Craft Breweries Fight Florida Bills That Benefit Big Distributors


Artie White/Flickr

As seems to be happening around the country, Florida is enjoying a boom in craft beer breweries that open their doors to the public. These generally informal drinking establishments—think folding chairs and picnic tables—tend to offer draft beer by the pint, flight, or growler, and give customers a chance to try seasonal or less popular beers that may not be available in local bars or stores. Some, such as Jacksonville's Intuition Ale Works, also sell special, limited-run brews—such as its bourbon-barrel aged Underdark—by the bottle. 

But selling bottled or canned beer at breweries would become untenable under a new bill making its way through Florida's legislature. Senate Bill 1714 would force breweries to sell all bottled or canned beer directly to distributors.

If a craft brewery wanted to sell its own beer on site, it would have to buy it back from the distributor with what is typically a 30 to 40 percent mark-up, according to Reuters. This would hold true regardless of whether the beers ever left the brewery.

Craft brewers—defined as those producing under 6 million barrels per year—say the new regulation is being pushed by big, national distributors with political clout. Direct-to-consumer sales from breweries cut into their long-established business as intermediaries. And craft beers account for a growing portion of overall beer sales. According to the Brewer's Association, overall beer sales across the country dropped 2 percent by volume in 2013, while craft beer sales grew by 18 percent. 

Another Florida bill, this one in the House, would end the state's ban on half-gallon growler sales but come with other downsides for craft brewers. Among these: prohibiting guest beers to be sold in brewery taprooms and limiting vendor's licenses to no more than two locations per brewery. It would also prohibit more than 30 percent of beer sold in a brewery's taproom from having been made off-premise, which could hurt businesses that brew beer in more than one facility but only operate one taproom. 

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  1. “If a craft brewery wanted to sell its own beer on site, it would have to buy it back from the distributor with what is typically a 30 to 40 percent mark-up, according to Reuters. This would hold true regardless of whether the beers ever left the brewery.”

    Why not just require breweries to keep their wealth in a safe, and give distributors the combination?

    1. Why not just require breweries to keep their wealth in a safe, and give distributors the combination?

      Progressives believe all money is kept in a safe. Think Scrooge McDuck’s money bin. Those rich 1%ers simply take a daily dip in their lavish and excessively hoarded wealth. Wealth is never used for productive ventures that generate jobs and industry seeking a return on investment.

      1. Scrooge McDuck is so yesterday. They imagine the Koch brothers as Smaug facsimiles.

        1. Lay on, McDuck
          And damn’d be he who first cries, “hold enough!”

        2. They imagine the Koch brothers as Smaug facsimiles.

          Charles Koch has an editorial on WSJ online yesterday defending himself and the high-minded ideals he advocates (often to the detriment of his own business interests). Can’t tell if seriously intended for reasonable and discerning people to learn what he really stands for or just trolling the left.

          1. I am king under the mountain!

      2. Scrooge McDuck, IIRC, was meant as a Scottish stereotype, back when Scots were believed to be pennypinching and thrifty.

        1. Most successful ethnic group of immigrants into the US in terms of income. Russians come in a close second.

          Back then, Scots were penny-pinching and thrifty.

          1. “Russians”

            Sure, a particular category of Russians.

              1. YNW


                Gonna be a long day if I’m not even spelling my acronyms correctly.

          2. Back then, Scots were penny-pinching and thrifty.

            The brand Scotch Tape came around for a reason.

    2. At a class a few years back, when I was starting to look into starting my brewery, one of the presenters said “If you want to make money, be a distributor, if you want to make beer, be a brewer.”

  2. Are they even pretending to solve a problem, or is this just blatant cartelism?

    1. The latter. Alcohol distributors built their business on making certain the state gets their cut. The state returns the favor by making them mandatory.

    2. Yeah, I can’t fathom exactly what “noble intention” cover story they can use for this.

      People are drinking too much heavier alcohol craft beer? So let’s force them to buy 64 oz growlers instead of 22 oz bottles. People are driving too much after having drank craft beers? So let’s forcibly remove options they have for taking the beers home and instead focus on getting them drunk at the brewery?

      There doesn’t appear to be any aim here other than protecting and redistributing consumer dollars away from small local businesses to multi-national KORPERASHUNZ!1!

      1. Before Prohibition, breweries would operate their own taverns where you would buy beer and you’d get lunch thrown in free (particularly salty food, so you’d buy more beer).

        The original distributor laws were to prevent this.

        1. Wikipedia has a good write up: Free Lunch

          And it’s the origin of the phrase “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”.

        2. So it became penny lunch?

          1. I prefer the kind where you buy brunch and the booze are unlimited.

            1. “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch unlimited booze.”

              1. Unless you go to somebody’s wedding. Wait, dammit, I actually had to go to that.

    3. Cronies are gonna crony…

    4. But but but… How do we know it’s safe if it doesn’t go “through” a licensed distributor?

      1. I was told that before government regulation, brewers would intentionally put poison in their beer. A liberal told me so so it must be true.

        1. I’m pretty sure they still do. Fortunately this poison is magic so if the distributors own the beer for even a minute it goes away.

          1. I’m thinking he may have been confusing the government poisoning alcoholic products during Prohibition with some fiction that whitewashed his god government killing its own citizens.

            1. Wait, what? *does a quick Google search* Holy crap!

        2. That infected beer is not safe for public consumption. Therefore, I demand that the govt confiscate all Russian River, Jolly Pumpkin, and Cantillon currently in the U.S. and give it to me to properly dispose of.

          For teh chilrunz

          1. And this leaves all of the Cascade, Drei Fonteinen and the Bruery for me. You have a deal.

            1. damn sqrlz. I also claim all the Tilquin.

  3. This is because the fucking Republicans are gutting the campaign finance laws . . . /salon

  4. Look man, if you want roads, you have to put up with all of the impossibly corrupt shit that comes with it.

    So, take your pick: Somalia,where the average life expectancy is 3 days, or letting Fats McDougall and his happy band of distributors give you a haircut, ya fuckin’ hippy.

    1. This is just the price of civilization. Well, this and 65% of your income.

      1. I lol’d. Well, spluttered.

  5. h/t Beloved Commentor Brett L two weeks ago when I posted a letter on the PM links from a friend who is starting a brewery. If you want to talk to some of them, ENB, I can get you some contact info.

    1. h/t Beloved Commentor Brett L

      You go to far, sir!

    2. Whoops. New bill. The bastards know they got smashed on the old bill, so they’re trying to re-file something that gives the distributors a chance to dip their beak still.

    3. You wanna hat tip? You hafta sell it to the distributor foist. Then yous can buys it back.

  6. What on earth could POSSIBLY be the policy rationale for doing this?

    What is supposed to be dangerous about direct sales to consumers? And if there is anything, how is forcing breweries to sell via distributors supposed to solve that problem?

    I would really like to hear the explantion, because I can’t honestly see where these laws are coming from, other than blatant cronyism.

    1. It is blatant cronyism. The distributors tried to throw the craft breweries a bone by allowing growlers, and then take a bunch of their business by requiring any craft brewery that placed their kegs in another brewery’s tasting room to place said kegs through distributors. When the craft guys rioted and it looked like the old bill was dead, this new one suddenly got fired. And the Florida Senate President is on record as saying of the first bill (I’m paraphrasing but not much): “I’m aware that this would kill dozens of jobs in craft breweries, but my friends the distributors want it.” I’ll see if I can find the quotation.

      1. Aha!

        As the growler debate springs up again (that pesky restriction on industry standard 64 ounce growlers), some of the big microbrew distributors are pulling out their checkbooks and calling in personal favors… with Senator Don Gaetz admitting to the Associated Press that he’s just going to follow what his buddy Lewis Bear (of Lewis Bear Distributing in the Florida panhandle) tells him to do.

        “I’m with the beer distributors in my district,” Gaetz said recently. “That’s a very important issue because one of my very best friends [Lewis Bear, Jr.] is an Anheuser-Busch distributor and he never talks to me about his business. It’s always about what are we going to do for disabled children, what are we going to do for the arts, what are we going to do for economic development. But this time he’s talking about growlers.”

        1. then the craft brewers should utilize their social networks and call for Don Gaetz’ head at the next election.

          1. They could put this quote on each bottle, right next to the ABV and IBU listings around the neck so everyone would read it.

            1. As long as its not illegal to use unapproved information on a label.

              1. God damn regulators. Always regulating shit like what you can and can’t put on a label.

        2. The rage….

        3. Lewis Bear is a cunt.

    2. Without one centralized distributor, who will do the distributing? Name the exact people! You can’t! See? That’s proof that it won’t be properly distributed! Therefore you need some centrally planned and government approved distribution! And, and, and the children!

      /standard progderp argument against emergent order

      1. Yes. God forbid the two breweries going in four blocks away from each other in Tallahassee just drive their product down the road and trade on a handshake.

        1. Trade? You mean a transaction without the government getting a cut? That’s heresy!

          Adam Smith was totally wrong! The invisible hand is not the market, it’s the hand of government that must always be paid whenever goods are exchanged!

        2. Why would customers even want to have two different breweries on tap at the same place? This makes no sense.

          1. Too much choice is bad because confuse.

            1. That’s what I’ve been told about the healthcare exchanges, so this seems pretty reasonable.

            2. Last time I purchased lunch meat from the deli, I was thinking exactly that.

              1. You should start buying the “meat ends” packages then. You get an assortment, and there are usually several forms of ham underneath that giant slab of bologna that they couldn’t fit in the slicer.

          2. I imagine Bud OR Miller is enough for any bar. Especially now that they have low calorie and beer-flavored water offerings from either group.

  7. Fuck the tier system.

  8. That’s the first step backward I’ve seen since the craft revolution ramped up several years ago. If this passes, then look for several other dumbass states (MA, NY, MD, DC) to follow.

    Got starter yeasts growing and the grains crushed for brew day this Saturday. 10 gallons of oatmeal stout, 5 gallons of pale with some no-name experimental hop. Pics next week.

    1. I will be picking up ten gallons of maple sap on Saturday. Plan to reduce three or four gallons down to syrup myself to be added at the end of the boil, and use the rest instead of water for mash and sparge. Since my basement is still cold enough, thinking I’ll make a lager with a hint of roasted barley for color and flavor, and some Saaz for bittering. Think I’ll skip the flavor and aroma hops to allow the grain and maple to shine through.

      1. Maybe some carapils for residual sweetness.

      2. I think I mentioned this to you a couple of weeks ago, but my friend tried to do this a couple times back in college. It was pretty difficult to get the maple flavor to show in the final product.

        1. That’s why I’m going to boil some of it down into syrup. A lot of that nice flavor comes from that last bit of hot reduction.

      3. I have never heard of mashing with maple sap. Similar viscosity as water?

        1. Yes.

        2. The ratio of sap to syrup is somewhere between 30/1 and 40/1. Yeah, it’s like water.

          1. I’d like to try that just for the awesome smell in the house from reducing gallons of maple sap.

            1. I’ll be doing it outside. My feeble electric stove isn’t up to the task. The burner from my turkey fryer on the other hand…

            2. Was talking with a coworker about it today who said that the last time he did that inside he had a terrible sugar ant infestation that year.

              1. Slightly off topic, but I hear that if you can see where ants are getting into your house you can lay a piece of cucumber down there or use peppermint oil. Supposedly this keeps them out, either from actually repelling them or messing up their chem trail.

                1. I use Terro. They take the bait back to the queen and it kills the whole colony.

              2. It would be worth it. That shit would hit the olfactory g-spot guaranteed.

                And ants are not the worst infestation to have. They’re neat and organized and clean up all the crumbs.

      4. I made a blackberry liquer in my cupboard ….

    2. I’m going to rack 5 gallons of rosemary wheat into secondary tonight. Trying out an autosiphon finally, and I’m going to break out the grill for the first time this year. My buddy is bringing over some beef and lamb from his parents’ farm. Should be a good night.

      1. Are you racking the wheat onto rosemary the herb? This is grassroots innovation.

  9. And since the giant corporations have all the politicians and bill makers in their hip pocket, bought and paid for nothing will ever change!

  10. Some, such as Jacksonville’s Intuition Ale Works, also sell special, limited-run brews?such as its bourbon-barrel aged Underdark?by the bottle.

    I had a bourbon barrel aged beer from Dragoon Brewery recently at an event. I don’t think they are marketing it.

    Holy Jesus with a jetpack, that was an awesome, awesome beer.

    1. The bourbon and rum cask aged are too sweet for my taste, but Innis & Gunn Oak Aged in the whiskey barrels are just about right.

    2. Right now I’m really digging the Porter Square Porter by Slumbrew.

  11. Back in the 19th century when the Feds funded themselves with outrageous excise taxes rather than income taxes, beer was heavily excised.

    One of the most outrageous excise taxes was on beer barrels. I think Blatz was one of the first breweries to bottle beer – specifically to avoid paying so much in barrel taxes. Then the Feds started excising the bottling at the breweries so Blatz opened a bottling plant across the street (and built pipelines over the street) to avoid THOSE excise taxes.

    1. This is why I would rather just have a flat income tax, if there has to be a tax at all. Fuck excise taxes.

  12. oh…and Tilquin.

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