Save The Craft: The “Anheuser-Busch” Bill, Following the Money, and SB88 Changes

In Beer Politics by Ryan

The changes haven’t officially been filed, but a confidential source close to this issue tells us that Senate Bill 88 will soon lower the barrel limit for breweries to have the right to self-distribute.  Right now the proposed legislation (which is the legislation we support) would give brewers that brew less than 60,000 barrels (1.86 million gallons of beer) the right to self-distribute. But that number will be lowered to somewhere between 7,000 barrels (217,000 gallons) and 15,000 barrels (465,000 gallons), a number we understand that both sides are on board with.

The reason? Our source says that keeping the limit somewhere in that range will still allow small breweries to get their brand established, but not give them an unfair advantage once they do begin to grow. Essentially, they’ll be allowed to load up a few mini-vans with kegs and six packs but not a semi-trailer. Also, brewpubs would still maintain the right to self-distribute up to 50,000 gallons of their beer under the legislation.

We alluded to this on Friday, but be on the lookout for a bill called the Anheuser-Busch bill to manifest itself in the coming days/weeks.  State Representative John Bradley, a Marion Democrat, has introduced House Bill 1988.  Right now there is no real language to it, as the measure simply reads;  “Amends the Liquor Control Act of 1934. Makes a technical change in a Section concerning the short title.” This is what is called a “shell bill.”

It is written vaguely for a reason, to allow the sponsor to change the legislation on the fly with an amendment typically not giving lawmakers and staff much time to review the legislation.  Our source tells us HB 1988 will be the A-B bill.  And while we don’t know the particulars of the legislation our source did says the legislation would allow Anheuser-Busch to self-distribute in Illinois.

It also should be noted that Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors, the Associated Beer Distributors and Diageo (a UK-based beer/spirits company) all contributed to Bradley’s recent re-election campaign to the tune of $7500.  Sure, it’s not a ton of dough, but for perspective, in 2008 the entire beer/wine/liquor category didn’t even make it into the top 15 industries that donated to his campaign.  So far as we can tell, A-B didn’t give him a nickel in 2k8.    Beer/wine/liquor shot all the way up to #7 in 2010.

We’ll continue to follow the money, and we’ll talk more tomorrow about the major players behind the A-B Bill.  And trust us, they are major.

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Equal parts beer nerd and policy geek, Ryan is now the curator of the Guys Drinking Beer cellar. The skills he once used to dig through the annals of state government as a political reporter are now put to use offering unique takes on barrel-aged stouts, years-old barleywines and 10 + year verticals.

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