Tag Archives: craft beer legislation

500 Words On One Article You Need To Read And Why, 9/30/16

Being a state legislator has to be hard.  The world you have been elected to create and vote on laws for, changes at a lightning speed.  You are expected to not only enact legislation that solves current problems but also anticipate problems down the road.  That is never more apparent than with any legislation involving new and emerging industries like craft beer.  Today’s article is actually three short articles from Alabama, Mississippi, and Northern Ireland that all deal with the same thing: laws that adversely affect craft beer because no one in the legislatures knew what craft beer was nor how big a business it would become.

All three of the articles deal with how beer is distributed.  It seems in all three cases the idea of a large number of small breweries wanting to control the distribution of their own product never occurred to anyone who makes laws.  Why would it?  If Ireland is anything like the US, for a long stretch of history beer was made by large companies pumping out as much of the least offensive beer possible.  Then the beer world changed without most people noticing it and a new business category was established, but the laws are just starting to acknowledge craft beer’s existence.

On one hand, you have legislators who are trying to navigate these issues by learning about the new industry and are generally trying to do a good job to keep the playing field fair for the new and growing industry.  On the other hand, you have legislators who, because how the system works, simply carry out the wishes of the lobbies who want to restrict the changes to the beer industry that are inevitably happening.

Large and wealthy beer companies and distributors fight every day to keep the power they have within the industry from being dispersed among craft brewers.  However, I think they know this is simply a delaying tactic used until they can figure out how to keep making the money they always have in this landscape they know is changing.

The emergence of craft brewing has disrupted a whole industry.  This wasn’t entirely intentional.  All the first craft brewers wanted to do was make good beer.  They knew that some people out there wanted more than just watered down mass produced pilsners.  The problem these brewers have run into is that the people that produce and distribute those watery pilsners gathered their money and power by making sure their product was in every watering hole, grocery store and gas station they could find and they are not giving up that money and power easily.

I don’t want to make this seem like some grand eloquent fight for freedom.  Craft brewers just want to make and sell their beer to as many people as possible and want the playing field to be level so they can fail or succeed on their own merits.  That is true whether it is North Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, or Northern Ireland.

One Beer Article You Should Read And Why, 8/8/16

We are going to try something different with the Five Articles.  At least for a little while.  Instead of 5 takes on 5 different articles, I want to try one take on one article in 500 words.

One of the things you notice when you pay attention to the news surrounding craft beer is how there is a learning curve that has to happen in many parts of the country about craft beer and its culture.  That is particularly true in places where alcohol has been historically demonized like the South and parts of the Mid-West.

I know in many places in the South, any consumption of alcohol is considered sinful and an aberration of “good” behavior.  There is fear that allowing easy access to alcohol will lead to things like “Beer Street” or “Gin Lane.”  William Hogarth’s painting is a depiction of what the wealthy and he upstanding thought happens when the poor and unwashed were given access to “demon alcohol.”

That idea of the degradation caused by unfettered access to alcohol led to the Prohibition movement in the United States which still persists.  When you combine that fear with the power many alcohol distributors and their lobby have in most state legislatures you can get situations like the one in Alabama.

Recently, Alabama passed a law to allow breweries to sell growlers.  As in many states where similar laws were recently passed, the distribution and big beer lobbies added in provisions to protect themselves.  In this case, one of those provisions is to limit individual purchases of growlers from breweries to 288 ounces at any one time.

First problem, this limit is only for brewery growlers.  You can buy more than one case of mass produced beer at your nearby gas station with no problem.  Second problem, as often happens when legislatures pass laws to either protect a certain lobby or to solve problems that don’t actually exist without putting much thought behind their actions (NC HB2 anyone), someone has to enforce those laws.  So, the Alabama alcohol beverage commission had to figure out how to regulate this 288-ounce limit and decided the best way to do it is to have breweries take down the name, address, and telephone numbers of anyone who buys growlers and give that information to the Alabama ABC. That went over like a fart in church.

So what will probably happen next is the Alabama legislature will have to go back and fix this, by taking out the limit on individual purchases and everyone will go on their merry way.  This could have been avoided if legislatures were populated by more people with enough common sense, intelligence, and respect for the legislative process to actually read and understand the stuff they are asked to vote on during a session.

The people we elect to represent us in state legislatures are supposed to be the smartest most community dedicated people in the room.  That is why we choose them to be our representatives.  Our spokespersons.  Unfortunately, what we seem to keep electing are the ones who can raise the most money.  Not the smartest and not the ones who care the most about the least of us.  And they are certainly not people dedicated enough to public service to read the things they are being asked to vote upon, much less care how these actual laws will affect the people and small businesses they are there to represent.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 4/21/16

It’s Thursday.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 1/13/16

Laws and legislation.  Growing pains and adolescence.  One of the things that fascinate me about Major League Soccer is that we sports fans, specifically soccer fans, get to watch a top flight league grow and develop in real time.  It is a messy and confounding thing to watch.  There are 10 steps forward, two backwards, and three sideways at every phase of growth.  Craft beer is kind of in the same position.  Actually, a better analogy might be a band.  Bands form and they play any show they can get and they sell music directly to potential fans and develop a loyal and strong following if they are good.  Then, at some point, they go from being the little band that could to headlining their first tour.  Then, they stop being just a band and become a business and they have business worries. That is where craft beer is now.

  • Should the state of North Carolina be in the alcohol business? First, the state is tasked by the US Constitution to regulate alcohol in its borders, so the state will be involved in some capacity always. Second, if you want to change thegovernment’s level of involvement, good luck.  That is a decades-long fight that no one has the stomach for right now.  Politicians do things for two reasons.  The first, to get their name associated with a bill that will create jobs and/or increase tax revenue.  The second, to keep from being embarrassed.  Unless and until, OMB, NoDa, and Red Oak can prove that allowing them to self-distribute more than 25000 barrels a year the legislation will languish in committee. In this case, embarrassment isn’t working because the distributors and big beer give enough money to make it not work.
  • The point in your life when you realize you are at least partially a grown us is when you are faced with a decision between doing what you need to do to be responsible and doing what you want to do. When you start choosing the need to do direction you’re a grown up.  Breweries suing smaller breweries over potential intellectual property issues is a need to do situation.  This is my second prediction of what will happen this year in craft beer, craft beer will grow up and increasingly think of itself as a business.
  • At no point in this article is there any mention about how any “beer” that they make tastes and that is why they will never win. They don’t care about the beer as beer.  It is only a product to be sold.
  • This is one case where embarrassment is working. The Georgia legislature passed a law that was written in part by big distributors.  It has a Rube Goldberg feel to it that got exposed by the Department of Revenue.  Now they are trying to fix it.
  • Alabama steps into the 21st century as far as its beer laws are concerned. The craft beer people in Alabama did exactly what I said you have to do.  They appealed to the legislators with more revenue and jobs.  Politicians work to get reelected.  Doing things that make them look good and/or raise tax revenues without raising taxes and provide jobs is how they get reelected.  Either that or carrying the water for a lobbyist that gives them lots of money to go their reelection.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 12/8/15

It’s Tuesday, and I’m a little late today because I stayed up to watch the worst football game I’ve ever seen that didn’t involve playing in a monsoon or a blizzard.  It was like watching a slow motion train wreck.  I couldn’t look away.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 10/6/15

Another day and more beer to drink and more beer news to read.  Here are the Five Articles.