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Wisconsin Gov. Walker’s (Sneaky) War on Craft Beer

Wisconsin Gov. Walker’s (Sneaky) War on Craft Beer

Tucked into Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) much-discussed budget was a little-noticed provision to overhaul the state’s regulation of the beer industry. In a state long associated with beer, the provision will make it much more difficult for Wisconsin’s burgeoning craft breweries to operate and expand their business by barring them from selling directly to restaurants and liquor stores, and preventing them from selling their own product onsite.

The new provision treats craft brewers — the 60 of whom make up just 5 percent of the beer market in Wisconsin — like corporate mega-brewers, forcing them to use a wholesale distributor to market their product. Under the provision, it would be illegal, for instance, for a small brewer located near a restaurant to walk next door to deliver a case of beer. They’ll have to hire a middle man to do it instead.

But more noteworthy than the provision itself is how it was enacted. The provision was quietly slipped in the massive budget legislation without any consultation from independent craft brewers, who are justifiably outraged by it. One group that clearly did have input, however, is one of the world’s largest beer makers — MillerCoors:

Chicago-based MillerCoors, which operates a brewery and eastern division headquarters in Milwaukee, supports the proposal because it shares concerns with wholesale distributors about the possibility of Anheuser-Busch buying wholesalers throughout the country, said company spokesman James Wright.

Joining MillerCoors in support of the provision are industry associations that have an interest in preserving the current business of beer distributors, including the industry’s lobby, the Wisconsin Beer Distribution Association. But craft brewers see the provision as “a power grab“ť by MillerCoors that is targeted at them. OpenMarket.org reports:

Craft brewers say that MillerCoors is pulling a fast-one on the states legislature by selling this as a bill that would protect small beer from the brewing behemoth [Anheuser-Busch] InBevs plan to monopolize the Wisconsin wholesale market. Craft brewers say that this is clearly not InBevs intent, as they have passed up opportunities to purchase wholesalers in the state no less than 16 times since 2008. They say the real competition that MillerCoors is trying to protect itself against is the growing craft beer market. The restrictions the measure places on any wholesaler wishing to start-up in Wisconsin seem to support the craft brewers’ claims.

The provision is a classic bit of rent-seeking from MillerCoors, who appear to be seeking to preserve their current market share with the power of the state government.

But why would Walker — who calls small businesses the “backbone of our economy“ and has postured himself as their champion — side with a foreign-owned mega-corporation over locally owned small brewers? It may have to do with the fact that MillerCoors, which is joint venture withforeign-owned SABMiller, donated $22,675 to his campaign.

TAKE ACTION: Sign the petition calling on Walker to stop attacking craft beer!

This post appeared on ThinkProgress.

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by mindspikedesign.com via Creative Commons
By Alex Seitz-Wald of Think Progress and Think Progress intern Jen Kalaidis

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60 comments

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3:03AM PDT on Jun 21, 2011

Another form of nannyism.

8:51PM PDT on Jun 13, 2011

"But why would Walker — who calls small businesses the “backbone of our economy” and has postured himself as their champion — side with a foreign-owned mega-corporation over locally owned small brewers?"

Maybe because he's a two-faced, lying little sack of sh*t?

11:22AM PDT on Jun 13, 2011

They probably want this made overseas too.

1:46PM PDT on Jun 12, 2011

This guy is building his own little empire, with little or no input from the people. He just ignores everyone who doesn't agree with him. I hope the people of Wisconsin wake up soon, because it's only going to get worse.

12:09PM PDT on Jun 12, 2011

Signed.

So much for "free market" Repubs eh? This is a direct assault against it.

10:27AM PDT on Jun 12, 2011

Don't mess with beer drinkers.

9:15AM PDT on Jun 12, 2011

Scott Walker aka Adolph Hitler should have the same end only quicker. HE MUST BE RECALLED OR IMPEACHED, so a Democrat can undo all the evil he has done in Wisconsin. And the same for every one of the rep/con/teabagger governors in the rest of the States! To hell with them all.

7:12AM PDT on Jun 12, 2011

Wake upl, Wisconsin, RECALL THIS HITLER WANNABE.

4:46PM PDT on Jun 11, 2011

I would love to see Walker be recalled and go down in the shame and disgrace he so richly deserves.

4:15PM PDT on Jun 11, 2011

Sure he has to stop the craft brewers, they might cut into the profits of the Big Brewers. That would be anti fascist.

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