Monday, January 19, 2015

Beer we go again

It's that time of year again.  The state legislature is ramping up for the 2015 session, and for the 3rd year in a row, big bland beer wants to use their power, money and clout to squash the craft brewers from selling a better product.

We covered the attempts of big bland beer distributors to hamper the local craft brewers over the last couple of years in Crony Beer and Tears for Beer.

Last month, we were getting some reports that were cautiously optimistic.
The head of the trade group for Florida’s Anheuser-Busch beer distributors announced support Monday for a repeal of the state ban on 64-ounce growlers, the refillable jugs used to take home craft beer on tap.
Recall over the last two years the instigation of these recurring battles is the craft brewers desire to sell "growlers", a 64 ounce jug of beer for customers to purchase fresh beer and enjoy at home. Florida allows 32 and 128 ounce jugs, but inexplicably cannot allow for 64 ounce jugs.

Big bland beer then jumped in to strike a deal with the politicians, apparently feeling threatened by the small brewery on the corner creating a better product. Big bland beer would "support" growlers, but the craft brewers must "distribute" their beer through the distributors. This meant if you enjoyed a fresh brew from the back of the store, the distributor would get a 30% vig and would never have touched a thing.

Our state legislatures came perilously close to making this law in 2014.

This is our government at work.

Is it really just about a Growler?
If craft brewers want to expand their distribution, then they can seek the value that a distributor brings, and this, in fact, is already happening:
[Mitch Rubin, executive director of the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association] members, however, also are distributing more craft beer. For example, Tampa’s Pepin Distributing Co. ships for more than a dozen craft breweries, according to its website, including Tampa Bay Brewing Co.
Of course, be careful with the fine print yet to be written.
Now, Rubin said, his group won’t object to a bill next session if it creates a new section of law just for growlers, including setting labeling and sanitary standards.

“We hope lawmakers will consider such a bill quickly and as a stand-alone product to avoid the larger, more complex issues surrounding the manufacturing, distribution and sale of beer and other malt beverages,” he said.
And now
Florida liquor stores and beer distributors are challenging the way the state issues licenses allowing craft breweries to sell their products in tasting rooms, a move that brewers say could put dozens of breweries out of business or, at the very least, halt rapid growth in the industry.
The Florida Retail Federation is suing the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, and the associations that represent Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors distributors have asked to intervene in support of the suit. Separately, the Florida Independent Spirits Association filed a challenge with the agency. The association includes ABC Fine Wine & Spirits chain, which is the state’s largest liquor store chain.
Rather than wait for the legislature, where thankfully big bland beer failed in their squeeze play the last two years, they are now taking it directly to the courts.

They're after the same outcome -- shutdown the craft brewers tasting rooms, a serendipitous accident in the law to allow the Busch Gardens tasting room back in the day, which has enabled the growth of craft brewers in Florida.

Dana Young of Tampa, has been a consistent voice in support of the craft brewers.
Republican Rep. Dana Young of Tampa, who has pushed for legalization of the half-gallon growlers, was upset by the lawsuit.

“This lawsuit seems to be aimed at shutting down the tasting rooms that consumers love and I think it begs the question: What good is a 64-ounce growler if the brewery tasting room does not exist to sell it?” Young asked. “It puts the brakes on a booming industry in Florida.”
I've talked to Rep. Young, and found her position on this matter be genuine.  And there are others equally supportive.

However, there are plenty of other legislators that are heavily influenced by big bland beer, with significant campaign donations to serve at big bland beer's beck and call.

Here's an interview from 2014 with a local craft brewer Six Ten Brewing and owner/brewmaster Chris Johnson.

Get ready for a similar battle in 2015.

Beer we go again.

No comments:

Post a Comment