Fight Brews In Washington Between Craft Brewers And Big Beer Over Tax Breaks

Craft brewers and big brewers are pushing different pieces of legislation for tax breaks.

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Beer bottles lined up on a bottling line machine. Both big beer companies and craft brewers are lobbying for tax breaks this week.

This week in the world of obscure holidays is "American Craft Beer Week," which celebrates small and independent brewers like Dogfish Head and DC Brau. Tuesday, meanwhile, was "Brewers' Day," a day designed mostly for bigger beer companies, such as Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors.

[READ: How Big Beer Is Trying to Stop a Craft Beer Revolution]

Both holidays are being used by brewers big and small to inundate Washington with a single message: we need a tax break.

But big beer and craft brewers don't always see eye-to-eye, so they're asking for different tax breaks in different ways.

Big beer is pushing legislation called the BEER Act, which would drop the federal excise tax for large brewers from $18/barrel to $9. The bill was introduced in the House of Representatives last week, and the Beer Institute, the main trade association group for large-scale brewers, tells Whispers companion legislation could drop in the Senate as early as Wednesday.

Craft brewers, meanwhile, are pushing for passage of their own bill, the Small BREW Act, which would redefine what makes a brewer "small," as well as reduce the federal excise tax from $7/barrel to $3.50 on the first 60,000 barrels a small brewer produces.

[STUDY: Taste of Beer, Not Alcoholic Content, Triggers Brain's Reward Centers]

And both groups are angling for Congress's attention by bringing in the brewers themselves. On Brewers' Day, the Beer Institute flew in executives from Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors and Heineken USA among others to petition lawmakers to support the BEER Act. The Brewers Association, which represents craft brewers, will bring 10 craft brewers to Washington Thursday to meet with senators on the Democratic Senate Steering and Outreach Committee, a committee that liaisons between advocacy groups and the Senate, to push for passage of the Small BREW Act.

The dueling pushes aren't happening without some sharp elbows from both sides.

"We would never oppose [the BEER Act] because there is a lot of good stuff in that bill for our members," says Brewers Association COO Bob Pease, but then noted the taxpayer cost of the BEER Act would be significantly higher than the Small BREW Act. "We see our bill as a jobs creator, because when craft brewers expand production they hire people... whereas we don't necessarily think that the large brewers would [do that], so we don't really that bill as a jobs creation bill."

The Beer Institute, meanwhile, has said it will "actively oppose" the Small BREW Act.

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