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Monday, 06 October 2014 16:02

Craft Beer & Politics: More N.J. lawmakers are putting breweries on their radar

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Congressman Frank Pallone paid a call on Carton Brewing last week, taking a tour of the Atlantic Highlands brewery and sampling the beers as part of an observance of National Manufacturing Day.

Let’s be candid for a minute.

It’s an election year. Pallone’s on the ballot, and Atlantic Highlands is in his district. He’s a longtime incumbent and most likely a lock for re-election. Still, face time with constituents, even for a feel-good observance such as National Manufacturing Day, plays well. It’s a bonus if you can do it against a popular backdrop, and craft beer is still ridiculously popular. So, on one level, it’s smart campaigning to find that everyman niche, be populist.

But politics and cynicism aside, there are some important points to highlight off the Democrat’s talk with owners Augie and Chris Carton, cousins who launched the brewery at the Monmouth County bayshore three years ago.

Namely, the brewery’s doing good things for the neighborhood; it has created some jobs and brought people to town and made for a seamless addition to town-wide events as a local favorite. In that regard, the 6th District rep should always have a stop at Carton on the itinerary. Let’s hope Congressman Pallone comes back often. Let’s hope more Jersey reps find the time for the breweries in their districts.

Growing clout
Kind words for craft brewing are being said in a lot of places across the country, as more craft breweries open up and do their thing, which includes loads of community-minded partnerships, by the way. And this is really the point: Craft brewing continues to watch its clout grow, be viewed as an a town asset, an economic tide that lifts the other boats.

On the Garden State’s brewing scene, Pallone’s visit to Carton is another acknowledgment of that. And he has company.

Rep.-Leonard-LanceCongressman Leonard Lance has put in face time at constituents Climax Brewing in Roselle Park, and J.J. Bitting brewpub in Woodbridge, which is now in Pallone’s district. Lance is a member of the House Small Brewers Caucus, an informational congressional panel for the craft brewing industry that formed when Bush 43 was still in the White House.

Last year, Robert Menendez, one of the Garden State’s U.S. senators, toured Flying Fish’s Somerdale facility. Menendez is among lawmakers pushing to lower the federal tax on producing a barrel of beer, a goal of the Brewers Association for quite a while now.

Unless you’re into C-SPAN feeds, this isn’t exactly exciting stuff. But it is important; it’s building friendships in crucial places. Brewing is a regulated industry, on both state and federal levels, and there’s always a need to take stock of the rules, to see if they are still suited to the conditions on the ground, or in need of updating.

And that happens through policy-makers, who make better decisions (we hope) when they have a clearer picture of what’s going on.

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