Spotlight: AZ Beer Boss Rob Fullmer

Niki D'AndreaSeptember 1, 2023
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Photography by Thomas Ingersoll
Photography by Thomas Ingersoll

AZ Beer Boss

When Rob Fullmer talks about “beer flowing like rivers,” it’s almost not hyperbole. Arizona’s craft beer output was but a trickle when the Milwaukee native and longtime home brewer moved to the Valley in the 1990s. Three decades later, more than 88 breweries keep Arizonans in their cups – gushing growth that Fullmer helped accelerate when he left his tech career to lead the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild. As Fullmer celebrates two milestones this year – the guild’s 25th anniversary and his 10-year tenure as its executive director – he sat down to talk about the beverage that stokes his passion. “Beer has really transformed my life,” he says. “It’s allowed me to travel and see parts of the state that nobody gets to see.” The next stop for Fullmer is Heritage at Sportsman’s Park in Glendale, where the Arizona Craft Beer Awards & Festival takes place on Saturday, October 21 ( 

What beer are you drinking right now?

I’m drinking a Café Oro from Oro Brewing Company in Mesa. It’s a blonde beer. It has coffee in it, it still retains a light color, but it has this amazing coffee aroma. These are my favorite beers because they kind of trick your brain. I used to work in software development, and to get in a mode of productivity, I’d have some coffee. But the relaxation part of the beer – the clear visual and the crisp finish – causes me to relax. It’s just an easy-drinking beer for me. 

Which guild events are you most excited about?

Our marquee event has been the Arizona Strong Beer Festival [every February]. The festival started out as beer above 8 percent [ABV], but it’s really the state of the state as far as what’s going on with beer in Arizona. We define strong beers as strong in flavor, strong in tradition, strong in character… It’s all about flavor and getting the best flavors out. We had something called the Real Wild & Woodsy festival in Northern Arizona, which was in Flagstaff this past June. We do the Baja Beer Festival in Tucson [every April]. Those are our marquee events, but they’re just to fund our lobbying legislation efforts.

Tell us about your lobbying efforts on behalf of Arizona brewers. 

I’ll start with the federal, because it took about 10 years… and those were efforts to get our excise tax lowered. Excise taxes are paid before any beer is sold, and it’s taxed whether you sell it or not. Through the Brewers Association and our efforts going to D.C. … finally we were able to get our excise tax cut in half for most of the breweries. At the state level… we want to have the option to ship directly to the consumer. State law says that we can use UPS or FedEx to do this, but during the last administration, we felt like that was taken off the table. We’re gonna work on state law to make sure that we can deliver beer through those common carriers.

How long do you think you’ll continue to follow beer around?

I want to be realistic about the fact that my wife has her timeline… If my wife wants to retire from her job, we’re gonna travel and spend some time at our place up in Flagstaff. But the mission is always gonna be there.

What’s your role in this year’s Arizona Craft Beer Awards & Festival?

My role is oversight of the entire program and to make sure that I’m a host to all participants. I’ll be there generally making sure that our judges are taken care of and that they’re not waiting too long between flights. The award show is super cool. We have so many award-winning beers here, and this is a great way to pull them together.