The Virginia Craft Newsmaster
Volume 2, Edition 3, 2019
August is Virginia Craft Beer Month

Dear VCBG Members:

Let's  celebrate independent Virginia craft beer across the Commonwealth!

Tourism and craft beer are now synonymous and the VCBG has a longtime relationship with the Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC).  We are proud of our work together and the VTC has produced some amazing resources for members to use:

The VTC is also going to heavily promote Craft Beer Trails and Events this month, including the VCBG's kick-off event this weekend (VIR Craft Beer Fest).  They have centralized much of this content at  VCBG Chairman Sten Sellier commented that "Promoting tourism to independent craft breweries is a priority for the VCBG and we are truly grateful to the VTC for their ongoing support."

VTC and VCBG will also be messaging on the following topics over the next few weeks:
  • 8/1 - 8/28:  2019 Virginia Craft Beer Cup Winners
  • 8/2: Richmond Craft Breweries (blog post)
  • 8/8: Coastal Virginia Brews (blog post)
  • 8/13: Breweries & Hikes (blog post)
  • 8/25: National Dog Day: Pet-Friendly Breweries (blog post)
  • 8/28: 9 Craft Beer Towns That You Need to Visit (blog post)
Download your Virginia is for Craft Beer Lovers Toolkit today and encourage your patrons to post their toasts with #TOASTVA this month. 

Brett A. Vassey
VCBG President & CEO                   

Government Affairs News
State and Local Issues

Be a Brewer for a Day
Educating new legislators about the importance of the craft beer industry to the Virginia economy is critical.  Telling your story is part of our new "grass roots" effort to build a stronger legislative coalition of legislators - the Virginia Craft Beer Caucus.  To help, we have put together a new resource for you to use.  The VCBG Be a Brewer for a Day program will help you introduce incumbent legislators and open seat candidates to the craft beer industry and our priorities seen through your pint of beer.  For a copy of the VCBG Be a Brewer for a Day guide, email

Virginia ABC Licenses & Fees Reform
The VCBG has been working through the ABC stakeholder process on license and fee reforms for the last year.  To give members a better understanding of the current state of negotiations, the Virginia ABC presented an overview at the Virginia Craft Beer Conference.  The VCBG staff and leadership have been actively working with the ABC and other alcohol industry stakeholder groups to develop consensus on reducing the number of ABC licenses, improving process and compliance efficiency, and keeping costs low.  Current proposals would consolidate 34 retail licenses to 6 and 54 manufacturers licenses to 10.  Further, of the 54 manufacturing licenses, 35 brewery licenses could be consolidated into 3 licenses (at current volume tiers) with shipping, delivery and keg privileges included for the same fee structure.  The only material fee change at this point is that all brewers may have to buy their keg sticker books at cost (currently estimated at $65 per book).  Unlike one retail license change that may result in a 600% fee increase!  If successful, this work will save members hundreds of thousands of dollars over the next decade.  The ABC's final Licenses and Fees are expected this month and will result in 2020 legislation. The VCBG will continue to be a principal stakeholder in this process through the 2020 General Assembly and into 2021.

The VCBG Government Affairs Committee met on June 3, 2019. The committee is working on the largest number of legislative and regulatory issues with the General Assembly and ABC to date.  Highlights of the regulatory and legislative work is below:
  • Virginia General Assembly
    • 20 bills in the 2019 Legislative Session 
  • US Congress
    • Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (CBMTRA)
  • Virginia Regulatory Issues:
    • 20% Rule, ABC License & Fee Reform, CBD Ingredients, Brewery-to-Brewery Transfers, Crowlers, Festival Beer Storage, Franchise Act - Independent Distributors, Happy Hour, Home Brewer Competitions, Labeling, Shipper's License, Internet Beer Retailer License, Online Tax/License Payments, Promotional Items, Retail Trade Practices Enforcement/Pay-to-Play, Samples, Temporary Distribution Agreements & Distributor Performance, Uniform Prehearing Scheduling Order
If you would like to join the Government Affairs Committee and help advise the VCBG Leadership Council on ABC legislative and regulatory issues, please contact Betty Arnold at Thank you to Porter Hardy (Smartmouth Brewery) and Hunter Smith (Champion Brewing) for their leadership of the Government Affairs Committee.  

Marketing & Tourism News
Events and Activities 
In addition to official Virginia Craft Beer Month activities, the VCBG has been working aggressively to expand the independent craft beer market to non-craft beer consumers and increase public awareness of award-winning independent craft beer.

Upcoming Events & Activities

  • August 23, 2019 - 2020 VA Craft Brewers Fest Solicitation
    • VCBG will issue a formal solicitation to select a new commercial venue, market and format for the 2020 Fest.   
  • September 2019 - 3rd Annual VCBG Marketing & Tourism Survey
  • October 5, 2019 - 3rd Annual Virginia Blue Ribbon Craft Beer Fest
Blue Ribbon Craft Beer Fest   

Past Events & Activities

  • June 17, 2019 Virginia Craft Beer Conference
    • This new event had over 120 brewers, owners and staff in attendance for this technical conference.  The VA Craft Beer Conference featured guest speakers and peers sharing information on quality, technology, good manufacturing practices, safety, workforce training, marketing, independent distributors, and other topics. The keynote speaker was Tim Brady, BA Craft Beer Service Ambassador, who spoke on tasting rooms and customer service.  This year's conference also included the WestRock-VCBG Packaging Innovation Challenge  - congratulations Starr Hill Brewery!  The VCBG also recognized founding member, Legend Brewing Company, with a newly created award, the VCBG Legendary Brewery Award, to recognize their 25 years as an independent craft brewer - congratulations Legend Brewing Co.!


  • June 17, 2019 Virginia Craft Beer Cup Gala
    • This new event is now the largest craft brewer gathering in the Commonwealth.  Over 300 brewers and supporters participated in this inaugural event at Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond to honor this year's Cup winners and celebrate independent craft beer.  The Gala will be expanded again next year to an even larger venue.  The VCBG is incredibly appreciative of its sponsors that made the Gala possible, especially the signature sponsor WestRock and tent sponsor VDACS.  We also want to thank our Media Sponsor, Virginia Craft Beer Magazine, for photographing winners and producing a fantastic video of this year's Gala
  • June 8, 2019 Virginia Craft Beer Cup Competition
    • A record 114 Virginia craft breweries entered 342 beers that competed for awards in 35 categories this year. 28 breweries entered for the first time!  Congratulations to New Realm Brewing Co. for winning the 2019 Virginia Craft Beer Cup Best in Show!  All winners were given licenses to use digital medals for use in labeling and social media. Gold winners in each category will also be given privileged invitations to media and special events throughout the year such as the Craft Beer Month Celebration @ the Governor's Mansion.
  • April 13, 2019 Richmond Raceway Craft Beer Fest
    • 30 breweries participated in the second year of this great craft beer festival.
  • January 28, 2019 Virginia Craft Beer Caucus & Day on the Hill
    • Members participated in over 30 appointments with legislators and enjoyed an evening reception, the Virginia Craft Beer Caucus, now one of the most coveted legislative receptions of the session. 


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 Marketing & Tourism Committee
met on June 4, 2019. The committee discussed the 
VCBG 2019 Marketing & Tourism Survey,  the  BA National Awareness Campaign,  "That's Independence You're Tasting" , the BA independent label program, wholesaler and retailer relations, tasting room operations, the VCBG events schedule for 2019-2020, and reimagining the 2020 VA Craft Brewers Fest. Thank you to Neil Burton (Strangeways) and Chris Burns (Old Ox Brewery) for their leadership of the Marketing & Tourism Committee.  If you would like to be a member of the Marketing & Tourism Committee, please contact Betty Arnold at

Quality News
Improving Craft Beer Quality and Training

Quality is critical to market differentiation and the future of the independent craft beer industry.  As such, the VCBG's Quality Committee continues to promote its quality workshop series.  The first workshop was on January 28 in Richmond in between the Day on the Hill and VA Craft Beer Caucus legislative reception.  The second was integrated into the new Virginia Craft Beer Conference.  

At this year's annual meeting, the Quality Committee announced a goal of having all VCBG members that work in the brewery complete the VCBG Quality & Safety Certificate by the end of the year.  VCU's Craft Beer Certificate program has also incorporated this quality and safety assessment into its curriculum.  This training is cloud-based with a multi-media format and a learning management system with built-in assessments so that you can monitor your employees' progress. The Quality Committee continues to coordinate activities with the BA's safety and quality ambassadors.  The VCBG Quality Committee's next major goal is to develop a statewide quality network for brewers and a portfolio of valued training resources that will contribute to manufacturing high quality craft beer in the safest breweries in America.

The Quality & Safety Committee met on June 10 and discussed  the  2019 & 2020 VCBG Quality & Safety Workshop, VCBG Quality & Safety Training Certificate, VCU Craft Beer Certificate Program, coordination of quality & safety workshops into VCBG Festivals, expansion of regional "best-practice" networks, and coordination with MBA.  The next meeting is going to be held October 4, 2019 in Richmond and will focus on training and yeast management/lab testing services.

VCBG Quality  Committee  Co-Chairs Kate Lee  (Hardywood) and  Shawn Phillips  (Spencer Devon Brewing Co.)  have successfully grown the VCBG Quality Assurance Program.  If  you are interested in becoming a member of the  VCBG Quality Committee or incorporating the VCBG Quality & Safety Certificate into your employee training, please contact Betty Arnold at

Farm Brewery News
Plow to Pint Issues  

The committee is developing new opportunities to feature the "plow to pint" experiences in Virginia through events, education and advocacy such as the partnership with the State Fair of Virginia's Blue Ribbon Craft Beer Fest. The committee is making a substantial change in the Virginia Blue Ribbon Craft Beer Fest to incorporate agricultural partners and suppliers to showcase the entire supply-chain from "plow to pint."  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, protect rural structures from over-regulation, and evaluate the possible utilization of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services VA Winery Distribution Company as a resource for farm breweries.

The Farm Brewery Committee met on May 31, 2019.   Local planning and zoning continue to be a perpetual challenge for farm breweries. Protecting rural structures from uniform building code mandates is a major undertaking of the committee.  The committee continues to express concerns over agricultural supplies and authentic farm brewery production.  The committee has taken over the leadership role for the Virginia Blue Ribbon Craft Beer Fest and will meet monthly until October.

The committee co-chairs Janell Zurschmeide (Dirt Farm Brewing) and Lisa Pumphrey (Lickinghole Creek Farm Brewery) are recruiting breweries to join this committee.   If you are interested in the farm brewery committee, please contact Betty Arnold at
Member Benefits Feature
VMA Insurance Services: Group Insurance Plan

Health insurance costs continue to rise double digits per year and the small group insurance market is nearly unaffordable. Members have cited the cost of health insurance as one of their top 10 concerns. The good news is that after two years of preparation, VMA Insurance Services has created its own group benefits program that includes medical insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance, life insurance, disability insurance (LT/ST), consumer benefits insurance (accident/critical illness), flexible spending account administration (FSA), and health savings account administration (HSA) and it will be available to all VCBG members.
McGriff Insurance Services (formerly BB&T) is the broker, Benefitfirst is the third-party administrator, and Anthem is the carrier.   VMA will also have two licensed agents on staff. VMA Insurance Services has secured initial rates and now must secure a 1,500 lives commitment by September 30 to launch the charter plan December 1. The rates are composite versus age rated with plan options customizable to meet your company needs regardless of your current plan year. Ongoing operations of this group benefits plan will be governed by a newly formed service corporation - 1st Shift Inc. - and it is ERISA compliant. Kevin Erskine, Coelacanth Brewing Company, has been appointed to its Board of Directors.
The VMA Insurance Services team also includes over a dozen trained professionals across the Commonwealth utilizing some of the best enrollment technology in the industry. Initial rate comparisons have saved some member companies as much as 30%. This is the best opportunity for brewers to better control health insurance costs and provide better coverage for employees. We have until September 30 to get letters of intent for 1,500 lives to participate in the VMA Insurance Services' group benefits plan. To schedule an appointment to compare coverage, go to or contact Ian Ginger, VMA Business Development Director, at .

Membership Update
Still Growing

The VCBG continues to grow.  This year alone we have added 31 new members. However, there have been signs of slowing as specific markets tighten and a spat of closures were announced this year.  Virginia now ranks 18th in breweries per capita which is up from 38th when we started the guild 9 years ago. VA craft beer now ranks ahead of all Southeastern states (AL, DC, FL, GA, LA, MD, MS, SC, TN, WV) except NC (ranks 17th).  If production continues to grow, Virginia will become the Southeastern craft beer leader by 2020.

The VCBG is now developing a brewer "handbook" for use with newer members and breweries in planning.  This resource will focus on beer distribution, taxation, labeling, transportation, permitting/licensing, etc.  The purpose is to establish a common understanding of the opportunities and barriers that exist for small independent brewers in the Commonwealth.  The ABC administrative code is a maze and many of the privileges that the VCBG has negotiated over the last nine years are not often readily apparent.  It may take a hazy IPA and turn it into a clear Kolsch for many members.

Our growth continues to be fostered by consistent and well respected leadership.  At this year's Annual Meeting (June 17), the VCBG Leadership Council was elected.  They will lead the organization into the next year's General Assembly battles, a total reformation of ABC Licenses and Fees, and an expansion of VCBG services to member companies.  Creating a clear ROI for VCBG membership is their goal.  Click here to see the newly elected VCBG Leadership Council.

Betty Arnold
Member Services Director

The Virginia Craft Brewers Guild is a coalition of independent, small, commercial breweries dedicated to growing the craft beer industry in the Commonwealth.