The North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild has hired Andrew Lemley as the organization’s new executive director.
Lemley comes to the Guild from New Belgium Brewing Company, where he most recently served as the Fort Collins-headquartered brewery’s government affairs representative — a role he is credited with creating — for the last four years. He joins the nonprofit organization following a contentious 2017 legislative session that ended with two of North Carolina’s largest craft breweries filing a constitutional challenge to a state law requiring breweries producing more than 25,000 barrels annually to contract with a wholesaler.
Jamie Bartholomaus, vice president of the North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild board of directors, told Brewbound that Lemley was chosen for the role due to his extensive legislative experience as well as his work on a national scale. He added that Lemley, a former Lutheran pastor, will be tasked with rebuilding relationships with other industry players in addition to guiding the Guild’s legislative agenda, fundraising efforts and membership drives.
“We hope to build positive relationships with the restaurant association and the wholesaler association, and bridge any divides that there have been in the past,” said Bartholomaus, who also serves as president for Foothills Brewing in Winston-Salem.
Lemley’s first day with the Guild is set for November 6. He replaces Margo Knight Metzger, who left the Guild in August for a marketing job with Our State Magazine, and interim director Fawn Pattison, who will resume her role as special projects consultant for the Guild.
In an email to Brewbound, Lemley wrote that he is “excited to get to work on behalf of the craft brewers of North Carolina.”
“The North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild is in a great position, having passed some excellent regulatory reform this past legislative session and having concluded a successful exhibition of North Carolina Craft Beer at the State Fair,” he wrote. “Together with the members, board and of course the excellent staff already in place we will continue to advocate for and promote North Carolina’s craft brewers and beer.”
Pattison told Brewbound that Lemley had been an active member of the Guild dating back to 2012 when New Belgium announced plans to build a production brewery and taproom in Asheville. The Colorado company joined the organization, and Lemley served as a point person to the Guild.
“He’s really a great relationship builder,” she said. “That will serve us well on many fronts.”
Earlier this year, North Carolina’s craft brewers introduced a sweeping modernization bill that would have increased the state’s self-distribution production cap to 200,000 barrels a year as well as allowed smaller brewers to more easily terminate contracts with wholesalers. However, those measures were stripped out of the legislation in April at request of the N.C. Beer & Wine Wholesalers in order for a number of smaller modernization tweaks to pass.
Following the removal of those measures, The Olde Mecklenburg and NoDa breweries, acting under the Craft Freedom LLC banner, filed a lawsuit in May alleging that the state’s distribution cap and franchise laws are unconstitutional.
Both companies, which are closing in on the 25,000-barrel production cap, also ended their membership in the Guild in order to pursue the lawsuit, which is currently entering the discovery phase. The state of North Carolina has filed a motion to dismiss and transfer the case to a three-judge panel, which will likely be considered in early spring 2018, according to an attorney for Craft Freedom.
Bartholomaus told Brewbound that although the Guild supports Craft Freedom’s efforts, it is not involved in the lawsuit.
“We continue to hope that an agreement can be come to that allows all parties room to grow their businesses and be successful,” he said.
In regards to the Guild’s legislative priorities moving forward, Bartholomaus said many of its objectives were passed into law in July as part of the so-called “Brunch Bill,” which allowed municipalities to allow sales of alcoholic beverages in restaurants, retail establishments, bars and brewery taprooms beginning at 10 a.m. on Sundays.
Other facets of the new law included allowing “farm breweries” in dry counties to obtain a permit to sell their products, legalizing the sale of 32 oz. aluminum “crowler” cans in taprooms and bottle shops, and permitting brewery employees to taste beer for sensory and quality control purposes during the brewing process.
Bartholomaus said the Guild will circle back and reexamine its priorities for 2018 after Lemley starts next month. One issue that the Guild will attempt to bring forward is lowering the state’s excise tax on alcoholic beverages, which is currently $0.62 per gallon.
“Really, the goal in the short session is to rebuild relationships with other industry players and make sure that we’re talking with each other as we consider alcoholic beverage laws and have agreement before a bill goes up,” Bartholomaus said.