Brian Butenschoen has been the Executive Director of the Oregon Brewers Guild since 2005, but has reportedly vacated the role amid mysterious conditions, according to an internal OBG email that was circulated late last week. Butenschoen was a Belmont Station employee before landing the job, which was a much smaller operation in the years before the modern brewing boom. The Oregon Brewers Guild is the not-for-profit craft beer industry trade group that presents such events as Zwickelmania, Cheers to Belgian Beers, and the Portland Fresh Hop Festival, as well as acting as a lobbyist for Oregon craft brewery members.
In an announcement sent out by current Oregon Brewers Guild elected president Dan Engler (of Occidental Brewing), Butenschoen was thanked for thirteen years of service. It’s unclear whether Butenschoen left the guild to seek other opportunities or if the board decided it was time for a change. But the sudden vacancy of the top position at the guild without a replacement lined up invites some speculation as to internal struggles.
The New School reached out to president Dan Engler and other OBG elected committee members and received no official response. Another inquiry to Brian Butenschoen also has not yet received any response. The email from Engler to OBG brewery members notes that for now the Executive Director duties will be split up between elected board members.
The Oregon Brewers Guild had recently hired an assistant director, Rena Krumholz, in early October. It’s worth noting that there have been longtime complaints about guild’s transparency, and festival/events management, as well as the influence of larger breweries such as Widmer Brothers Brewing (which is no longer considered a craft brewery by the national trade group Brewers Association, but is an influential member of the OBG). Meanwhile, small independent contract breweries like Pono Brewing have complained that the guild does not support them and offers no chances for membership. On the flipside, Butenschoen is often credited with defeating the big proposed Oregon beer tax hike of 2009, and with another major proposed tax hike currently on the horizon, the industry will need a strong leader at the Guild.