Today’s beer video is an interesting tour of the Miller Brewery in Milwaukee. Most of the tours I’ve taken have been with consumers, brewers or some mix of beer people, but this one was done by Industry Week, who’s mission is “Advancing the Business of Manufacturing.” They also put on an annual IW Best Plants Conference , with seminars and plant tours of local manufacturers. The 2008 conference included this Tour of the Miller Brewing Company’s Milwaukee Plant. As a result, it’s more focused on the manufacturing aspects if the brewery, which is pretty cool.
So begins the website of beer cook Lucy Saunders, whose birthday is today. Lucy has done much to promote both cooking with beer and enjoying food with beer through her books and other writings. She’s a treasure, in more ways than one. Join me in wishing Lucy a very happy birthday Lucy.
Shaun O’Sullivan from 21st Amendment, Fergie Carey, co-owner of Monk’s, Lucy Saunders, the beer cook, and Tom Peters, also co-owner of Monk’s at the Canned Beer Dinner several Junes ago.
Today is the 53rd birthday of Dan Carey, the mad alchemist brewer of New Glarus Brewing. I first met Dan at Hop School in Yakima, Washington several years ago, but I’ve been enjoying his beers far longer than that. He’s a fellow lover of brewing history and a terrific person, as well as one of the industry’s finest brewers. Join me in wishing Dan a very happy birthday.
Here’s a fun one, sent in by friend of the Bulletin Alan — a.k.a. The Professor. City Brewery in La Crosse, Wisconsin (the same one that rescued the Latrobe brewery) is taking a novel approach to its energy use and has found a way to be charitable at the same time. They’re figured out a way to use their brewing bio-gas byproducts to “create three million kilowatt hours per year of electricity by capturing, cleaning and burning using a process through an engine called a Jenbacher.”
They then donate all that energy to a nearby hospital, the Gundersen Lutheran Health System, which takes the electricity produced by City Brewery, using it to produce 10-13% of their total energy needs. The hospital is trying to reach complete energy independence by 2014. Below is a short video explaining it all.
Tuesday’s ad is for Franz Falk Brewing Co., a Wisconsin brewery which was only around for a short time, from 1856 to 1892 — 36 years. I don’t know for sure, but it looks to me to be from the latter half of the 19th century. I’m not sure why anyone would entrust a couple of beer bottles and glasses on a tray to a young girl, but she certainly knows she’s not supposed to drop them. I can’t tell if she’s so upset because one of them is about to break or she knows she’s going to get a whoopin’ when her father finds out.
Thursday’s ad is for Blatz, whose 1949 claims they they were “Milwaukee’s first bottled beer.” It’s also a celebrity endorsement ad, albeit a rather odd choice. Perhaps there was a series of these done with Milwaukee residents, since the top line reads “I’m from Milwaukee and I ought to know…” The endorsement comes from local dress designer La Verne Sunde, whose “good taste” is demonstrated with inset photos of her fitting someone with a dress she’s created. I’m not quite sure how that translates to beer knowledge, but I guess it’s no sillier than a baseball player doing the same thing.
If you’re a homebrewer in Wisconsin, be careful not to leave the house with your beer. When they call it home brew, they really mean it. Apparently there’s a growing strict interpretation of the state’s laws regarding homebrewing — similar to what went down in Oregon recently — that could prevent homebrewers from taking their beer to competitions and homewbrew club meetings, or indeed just sharing it with friends. I first heard about it from Jason Heindel, the President of the Beer Barons of Milwaukee Cooperative, a local beer enthusiast and homebrew club. He’s written up a nice overview of what’s going on, which you can read below, modified slightly by me for the web:
“As some of you may be aware, there have been some developments in the past year with how the WI Department of Revenue interprets the current State Statues relative to homebrewing. The current statutes can be found here. If you take a strict interpretation of those statues, the only place one can make or enjoy your own home brewed beer is at your home or farm. This means you could not legally brew a beer and hand it over your fence to your neighbor. The Wisconsin statues are outdated and not conforming with the overall Federal statutes regarding homebrewing. One of the highlights of the Federal Statute is the following section:
§ 25.206 Removal of beer.
Beer made under §25.205 may be removed from the premises where made for personal or family use including use at organized affairs, exhibitions or competitions such as homemaker’s contests, tastings or judging. Beer removed under this section may not be sold or offered for sale.
All of those activities are not allowed by Wisconsin statute. So the State Fair beer and wine competitions would not be allowed, tastings and homebrew club meetings would also not be allowed.
A group was formed earlier this year to address these problems. The AHA formed the Wisconsin Homebrewer’s Alliance. The group was comprised of a member from as many homebrew clubs as we could find contacts for, homebrew shop owners, etc. This group has worked to introduce legislation to the Wisconsin Senate to correct these deficiencies. We have been asked to voice our support to our State Senators and Assembly members in support of this legislation. Take a look at the proposed legislation.
Now is the time for all Wisconsin Homebrewer’s to take action and ask for your representative’s to support this bill. Below is an except from an email to the Wisconsin Homebrewer’s Alliance from 1/5/2012:
‘Sen. Ellis’s office and a “Dear Colleague’ letter is going out within minutes asking for co-sponsorship of our legislation. The co-sponsorship period is for 2 weeks starting from today. So, now is the time for all of our memberss to contact their respective Clubs to get them to contact both of their legislators. The most sponsors that we can get the better. The legislation is LRB 3101 The Ellis/Kaufert legislation. We can also contact breweries, distributors, homebrew shops, etc.
Dan Grady, who’s spearheading the legislation, did give Heindel some words of warning. ‘Time is running short. The January floor period is taken up already leaving only February and March. The legislature is going to shut ASAP due to the recalls.’”
Wow, that’s not good. If you live in Wisconsin and want to see homebrewing continue to flourish, find your local legislators and contact them immediately.
With craft beer being the only segment of the brewing industry showing strong growth, you’d think that state governments trying to fix our current economic woes would be doing everything they can to help one of the few bright spots in American business. But never underestimate the power of lobbying by interests with more money than the craft brewers, namely beer distributors and Milwaukee-based powerhouse Miller Brewing, operating in the U.S. as MillerCoors, but also part of the international conglomerate SABMiller. (And thanks to a number of people who sent me different links to this emerging story.)
Right now in Wisconsin, there’s a battle brewing and it looks like the state’s many craft brewers will be hit the hardest by a proposed new wholesale bill that was recently approved by the state Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee. The bill is backed and supported by the Wisconsin Beer Distributors Association, the Tavern League of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Grocers Association, the Wisconsin Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Stores Association, the Wisconsin Wine & Spirits Institute and MillerCoors. In other words, all the big players, with money, who do most of their business with the big, corporate beer companies.
They claim that the new bill is designed “to stop St. Louis-based Budweiser and Bud Light brewer Anheuser-Busch from buying wholesale distributors in Wisconsin.” And that might be understandable and even believable, except for one little detail. Not only was the Wisconsin Brewers Guild (which represents over 35 independent, small craft brewers) not consulted on the bill, several of the provisions of the bill actively harm the small brewers, and those same provisions have nothing whatsoever to do with Anheuser-Busch InBev in the least. Obviously, someone is lying.
Here’s how several local news outlets in Wisconsin are reporting on the story. First, here’s the Isthmus Daily Page:
Current state law severely restricts the options brewers have to distribute their beer. Only breweries that produce less than 50,000 barrels of beer per year are allowed to sell their beer directly to retailers. All others must contract with wholesalers for distribution.
Worried that perhaps microbrewers were operating in too free a market, legislative Republicans have proposed even more restrictions on the beer distribution business. The legislation that passed JFC gets rid of any exemptions that allow some microbreweries to distribute their own beer, as well as forbids breweries from selling beer on their own property, either as a bar or a retailer.
And what would Walker-era legislation be if it didn’t offer more power to state government? The legislation also takes the power of licensing of wholesalers away from municipalities and puts them under the control of the state Department of Revenue.
But what will most likely happen in reality is that small brewers will have a much harder time bringing their beer to market. Whether the bill actually targets small brewers, or it’s an unintended consequence, is unclear but I can’t help but think that legislators — elected officials, after all — have a duty to look out for all of their constituencies, and should understand how their actions effect everyone. I know that’s overly idealistic, but that’s how it’s supposed to work and I’ll always continue to hope for at least that much. The fact that the big players all had a say but the small brewers did not speaks volumes about how this is working in reality, and it’s a pretty ugly picture, if not of outright corruption, then at least of unseemly favoritism.
Here’s what Sprecher Brewing president Jeff Hamilton had to say about the bill, as quoted in The Milwaukee Business Journal:
“This is limiting our business model,” said Hamilton, who also serves as president of the Wisconsin Brewers Guild. “The current system is working just fine.”
MillerCoors and the state’s distributors “went out on their own” in promoting and developing the legislation, Hamilton said.
“We didn’t have a say and it is devastating to our business,” he said.
Hamilton believes the target of the legislation isn’t Anheuser-Busch but rather craft brewers that have been rapidly growing as major brewers have struggled.
“It’s hedging against future competition,” he said.
Consolidation among the state’s distributors has made it more challenging for smaller brewers to sell their products, given the number of brands distributors carry, Hamilton said. The legislation also would thwart plans by some craft brewers to start their own distributorship.
A spokesman for MillerCoors, Nehl Horton, even acknowledges it would limit craft brewers’ options, but insists that it wasn’t their intention. To which I can only say, so what? They had to have known how this would affect craft brewers, but MillerCoors obviously didn’t care. Why should they? But the fourteen Wisconsin legislators, they should have cared about how this would effect viable Wisconsin businesses.
Obnoxiously, Horton added that “the fundamental issue is whether small craft brewers want to be brewers or want to be brewers, wholesalers and retailers.” Given the way small brewers have been treated by distributors and retailers over the years, as they struggled against some pretty big, entrenched institutions to change how people thought about beer, that’s an awfully insulting thing to say. Craft brewers have had to find creative ways to gain access to market out of necessity, including doing their own selling and distributing, precisely because of all the roadblocks put in their way by distributors, retailers and big brewers, the very people who are trying once more to harm their business with this new legislation. So to hear MillerCoors suggest that small brewers should behave more like them, after making it impossible for them to do so for decades, is a pretty offensive thing to say.
And now even the bars and restaurants, many of whom undoubtedly serve craft beer, are also out to get the brewers, too, as the new bill also takes away their ability to sell their own beer, even on their own property. As the Daily Page notes:
But why forbid brewers from operating pubs and restaurants — at least one on their property? It seems a rather blatant attempt to appease the Tavern League, which supported the legislation, and hopes that brewpubs don’t threaten their businesses.
Again, Wisconsin legislators had to know what they were doing, but did it anyway. June 15th, the provisions of the new wholesaler bill comes up for a full vote. Hopefully, an action alert from Support Your Local Brewery will be forthcoming.
And finally, here’s a television report from Channel 9 WAOW, in central Wisconsin: