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Washington Brewers Guild Hires Executive Director

The Washington Brewers Guild recently announced the hire of its first-ever Executive Director*. Before sharing details of this news, I want to clarify something because I know it confuses people. Once again, I want to point out that in Washington there are two seperate entities, or organizations, with which local beer lovers should be familiar.

First, the Washington Beer Commission. Established by the state legislature in 2006, The Commission is tasked with promoting Washington beer as a commodity. Essentially, it is the same as the Wheat Commission, the Apple Commission, the Wine Commission, and so on. The Commission’s role is purely promotional, not political. The Beer Commission operates WABL (Washington Beer Lovers) and is responsible for many of the bigger beer festivals in the state. It is their job to make sure you and the rest of the world know that Washington produces great beer, which it encourages you to drink. Washington is the only state with such a Commission.

The second and equally important beer-related entitity is the Washington Brewers Guild, which was established in 1999 by the breweries themselves. The Guild is a trade organization representing the concerns of its members in matters of politics and policy. Membership in The Guild is voluntary. The Guild lobbies the state legislature and works with the Liquor Control Board to enact changes that promote the health of the local brewing industry. Stuff like that. The Guild gets its funds from member dues and by operating the Washington Cask Beer Festival. It may operated a second festival this year. Stay tuned.

Obviously, by hiring an Executive Director the Guild hopes to improve its ability to protect and promote the brewing industry in Washington. Until now, this was basically an all-volunteer industry trade group, operated by people who were already busy enough running their businesses. After last year’s near disastrous tax issue was so narrowly avoided, I think it became very clear that the Guild has serious work to do. There will be other issues, to be sure. With over 200 breweries in the state contributing thousands of jobs and millions of dollars to the local economy, the Washington Brewers Guild needs to have a strong voice in Olympia. For beer consumers, a healthy beer industry means more beer and better access to it.

* CORRECTION/CLARIFICATION: I have since learned that the Guild did have a Executive Director once before. Back in 2005, Arlen Harris held the position for a period of time. Then, when the Commission was formed, Arlen became the ED of that organization as well. Then things get really confusing. For the last few years at least, the Guild has been without an Executive Director.

Here’s the announcement from the Washington Brewers Guild:

Former brewer tapped to lead Washington craft beer.

A brewer for brewers. The Washington Brewers Guild (WBG) is pleased to announce the appointment of Charlie Sullivan as the new Executive Director for this community of small brewers. Filling a long term vacancy, the WBG looked to a former President of the organization to build greater unity and provide a more consistent presence within the greater business community.

Mr. Sullivan started in the craft brewing industry in 1988 pouring pints at the Redhook Brewery’s Trolleyman Pub in Seattle. His passion for this new beer and business took him to Oregon and a three year stint with the McMenamin’s chain of breweries and pubs. In 1995 Mr. Sullivan helped open the Skagit River Brewery in Mount Vernon, Washington. After nearly fifteen years as Head Brewer and President Mr. Sullivan stepped away from the daily management of the brewery to focus on other affairs.

Heather McClung, current President of the WBG and co-owner at Schooner Exact Brewing Company of Seattle is quite pleased to have Mr. Sullivan aboard. “We are very excited about having Charlie working for us. He brings great experience within the craft beer business and a rich knowledge of the issues facing the industry.”

Mr. Sullivan comes aboard in time to oversee the craft brewers legislative agenda in Olympia and to help coordinate the Washington Cask Beer Fest. The Cask Beer Fest is truly an artisan beer tasting event showcasing the traditional “cask” style of ale brewing. This event will be held March 22, 2014 at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall.

“I am thrilled to be supporting the work of one of Washington’s signature industries.” Says Charlie Sullivan. “The state has been at the forefront of the craft beer revolution, championing flavor and quality. I will work very hard to protect the investment of so many people.”

Founded in 1999, the Washington Brewers Guild has supported the community of craft brewers through representation before the state legislature and regulatory bodies, most notably the Liquor Control Board. In 2006 the WBG helped form the Washington Beer Commission to better market Washington made craft beer. Recent developments on both the Federal and State levels regarding taxes and regulatory changes by the FDA and local health departments have prompted the WBG to become more active.


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