Insider Columns

National Beer Wholesalers Association President & CEO Craig Purser provides industry commentary each quarter for ABL Insider, a publication of American Beverage Licensees (ABL), a national trade association for retail alcohol beverage license holders across the United States. Each column provides insight on issues of concern to beer distributors, their retail partners and others in the alcohol beverage industry. To learn more about ABL Insider, please visit


When America’s beer distributors gathered recently at NBWA’s 77th Annual Convention in New Orleans, it was an opportunity to celebrate the tremendous opportunity that exists in the industry today – an intensely competitive industry operating within an effective system that works so well for so many.


The beer business has certainly seen its ups and downs since the end of Prohibition and the decades that have followed. No doubt, the industry is dynamic and full of surprises for brewers, distributors and retailers alike. Today, 3,000 American breweries are competing to bring thousands of different labels to distributors, who deliver a variety of beers to licensed retailers and ultimately to the hands of consumers. Thanks to today’s independent distribution system, the smallest start-up breweries can reach the same store shelves and bar taps as the largest multinational beer brands.


No matter where you live in the United States, your community has likely seen a new brewery or brewpub recently open for business. With more than one brewery opening each day over the last two years, new breweries continue to bring excitement to the American beer industry.


The year is off to a great start for advocates of the 21st Amendment as two courts recently ruled in favor of granting states leeway in tailoring their individual alcohol regulatory systems. These legal decisions are victories not just for state lawmakers but for every segment of the alcohol industry, consumers and the public, who all benefit from an effective regulatory system that allows states the flexibility to deal with local needs, concerns and circumstances as they see fit.


This fall, nearly 4,000 members of the beer industry – a record number of attendees – gathered in Las Vegas for the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) 76th Annual Convention and Trade Show. With more than 500 labels of beer featured on the Trade Show Floor, beer distributors from across the country were buzzing with enthusiasm over the innovation and opportunity in today’s beer industry.


Main Street retailers and beer distributors face many challenges. One challenge that may seem unique to distributors also has real, negative consequences for independent retailers.


Today, there are more than 2,400 breweries in operation across America, and more than 13,000 labels of beer for American consumers to enjoy. Without a doubt – America is in the midst of a beer boom! This success is due in large part to the effectiveness of the independent three-tier distribution system that allows access to market for brewers of all sizes and a state-based regulatory system that works to level the playing field between brewers, distributors and retailers.


With new sessions of Congress and state legislatures now underway, debates over the public debt, government spending, taxes and economic reform are taking center stage.  As local businesses in communities across the country, independent alcohol retailers and licensed beer distributors must be engaged in these discussions by educating elected leaders, the media and the public about your businesses’ economic impact and the quality jobs you provide. 


This October, nearly 2,000 members of the beer industry gathered in San Diego to attend the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) 75th Annual Convention and to celebrate the start of NBWA’s 75th year as an association.  The meeting was a chance to celebrate NBWA’s history and the beer distribution industry’s past, but also to continue to make plans for our future.


As local businesses in communities across the country, independent alcohol retailers and licensed beer distributors are in a great position to educate members of Congress and local leaders about your businesses and the quality jobs you provide.  Independent retailers and beer distributors work together to create a level playing field for beer brands of all sizes, ensuring that  consumers have access to incredible choice and variety. 


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