Success! Liquor law reform is passed, but the fight isn’t over
On Sunday, Gov. Tim Walz signed a bill to reform Minnesota’s liquor laws. Nicknamed the “Free the Growler” bill, the measure raises the annual cap on craft beer production from…
The Covid-19 pandemic and associated government measures, such as shutdowns, have ravaged Minnesota’s hospitality industry over the last year. But there are knock on effects to consider, too. As those restaurants and bars have suffered, so, too, have their suppliers.
Among the affected businesses are Minnesota’s craft brewers. Jim Diley, co-owner of Fulton Beer in Minneapolis, told Kare 11:
“Fulton sells about 60% of all the beer it produces to bars and restaurants in draft, and the pandemic effectively shut all of that down”
Breweries are having to find other ways to sell their product, but they are running up against an obstacle: state law.
Minnesota law prohibits a brewery from selling growlers — beer in half-gallon, reusable containers — if the brewer produces more than 20,000 barrels of beer annually. Why? As the Duluth News Tribune reported a while back:
“Those in favor of this law say the cap supports a three-tiered distribution system that includes producers, distributors, and retailers.”
In other words, the law exists to prevent the sale of beer by craft breweries direct to you, the consumer. Its sole purpose is to guarantee the positions of the middlemen, the distributors and retailers. They and their lobbyists in the Minnesota Beer Wholesalers Association support it to protect their market share, not the consumer.
This was a rotten law at the best of times, indefensible either economically or politically, but it is especially egregious in the current climate. With so many of their buyers shutdown or restricted by government order, Diley tells Kare 11 that some breweries are being forced to dump some of the beer that can’t be sold.
Fulton is now one of six breweries which have banded together to form the ‘Alliance of Minnesota Craft Breweries‘ and campaign for lawmakers to remove the “growler cap” this legislative session. Diley tells Kare 11:
“What we want is the ability to sell those growlers, so that when you come to Fulton, or Surly or Schell’s, we want you to have the opportunity to take some of that experience home in a growler”
Minnesota’s craft breweries have been a stunning economic success story in recent years. These breweries are not asking for government to give them a hand out but for government to get its hands off and let them sell their beer to willing consumers. Freedom, after all, is what this country was built on.
John Phelan is an economist at the Center of the American Experiment.