Sometimes it’s easy to think that all breweries do is make beer. Truth is, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes. For example, Heather McClung, one of the founders/owners of Schooner Exact Brewing just testified in front of Congress.
Heather and Matt McClung started Schooner Exact Brewing nine years ago, operating one of Seattle’s first a nano-breweries out of an Active Space unit in West Seattle. A lot has changed since then and “nano” is no longer an applicable term. Not only is the McClung’s brewery beloved by local beer fanatics, but they are very active on the beer scene, including the political scene.
On Tuesday, Heather McClung was in Washington, D.C., where she testified in front of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade. He testimony centered around Schooner Exact’s participation in the Brewers Association Export Development Program (EDP).
Congress held the hearing to discuss how it can help expand agricultural trade by eliminating barriers to American exporters. At the core of the hearing, committee members wanted to know about the relationship between beer and agriculture, recognizing that the value of exports is not limited to the basic product that is being shipped overseas, but also to the homegrown ingredients that go into the making of those products.
McClung spoke to the importance of her brewery’s relationships with hop farmers. “Beer is only as good as its ingredients,” she said. “In Washington State, the apples are amazing, wine grapes are spectacular, but the jewel in the crown are the hops. I have the privilege of brewing within close proximity to the world’s best source of quality innovative hops. The continuing creativity of our hop farmers fuel the passions of craft brewers as they experiment with new flavor and aroma profiles, much to the delight of consumers.”
She added, “The hop industry’s innovation is being exported as raw ingredients as well as in its final form; beer.”
McClung also commented on the importance of the Brewers Association’s Export Development Program. “Schooner EXACT is a perfect example of how a small craft brewery can benefit from the EDP. We joined the program a little less than a year into our exporting activity. The resources, networking, and competition opportunities are invaluable to a craft brewer. Our first event with the EDP was the American Craft Beer Experience, a two-day event in Tokyo and Osaka, Japan. Over 4,200 attendees sampled beer produced by US craft brewers.”
Committee members asked McClung some follow up questions about her testimony, wondering about barriers that might prohibit small brewers from participating in the Export Development Program.
“A large barrier would be the amount of packaged product needed could be prohibitive to a small brewer,” she said. “But it could be mitigated through the Small Business Administration’s export assistance program and through invigorating small breweries with an excise tax reduction, H.R. 2903 (Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act), which would enable small brewers to invest in the additional packaging and equipment needed to fulfill volumes for export.”
Committee members were interested in hearing how participating in the Export Development Program might help create jobs and foster other opportunitiues for the industry.
According to McClung, “Expanded trade would obviously mean increased sales and allow for a diversified revenue stream, which would lead to additional employment opportunities in our community. It would also help allied industries, such as producers of equipment like stainless steel producers and packaging equipment.”
McClung also mentioned the importance of the EDP as a way for American breweries to gain recognition on the international stage. Through the program, Schooner Exact entered the Brussels Beer Challenge last year where the brewery won a gold medal and overall Best in Show. Read our story about that big win.