Note: This was written by David Berg, President of Minnesota Craft Brewer’s Guild.
Ryan at mnbeer.com asked me to comment on some things that have been floating around the internet, and I guess it’s easier to tell everyone at the same time.
The MCBG has been working on a bill that would allow brewpubs to sell beer to distributors. What this would mean to the consumers is the opportunity to have beer from, let’s say Fitger’s, at bars in Minneapolis. What a novel idea, huh, market access?
I credit the folks at Fitger’s for all their hard work on the issue (I, in fact, had very little to do with it). The bill was sponsored by Sen Solon in Duluth. The bill had support from brewpubs, the wholesalers, and Summit was very helpful in arranging meetings between Fitgers/Wholesalers Association. The Dept of Public safety also had no issues with it.
The bill passed through a subcommittee with no opposition. It was slated to be added to the liquor omnibus bill, which in my experience, is almost sure to get a green light.
Unfortunately, on Monday, opposition occurred from the place we least expected it. Two production breweries in Minnesota (neither of which are members of the Guild) got involved and got Sen Solon to change her mind on the bill she had written.
I am not sure the rationale behind the opposition, just as I was confused at the time when the same people opposed the original growler law. I have been told, but this may be only conjecture, that it was desired to add to the bill language that would allow breweries to sell pints of beer at their premises. I immediately had flashbacks of 2001, when we tried to get such a bill passed–we got slaughtered. And I’m not being melodramatic–it was the kind of mind-numbing drubbing that makes you go underground for a couple of years wondering how you could have been so stupid in the first place. Our opposition at the time included: the Beer Wholesalers, Minnesota Licensed Beverage Assoc, MADD, numerous bars, liquor stores, the Dept of Public Safety, and the Teamsters! I didn’t want to relive that battle. It’s not that I don’t think it’s a grand idea, I just don’t think it currently has a chance of winning. On top of that, our production brewery members don’t want it for very valid reasons.
So where does this leave us? Well, there’s always next year. That’s where all of you come in. We’ll be needing you to contact your Sen/Reps to say you support giving market access to the brewpubs. I’m quite confident we can get this bill passed, if we can focus on this issue and not include issues that will spell doom for the bill.
In closing, I’d just like to ask you that you not act irrationally about the events that have taken place. I’ve heard people say the word “boycott” a little too quickly, and I don’t think that will benefit anyone. Breweries in Minnesota, whether they are members of the Guild or not, have worked incredibly hard against some rather archaic laws to produce good beer and get it into your hands, and they all deserve your full support. I’ve seen too many breweries close since I’ve been back in Minnesota–I don’t need to see any more.
Sorry for the long post, and as always, thanks for supporting Minnesota Breweries.
Head Brewer, Bandana Brewery
President, Minnesota Craft Brewer’s Guild