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

Chicago Craft Beer Week: WI Cheese and MI Beer Reception and Dinner

Yesterday was a pretty big day for us at The legislation that we have been tracking for months received the overwhelming approval from the Illinois House, putting the state just one step away from protecting the rights of craft brewers to self distribute, and we were invited to take part in a cheese and beer reception and dinner hosted by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board and Founders Brewing at the Kendall College School of Culinary Arts.

Yes, you read that right – beer from Founder’s and cheese from Wisconsin – could this night get any better?

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

Review: Short’s Wizard

Short’s says:

“Short’s first barley wine is a force to be reckoned with! From its batch number, to its identical boil time of 6hrs and 66mins, this deep dark amber ale holds some epic warming flavor. A monstrous malt bill creates a full bodied behemoth with high residual malty sweetness of caramel and toffee. These colossal flavors are then enhanced by ample additions of raisins during fermentation.”

Short’s Wizard
American Barleywine, 11% ABV

Sayeth the Guys:

Ryan: Of all the beers I’ve sampled since we started, this one required the most notes. Two pages worth. I know that may not sound like a lot, but I usually try to be a man of few words and just bullet point things as I go along. But this barleywine from Short’s was so complex it demanded more page space. This was a malt monster that had an unparalleled amount of sweetness and a relatively undetectable amount of booze. This tasted as good fresh as a number of three to four year old English barleywines I’ve sampled.

Poured in to a snifter, Wizard appears a dark, murky dark brown to black in color with a frothy tan head that clings to the glass. I was enamored with the carbonation of this beer – watching bubbles rise, almost in slow motion, to the top of the glass. This beer smells very sweet and malty with aromas of dark fruits, figs, plums, raisins and maple syrup. At first, when you take a sip, there isn’t much on the front end of this beer. But, if you give it a second, the raisins coming crashing through followed by flavors of dried prunes and a subtle nuttiness. 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