This last weekend (2/16-2/18), I had the honor and privilege of teaching the first craft beer law class offered at a U.S. law school (and I believe worldwide). Several of my friends and colleagues are asking me what the heck that looks like.  It must be a joke, right?  Nope.  I’m pretty sure California’s 921 craft breweries would agree with me.

To start, as is often the case with new classes, McGeorge offered this class for one unit over one weekend. Going forward, I am confident that we will offer it as a full semester, two-unit elective class.  So for those who are interested, here is what the class looked like.

Day one: Extensive discussion and analysis of historical bases for regulation, the three-tier system, and tied-house laws.  The students also read all three opinions from the Retail Digital Network case, and we discussed those opinions extensively.  We had a quiz on the first day based on tied house and a mock email from a brewery client asking if it could do this or that under the ABC Act and commensurate regulations.

Day two: Trademarks and distribution.  All.  Day.  Obviously, these two things are very important for any craft brewery.  It was intense and maybe a little long, but definitely worth it.  The students took a quiz analyzing the Stone Brewing complaint (re Keystone’s use of “Stone”) filed in early February.  AJ Tendick from Bike Dog came to class and spoke for about an hour about his experiences with regulations and laws, and we went to the Bike Dog taproom on Broadway in Sacramento where we discussed duplicate licenses for type 23s and may or may not have had a beer or two.

Day 3: Labeling (TTB and ABC), ABC structure and enforcement, and licensing.  Tom McCormick, Director of the California Craft Brewers Association, stopped by and gave a very interesting talk about regulations, politics, and tied house.  He was also very careful to point out the need for lawyers who are knowledgeable and willing to work with independent craft breweries.  We also had a quiz on labeling where we analyzed a label on a can actually in the market to determine TTB and ABC compliance.

We did not get to all the material in Candace Moon’s (the Craft Beer Attorney’s) very helpful book called Brew Law 101. So the students were definitely exposed to some areas of the law that we could not hit in class, including employment, entity formation, etc.

The students will finish the class by writing a research paper on a topic of their choosing that impacts independent craft beer (positively or negatively) based on statutes, regulations, case law, or policy. I left it open on purpose because there are so many interesting topics to discuss.  I can’t wait to read them.

In short, the class was a huge success. The students were awesome—engaged, curious, thoughtful, and passionate.  Thanks to University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of law for supporting me in this endeavor.  I can’t wait to do it again.  We only scratched the surface.

Let me know what you think. Cheers.

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