MBAA Designated Heritage Brewer Award

On October 22, 2013, in Austin, Texas, I formally presented to the MBAA Board of Governors the intent of our Heritage Committee to establish an MBAA Designated Heritage Brewer Award.

Aspects of preservation, heritage, and history have long been a quest and a priority for many enlightened and forward-thinking nations, professional organizations, and concerned citizens. The Designated Heritage Brewer (DHB) Award is our attempt to join that quest by recognizing selected brewers who actively engage in preserving significant aspects of America's great brewing heritage.

At times, our contemporary beer world seems to be obsessed only with extremes. We celebrate either the sheer bigness of the mega-merged brewers and the massive global impact of their product proliferation, or we celebrate the smallness of all things "craft" with a narrowly defined mindset of "no adjunct" use and limited big-brewery ownership. Often, in between these extremes are decades-old regional brewers, some of impressive historic significance. These brewers have often gone above and beyond the call to preserve, celebrate, and even showcase their personal brewing heritage in various ways. Perhaps they have done this through generations of ongoing family ownership, by actively using and preserving significant brewing architecture, or by proudly following age-old recipes that utilized the traditional methods and the local ingredients that were originally available to them.

The DHB Award would be open to all brewers, regardless of size, and would not restrict ingredient use. On the contrary: our award would celebrate the ongoing use of whatever was "original" and "traditional" regarding ingredients and process in America's rich brewing heritage. Our award would include the ongoing heritage of the huge conglomerates. It would include the preservation attitude of beer style rediscovery, so prevalent with many microbreweries. And it would include everything in between. MBAA alone, with its 127-year history, is uniquely qualified to facilitate this award. It is a natural reflection and extension of our own rich heritage, if not an outright responsibility for further advocacy in recognizing all aspects of America's brewing heritage.

I have already engaged the members of the Heritage Committee for their input in establishing the DHB Award criteria. As a starting point, I have listed some criteria ideas, in no particular order.

To qualify for the MBAA Designated Heritage Brewery Award, the brewer/brewery:

  1. Represents generations of continuous, ongoing family ownership, as defined by accepted genealogical techniques of proof.
  2. Are actively using, maintaining, and preserving brewing buildings and structures which are recognized as significant examples of a prominent architectural style.
  3. Own, use, maintain, and preserve buildings and structures that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  4. Are actively using, maintaining, and preserving brewing buildings and structures associated with important events, activities, or persons that contribute to broader patterns of American history and culture.
  5. Continue to produce beer brands using traditional methods that were utilized by their original owners or ancestors.
  6. Continue to produce beer brands using traditional recipes and ingredients that were originally available to and utilized by their original owners or ancestors.

More than likely, the DHB Award would involve some combination of these criteria, or some minimum number of them. I see the end result, the award itself, as a beautiful wooden plaque with an engraved brass plate (to be designed) commemorating the event. Each "award story" could be published in the MBAA Communicator and on the MBAA website. Maybe, as we acquire enough, we could publish their stories under one cover, in book form.

But this is just a start and just my personal thoughts. I have asked members of the Heritage Committee for their thoughts and contributions as to our acceptance criteria, and now, I am asking for your feedback, as well. One of my favorite Shakespearian quotes comes to mind... from Shakespeare's The Tempest: "What's prologue." In that spirit, I thank you now for your thoughts on what could be MBAA's own ongoing contribution to America's brewing heritage.


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