Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

28 June, 2007

Woe Betide the Wisconsin Microbrewer?

The Wisconsin legislature is looking to modify an old law which disallows the Great Dane Brewpub from brewing and selling its own beer at its third location at Hilldale Mall. The law, which was passed in the wake of Prohibition, limits the Dane to two locations. Fred Risser, D-Madison, and Rep. Scott Newcomer, R-Delafield, are looking to modify the law so that brewpubs could work their zymurgical magic on up to 6 premises. The Wisconsin State Journal recently editorialized in favor of the proposal.

This morning I read some cautionary words from Rob Larson, the brewmaster out at Tyranena. He wrote:

The bill is also supported by the Wisconsin Wholesalers and the Dane County Tavern League. Unfortunately, the way the bill is currently written it is bad for the small brewing industry (although The Great Dane still achieves their goal of expanding locations).

I got on the horn to Senator Risser's office and left my contact info for the aide dealing with this bill. I've yet to hear from this person. I did, however, get a hold of Larson who sent me a copy of the bill. It's 28 pages and I'll need to sit down and parse it out later to figure out exactly why he feels it's bad for the small brewing industry. (Being a busy brewmaster, Rob didn't have time to explain. Hopefully next week.) However, one can probably get a good sense of what he's talking about from other sources.

Takes the following comments from a thread on the matter up at Beer Advocate:

After reading through the bill a few times, however, it seems to me to be a compromise that favors the brew pubs over the other interested parties (a good thing for us BAs). This bill also has a good shot of passing since the distributors are not only refraining from opposing the bill, they are actually lobbying in favor of it! Even the Dane County Tavern League has come out in favor of the legislation.

Note the surprise of the author as he or she comments that the distributors and DCTL are on board. While no expert, I do know that small breweries and distributors often times have an uneasy relationship. For a taste, check out Bye Bye Bell's from the Chicago Reader. While it pertains to Illinois law, I think you can get an idea of the relationship between brewers and distributors here in the Land of Cheese. Larson told me to pay attention to the fact that the bill is supported by the Wisconsin Beer Distributors Association and the Great Dane yet no breweries have stepped up with their names in support. Indeed, the brewers he spoke with are not too keen on the bill as it currently stands.

While I wholeheartedly support the Great Dane and feel they should be able to open a third brewpub, I am saddened that it seems that achieving their goal might come at the expense of Wisconsin's small breweries. I am still awaiting a call from Risser's office and am trying to contact other small breweries around the state for their take on the bill. I hope to have more soon.
|| Palmer, 11:05 AM

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