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Beer, bureaucracy don’t mix

on 28/05/11 at 12:25 pm


Craft beer is one of the best — if not, certainly the tastiest — cases for government staying out of business.

Successful microbreweries find themselves in an enviable economic position: The only variable that matters in the supply-and-demand equation is supply.

To get to that point, it takes an uncommon fusion of left-brain business acumen and right-brain beer artistry. But when those talents converge, it’s not usually the market that inhibits growth but the brewery’s ability to serve it.

In the past year, Dogfish Head and Stone — two far-away breweries among craft beer’s elite — pulled their brews out of Wisconsin because they couldn’t meet demand in more critical markets. They can only make so much beer.

Brewing enough beer while maintaining quality is hard enough without the checks of a slow-moving bureaucracy.

Exhibit A could be Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. The Chico, Calif.-based dean of the microbrew movement has been looking for a site to make its wildly popular beer in the East and settled on tiny Alcoa, Tenn., as a preferred site.

The problem: Tennessee regulates beer over 6.25 percent alcohol by volume no differently than liquor or wine, meaning Sierra Nevada could not showcase what makes it special at any Tennessee brewery. That ruled out an operation like Sierra Nevada’s massive complex in California, which sells beer to tourists, features a large restaurant and music venue and, significantly, employs a ton of people.

The solution: Tennessee’s legislature last week passed a bill that will allow any brewer to sell beer up to 20 percent ABV where it’s brewed, among other perks. Sierra Nevada responded on Monday by saying Alcoa is now in the running for its $70 million facility.

{Full story via Wisconsin State Journal}

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