A provision that has silently been added into the next Wisconsin State budget bill could have a negative impact on the small craft brewer within the state. Since prohibition, the state has relied on a three tier system of manufacturing, distributing, and retailing for beer sales. Breweries could hold both brewing permits and wholesale and retail licenses, thereby allowing them to not only both brew and sell their own beer, but also sell the beer of other breweries in their taprooms.
New language silently added to the state budget bill will combine these three licenses into one brewers license. On the face it streamlines the process; but in reality its the result of heavy lobbying was done by large breweries like MillerCoors to keep Anheiser Busch from brewing and wholesale networks in the state. Unfortunately it will hurt the craft beer industry, which has been growing by leaps and bounds within the state.
Breweries that produce less than 300,000 barrels of beer each year can sell their own product without a distributor, but they can’t sell it to another brewery. That runs counter to the small brewery culture, said Marc Buttera, owner of O’so Brewing Company near Stevens Point.
“I’m about to open a taproom that would celebrate all Wisconsin beers. This legislation would stop me from being able to do that,” he said. “We’re a team. People want to make it out as competition. It’s not. We’re all in this together.”
Is this bill an end-run to keep AB making a stronger foothold in the state, or is it a way for the large brewers to hobble the burgeoning craft beer industry?