Illinois craft brewers win small fight for self-distribution
Decatur Brews News: Illinois craft brewers win small fight for self-distribution
By JIM VOREL - H&R Staff Writer
Governor Pat Quinn quietly signed a new bit of brewing legislation on Monday, HB 1573. The bill’s main effect is to double the overall per-year barrel limit that craft brewers are allowed to produce while still self-distributing a portion of their own product. That limit rose from 15,000 to 30,000 barrels, still far shy of the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild 200,000 barrel proposal. Meanwhile, the amount that craft brewers are actually allowed to self-distribute, 7,500 barrels, has not changed.
In terms of effects, this doesn’t have a big impact on the smallest start-up breweries. This is mostly an issue that affects established craft brewers in Chicago and Central Illinois such as Half Acre Brewing, Revolution Brewing, and Bloomington/Champaign’s Destihl. Chicago’s Revolution Brewing, for instance, had already seen its production rise to 23,000 barrels, and would have been facing some serious changes if not for the passage of this bill. However, this is just a stopgap for the moment, not a permanent solution by any means.
The biggest issue and area of concern is for brewing companies that operate both a production brewery facility (which brews and bottles/cans beer for general consumption) and a brewpub (a restaurant/bar where beer is made on premises). Brewpubs fall under the umbrella of “self-distribution,” as the product is made there on-site and then sold directly to consumers. Therefore, problems arise when a company like Revolution owns a production facility in Chicago that threatens to exceed the 15,000 and now 30,000 barrel limit. If and when they pass the new 30,000 barrel limit at their production facility, the law will require them to sell either the brewpub or the production facility in order to retain their “Craft Brewer License.”
Naturally, there are little loopholes the breweries might choose to tackle, such as gaining a “Brewpub License” rather than a “Craft Brewer License” for their production facility. The trade-off here is that this would greatly limit the amount of packaged beer the production facility would be allowed to sell on-location for the public to carry away. In the end, the trade-off may not be worth the hassle.
It is clear that ongoing legislation will still be needed if the state wants to let these businesses continue growing, earning and creating jobs at their current paces. As always, the best coverage of these issues can be found at the blog Guys Drinking Beer, which does an incredible job of covering the beer/politics landscape in Illinois. Without these guys, I would never be able to make heads or tails from the legal mumbo jumbo involved in these stories.
And as always, I’ll end with my customary plug, like Cato the Elder declaring that Carthage must be destroyed: “Decatur needs a brewery.” Goodnight, and may God bless.