Shawn Connelly, a craft beer ambassador in southern Illinois writes, well, a lot of things. He has his own beer blog, The Beer Philosopher, and he writes about beer styles for Beer Connoisseur Magazine. He’s also the guy behind the Aleuminati, “the (not so) secret society of better beer drinkers.” And he’s also been on top of the fight over the future of craft beer in Illinois long before we were.
Big Muddy Brewing, one of two craft breweries in Illinois that self-distributes, is in Shawn’s back yard (not literally, but you get the point). He’s been watching this like a hawk and was one of the first craft beer blogs to graciously join us in our Save The Craft effort. Last week he weighed in on SB754 and the surprising opposition to the measure by both the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild and the Brewers Association.
“Yesterday, I received an email from the Brewers Association (BA) – the trade and advocacy group for U.S.-based craft breweries – encouraging its members to oppose Senate Bill 754 (SB0754). I have to admit that this threw me for a bit of a loop. While I understand that the Brewers Association, and the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild (ICBG) are looking to get the best deal possible for Illinois brewers, whether production brewery or brewpub, I fail to see how opposing SB0754 accomplishes that end. In holding out for a significantly larger self-distribution cap, and insisting that brewpubs get the same right without restriction the BA and ICBG risk winning nothing for Illinois brewers. “Holding out” for a better deal could cost all breweries in Illinois the right to self-distribution, period. As I said before, this bill – which the ICBG calls “watered down” – is far from perfect but it does secure self-distribution rights and it does so at a cap that most Illinois breweries won’t reach for some time.
At this point, I believe this opposition to SB0754 is both shortsighted and foolish. I find myself in a very odd spot, being in opposition to the Brewers Association’s stated position and that of the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild, but I’ve given this issue a lot of consideration. I just believe it will be better to take a compromise and secure self-distribution rights than to hold out and risk losing the right altogether. Anheuser-Busch Inbev will only have more time to buy more lobbyists and dissuade more politicians from supporting the bill, as imperfect as it might be. Supporting the bill as currently amended, however, would take advantage of the momentum it has now and would very likely pass the Senate and then the House to become law.
I don’t know about others in the craft beer business in Illinois, but I’d much rather lock in the right to self-distribute 7,500 barrels of beer each year than to lose the right altogether. I’d be remiss not to remind everyone that there is still a May 31st deadline to get something accomplished here.”
Give the whole post a read, it’s definitely worth your time.
Shawn brings up some valid points. Yes, the bill certainly is not perfect. Rarely ever is everyone happy with a bill that comes out of Springfield. But by taking such a hard stance on the self-distribution cap does the brewers guild risk losing brewers self-distribution rights altogether?
Regardless of where you stand on the current barrel cap let’s not forget that, if the legislature doesn’t reach a compromise by May 31st, no brewery in Illinois – present or future – will be able to self-distribute.