Michael Horne
Plenty of Horne

Beer Protest Spill a Spash!

By - Jul 11th, 2007 12:13 pm
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[Update: 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 11th, 2007 — The committee has adjourned without taking any action on the bill, according to Jim McCabe of the Milwaukee Ale House. This is good news, especially since six of the seven members of the committee were sponsors of the legislation. [See post, below.] Next, the senate will proceed to “make a stew,” as they say in the Capitol. And it can take months to make a good stew. — Ed.]

The Spirit of ’07 Milwaukee Beer Party Protest and Demonstration was a good old-fashioned publicity stunt that brought cameras and crowds to the Milwaukee Ale House on Tuesday, July 10th, 2007. The audience, poised on the riverfront deck of the Ale House heard comments from owner Jim McCabe and Wisconsin Brewer’s Guild president Russ Klisch, who decried the negative effect SB 224, the “Brewpub Tourism Development Act” would have on their business. [See my previous post for details.]

Speaking at a makeshift podium fashioned from an old wooden barrel, Klisch and McCabe made a valiant effort at distilling the 28-page bill into a series of digestible soundbites.

After they were duly noted, the fun began, and McCabe’s crew delighted the crowd and the cameras with the demonstration portion of the program, namely “detonation” of three barrels of beer. The CO2-charged casks spewed a good thirty feet, apparently into the Milwaukee River, but actually onto the patio of the Ale House.

I particularly like the coverage by Myra Sanchick on Fox 6 Milwaukee, [WITI-TV], and you can watch the barrels blow on their link here. The event also captured a front-page mention by Tom Daykin in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this morning. Colin Fly wrote a story for the Associated Press that was picked up nationwide, including in the Washington Post. The video even made it on the Today Show this morning!

The committee hearing (and possibly a vote to follow immediately thereafter) is this afternoon at 1 p.m. in Room 411 South of the State Capitol.

Today’s stunt will be to present the members of the Committee on Transportation, Tourism and Insurance with letters of opposition from brewers across the state. The letters will be delivered in empty bottles from the brewers.

Here is a telephone photograph sent to me of some of the senators in the committee room with the six packs of brewers’ letters on the desk.

Another thing I am doing today is to contact the members of the committee. I noticed that every member of the committee, except Chairman Sen. Roger Breske (D-12th) has a brewpub or microbrewery in their district. Also, every member of the committee, with the exception of Sen. Jon Erpenbach is listed as a sponsor of the bill. (In fact 18 of all 33 senators are listed as sponsors of the bill, which makes it harder – but not impossible – to beat.)

I made this list (see below), and contacted the senators telling them about my postings on this subject and asking if they had any comments on how the legislation might affect their district breweries. I haven’t received any response.

Probably the guy in the biggest fix is Sen. Jeff Plale of Milwaukee. His district includes the Milwaukee Ale House, but is poised to gain two more restaurants as Hinterland Brewing Co. of Green Bay and Fratello’s of Oshkosh plan to open in the Third Ward. The bill could throw some monkey wrenches into both Fratello’s, which is owned by the same firm as the Fox River Brewing Co., and in Hinterland’s plans to operate here.

The list below shows the members of the Committee on Transportation, Tourism and Insurance and a partial listing of the brewpubs and microbreweries in their districts. If any of these are among your favorites (either senators or brewpubs) send them a message. I’ll try to have my own video of yesterday’s event up here later, once I figure out a few details.

In a final irony, Governor Doyle has said he would sign the bill if it passes. Russ Klisch thought it was amusing that among the most recent fundraisers the governor has held in Milwaukee, one was at his Lakefront Brewery, (I was there and wrote about it here) and the other was at the Milwaukee Ale House.

Here is a list of the members of the committee who also have brewpubs in their districts. All are sponsors except Sen. Erpenbach.

Sen. Joseph Leibham, R-9th, Courthouse Pub, Manitowoc.;

Sen. Dale Schultz, R-17th Lake Louie Brewing Co., Arena;

Sen. Dan Kapanke, R-32nd City Brewery, Pearl Street Brewery, LaCrosse

Sen. David Hansen, D-30th Hinterland Brewery, Green Bay.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-27th Capital Brewery, Madison; New Glarus Brewery, New Glarus

Sen Jeffrey Plale, D-7th Milwaukee Ale House, Milwaukee.

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This article was originally published by Milwaukee World.

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