Jeramey Jannene

Brew Pub Legislation

By - Oct 25th, 2007 09:39 am
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Milwaukee Ale House Viewed From the Milwaukee River
Originally uploaded by purpleslog

A anti-capitalism, pro-lobbying law was snuck into the state budget. It had been protested already this summer by Milwaukee Ale House owner Jim McCabe when the idea was floated originally.

I’ll let you form your own opinion, but I can’t figure out a reason why this law should exist.

Under current law, a Wisconsin brew pub can operate only two locations if it produces more than 4,000 barrels of beer a year. The budget proposal lifts that production ceiling to 10,000 barrels and allows up to six locations. That change was sought by Great Dane Pub & Brewing Co., a Madison-area brew pub operator that opened its third location earlier this year.

Meanwhile, McCabe’s new brewery, at 613 S. 2nd St., is designed to ramp up production of the Louie’s Demise brand for sale in packaged form at liquor stores and other retail outlets. Other regional craft brewers, including Chicago-based Goose Island Beer Co. and Cleveland’s Great Lakes Brewing Co., started as brew pubs, and McCabe wants to follow that same path.

However, the new law “caps our overall growth,” he said.

Also, the new law bans a licensed brew pub operator from also owning a brewery that produces beer for packaged sales, said McCabe and Russ Klisch, president of Lakefront Brewery Inc. McCabe said that might force him to convert the 2nd St. brewery into a brew pub – a move that would require a large investment.

Klisch said he fears the production limit might require him to close Lakefront Palm Garden restaurant, which operates at his brewery, 1872 N. Commerce St. Lakefront Brewery this year will produce around 9,600 barrels and is expected to exceed 10,000 barrels in 2008, he said.

The new provision could be changed by Gov. Jim Doyle through the line-item veto process, McCabe said. Another possibility is filing a lawsuit to challenge the law, he said.

The proposed limits initially surfaced this summer and are supported by some of the state’s craft brewers and brew pub operators. The changes also are supported by the Wisconsin Beer Distributors Association Inc., whose members buy beer from breweries and then sell it to retailers.

The law could help fend off possible lawsuits challenging the lack of a state brew pub license, association officials say. The wholesalers group also said the 10,000-barrel limit allows plenty of room for brew pubs to grow.

The only places I can imagine that are in favor of it are Great Dane and Water Street Brewery because they don’t appear to be interested in selling their beer off-site via production at a brewery.

I can’t figure out why this law exists. It seems anti-business and anti-logic to not allow Milwaukee’s (and Wisconsin’s) only locally-owned breweries from expanding their operations in ways that increase employment and generate tax revenue. They produce a quality product and are assets to both the restaurant and brewing community.

Urban Milwaukee supports the repeal of this ridiculous law!


2 thoughts on “Brew Pub Legislation”

  1. daver says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more this is a terrible law.

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