The longtime executive director of the Oregon Brewers Guild is out. An email sent to members last week announced that Brian Butenschoen was no longer employed by the nonprofit.
Guild president and Occidental Brewing Company co-owner, Dan Engler, wrote that the position's day-to-day responsibilities will be divvied up among board members and the search for a new director would begin immediately. He also expressed appreciation Butenschoen's time spent in the role.
"Brian has been the executive director of the guild since 2005, and we thank him for his years of work for the organization and his dedication to protecting and promoting Oregon beer," Engler said. "We wish him the best as he moves on to other opportunities."
Brewers guilds have played an increasingly important role in states across the country, acting as everything from industry advocates by fighting for favorable laws and lower excise tax rates, to cheerleaders that encourage more people to drink local. The Oregon association is best known for holding events like Zwickelmania, where the public is invited behind the bar and into the brewhouse for special tours and tastings, and publicizing the brewing industry's economic impact.
The email did not specify whether Butenschoen, who worked at Belmont Station for nearly seven years before coming on board at the guild, left on his own or whether the board made the decision to sever ties. Requests for comment from Engler and Butenschoen were not answered by press time. But the sudden departure suggests some discord.
Some members of the brewing community have expressed concern about a lack of guild support, including Pono Brewing co-founder Larry Clouser. He cited outdated bylaws that prohibit membership for breweries without their own brick-and-mortar location, along with a lack of communication when trying to obtain membership.
"Bylaws can be modified and changed. I asked [Brian] what it would take and I just didn't get anywhere with it," Clouser told WW. "The whole purpose of the guild is to build a better brewing community and it just wasn't including all aspects, especially contract breweries."
As it becomes more expensive to open a brewery, contract brewing could become more common, a factor the new director will likely have to confront. Moreover, having strong leadership in place at the guild could be critical given that the Oregon Health Authority is seeking to raise the retail price of beer, wine and cider by 10 percent, according to a draft of the 2019-21 budget.
"We will keep you abreast of our plan as we move ahead," Engler said, "And the board and I look forward to this next chapter in our organization's history."