- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 8, 2006

Craig Purser doesn’t just like beer. He’s a beer advocate. Mr. Purser is the new president of the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA), an Alexandria trade group of beer distributors.

“This is a product that is heavily regulated, heavily taxed. It’s a product that isn’t like other consumer goods. It’s unique,” said Mr. Purser, who served as vice president of the organization for nearly seven years.

In his new role, Mr. Purser, 39, will be in charge of overseeing the NBWA’s lobbying efforts on behalf of beer distributors, which include brewers, suppliers and retailers.

“Our companies are all privately held. The vast majority of them are all family-owned or -operated,” he said. “We work every day to remind people that beer is a socially sensitive product that if consumed irresponsibly can have serious consequences.

“But we’re also simultaneously advocating that it’s very much a product that is part of culture, it’s part of America.”

Before joining the association in 1996, Mr. Purser worked at D.C. lobbying firm Fleishman-Hillard, where he represented beer giant Anheuser-Busch and its distributors.

“Craig is well-respected throughout the beer industry and brings years of experience with alcohol policy and regulatory issues to the table,” said NBWA Chairman Phillip A. Short, president and chief executive officer of P.A. Short Distributing Co. in Hollins, Va.

Maintaining a state-based regulatory system is one of the association’s key interests.

“Alcohol is not a product that should be sold without any regard for local attitudes and citizen feelings about the product. In my home state of Oklahoma, a person feels very differently about alcohol than does somebody in New York,” Mr. Purser said. “If you can have competition in the marketplace of ideas, then you’re probably going to have a pretty good, reasonably regulated system.”

Studies show that beer, in moderation, can be part of a healthy lifestyle, he added.

Mr. Purser said he plans to promote small business, which in turn results in a diversity of brews.

“What the American system does is it really provides tremendous choice and variety for consumers,” he said. “Our member companies provide access to market for small brewers, importers and virtually every brand that you can imagine.”

The beer industry is a fun business, said Mr. Purser, who lives in Alexandria with his wife, Gretchen, and their three children.

“The nature of the product itself is celebration,” he said. “If you ask people what their experience is with beer, usually it brings a smile to someone’s face.”

— Kara Rowland

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