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Illinois: Anheuser-Busch takes beer battle to Springfield

on 13/04/11 at 2:31 pm


Proposed bill would allow some craft brewers to self-distribute their products.

There’s a battle going on in Springfield over who brings your beer to market.

A bill proposed Tuesday in the Illinois General Assembly would make craft brewers eligible to distribute their own products in the state, but only in limited quantities.

As a noncraft brewer, Anheuser-Busch Cos. would be left on the sidelines, but the beer giant is in the thick of the battle, seeking to distribute its own brews in Illinois. If it is able to gain that right, distributors say, some of the smallest craft beers could be squeezed out of the market.

The outcome could wind up serving as a test case for other states. And the fate of several small craft brewers that have the right to self-distribute may hang in the balance.

The issue dates back to the 1930s and has been a point of contention for decades. Since the end of Prohibition, the alcohol business in the U.S. has been divided into three parts: manufacturers, distributors and retailers. Each state has the power to regulate its own industry.

The latest battle began in late 2009, when Anheuser-Busch set out to buy its biggest Chicago distributor.

Benj Steinman, president of Beer Marketer’s Insights, said it’s unclear whether Anheuser-Busch’s Illinois battle is specific to the state or if the outcome will carry weight when it attempts to buy distributors in other states.

{Full story via Chicago Tribune}

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