Sparging the News, Saving the Craft: How Indiana Handles Craft Brewery Legislation

In Beer Politics by Karl

KARL: Far be it from me to agree with just about anything Indiana does ever, but they do seem to know a thing or two about handling their craft brewing scene.  The  Times of Northwest Indiana reported recently that Three Floyds was creeping in on the current 20,000 barrel limit for microbreweries.

According to BeerNews.org, in Indiana that designation comes with certain tax breaks and distribution rights as well as on-site sale privileges.  Rather than muck around with a big argument over what constitutes a barrel or what defines a craft brewery or who can self-distribute, it appears that the IN legislature is just going to raise the cap to 30,000.  Nice of them, huh?

Here’s basically the whole piece, as reported by Dan Carden:

Munster’s Three Floyds Brewing and other Indiana microbreweries appear likely to keep their current tax status and distribution rights.

The Indiana Senate voted 49-0 Tuesday to return House Bill 1132 to the House with a provision raising the microbreweries’ annual production cap to 30,000 barrels, from 20,000 barrels. A barrel is 31 gallons of beer.

Three Floyds officials told lawmakers last week the microbrewery was on pace to exceed the limit later this year. That would take away tax breaks, on-site sale privileges and self-distribution rights.

Kinda nice seeing a statehouse that votes unanimously to help support a small business, isn’t it?  Without knowing more about the situation we can’t say for certain that there wasn’t any armtwisting or horsetrading behind the scenes (as government is wont to do), but a unanimous vote like that certainly signals a group of people who are trying to act positively and proactively.  I rarely say this, but…<gulp> nice job, Indiana.

Numbers like this also serve to act as a signpost for where we might prefer to see our barrel limit end up here in Illinois.  The 15,000 barrel limit (for designation) and 7,5000 barrel limit (for self-distribution) currently on the legislation would still keep brewers like Metropolitan, Big Muddy and Half Acre legally designated as “craft brewers” with all the benefits that go along with said license (whether they utilize them or not), but does anyone really believe that if Three Floyds were to move just a little bit to the west and over the Illinois State line, they would cease to be a “craft brewery?”

This also is a shining example of how reasonable legislation can move through with no problems when there isn’t a major international corporation exerting its will on a state government.  Without Anheuser-Busch trying to wrangle the courts and legislature via money and access to increase its toehold on the Illinois market, we wouldn’t even be having this argument about what constitutes a craft brewery or what makes a brewpub.  Nor would we see movement to winnow the little guys down step by step, barrel by barrel.

Regardless of where one stands on the amendments to SB754, on one’s belief that 60,000 barrels or 60 makes you a craft brewer, or how many PO Boxes you need to be a brewpub, the one thing I think we can all agree on is that the last thing the craft beer community in Illinois needs is reason for Anheuser-Busch to run roughshod over markets with impunity.

Also according to BeerNews, Three Floyds teamed up with Sun King Brewing to create a collaboration beer called Three Kings to “help bring awareness to an initiative to raise that limit” of barrels they’re all allowed to brew.  Perhaps a Revolution/Big Muddy collaboration is in order?  (Calling it “Big Revolution actually works pretty well.)  Or a Haymarket/Argus brew?  (HayArgus, naturally.)  It could work.

As always, Constant Readers – call your legislators and tell them to act.  Decide where you stand and let them know what you think.  They are listening, we guarantee.

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About the Author

Karl

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Karl has written about food, travel and beer for Chicago Magazine, Draft Magazine, Thrillist, Time Out Chicago and more. His book, Beer Lovers Chicago, comes out in early 2017, and if you're buying, he's likely having a porter or a pale ale.