As a child, Candace Moon wanted to be a rock star. Turns out she’s exactly that, except in the craft beer industry versus music. After getting a degree in entertainment law from San Diego’s Thomas Jefferson School of Law, Moon became disenchanted with the world of law, and instead chose to tend bar at Hamilton’s Tavern in South Park. The rest is craft beer history.
“I met a wine lawyer and realized that I knew a lot of brewers, but no attorneys focusing on their industry. So I thought I would,” said Moon. In 2009 she opened her firm, The Craft Beer Attorney, and the business exploded along with San Diego’s craft beer industry.
Since 2015, Moon has been sharing her wisdom in San Diego State University’s Business of Craft Beer Professional Certificate program, educating students on the complexities and realities of opening a brewery. Her original course, Brewery Start-Up, has since been expanded to two six-week courses, given the volume of information.
In Brewery Start-Up I, students get all the information they need to open, manage or work in a start-up brewery. Guest speakers bring real-world experience to every topic, and a trip to a local brewery is included. In Brewery Start-Up II: The Business Plan, students work through a concept development process to confirm the market is interested in their product, then develop a business plan based on facts and figures, ready for investors.
Moon answered some questions about her courses and her career.
How did you come to be an instructor with SDSU’s Business of Craft Beer program?
I met Giana [Rodriguez], the program director at the time, at a San Diego Brewers Guild meeting and told her about my practice. I had done some teaching of law students, and told her how much I enjoyed that. I let her know if she was interested in having anyone teach about beer law, I would love to help out!
Given that there was no specialized craft beer counsel prior to you, what did brewers do?
Either paid large firms a lot of money to learn their business or just didn’t hire an attorney.
What are students consistently surprised to learn when it comes to the logistics of starting a brewery?
The number of regulations and laws involved, but maybe that’s just because I teach the legal part! I would also say the financial aspect is quite daunting.
Can you share a fascinating legal anecdote that you use in class?
I’m not sure that anything legal could be considered fascinating, but I do generally mention that if you are doing something illegal, don’t post it on social media! I had one potential client who apparently advertised his homebrew for sale on Facebook, and was surprised when ABC showed up and cited him.
Can you give us an overview of the kinds of legal issues involved in starting a brewery?
Founder disputes, trademark infringement, breach of contract issues, employment law, licensing….
Is it even possible (certainly not advisable) for someone to go it alone legally when opening a brewery?
It’s possible, but there are so many potential pitfalls, it definitely would not be a good idea.
At what point did other craft beer attorneys start cropping up?
I started in 2009, and I think within a couple of years there were a few other attorneys across the country doing a similar type of practice. Although most of the ones I know work with all craft beverages, not just beer.
Do you have a favorite craft beer?