It’s official. After more than a year of thoughtful deliberation and surmounting legal hurdles, Free the Hops is now part of the Alabama Brewers Guild, and the leadership of both organizations are looking forward to sharing resources in the continuing battle to improve the beer landscape for consumers and professional brewers alike.

As many of you know, FTH has worked closely with the Guild since it was founded in 2009, advocating for mutually beneficial legislative change. So, in truth, this is less of a functional change for either group and more of an official seal being placed on a common law marriage of two entities that have been working toward similar goals for a decade.

Many of the Guild’s officers are former or inactive members of FTH or are previous FTH officers themselves. Likewise many of our members have worked in the local beer industry on the brewing or retail side or have otherwise aided Guild members through our education efforts, volunteer work, or simply by buying local to stock the beer fridge. Most of us know and respect the brewers and brewery staff and owners who make up the Guild. The transition, therefore, will likely be so smooth as to be practically nonexistent. Very little will change for members of either group, outside of having a more unified front with which to advocate for craft beer in our state and better allocation of resources among the two.

Free the Hops now exists as an independent program under the Guild. The group’s leadership remains in place, having transitioned to a “Governing Committee” that includes board members, officers and chapter heads. In the coming months, we will look at additional roles that may need to be filled, so any member in good standing that would like to become more involved in helping steer the ship, please reach out. If you have a background in social media or web content generation, media relations or writing for the media, graphic design, event planning, photography, or any other skill that might be useful in helping us present our new unified vision to the world, let leadership know.

Guild Executive Director Dan Roberts, whom most of you know as a longtime member of Free the Hops and sometime “Blue Shirt” volunteer, is adamant that the Guild will not micromanage Free the Hops but will instead support our mission of consumer-driven education and advocacy as we continue to utilize our volunteers for events that help further the Guild’s trade-driven interests as they improve the situation for brewers, retailers and consumers alike.

On behalf of the FTH Governing Committee, we are looking forward to a very bright shared future that will not only help both groups better achieve their stated purposes through improved allocation of resources, improved accountability and infrastructure, but also hopefully bring the brewers back into our fold as we become more fully a part of their congregation. Beer, after all, is a social beverage, and this organization is at its heart a social group who happen to work toward improving our beer community and state while enjoying fellowship over a good beer or two. We hope this merger will bring with it a renewed sense of purpose for us all and also a renewed emphasis on strengthening the bonds between us through shared labor toward a meaningful goal AND the shared enjoyment of the delicious, fermented fruits (and grains) of that labor.