax Rebate
  • Tied-House Reform - Employee Sharing
  • Trade Spending - Material Regulation

Federal Issues
  • Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (CBMTRA)

2021 Day on the Hill Registration - OPEN!
The Guild works to keep Virginia's craft beer industry competitive through the effective management of legislation and regulation. With the help of our members, we have achieved unmatched success in passing priority bills and defending the craft beer industry. Building relationships with our elected representatives is essential to our government affairs strategy.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the 2021 VCBG Day on the Hill will be held virtually, but you can still demonstrate your dedication to protecting and growing Virginia craft beer. Brewers will have an opportunity to participate in a series of virtual meetings with key legislators on the mornings of January 7th and 14th. Use the button below to select meetings you'd like to attend, and we will send call-in information closer to the meeting dates.
If you would like to join the Government Affairs Committee and help advise the VCBG Leadership Council on legislative and regulatory issues, please contact Kaitlyn Crow at Thank you to Sten Sellier (Beltway Brewing Company) and Hunter Smith (Champion Brewing) for their leadership of the Government Affairs Committee.
Marketing & Tourism News
Events and Activities

Despite COVID-19 restrictions leading to the cancellation of beer festivals all over the country, the VCBG worked tirelessly this year to continue its mission of increasing public awareness of award-winning independent craft beer.

2020 Events & Activities
Virginia Craft Day on the Hill & Craft Beer Caucus
  • Members enjoyed an evening reception at Southern Railway Taphouse on February 3, 2020. Special thanks to our sponsor breweries for providing beer on-tap for the reception: Beltway Brewing Company (Old Town Brown), Stable Craft Brewing (608 Draught), and New Realm Brewing Company (Hazy Like a Fox).

Virginia Craft Beer Run!
  • In April, the VCBG launched the Virginia Craft Beer Run! – a digital campaign to promote the curbside sale, delivery and direct shipping of independent craft beer to Virginia consumers. Registration for the virtual 5k/10k opened on April 24, and the race ran from May 1-31, with the center of the campaign being the Virginia Craft Beer Finder. The campaign’s tagline was “Great craft beer makes staying home beerable!”

Virginia Craft Beer Cup, Conference & Gala
  • Cup: 89 Virginia craft breweries entered 267 beers that competed for awards in 20 categories this year. Congratulations to Black Hoof Brewing Company for winning the 2020 Virginia Craft Beer Cup Best in Show for their dark lager, Muzzle Loader Munich Dunkel! View the full list of winners here.
  • Conference: Held on August 31 at Bon Secours Training Center in Richmond, this year's VA Craft Beer Conference featured guest speakers discussing ABC compliance, alternative revenue streams for craft breweries, and economic development resources. Keynote Speaker Bart Watson from the Brewers Association presented on The Current State of Craft Beer.
  • Gala: Immediately following the VA Craft Beer Conference, brewers across the state celebrated at this year's Gala. The event looked different this year, with face masks, social distancing, and hand sanitizer placed all over the venue, but brewers remained eager to drink, eat, and celebrate the craft beer industry in Virginia. The VCBG is extremely appreciative of the sponsors that made this event possible, especially our Platinum Sponsor, WestRock, and our exhibitors, who pivoted with us in a COVID-altered environment. We'd also like to thank our Media Sponsor, Virginia Craft Beer Magazine, for photographing our winners.
Virtual Virginia Craft Brewers Fest
  • The VCBG hosted a virtual version of the Virginia Craft Brewers Fest in October. Brewers from 26 breweries presented virtual tasting sessions, talked about their craft beer story, discussed ingredients, or gave tours of their taprooms. Week One featured Gold Medalists of this year's Virginia Craft Beer Cup, and October 26 was dedicated to the Commonwealth's Farm Breweries.
  • Craft beer enthusiasts were encouraged to order online and use curbside, delivery, or direct shipping options to purchase the beers showcased during the tastings, and to dial in over the month of October for a true craft beer "insider" experience.
  • We are incredibly appreciative of the sponsors that made this event possible: VDACS, ABS Commercial, Hopsteiner, Blueprint Financial Group, and Bankers Insurance.
  • Click the buttons below to view recap videos of the 2020 VA Craft Beer Cup Gold Medalists' presentations:
Thanks to all VCBG Members that contribute to the expansion of the independent craft beer market. A special thanks to VCBG Associate Members that generously provide valuable sponsorships for these events.

The VCBG Marketing & Tourism Committee met on November 20, 2020. The committee discussed the 2021 event landscape, driving more attention to the winners of Virginia Craft Beer Cup, "How to Maximize Your Guests Online Experience," driving customers to Guild member companies, and an upcoming VCBG Collaborative Beer. Thank you to Neil Burton (Strangeways Brewing) and Chris Burns (Old Ox Brewery) for their leadership of the Marketing & Tourism Committee. If you would like to become a member of the Marketing & Tourism Committee, please contact Kaitlyn Crow at
Quality & Operations News
Improving Craft Beer Quality, Training, and Best Practice Sharing

2020 Quality Seminar
Quality is critical to market differentiation and the future of the independent craft beer industry. This year's Quality Seminar was held at Stone Brewing Co. in Richmond, Virginia, between the Day on the Hill and VA Craft Beer Caucus Legislative Reception. Participants in the Quality Seminar discussed microbiology/yeast programs and its impact on production and beer quality.

Virginia Craft Brewers Guild Quality & Safety Certification
The Virginia Craft Brewers Guild Quality and Safety Certification (VCBGQSC) addresses the need for quality and safety training in the craft brewing industry. The training focuses on the requirements which are needed to assure a safe working environment and an understanding of the required quality and tasks that are needed in a brewery and meet Good Manufacturing Practices for Craft Brewers (GMPCBs). Contact MSI Workforce Solutions Coordinator Jody Steele if you’re interested in incorporating the VCBG Quality & Safety Certificate into your employee training.
During the VCBG Leadership Council Meeting on December 11, the Leadership Council decided to expand the Quality Committee to include best practice sharing around brewery operations. Kate Lee (Hardywood) and Shawn Phillips (Spencer Devon Brewing Co.) will continue to co-chair the newly structured Quality & Operations Committee as it brings opportunities for best practice sharing around quality, brewery operations, and training in 2021. If you would like to become a member of the Quality & Operations Committee, please contact Kaitlyn Crow at
Farm Brewery News
Plow to Pint Issues

The committee is developing new opportunities to feature the "plow to pint" experiences in Virginia, including developing a VCBG 10th Anniversary Collaboration beer that focuses on Virginia-grown ingredients in 2021.

The long-term interest of the committee is to assure the growth of authentic farm breweries, increase the supply of locally grown ingredients for Virginia's independent craft brewers, and protect rural structures from over-regulation. Some upcoming projects include developing VDACS' VA Winery Distribution Company as a resource for farm breweries and selecting a communication platform that will allow suppliers and farm breweries to communicate available Virginia-grown products/ingredients and suppliers with other Virginia breweries. The committee also wants to expand the VCBG sourcing directory.

The VCBG Farm Brewery Committee met on November 19, 2020. Thank you to Lisa Pumphrey (Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery) and David St. Clair (Swover Creek Farms & Brewery) for their leadership on the Farm Brewery Committee. If you would like to become a member of the Farm Brewery Committee, please contact Kaitlyn Crow at
Member Benefits Feature
VCBG Brewery Insurance Program

Underwritten by FCCI and administered exclusively by Bankers Insurance LLC, the VCBG Insurance Plan (VIP) offers comprehensive coverage and flexible options tailored to meet the specific needs of the craft beer industry.
This powerful benefit provides:
  • A comprehensive risk assessment, covering your business’s risk management procedures and insurance policies. Bankers Insurance provides these services at no cost or obligation, utilizing a consultative approach that educates members on key exposures and uncovers gaps in existing policies.
  • An entire suite of manufacturer’s insurance products that includes liability, property, workers compensation, business auto, and all others.
  • A group dividend plan based on the combined loss experience of the participating members.
  • Designated local service teams for claims, risk control, and underwriting.
  • Preferential pricing for members of all sizes, in addition to extensive management tools normally only available to the largest manufacturing operations.

This month, FCCI announced its first dividend payment back to participants of the Brewers Premier program. Yes, our program paid participating members this year! For more information, view FCCI's Press Release.
Industry Update
Virginia Craft Beer Keeps Growing

Virginia now ranks 16th in breweries per 100,000 21+ year-old citizens, which is up from 18th last year. VA craft beer continues to rank ahead of all Southeastern states (AL, DC, FL, GA, LA, MD, MS, SC, TN, WV), and has, in the last year, surpassed NC (now ranking 18th). As we predicted, Virginia has become the Southeastern craft beer leader.

This year, COVID-19 and the resulting shut-downs have had an enormous impact on brewery operations in the Commonwealth, as well as across the country. The VCBG pivoted quickly to work with the VA ABC, the Executive branch, and legislators at the state and local levels to mitigate these effects. While we did lose six breweries this year, two were expansion locations of breweries that continue to operate elsewhere in the state. Losing even one Virginia craft brewery is not ideal, but there is a light in the darkness... This year, over 20 new breweries have opened! We understand that the fight is not over, and COVID-19 will continue to affect your businesses well into 2021, so the VCBG will continue to fight for legislation that will make it easier for Virginia craft breweries to weather the storm.
2021 Leadership Council

Our growth continues to be fostered by consistent and well-respected leadership. At this year's Annual Meeting on August 31, the new VCBG Leadership Council was elected. They will lead the organization into 2021's General Assembly battles, continued work with the Virginia ABC, and keeping breweries open as the COVID-19 pandemic persists. Creating a clear ROI for VCBG membership is their goal. Click here to see the newly elected VCBG Leadership Council.