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Friday, February 17, 2017

Oregon Breweries Get Political

Yesterday, the President of the United States stood before the press and told them: "We got 306 because people came out and voted like they've never seen before so that's the way it goes. I guess it was the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan." This was for an election in which he received fewer votes than his opponent that happened three months ago. This kind of disconnect with reality has provoked heretofore apolitical entities into action--including a group of Portland beer fans who formed into a group called the Beer Party PDX. On Monday, they host their inaugural initiative:
The Beer Party PDX Launch Event takes place on Monday, February 20 at participating businesses. 100% of the revenue from purchased kegs will go to the ACLU. Participating bars include Bailey’s Taproom, Bazi Bierbrasserie, Beer Mongers, Belmont Station, Imperial, Lombard House, Roscoe’s, Saraveza, The Thirsty Sasquatch, The Upper Lip, Tin Bucket, and Uptown Market. Participating breweries include Baerlic, Base Camp, Bull Run Cider, Burnside, Cider Riot!, Coalition, Crooked Fence, Culmination, Double Mountain, Heater Allen, Machine House, Matchless, Montavilla, New Belgium, Ninkasi, Pfriem, Ruse, The Commons, Three Magnets, Uptown Market, and Vertigo.  
Since Trump's election, the once safely-sequestered world of politics has been aerosolized and released into the environment, where it touches everything. I guess it will have to be a running theme here on the blog, since every week seems to bring another example of the way in which breweries have entered the political fray. As recently as a few months ago, this wouldn't have seemed like a realm breweries would eagerly enter--partisan politics divides, which means shrinking your potential customer base. But as unprecedented as a President who flagrantly lies about an election we all just witnessed, so is the reaction against him. With Beer Party PDX, we're seeing the contours of how they're trying to take a stand without falling down a partisan tunnel.

As far as I can tell, nowhere does the group use the words "Trump," "Republicans," or "Democrats." Instead, it's mission is "to organize members of the PDX beer community in order to effectively protect and promote basic civil rights including voter access, freedom of speech, and equal rights." In regulating political speech, the courts have regularly allowed nonprofits to organize around specific issues but not partisan candidates. It's a line we've come to recognize as separating the inner and outer core of political action. Beer Party PDX's issues are clearly political; they're not partisan. A brewery can far more easily join the political conversation when the discussion revolves around speech, ballot access, and civil rights rather than the President himself.

It's also worth noting that smaller breweries have greater latitude here. Donald Trump managed just 17% of the vote in Multnomah County, where Portland is located. A small brewery with no plans to sell much outside the cities in Oregon doesn't have a lot to lose by speaking out. Larger breweries like Deschutes, Craft Brewers Alliance, and Rogue, which have distribution in many red states, may be more cautious--though it's therefore impressive to see New Belgium and Ninkasi take the plunge and join this event. Not every brewery has leadership with clear political preferences, but among those that do, more and more are speaking out. It's really a remarkable moment.

I'm starting a new label, "The Trump Effect," for these kinds of posts--I have a hunch this is far from the last one.

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