Bill of Rights

NYSBA Bill of Rights and Guidelines for Brewers Participation in Beer Festivals and Events

Given the explosive growth of the number of Beer Festivals and Events held each year, and the increasing demand upon NYS brewers to donate their beer and resources for those festivals and events, the NYSBA believes it is in the best interest of its membership to establish a Bill of Rights and Guidelines for Brewers Participation in Beer Festivals and Events.

Given that objective, it should be clearly understood that while the NYSBA offers these Bill of Rights and Guidelines to its membership, these are not intended to be declaratory mandates for NYSBA member breweries to follow, void of conscious thought. Every brewery needs to evaluate its own marketing practices and charitable donation policies while at the same time clearly understanding their own rights and the importance of protecting their brand in the face of the distinct differences in events that our members may choose to participate in.


It appears that there are generally three common types of events; (a) For-profit events, (b) 100% Not-for-Profit events, and (c) Events that purport to allocate a portion of the funds raised through ticket sales for a charitable cause (blended event).

The objective of the For-Profit event is clear and should be clearly understood by the NYSBA member. The objective of the individual(s) or entity running such an event is to make as much money as possible from ticket sales and related commerce stemming from that event. Certainly, the right to engage in such a business is a well protected American right.

The objective of the 100% Not-For-Profit event is to raise money for a qualified 26 U.S.C 501 entity or organization and its mission cause.

The objective of the event that purports to donate a portion of the proceeds of ticket sales and related commerce to a charitable cause is not as clear. While some are well intentioned, the possibility of misleading the public, lack of transparency and/or intentional misconduct is possible, and each event must be carefully examined to fully understand how the proceeds of such events are handled.


Every brewer and brewery works extremely hard to craft its product and build its brand. Therefore, the NYSBA offers the following declaration of rights so that every member may feel confident in knowing what should reasonably be expected from a festival or event promoter.

  1. Breweries Should Never Pay a Fee to Attend a Festival or Event.Breweries and their necessary participating attendees have a right to attend a festival for free. Every Brewery participant should never be required to pay an entry fee or “table fee” to be a part of an event, unless there is a direct, adequate and fairly compensable benefit provided in exchange for participation (ie, hotel room, retail purchase of beer). Breweries and their necessary attendees provide enough of their time and energy to a festival and any upfront fee for attendance without an adequate and equally compensable benefit for a reasonable number of brewery representatives is unwarranted.
  2. Breweries Should Never Provide Free Beer to For-Profit events.Breweries have a right to be fairly compensated for their beer. Beer festivals and events have become big business with high profit margins if run correctly. Festival and event promoters that ask a brewer or brewery to donate beer in exchange for the promoter, “exposing a brand to the public” or “getting a brewery name out there” are simply efforts designed to take advantage of the work, and energy a brewery has invested in creating its beer and brand. As a growing collective and artisanal organization, the NYSBA urges each brewer and brewery to recognize that there is no longer a need for a member to give beer away when asked to do so for a for-profit beer festival event. No matter the size or stage of a brewery, the festival organizers can afford to pay for the hard work and effort invested in the beer and the brand, and the NYSBA strongly supports that fundamental right.
  3. Breweries Are Entitled to Proof of Licensing & Insurance of Events.Every brewery has a right to receive proof that the festival or event in which they have agreed to participate in has been properly licensed by the promoter, covers the participating brewery, and is properly insured for what the festival or event is doing.
  4. Breweries Are Entitled to Reasonable Compensation for Time & Travel.Breweries have a right to be reasonably compensated for their expenses for attending a festival in which they are participating. This can vary depending upon the distance traveled to the festival and the number of festival sessions. For necessary brewery attendees traveling a distance, this should mean either a hotel room, or stipend for such expense. Other expenses may include meals, or mileage expenses.
  5. Breweries Have a Right to Proof of Valid Not-For Profit Status and Proportion of Proceeds Donated.Breweries have the right to be charitable. However, breweries also have the right to written proof that a festival organizer, or promoter which claims to be a charitable organization, is a valid 501(c) not-for-profit entity. Moreover, breweries have the right to clearly know what proportion of proceeds from the event are being given to a not-for-profit organization.


There is a common misconception that New York State craft breweries are part of a young and struggling industry and need to participate in the multitude of festivals and events for exposure. This logic is carried to the extreme in some cases with attitudes and expectations of promoters and organizers who believe that breweries should willingly give their beer away for free.

The reality is that our industry has matured and the NYSBA encourages you to carefully consider whether to participate in any such festival or events either 1) because of your own philanthropic philosophy to support events and organizations that you believe in, or 2) you value the marketing opportunity that the event in which you participate affords.

Breweries that continue to give beer away without a sound evaluation of the opportunity are not only cheapening their own craft brand, but also the entire New York craft category by implicitly legitimizing the misconception that we’re desperate for exposure.

Therefore, in addition a Bill of Rights, the Board of Directors of the New York State Brewers Association have approved a set of suggested Guidelines for all craft brewers in the state to use as a blueprint to not only collectively protect each individual brewing brand, but also to ensure each brewery is receiving what it should in terms of proper compensation or in-kind services for these numerous and varied events. They are:

    1. Breweries Should Participate in the NYSBA.Since this is your association, the NYSBA encourages you to participate in any event sponsored by, sanctioned by, or benefitting the New York State Brewers Association. If the NYSBA name is attached to the event, it means that a qualified portion of the proceeds, or in-kind sponsorship trade, will be donated to the NYSBA. It should be clearly known that any money the NYSBA raises ultimately benefits every craft brewer in New York. These funds help by providing greater marketing dollars to promote NYS craft beer and pay for our industry advocates and lobbyists who continue to push for change to make the laws and regulations even more beneficial to every craft brewer in the state. The associated costs of these expenses are wholly dependent on our ability to remain unified in our collective objectives.
    2. Brewery Representative at Each Event.To further the mission of the NYSBA, if you choose to participate in a beer festival, make certain to require a representative from your brewery to pour your beer on site whenever possible or at a minimum, be present to greet attendees and answer questions. The quality, integrity and authenticity of your individual brand requires no less. While, many festivals will tell you that they provide volunteers to pour your beer, the simple truth is that most volunteers cannot speak to the beer or brewery in the same way as true brewery representative can. By having a brewery representative at or near your table throughout the festival, you are in the best position to engage, educate, inform, and sell your beer, your brewery, and your brand much more effectively.With that said, the NYSBA recognizes that smaller breweries may face staffing challenges. So consider other forms of representation, such as a distributor brand managers, friends of the brewery (if properly educated on your brand), or other close relationships that will best represent you and your brewery. Remember, quality, integrity and authenticity of your brand is a sacred asset – do not treat it as a disposable commodity.
    3. Brewery Treatment of Charitable Donations.The NYSBA believes in and strongly supports being charitable and participating in charitable events. However, you should determine a policy that works for your brewery when dealing with charitable festivals or events. Every brewery is different in its ability to handle donations (either with product, staff, merchandise or distributor relations), but you should try to develop a policy that works and then stick with it.A request for a donation in connection with a charitable cause is reasonable. Many of those causes are worthy, and as members of the community in which they operate, your policy as a brewery may decide to honor such a request for the donation of beer with no strings attached. However, the NYSBA encourages you to carefully examine whether the charitable nature of the event is truly charitable and ask for the written verification of their 501(c) status.Furthermore, ask that the request for the donation be in writing and have the request include the name of the charity and what is their mission. The organizer of the charity event should be clear in providing the details of the event. As part of your decision to participate or not participate, if you have a distributor relationship, you should clearly understand the constraints they may place on your policy of donations. It may be necessary to try and cultivate the same vision of your policy of donations with that of your distributor, in order to avoid embarrassing mixed results in your donation strategy.

      In addition, you should set a schedule for examining requests and getting back to the requesting organization in writing – even if it is a “no”. While you may be bombarded with requests, the discipline in following your policy consistently will not only help you manage the flow of requests, but also allow the charities that seek your donation, to understand the volume of requests you may receive may be far greater than the level of donations that you are able to make.

      Finally, keep detailed records of your donations. This will not only allow you to 1) see and understand the amount you may have donated to a particular organization in the past, but also 2) safely claim the accurate value of your donation of beer on your business entity taxes.

    4. Remember to Always Take the High Road.The key to any successful organization is the ability to remain positive with an eye on what needs to be accomplished today and tomorrow. The ability to learn from mistakes or bad experiences and move forward is critical to success. As our industry continues to change and the landscape becomes more crowded with other breweries and brands from outside of New York, it is important to avoid demonizing or criticizing those breweries and their appearance within the state.We must remain unified in what New York breweries have to offer and look to accentuate the positive in what NYS local really means. By maintaining the high road, we will not only garner the respect of our fellow industry members, but also demonstrate by leadership that we all have to work to preserve the fundamental quality of brotherhood and collegiality that makes our industry so attractive.


These RIGHTS and GUIDELINES are designed, written and endorsed by the Board of Directors of the New York State Brewers Association with the best interests of the New York State Craft Brewery in mind and with the objective to ensure that everyone receives fair recognition, compensation and respect for all of the dedication, effort and hard work associated with this craft. If we all demonstrate unity and follow a common practice based on these RIGHTS and GUIDELINES, everyone stands to benefit in the end.

Approved by the NYSBA Board of Directors