Save The Craft: Three Down, Two To Go UPDATED

We know what you’re thinking right now, “SB754 has been signed in to law so what craft is left to be saved?” And you’re right, SB754 is now the, “Law of the land,” as Governor Pat Quinn likes to say. But there are still two unresolved issues to be worked out before craft beer self-distribution is put to bed for the time being; the Anheuser-Busch v Illinois Liquor Control Commission ruling in federal court and A-B’s subsequent appeal of that decision in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

In talking with those that are familiar with the courts it would appear the signing of SB754 would wipe out both Judge Robert Dow’s initial ruling and subsequently A-B’s appeal. Judge Dow’s Agreed Order, dated May 31st, appears to back that up.

“As discussed at the May 27 hearing, once the Governor takes action, the rationale for any further stay may disappear. For example, if the Governor signs the bill into law, or the bill becomes law at the end of the sixty day period referenced above, it may well be the case that the remedial portion of the Court’s September 3 order – and Plaintiffs’ appeal of that portion of the order – will be moot…If that transpires, a new law will govern the right to self-distribute in Illinois and the Court’s views on implementing the intent of the General Assembly in regard to a superseded law would appear to be of no further significance legally – except as they may relate to the collateral issues of attorneys’ fees and costs…The bottom line is that, under the case law cited above, if new legislation goes into effect that cures the constitutional defect in the prior law, the Court’s choice of remedy to fix the superseded law in all likelihood will cease to have any effect.”

Phrases like “may disappear,” “would appear,” and “in all likelihood,” don’t really give us the finality we would like but the expectation is that SB754 does the trick.

Late last week documentation was sent to Judge Dow indicating that Governor Quinn had signed SB754 in to law and that it took effect immediately, so maybe we can expect something soon from him. The latest deadline in A-B’s appeal is a little over a week away. The brewing giant is due to file its response to the ILCC’s reply brief by June 15th but, again, SB754 becoming law may have stopped the appeal in its tracks.

In following this case through the courts we’ve learned nothing happens very fast so we’ll keep close tabs on this snails pace of a process and keep you posted.


The Illinois Attorney General’s Office, today, filed a motion to dismiss appeal and vacate judgment with the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

Here is the meat and potatoes:

“Public Act 97–005 renders the current controversy moot, and the Court therefore should dismiss this appeal, vacate the district court’s judgment, and remand for dismissal of the action. By creating a single license that allows both in-state and outof-state brewers who meet specified production limits to engage in self-distribution in Illinois as an exception to the prevailing “three-tier” policy of the Liquor Control Act, Public Act 97–005 eliminates the former distinction between the distribution rights of in-state and out-of-state beer producers, which provided the sole basis for Anheuser-Busch’s Commerce Clause claim in this case.”

Save the Craft: Gov. Quinn SIGNS SB754 Into Law

It’s been a long process involving bills, amendments, arguments, testimony, disagreements and more than a little “what-if,” but finally Governor Pat Quinn signed SB754 into law this afternoon. It could have sat on his desk into July, but why wait?

We started Save the Craft in late February as a way to have the voice of three craft beer fans heard, instead of just the politicians and the lobbyists. Now that SB754 is law, we’d like to say thank you to anyone and everyone who responded to our Save the Craft movement, who sent an email or picked up the phone to talk with their state senators and representatives, who ever told a fellow beer drinker or bargoer about this legislation, or anything else you may have done to spread the word. We really appreciate your time, your effort, and your attention.

While it’s impossible to say that Save the Craft and all of our outreach is the reason that this legislation was passed, your voice was definitely heard. Self-distribution rights live to see another day, Illinois is still a craft-brewer friendly state, and Anheuser-Busch likely just received the final nail in the coffin as it pertains to A-B vs. ILCC. Not bad for a few months work.

We’ll continue to update as we receive word from present and future craft brewers around the state like Big Muddy and Rolling Meadows, as well as any response to the bill’s signing from the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild.

Now let’s get cracking on that brewpubs amendment. Anyone know a beer-friendly politician that wants to sponsor some legislation in the next session?

Saving the Craft: Is Wisconsin Next?

KARL: With SB754 just a signature away from becoming law, it would appear that this chapter of Save the Craft is coming to a close. And truth be told, we Guys have been kinda looking forward to getting back to the Drinking Beer part of the site’s name, doing some reviews, setting up some vertical tastings and all that jazz. It would appear, however, that even though as Minnesota has seen some success (see: their Surly bill) and as Illinois is getting ready to finish this particular fight*, other states are gearing up for more battles over craft beer and microbreweries. Continue reading

Save The Craft: The Gov And The Judge UPDATED

The eyes of the craft beer community in Illinois are now on Governor Pat Quinn, who will decide both the future of craft beer growth in the state and the next steps in a federal lawsuit by brewing giant AB InBev.

Over the weekend the Illinois Senate officially sent SB754 to Governor Quinn, who now has up 60 days to sign the legislation. People we’ve talked to that are “in-the-know” fully expect the governor to sign it.

While we wait for Quinn’s signature our attention has shifted over to Judge Dow’s federal courtroom. Continue reading

Save The Craft: Two Down, Three To Go

The passage of SB754 out of the Illinois House and Illinois Senate was a big step forward for small craft brewers who want to self-distribute in Illinois, but there are still two hurdles left be cleared. One is of the legislative variety; the other two are judicial.

First and foremost, SB754 still needs Governor Pat Quinn’s signature for it to become law. And, as of this writing, the bill hasn’t technically been sent to him yet. According to state law, the legislature has 30 days to send a bill to the governor after it passes both chambers. Once the governor receives the bill he then has another 60 days to sign it. We’re hoping, as I’m sure other brewers are, that it doesn’t take the full 90 days for this to become law. Were he to veto it, the votes in the Senate and House could overturn that veto with ease. We’re not terribly concerned over whether or not Gov. Quinn will sign it, as we can’t come up with a single reason why he wouldn’t. That said, it continues to hang over our heads until that bill is signed.

Secondly, there is the matter of Anheuser-Busch v the Illinois Liquor Control Commission which is still playing out in federal court. On Friday Judge Robert Dow will hear Anheuser-Busch’s motion to continue the stay in his ruling in the case of A-B v ILCC until their appeal is heard before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. Last year A-B sued the ILCC claiming discrimination because Illinois breweries could self-distribute but out of state breweries could not. Judge Dow agreed and ruled that unless the General Assembly can come up with a solution, no brewery – whether they are in Illinois or not – will be allowed to self-distribute. Judge Dow then stayed (delayed) his decision until May 31st. Continue reading

Save The Craft: SB754 OVERWHELMINGLY Passes The IL House

With just over a week to go before the end of the legislative session the Illinois House overwhelmingly passed SB754 112-0-3. The measure now moves to the governor’s desk.

Here’s a quick refresher on what this almost-law would do. If a production brewery wants to self-distribute they would have to get a “Craft Brewer” license. To qualify for the license they must brew less than 15,000 barrels of beer a year. If they qualify for the license they would then be able to self-distribute up to 7,500 barrels of beer a year. The language is a bit different for brewpubs, though. They would also have to meet the barrel limit requirements for the “Craft Brewer” license but they would also have to build a second production facility in order to self-distribute. The last requirement is what has caused the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild, the original authors of the legislation, to remain “reluctantly opposed” to the measure. While the bill is undoubtedly great for production breweries in the state it adds an additional hurdle for brewpubs, which make up the majority of the guilds membership. The bill’s sponsor, State Representative Frank Mautino (D-Spring Valley), said in committee last week and on the floor today that he does not support extending self-distribution rights to brewpubs. “I would be opposed to that,” said Mautino. “They would be operating in multiple tiers of the [three-tier] system.” Obviously this is not ideal for the 40+ brewpubs in Illinois but think of this as a foundation to build on. Continue reading

Save The Craft: SB754 Passes House Executive Committee

KARL: With a minimal amount of argumentation, the House Executive Committee has passed SB754 onto the full House by a vote of 11-0. We’ve been spending so much time talking about this, we almost wish we had a few more fireworks to report, but we’ll take what we can get, especially since the overwhelming support of the bill continues to indicate that the bill will face minimal opposition when it goes to the full legislature.

After being scheduled for a 10am meeting, the committee was pushed back to noon, and finally got underway around 1ish. (For the full livetweeting of the meeting, check our Twitter feed here.) Continue reading

Save The Craft: SB754 In The IL House Executive Committee

This morning the Illinois House Executive Committee is scheduled to take up the issue of craft beer distribution in Illinois. SB754, which overwhelmingly passed the Illinois Senate and currently has 56 co-sponsors in the Illinois House, would create a “Craft Brewer” license in Illinois and would lay out guidelines of who can and who cannot self-distribute their beer in the state. Here’s a quick refresher on what the legislation will do. A brewery that produce less than 15,000 barrels of beer in Illinois would be considered a “Craft Brewer” in Illinois, would be given a “Craft Brewer” license and and could petition for the right to self-distribute. If approved a brewery could self-distribute up to 7,500 barrels of its beer. Brewpubs in Illinois would also be granted the right to self-distribute but only if they fell within the requirements of a “Craft Brewer” and if they had a second location to serve as a production facility.

The Illinois Craft Brewers Guild currently opposes SB754. They feel the barrel limit of 15,000 to be considered a “Craft Brewer” and 7,500 for self-distribution and is too low. They also think the requirement for a second location is unfair to small brewpubs in the state. Anheuser-Busch also opposes the legislation because the language would keep the brewing giant from self-distributing in Illinois. Small brewers, including Big Muddy Brewing in Murphysboro and Rolling Meadows Brewery in Springfield, currently support the legislation because they fall well under the barrel limit to be considered a “Craft Brewer” and to self-distribute. The Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois also support the legislation. Obviously the reasons are different, but who would have thought a craft brewers guild would be on the same side of an issue as Anheuser-Busch and small brewers on the same side as beer distributors? Continue reading

Save THEIR Craft: Big Muddy Brewing

photo courtesy Big Muddy Brewing

Scanning the roster we obtained of a mid-February meeting discussing the fate of craft brewers rights to self-distribute in Illinois was like looking down a list of who’s-who in the world of brewing. Anheuser-Busch was represented by three of their own lobbyists and three contract lobbyists. MillerCoors had a seat at the table too. So did people representing the Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois, the Illinois Licensed Beverage Association, Chicago Beverage Systems, Wine and Spirits Distributors of Illinois, Southern Wine and Spirits and the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild.

If we were to turn all those organizations into acronyms, it’d be a veritable alphabet stew of booze-related powerbrokers, but how many brewers themselves were actually at that meeting? Just one: Chuck Stuhrenberg. Chuck is the owner and head brewer at Big Muddy Brewing in downstate Murphysboro, and for him, the fight to Save the Craft isn’t just business, it’s personal. Continue reading

Save The Craft: A Familiar Tale From Texas

We posted this yesterday to Twitter but wanted to give this story a little more room to breathe here on the site. It seems that Texas is having similar problems to us Illinoisans in a concurrent battle with Anheuser-Busch.

According to, A-B is mounting a similar fight against craft brewers in the Lone Star State. Bill HB602 is described as one that “would allow small craft breweries in Texas to sell token amounts of their beer in their breweries in the same way Texas wineries have for years been allowed to sell a bottle or two of wine to visitors after a tour.” Sound familiar?

The story, written by Mark Lisheron, continues: Continue reading