Heard on the Hill

Trade War Sends Lawmakers on Beer Crawl

Kaine, Warner, Perdue and others visit breweries to talk tariffs

Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., spoke on tariffs at the Anheuser-Busch Brewery in Cartersville, Georgia, earlier this month. (Courtesy Sen. David Perdue’s office)

A number of members of Congress headed out to breweries this summer, but not to quietly enjoy a beer.

While some sampled the product while there, the lawmakers for the most part used the sites as backdrops to criticize the trade war that President Donald Trump launched with his tariffs on aluminum and steel imports.

American brewers fill and sell about 36 billion aluminum cans and bottles per year, according to a Beer Institute report. Brewers say tariffs will make it more expensive to package their products and they’ll have to raise prices for their customers. 

Lawmakers talked to workers about their concerns over how the trade war will hit them. 

“The folks at the brewery were very concerned about the tariff issues considering the amount of aluminum they utilize on a daily basis,” Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine said about a visit to Anheuser-Busch’s brewery in Williamsburg earlier this month.

Kaine’s Virginia Democratic colleague, Sen. Mark Warner, visited Hardywood Park Craft Brewery in Richmond in June.

“From what the brewers told me, this trade war is making cans a heck of a lot more expensive,” he said.

Republican Sen. David Perdue told employees at Anheuser-Busch’s brewery in Cartersville, Georgia, on Aug. 3, “I do not favor a broad tariff like we’ve had on steel and aluminum. ... There are some benefits because you protect the producers of that, but you also cause price increases for the users of that product, and that’s an imbalance,” the Daily-Tribune reported.

Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., took some stabs at President Donald Trump while recounting his brewery visit. (Courtesy of Lieu on Twitter)
Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., took some stabs at President Donald Trump while recounting his brewery visit. (Courtesy Rep. Ted Lieu via Twitter)

California Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu went to Lady Face Ale Co. on Aug. 4. His conversations about tariffs were focused on craft breweries.

“I did hear concern about how aluminum prices would impact business from folks at a Craft Brewery Roundtable,” he said. “I heard from multiple brewers … their concern about how Trump’s aluminum tariffs would impact the sheet aluminum they use to make cans. Smaller craft beer producers will feel these price increases more acutely than larger corporations.”

In July, Wisconsin Democratic Rep. Ron Kind visited the La Crosse City Brewery and called the trade policy “reckless.”

“Wisconsin breweries are an important part of Wisconsin’s heritage and economy. The President’s reckless trade policies are threatening an industry we are proud of, and throwing our state into the throes of his trade war. He needs to stop enacting trade policies that hurt Wisconsin businesses and jobs,” Kind said.

Washington Democratic Rep. Suzan DelBene was at the Washington Breweries Festival in June to support the industry.

“The brewers at the Washington Brewers Festival had an amazing selection, and I especially enjoyed some great beer from the 1st Congressional District,” she said. “Everything was on tap at the festival, but I had some important conversations with brewers about the impacts tariffs on aluminum are having on their industry.”

Colorado Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette visited Great Divide Brew in July and Alternation Brewing Company on Aug. 21.

“Beer production, from creating the product itself to packaging and marketing it, is big business in Colorado,” DeGette said. “By next year, there will be as many as 100 craft breweries in my district alone. Almost every one of them offers their product in cans; the Trump administration’s tariffs on aluminum add to the cost of each serving. That’s hurting consumers along with my constituents working in this industry.”

From the Archives: Rep. Scott Checks Out Local Brewery, Boat-Building Workshop Before Town Hall

How was the beer?

On his visit to Anheuser-Busch’s brewery in Williamsburg, Kaine got to sample a “freshly brewed Budweiser right off the line.” That’s what he prefers in everyday life, too. He said his go-to is a draft beer right from the tap.

At Hardywood Park Craft Brewery in Richmond, Warner tried a pint of beer.

“I went with the classic, a Richmond Lager. My staff informs me that the Virginia Pale Ale was good, too,” the senator said, adding that he prefers bottles to cans.

Lieu couldn’t help but sample some of the brew while at Lady Face Ale Co.

“How could I not when my district has some of the best craft breweries in the country? I’m not a beer scientist, but I’m pretty sure my district's awesome water makes beer taste better. That’s not fake news, by the way,” he said.

And, in Lieu fashion, he took a moment to take a stab at the administration.

“I also want to note that unlike several Trump Cabinet officials, I’m not corrupt. No taxpayer funds were used to pay for the beer,” he said.

At the La Crosse City Brewery, Kind said, “It’s important to stay hydrated while on a brewery tour!”

He drank a City Brewery beer out of an aluminum can.

On bottles versus cans, he said: “Whether it’s packaged in bottles, cans, or kegs, any beer from Wisconsin is a great choice!” 

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