Monday, August 10, 2009

House call

In a joint statement last week and again this week, the Brewers Association and American Homebrewers Association put out a call for beer enthusiasts to urge their reps in Congress to join the House Small Brewers Caucus, meaning you should write emails or letters to those reps suggesting they make themselves part of that body formed two years ago to lend a voice to the interests of small commercial brewers and homebewers alike.

Not surprisingly, New Jersey beer, whether produced by the make-your-own crowd or microbrewers, has no representation on this body. (New York has four federal lawmakers on it, while Pennsylvania has three.)

In New Jersey the congressman who’s in line for the most pressure from such cajoling efforts would be Leonard Lance, whose sprawling, one-side-of-the-state-to-the-other 7th Congressional District is home to five Jersey brewers: Climax in Roselle Park; JJ Bitting in Woodbridge; Trap Rock in Berkeley Heights; Pizzeria Uno in Edison/Metuchen; and the Ship Inn in Milford.

About Rep. Lance:

Lance is a freshman on Capitol Hill (elected in 2008 and sworn in to office back in January; he also bears a resemblance to actor Strother Martin of Cool Hand Luke fame). Before Mr. Lance went to Washington, he was a legacy in New Jersey politics, a fixture in Trenton whose father, as a state senator before him, helped redraft the state’s constitution 62 years ago (the one we operate under now).

A self-described fiscal conservative, Lance was never one to shy away from taking a crack at money wasters. One of his confirmed kills in Trenton was icing (via a lawsuit) ex-Governor Jim McGreevey’s trick of borrowing to even out the state’s finances. In his so-far brief stint in D.C., Lance voted no on the Obama stimulus package but supported giving the Food and Drug Administration the power to regulate tobacco and how it’s marketed. His congressional Web site is here.

Rounding out the list of Jersey reps with breweries or brewpubs in their districts are:

Rodney Freylinghuysen, Republican. Production brewers Cricket Hill (Fairfield) and High Point (Butler), and Krogh’s brewpub (Sparta) are in his 11th District.

Frank Pallone, Democrat. Brewpubs Original Basil’s T (Red Bank) and Harvest Moon (New Brunswick), as well as contract brewers Hometown Beverage (Oceanport/Manasquan) are in his 6th District.

John Adler, Democrat, another 2009 freshman to Congress. Flying Fish (Cherry Hill) and Basil T’s (Toms River) are in his 3rd District.

Frank LoBiondo, Republican, 2nd District. Tun Tavern (Atlantic City).

Rob Andrews, Democrat, 1st District. Iron Hill (Maple Shade).

Bill Pascrell, Democrat, 8th District. Gaslight (South Orange) and Boaks Beverage (Pompton Lakes).

Rush Holt, Democrat, 12th District. River Horse Brewing (Lambertville).

The folks at the Brewers Association in Boulder, Colorado, point out that while only 49 reps belong to the caucus, there are 344 congressional districts across the country that are home to at least one small brewery. And it’s a good bet that every one of the 435 districts is populated by some homebrewers and beer enthusiasts.

Hence, the Brewers Association and AHA put out their call. But the timing is pretty bad, no matter how solid of an idea this is. Here’s why: Healthcare reform right now sits on the plates of all 535 federal lawmakers (Senate and House) like that broccoli George H. W. Bush said he hated to eat. Suggesting right now that a congressman sign onto the small brewers caucus, well, it’s just not going to rise above the din of town hall scrums and the crossfire of healthcare debate.

On the other hand, the Brewers Association Points out: In these uncertain economic and legislative times, you can imagine how important it is to educate Congress about the community of homebrewers, beer enthusiasts and small brewers.


1 comment:

Congressman Leonard Lance said...


I wanted to let you know that I recently toured Climax in Roselle Park to announce my membership to the House Small Brewers Caucus.

I am proud to be the only member of the New Jersey congressional delegation on the Small Brewers Caucus.

In an effort to reducing the tax burden on New Jersey’s brewers, I am a cosponsor of HR 836, the “Brewers Excise and Economic Relief (BEER) Act of 2009,” which effectively returns the federal beer excise tax back to its pre-1991 level of $9 per barrel.

This legislation would reduce the tax burden for all brewers and specifically reduces the small brewer rate by 50% to $3.50 a barrel.

Rest assured I will continue to support and promote New Jersey's small domestic producers in order to keep this American industry thriving. These are good jobs in our local communities that protect a fine American craftsmanship.

Best personal wishes,

Leonard Lance
Member of Congress