For James A. McGreevy III, the new president and CEO of the Beer Institute, the beverage is part of his heritage.
In 1934, one year after the repeal of Prohibition, McGreevy's grandfather converted the family barn in New Jersey into a roadhouse. McGreevy's Tavern, as it was called, was in operation for 60 years. (It is now a Portuguese restaurant.)
As head of the Beer Institute, McGreevy will seek to unify an industry renowned for century-old rivalries and fierce competition. During an interview at the organization's suite of offices last week, he sipped what appeared to be a lager, although the diplomatic executive declined to identify his favorite beer. "I don't know if I can say," McGreevy said, gesturing to an array of some 25 beers in the Institute's boardroom. "I like all beers."
McGreevy, who was introduced to the Beer Institute's board at the annual membership meeting on May 13, will represent brewers and importers on taxation, regulation, and a host of policy matters. One issue of concern is a troubled aluminum industry.
"Right now, the aluminum market is completely dysfunctional for the end users," he said. "That has created a lot of added costs for users. If you crack open a can of beer, you wouldn't think that there's an issue with how the can became a can, but that's a very big problem."
According to a joint study by the Beer Institute and the National Beer Wholesalers Association, the beer industry totaled about $247 billion in 2012. Apart from major brewers such as MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch, the Beer Institute represents about 80 companies, which together support more than 2 million jobs.
Suds also generates a vast sum of public dollars. In 2012, the industry paid more than $49 billion in business, personal, and consumption taxes.
McGreevy, who does not officially start until June 23, was most recently senior vice president of government affairs at the American Beverage Association. He takes over from Joe McClain, who vacated the top post in December.
Born in Northern New Jersey, McGreevy was raised where "politics was always noise in the background," he said. His father was a health inspector for the city of Newark and his uncle was the mayor of Belleville.
McGreevy studied sociology at Seton Hall University with the intention of becoming a police officer but later decided on law school as a way into politics. After graduating from the University of Bridgeport Law School, he worked for a year in the Manhattan District Attorney's Office before heading to Saint Paul, Minn., as an aide to then-state Senate Majority Leader Roger D. Moe. From 1999 to 2005, McGreevy was an associate with law firm Larkin Hoffman in Minnesota.
Apart from his legal practice, McGreevy has periodically ventured into politics. He served as Northeast Pennsylvania field director for the 1992 Clinton-Gore presidential campaign, as deputy finance director for Hubert "Skip" Humphrey's 1998 gubernatorial campaign, and, finally, as a lead advance person for the 2004 Kerry-Edwards presidential campaign.
McGreevy, 49, moved to Washington in 2005 when his wife, Rachel McGreevy, was hired by the International Council of Shopping Centers. (She is now a lobbyist at MasterCard.) They live in D.C. and have a 6-year-old daughter, Elizabeth. "We pretty much do whatever she wants," he said.