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?
The House Executive Committee consists of six Democrats and five Republicans. Of the 11 members, six have signed on as co-sponsors of the legislation. Those lawmakers are; State Rep. Joe Lyons (D-Chicago), State Rep. Dan Brady (R-Bloomington), State Rep. Eddie Acevedo (D-Chicago), State Rep. Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro), State Rep. Ed Sullivan (R-Mundelein) and State Rep. Mike Tryon (R-Crystal Lake). With this in mind, and as long as the makeup of the committee stays the same an no lawmakers are substituted for, this legislation has – on paper – enough votes to pass out of committee and head to the full House.
We have said it before and we’ve said it again, this legislation is not perfect. Nowhere close to it, in fact. But with less than two weeks remaining before the end of the legislative session this might be the only craft beer legislation that is voted on this session. We wrote extensively about the alternative, which you can read HERE, suffice it to say it’s not good.
We’ll be live-tweeting the committee hearing from the state capitol in Springfield. If you want a blow-by-blow account be sure to follow along @guysdrinkinbeer.