California: Craft Distillers (David) Take On Distibutors (Goliath)
on 22/03/13 at 10:01 amSpirits
Small liquor makers hope to tweak state law to be able to charge for tastings and sell bottles. Big wholesalers are a major hurdle.
In a 65,000-square-foot structure that once housed Navy fighter jets, Lance Winters of St. George Spirits makes popular Hangar One vodka, along with gin, bourbon, rum, whiskey, liqueurs and even absinthe.
Unlike vast distilleries in Kentucky and Tennessee that make and bottle hard liquor by the millions of barrels, Hangar One is produced by one of a growing breed of small-batch, craft distillers. There are already more than 30 of them in California, and — like wineries and microbreweries — they want to charge for tastings and sell bottles for their visitors to take home.
But in recent months, the craft distillers have run up against the powerful liquor lobby in Sacramento, led by wholesalers opposed to changing state law. A legislative hearing is set for next month, and the battle is on.
Fighting the powerful liquor distributors to tweak alcoholic beverage lawsin Sacramento can be daunting, said Phillip Ung of California Common Cause, a watchdog group. “I can’t think of one example where the distributors haven’t gotten their way on alcohol issues.”