Here’s today’s antiquated beverage alcohol law: Minnesota dictates that only breweries producing fewer than 20,000 bbls of beer per year are allowed to sell 750 bbls worth of 64-oz growlers and/or 750-milliliter vessels from their locations annually. This currently only affects the state’s five biggest breweries — Castle Danger Brewing, Fulton Beer, Schell’s, Surly Brewing Co. and Summit Brewing Co. — but it’s still a needless hurdle that’s impeding revenue opportunities for craft breweries that sorely need more to-go products during the pandemic.
Jim Nash is a Minnesota politician and member of the Minnesota House of Representatives. Rep. Nash, R-Waconia, is the sponsor of H.F. 1050/S.F. 874 that would remove said growler cap. Nash is also in the video above, discussing the importance of growlers with Minnesota craft breweries. It’s definitely worth a watch.
Who would oppose changing this obvious roadblock to beer growth? From Nash’s Facebook post:
I’ve been trying for years to change liquor laws to make MN more friendly to craft beverage manufacturers of all types and sizes but keep getting shut down by the Teamsters, MLBA [Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association], the organization around municipal liquor stores, and retail liquor stores. They snap their fingers and legislators who do their bidding shut down pro-freedom, pro-business legislation.
I’ve been told in negotiations “it’s not like they’re ever going to leave MN…”. Well, now they are. And in leaving they’re taking the jobs, tax revenue, construction jobs, and property tax to WI with them.
Two large producers have announced their intention to expand elsewhere in the last month, how many more must decide to do the same before legislators controlled by anti-business special interests wake up and do what’s right to help Minnesotans?
Minnesota’s Lift Bridge Brewing Co. recently announced it is expanding into Wisconsin via a partnership with Big Watt, a coffee and sparkling water maker. The new facility is about 20 miles away from its main brewery and taproom in Stillwater, Minn. Here’s Dan Schwarz, Lift Bridge cofounder and CEO, from a Star Tribune article:
“Minnesota’s liquor laws were a factor, but the opportunity came up and it seemed too good of a partnership to not act on,” Schwarz said. “But it will give us the ability to take advantage of the laws in Wisconsin.”
The recently formed Alliance of Minnesota Craft Breweries, which includes Schell’s, Surly, Castle Danger, Fulton, Indeed Brewing Co. and Lift Bridge, aims to remove the 20,000-barrel cap on selling growlers. In fact, there are a number of bills going around aimed at lifting the cap and more. I suggest you read this article over at Beer Dabbler.
There are nearly 200 breweries in Minnesota today, and according to the Minnesota Craft Beverage Council (an org made up of all types of craft beverage makers): “Minnesota is either last or close to last in the country when it comes to modern liquor laws — a prohibition hangover.” Simply adding growlers and other to-go options for breweries could go a long way in our new COVID economy. According to KSTP (the local ABC affiliate):
“The loss of growlers for these companies can be upwards of $300,000 in a loss of revenue for them so they will have to make tough decisions,” said Lauren Bennett McGinty, Executive Director of the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild.