More than a dozen armed State Police officers conducted simultaneous raids last week on three popular Philadelphia bars known for their wide beer selections. The cops confiscated hundreds of bottles of expensive ales and lagers, now in State Police custody at an undisclosed location.
Pennsylvania law requires that all varieties of beer sold in the state be registered with the Liquor Control Board. The registration, which costs $75 per product, is the responsibility of the brewers or importers.
The bars that were raided had bought the beer from licensed distributors, and had no reason to think they had done anything wrong until liquor control agents showed up. In fact, while there were some real violations, much of the beer was even properly registered, just under a variation on the same name. "Monk's Cafe Sour Flemish Red Ale" was confiscated, for instance, even though "Monk's Café Ale" was on the list.
Industry sources complain that brand registration is typical of the onerous regulations that make selling beer in Pennsylvania difficult. For example, while it is the responsibility of the brewer or importer to submit the necessary paperwork and registration fee, it is the tavern or restaurant licensee who may be liable for selling unregistered brands, they said.
Registration is further complicated by the growth of under-the-radar one-offs: unique, limited-production, highly sought-after draft beers that appear briefly - perhaps as quickly as an hour - on tavern taps. While they pay the necessary state and federal taxes, breweries sometimes do not bother to register the brands because they are produced in extremely small amounts.
State police won't say who tipped them off the the obscure infraction, only that it was "a citizen complaint." The beer is expected to sit around for 6 to 8 months, possibly skunkifying, while the the bar owners go through the process to get their suds back.
Via alert commenter sage.