Paralegal Perspective: Working In the World of Craft Alcohol

By Mollie Schwam

I started working at Beer Law Center in September 2015 while I was in paralegal school at Meredith College. I was anxious to join the workforce and earn a paycheck. I knew nothing about beer and even less about the myriad laws surrounding the alcohol industry. After my first year working at Beer Law Center I grew somewhat comfortable using words like “TTB,” “specimen,” “unfortified wine,” “Brewers Notice,” “Basic Permit,” etc. The intricacies of alcohol law were not covered at Meredith College. For me it was trial and error until I understood the craft beverage lingo and procedures. And, it was not until I attended local and national beer conferences that I realized an innovative, powerful work force was behind the beer.

The world of craft alcohol is a small one; so small in fact that Beer Law Center is one of approximately 20 law firms in the country solely dedicated to the legalities of craft beverages. Within this tight-knit community of beer drinkers, camaraderie exists among the legal professionals, the brewers, the distillers, and the retailers. At beer conferences we exchange hard-to-find beer with our out-of-state competitors. Sometimes our clients give us a case of their beer, and sometimes the attorney is welcomed to a client’s brewery to brew beer. Some over enthusiastic clients even shout “That’s our attorney!” at events. The relationship between lawyer and client clearly expands outside the walls of Beer Law Center.

Many of our clients start breweries, distilleries, or meaderies because they want to make great craft beer, spirits, wine, etc. Running a community craft beverage facility is not a get rich scheme. Money and greed does not fuel a lot of breweries/distilleries/meaderies; passion and conviction keep the alcohol moving.  After I tell colleagues, friends, or family that I’m a paralegal I’m always asked, “What type of law?” I receive wide-eyed looks after replying “alcohol regulation.” I explain that I help breweries and distillers become licensed at the federal and state level. I do not explain that I help a lot of hardworking, brave people who put a lot on the line (financially and emotionally) to cultivate their craft. I do not elaborate or detail the passion that brewers or distillers have or how excitement resides in their face when they finally open their doors to the public. That’s an aspect of the job that you can’t really explain until you’ve seen it firsthand.

Working with alcohol is creative and complicated. The laws are not intuitive and can vary state-to-state.  But, with a steep learning curve, I think I have finally found my footing.

What does Beer Law Center do?

We are not just beer; we represent distilleries, meaderies, alcohol retail stores, and breweries. Legally, Beer Law Center encompasses all aspects of the craft beverage industry from business formation, contract review, federal trademark registration, federal and state permitting, beverage labeling, formula approval, and buying and selling businesses.

To learn about our specific practice areas please visit our website at

Mollie Schwam is a North Carolina Certified Paralegal with Matheson & Associates PLLC in Raleigh. Mollie graduated from Smith College in Northampton, MA with a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in psychology. During college Mollie interned at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina in Raleigh. Observing the dynamics in the courtroom between lawyers, judges and witnesses was an exciting and truly eye-opening experience. After college Mollie worked at the Raleigh Police Department as a volunteer and participated in ride-alongs with other volunteers. Both of these experiences cemented her passion for the field of law. Mollie obtained her paralegal certificate from Meredith College.

To take a break from law Mollie enjoys reading books, preferably historical fiction by Philippa Gregory, and hiking along North Carolina trails with her small, yet feisty, dog.