Will brewery lobbyists ever get their ship together?
Notes on DtC wine vs. beer, Bored Ape hard seltzer, lotsa booze-biz legislative updates + more!
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“The beer industry needs to hire the wine industry’s lobbyists.”
That was the take from Zack Fowle of Arizona’s Wilderness Brewing Co. upon seeing Craft Beer & Brewing’s extremely revealing side-by-side comparison of which states allow direct-to-consumer sales for beer vs. wine. It’s the considered position of this boozeletter that lobbyists are an obscene scourge on representative democracy, but even in a post-Abramoff world they are an unfortunate necessity for Getting Things Done in this troubled country’s hallowed halls of gerontocratic power. Assuming no great reforms to get special-interest whispers out of lawmakers’ ears (ditto special-interest money out of their pockets) are coming down the pike any time soon, Fowle has a point: brewers are getting absolutely washed in the DtC game.
There have been some federal legislative efforts to increase parity and give breweries more access to out-of-state mail-order customers via USPS (which currently prohibits shipping booze, commercial or otherwise) but until one of them gets enough momentum on Capitol Hill to actually become law (lol), producers are forced to either forego the lucrative channel entirely, or risk operating in a patchwork/gray area that leaves them open to potential prosecution. Lighting a fire under federal lawmakers’ constitutionally empowered asses on this would require sustained, coordinated pressure from breweries’ policy advocates, and would certainly face stiff opposition from their powerful, deep-pocketed counterparts in the middle tier, whose margins have done with the status quo, thank you very much.) And of course, because each state dictates its own administration of the three-tier system, a federal shipping solution would only be the beginning of any brewery-friendly mail-order reform—you’d still have to go statehouse to statehouse to secure legislative green lights in the 40 states where beer DtC is currently blocked.
Has anybody read anything on how the American wine business managed to so effectively secure itself a legislative green-light on DtC?
Inquiring minds (me) would like to know! And of course, if you know valid reasons for why breweries—and distilleries for that matter—absolutely shouldn’t have the same access to mail-order markets that wineries have enjoyed for years, I’d love to hear ‘em! (NB: “Because then kids could order beer and booze online!” will not be considered a valid reason without substantive statistical evidence, and maybe not even then. It’s 2022, kids can order everything online! They can order wine online! Wine is alcohol! That is not a strong argument!) Hope to see you in the comments.
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🤝 Behind the paywall: Benjamin Anderson on unionizing craft labor
On Wednesday I published a new episode of The Fingers Podcast with Benjamin Anderson, a Ph.D. candidate and instructor at Simon Fraser University who has researched and written about labor organizing efforts in contemporary “craft” businesses—small breweries, distilleries, coffeehouses, and so on.
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🧾 The Settle-Up
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