Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Hooray Beer! (IV)

Minnesota's own Surly Brewing Company has been growing so fast they can't brew enough beer to keep it on shelf and on tap. They've outgrown their little brewery in Brooklyn Center, MN. So obviously, the next step is to build a new, bigger brewery. They've drawn up plans for a new brewery with lots more brewing capacity plus perks like a restaurant overlooking the brewery that serves plenty of Surly. Unfortunately, under current law, their plan is illegal.

See, in Minnesota, you can only brew a certain amount of beer before you're no longer a brew pub, and are no longer allowed to actually serve the beer you brew. Surly is way past that limit. I honestly can't think of a good reason for that rule. The only thing it does, to my mind, is protect existing distributors, bars and restaurants from competition. The statement released by the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association does not dissuade me from that notion. Unsurprisingly, they are lobbying against Surly's efforts to change the law:

The manufacturers (breweries, vineyards and distilleries) supply distributors. Under the laws which created the three-tier system, each level of the system is independent of the others, ensuring accountability to the public as well as the benefits of healthy competition. By preventing tied houses (i.e. Retailers that sell the products of only one supplier), the three-tier system limits the number of retail outlets and therefore promotes moderate consumption, hence our position with the Surly matter. We want the Surly product to sell in our stores, we don't want the manufacturer of a great beer to sell to the public, we'll do that enthusiastically as possible.

Emphasis mine. Somehow they are ensuring "healthy competition" by locking out a source of competition. This is a classic example of regulation being used to protect incumbent businesses from competition.

I wrote previously about the "Brew Beer Here" legislation passed in Minneapolis that has brought two breweries into the city so far, with at least one more on the way. All it took was a small change to the law allowing sales of beer in growlers from breweries. Each one will create jobs as well as delicious beer for all us beer-lovers. Surly says its plan will create 85 construction jobs and 150 full time jobs once the brewery is open. All it takes is the striking of a pointless law. Once again, this is small government I can believe in. I look forward to helping Surly get this law changed in any way I can.

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