Watching Wisconsin: Would New Glarus’ Deb Carey Walk Away? “You Bet.”

In Beer Politics by Karl

KARL: I’ve been reaching out to legislators on both sides for information on any changes to the amendment and to try and suss out whether or not the Wisconsin Veto might potentially get a workout as it pertains to the craft beer language we found last week.  You can find the results of that outreach here, but I also reached out to Deb Carey of New Glarus Brewing, as she’s been the point person for a lot of other media pieces about this issue.  She kindly gave us a considerable piece of her afternoon to talk about what, from where she’s sitting, is going on in Wisconsin.

I have been describing this as the “craft beer amendment” or “craft beer motion,” but Carey is calling it the Wholesaler’s Amendment.  “That’s what it is.  It’s really awful,” she said.  “It cuts to the bone of what being an entrepreneur is all about.  To lose your wholesale and retail license…that means we can move the beer around, but it’s not our business.  Of course it’s a real loss.  Some breweries are on the verge of distribution, [but] some only hold a wholesaler license and will be put out of business.”

One of the main points of the motion is a requirement to have 25 individual retail accounts in order to hold a wholesaler’s license.  You might think that would involve getting a couple dozen Piggly Wiggly stores or maybe some gas-station chains to carry your product.  You’d be wrong.  As Carey explains, each account takes every store into consideration.  “That means all the Roundy’s stores is one.  All the Food Lion guys, that’s one.  All the 7-11s, they’re one.  I mean, 25 separate accounts and a warehouse before you get a license?  This is protectionism?”

With so many Midwestern states legislating in favor of craft beer, from the Minnesota “Surly Bill” to Indiana raising the craft brewer limits for places like Three Floyds and Sun King, to SB754 here in Illinois, would there ever be an instance where Carey could see herself (and this is exactly how I put it to her) taking New Glarus out of New Glarus?

Would I distribute out of state?  Well, Illinois isn’t that much better than Wisconsin right now, but would I walk away from the brewery because I’m tired of arguing at the capital 4 or 5 months out of the year?  You bet.  I’d like to be building a new warehouse.  I want to hire more people…It’s insane that any business should be regulated in the dark, on the fly, in the budget and not get to say word one about it.

Let me just repeat that one little bit.  Would she walk away from the brewery?  “You bet.”  Without putting any sort of particular intent in Carey’s statement, I should note that I believe this statement to be more a measure of frustration rather than any sort of threat to the state of Wisconsin, but the end result would eventually be the same.  Would Wisconsin be better off without the likes of New Glarus, or with it?  If you’re a small brewer and would consider leaving the state if this legislature goes through, feel free to email me as well. Illinois, for example, is open for business.

Everyone who’s ever enjoyed a Spotted Cow might consider getting on that phone to the Governor’s Office and tell Governor Walker to get out that line-item veto pen post haste.  Here’s his contact info.  You know what to do.

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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.