We're not the most political guys, but every now and again an issue at the Capitol grabs our attention. As many of you know, last month our distinguished neighbor from across town, Surly, announced their intention to build a new $20 million brewery, restaurant, and event center. That in itself is great news, but the rub is this: Minnesota law needs to change before that can happen, because right now, packaging brewers aren't allowed to sell pints from their breweries. We firmly believe that this law change, if enacted, will go down as one of the most important moments in Minnesota beer history. The cool part is, all of us can contribute to making this change happen. Here's how you can help:
1) Look up your State Representative and Senator.
2) Call each of them to voice your support. All you need to say is that you support SF 416 and HF 703. Reasons why: the bill will bring us more jobs, more tax revenue, and more tourism. You don't have to be negative or attack the opposition; just voice your support. If you have a moment, read below for more background.
3) Tell your friends to do the same. This means you, no matter how you communciate: all you emailers, phone callers, and Facebookers; texters, Tweeters, and face-to-face talkers; Letter writers, broadcasters, standers-on-street-corners and shout-from-mountaintoppers. It doesn't matter how you do it, it just matters that you do it. Get the message out there and multiply your effect.
The great thing is, if each legislator gets even a dozen calls in favor, it shows them how important this is to Minnesota citizens. And if you don't think your call makes a difference, think of this: there is a small but highly active group opposed to any sort of change in alcohol laws, and they are very good at calling their legislators. Don't let them drown us out.
Why the Brewery Pint Sale Legislation Matters
As the law currently stands, brewers in Minnesota must decide if they want to be either a packaging brewery (such as Surly, Summit, or our upcoming brewery) whose production must be sold for off-premise consumption; or a brewpub, whose production must be sold entirely on-premises. The legalese gets a little more complicated, but that’s the basic outline.
The proposed law change is simple: it would allow packaging breweries to apply for an on-premise license from their local municipality. In other words, Fulton would be allowed to sell you a pint of our own beer in our own brewery.
While this change may seem small, the implications are huge. Similar legislation in other states such as California, Colorado, Oregon, Wisconsin was passed years ago. The effect? Those states, despite being similar in size to Minnesota, have four times as many breweries as Minnesota. The primary reason is because even a small brewery is incredibly expensive to open, and the upstart brewery has to sell a substantial amount of beer just to break even. The ability to sell pints on premise lowers that barrier, helping the brewer get more sales at a higher margin in those crucial early years. The benefits are also important for larger, more established breweries. Nationally renowned brewers such as Stone have become destinations—something that could not happen without the ability to sell pints on premise. Cities such as Portland, Denver, and San Diego have become popular for “beer tourism” thanks to their flourishing brewery/brewpub scene. It’s exciting to think about Minneapolis/St. Paul becoming a beer destination as well – and not just from a beer enthusiast’s standpoint. The growth of such an industry could bring hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars of tax revenue to our cities.
Seems easy, right? Not so, unfortunately. Certain groups lobby against any proposed changes in laws related to alcohol. Usually, it’s under the guise of “protecting the integrity of the 3-tier system.” The 3-tier system, for those not familiar, is the division between brewers, wholesalers/distributors, and retailers. Unfortunately, painting the proposed law change as an attack on the 3-tier system is a mischaracterization. SF 416 and HF 703 are not looking to expand a brewer’s ability to self-distribute, sell packaged beer (such as six-packs) from their brewery, or to own or operate retail locations outside of their own brewery. Other states have given brewers far more rights to sell and distribute than this bill would, and their 3-tier systems continue to thrive. We and other Minnesota breweries support the 3-tier system, and believe this bill will benefit distributors and retailers, by allowing small breweries to grow and produce more beer for them to distribute and sell. Over time, as more breweries open and grow and the Twin Cities earns national recognition as a beer destination, all 3 tiers benefit in greater and greater magnitude.
So again, we’ll ask: please call your State Senator and Representative. For less than five minutes of your time, you can become part of brewing history in Minnesota. Looking forward to sharing a beer with you – whether it’s purchased from the brewery, a bar, or a liquor store.