Monday, June 24, 2013

Crony beer

Our political leaders talk all the time about the virtues of small business and the incubator... event the driver of our economy.  You would think they would be doing whatever they can to help small business thrive and grow.

Unless some big business wants to squash competition and can find a willing lawmaker to carry their water beer.
TALLAHASSEE - A battle is brewing between Florida's craft beermakers, including Tampa's popular Cigar City, and the Big Beer lobby, representing the state's distributors.

It came to a head in this spring's legislative session when the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association opposed a bill that would have allowed craft brewers to sell their suds direct to consumers by the half-gallon, in 64-ounce jugs known as "growlers."
Can someone help me understand why we need regulations on the size of beer servings?  What is the magic of 64 ounces over 60 ounces or 72 ounces?

Lots of flavorful craft beers
Tampa is gaining recognition among craft brew aficionados as a top 5 craft beer destination, including Cigar City, among several others, such as Tampa Bay Brewing Company, Tampa Cold Storage, Barley Mow Brewing Company in Largo, Saint Somewhere Brewing Company in Tarpon Springs, Peg's Cantina & Brew Pub in Gulfport, New World Brewery in Ybor City and Mr. Dunderbak's and Four Green Fields in Tampa.

Seems like this could  be some small businesses we can all support and enjoy.

Do we have some Bloombergology moving from the soda wars now invading beer?
[Adam Rubin, executive director of the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association... "Big Beer"] points to a bill that passed this year, allowing the state's craft liquor distillers to directly sell two bottles per customer per year, as "conscious policy making."

"If you're going to have an exception, the question becomes, what is the nature and extent of that exception?" he said. "This is a legitimate public policy debate."
Well maybe... 2 bottles of beer a year?!  Hold me back!

But no, this is really not a new temperance movement.

So what's up?
The Florida Brewers Guild, which represents craft brewers and brewpubs, this year supported the half-gallon growler bill (HB 715/SB 1344).

In March, Sen. Maria Sachs, a Delray Beach Democrat, offered an amendment to the Senate bill. The Florida Beer Wholesalers Association had contributed $2,000 to Sachs' 2012 campaign, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

The amendment would have allowed half-gallon growlers, as well as take-home sales by "startup breweries."

But it also would have required breweries taking advantage of the exception to have "at least 25 enclosed acres of land," "a controlled entrance and exit," "permanent exhibitions and a variety of recreational activities" and "at least 1 million visitors annually (who) pay admission fees."

In other words, the legal exception-which had never explicitly mentioned theme parks-would almost certainly apply only to them and not to craft brewers.
So, Sen Maria Sachs (D), bought off by Big Beer, craftily offers some legislature to eliminate local craft brewers options to sell more of the product.  She's against small business.

At least nothing was passed restricting craft brewers this year in Tallahassee.  But there's always next year!

What is Big Beer afraid of?

Are they afraid of their consumers discovery the mass marketed, heavily advertised bland, watered down, flavorless beer they've offered all these years really does not hold a candle against a well crafted micro-brew?

Are they afraid people will actually like the new brew?

Are they afraid of the competition?
Cigar City's beers, which have won national and global awards, have gained a national following since debuting in 2009, including its 'Jai Alai' India pale ale and 'Maduro' brown ale. About 1,500 people a week visit the Spruce Street brewery. Its yearly beer release party-Hunahpu's Day, named after the Mayan god of chocolate-attracts thousands, and [Joey] Redner now employs 52 people.

Both sides expect to butt heads again next session. And retail sales and tasting rooms at breweries will continue to be a sore point for Big Beer.

"That's where we can tell our story," Redner said. "And if our story wasn't compelling - and our product wasn't so good - we wouldn't be here."
Thanks.  I'll have another round.

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