Last month we told you to expect some changes to either HB205 or SB88 pertaining to the barrel limit for breweries that want to self-distribute. Lawmakers sponsoring the legislation formally took that step this week. On Thursday State Representative Greg Harris (D-Chicago) filed an amendment to House Bill 205 reducing the limit to 20,000 barrels or 620,000 gallons of beer. The legislation that was initially filed would allow any brewery that brews less than 60,000 barrels, or 1.86 million gallons of beer, to distribute their product.
The reduction in the amount of beer brewed directly addresses a concern voiced by the Association of Beer Distributors. In a recent email to state lawmakers urging them to oppose HB205 and SB88, the ABDI called the 60,000 barrel limit “ridiculous.”
“The ICBG (Illinois Craft Brewers Guild) claims that small brewers need self distribution to establish their brands in the market but the ICBG wants to define a small brewer as a brewer producing less than 60,000 barrels of beer per year to be allowed to self distribute their product. 60,000 barrels equals 1,860,000 gallons of beer or 826,667 cases of 12 ounce beer or 19,840,008 12 ounce beer bottles – THAT’S A LOT OF BEER. “
An amendment to SB88 could follow suit or HB205 may be the bill lawmakers try and move first. Sources in the Senate have told us the legislation does not have the votes to pass in that chamber as is, so this amendment could be the catalyst to move the legislation. SB88 has been postponed twice and held once in the Senate Executive Committee within the last month and HB205 is still waiting to be heard before the House Executive Committee.
A federal judge gave lawmakers till March 31st to rewrite Illinois’ Liquor Control Act to level the playing field for out-of-state brewers after A-B InBev won a suit in court last year. If legislation is not passed by the end of the month both Argus Brewery in Chicago and Big Muddy Brewing in Murphysboro will lose their self-distribution rights. Argus currently self-distributes about one-third of its beer and uses distributors for the other two-thirds. Big Muddy, on the other hand, distributes all of its beer. They produce 400 barrels, or a little over 12,000 gallons of beer a year.