Meet the man who is trying to create more American jobs — by making beer cheaper

Meet the man who is trying to create more American jobs — by making beer cheaper
Bob Pease, CEO of the Brewers Association, speaks with TheBlaze about the associations' efforts to reduce the federal excise tax on craft breweries. (Image source: Brewery Association; used with permission)

Meet Bob Pease, CEO of the Brewers Association. Pease’s association represents around 3,800 craft beer breweries across the United States. In addition, the group advocates for lower taxes for its members, which would create more American jobs and lower beer prices.

Brewers Association craft brewery members account for 12.5 percent of the entire U.S. beer market in volume and 22 percent of the U.S. beer market in dollars. Not only do BA brewers produce literally tons of beer every year, they also employ thousands of people across the country. In the last 25 years alone, BA breweries created a whopping 135,000 jobs, most in urban areas.

In other words, if you drink beer, there’s a chance you’ve had craft brews from one or more of the BA member breweries.

But if you haven’t tried one of the numerous American-made craft brews, the Brewers Association hosts various events throughout the year where consumers can try not only a variety of beers, but also delicious food pairings for each type of beer. The association’s most recent event, “SAVOR,” was at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., on Friday and Saturday.

Hundreds of people, including yours truly, attended the event.

While Pease was busy at the event making sure all the t’s were crossed and all the i’s dotted, TheBlaze spoke with him before the event Friday.

Pease, who is in his 50s, has worked for the Brewery Association for nearly 25 years. Pease started working for the association in the early 1990s. He never imagined at that time that he would be where he i s today, or doing what he’s doing.

“At some point, I wasn’t sure this was going to be my career,” Pease told TheBlaze during a phone interview Friday.

Pease said that while he liked the challenge of the lower-level job he held at that time, he just “wasn’t as committed as I am now.”

So, what inspired Pease to be more committed? In short, it was the work ethic and dedication he saw from people who owned craft breweries.

“Working with those people was what made me make that commitment to small and independent craft breweries because I saw what they were putting on the line. These guys were all in — personal guarantees, big seven-, eight-figure loans sometimes — and that inspired me,” Pease said.

Years later, in the late 1990s, financial hardship struck the Brewers Association, based in Boulder, Colorado.

Pease, much to his surprise, was tapped to lead the association and reverse the dire circumstances.

“We were close to going out of business,” Pease acknowledged. To give an idea of just how bad the BA’s finances were, Pease said that when he first started working there in 1993, the association had $1 million in reserves, or cash on hand. When Pease took the reins of the company in 1999, it had no money in reserves. To make a dire situation worse, the association owed $400,000, all of which was 90 days past due.

Pease said he knew that to keep the association from going underwater, he would have to make some tough decisions.

Those decisions, among others, included laying off some workers and consolidating a number of jobs.

By 2001, Pease said that “through a lot of hard work, some good personnel moves, we were able to restore the association to profitability.”

Today, BA breweries make up 72 percent of the total number of breweries in the U.S. Of those 135,000 jobs, 45,000 were direct manufacturing jobs. The remaining 85,000 were service jobs, such as waiters and tasting room staff members.

Even having achieved such large employment numbers, though, Pease isn’t resting yet. He’s now taking to the streets of Washington, D.C., to lobby federal lawmakers to modernize a federal excise tax currently being imposed on craft breweries.

“In addition to that [taxes paid by any other business], they [craft brewers] pay a federal excise tax. This is a tax that was put in place in 1862 to help pay for the Civil War. And it’s never been repealed,” Pease said.

And that is exactly what Pease and his association are trying to change.

Specifically, Pease and the BA are pushing for legislation, called the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act, which would lower the current federal excise tax from $7 per barrel to $3.50 per barrel on small brewers.

The bill would also lower the federal excise tax from $18 per barrel to $16 per barrel on the first six million barrels produced by larger brewers.

The excise tax is currently imposed on the first 60,000 barrels of beer by brewers that produce fewer than 2 million barrels annually.

The average BA member produces around 7,000 barrels of beer per year, compared with the roughly 95 million barrels that Anheuser-Busch InBev, the country’s largest brewery, produces in a single year. According to Pease, the tax cut would give most of the BA breweries “a modest amount of tax savings, but money they would reinvest back into their business, grow their business, make more beer, create more jobs, [and] hire more American workers.”

“When small and independ