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 20,000 barrels to 150,000 barrels, which will allow some of the state’s biggest breweries to sell beer in to-go containers on-site, and also lets breweries sell beer on-site in smaller containers, meaning they can opt to sell cans in four-packs or six-packs instead of 32-ounce cans or growlers. For distilleries, the bill removes the state’s limit on cocktail rooms, which will allow them to serve liquor on-site.

Center of the American Experiment has long campaigned for reforms along these lines. In our first Policy Briefing last July, two of the three actions we called for were:

  • Remove the ‘Growler Cap’ and limits on distillery sales
  • Free breweries and distilleries to sell in vessel sizes of their own choosing

We are pleased to see this bill pass. Minnesota’s craft breweries and distilleries have been an entrepreneurial, economic success story. The laws holding them back, touted as being in the public interest, are, in fact, only in the interests of rent-seeking middlemen trying to use the law to protect their market share. The COVID-19 pandemic, which hit these businesses especially hard, gave an added impetus to the campaign for reform.

But the fight isn’t over. Minnesota’s antiquated, anti-producer, anti-consumer ‘three-tier’ system remains in place. It has been reformed, but it needs to be removed. For now, though, drink to a welcome, if overdue, legislative success.