BAA and AOB to Merge – Form New Trade Organization

After 18 months of negotiations, the Association of Brewers and Brewers Association of America have announced that they will merge into one trade organization, affective January 1st of next year. The Boards of Directors of both organizations have approved the agreement. The announcement was made formal on Saturday during the Great American Beer Festival in Denver.

The new organization will be named The Brewers Association and will be based in Boulder, Colorado, the current home of the AOB. The association will use the existing 501c6 corporate structure of the AOB as a base, with amendments to reflect the changes required by the agreement. There will not be any immediate staffing changes at the AOB and all of the existing programs, events and operations, including the American Homebrewers Association, will remain. Charlie Papazian, founder and president of the AOB will continue as president of the new group. “This merger represents the best of the new and the best of the heritage of small brewing in America,” said Papazian. “A merger will greatly strengthen our marketing and our political initiatives.”

The BAA, the oldest trade organization serving the brewing industry, specifically the small brewers of America, will cease to exist. Daniel Bradford, president of the BAA has been offered the position of legislative director, a new position to be based in Washington DC. As of press time, Bradford had not decided if he will take the position. It was unclear if Pete Johnson, program director for the BAA, would be offered a position. The upcoming annual BAA conference this November in New Orleans will go on as planned, but it will be the last for the 63 year old organization.

There are still formalities to finalize before the merger takes place, including a due diligence analysis by special committees of both groups. The agreement is also subject to approval by the membership of the BAA. The BAA Board has unanimously recommended the membership approve the merger, subject to due diligence and appropriate amendments to the AOB by-laws. In a formal press meeting following the announcement at the GABF, it was repeated several times that there is much to be worked out. “I’d be disappointed if there weren’t hard questions to be asked,” said Gary Fish, chairman of the BAA and president of Deschutes Brewery. The BAA has handed over all operating procedures and current programs to the AOB staff. The new organization plans to carry on the various programs of the BAA such as the ongoing Professional E-Conference Seminar series and participation in the annual Legislative Conference in Washington DC in conjunction with the National Beer Wholesalers Association.

A transitional board composed of seven members from the AOB and seven from the BAA has been selected and will serve one year. A new board will then be elected by the membership and consist of 11 seats for professional brewers (7 packaging brewers and 4 brewpub brewers), two at-large seats and two homebrewer members which will be elected by the American Homebrewers Association. The new board plans to develop a strong committee system to develop policy for the Brewers Association programs and initiatives. The committees will be made up of board members and others with relevant expertise and interests.

The merger comes after years of talk within the industry that one trade organization might better serve the needs of the small brewing community. Serious discussions began at the 2003 Craft Brewers Conference in New Orleans when four members of each group formally met. Although both organizations served slightly different constituents – the AOB embraced brewpubs while the BAA included regional breweries – there was some redundancy in agendas. At times the two organizations seemed to compete with one another on achieving certain benefits for the industry, and also diluted the pool of support from both the brewing community and allied trade.

The AOB has 700 brewery members and the BAA 250, with many that are members of both organizations. – Tom McCormick