Here's an update of a story I first covered in July 2007. The Wisconsin legislature, prodded by local brewers, had set out to repair an outmoded restriction on dual-location beer production. But in the process, the legislators mandated that ...
each location serve at least 40% food over beer, and that all locations serve either draft beer or from bottled beer - not both. <...>
Thus if you would want to add a production facility to bottle the beer that you've been producing draft-only at your brewpub, you would be required to serve food at your bottling facility, but you would be forbidden from serving draft beer at your brewpub.
Several small breweries and brewpubs held a protest yesterday afternoon in Milwaukee to bring attention to this illogical bill. They cracked the bungs on old-style kegs (Hoff-Stevens) and allowed the beer to spray out into the Milwaukee River.
My source had been Michael Horne of MilwaukeeWorld. Better late than never, I recently sought him out to inquire about what had happened.
The distributors won, the beer dump made it onto the Today show. (It's on You Tube as Spirit of '07 Beer Protest and Demonstration). Part of the legislation lifted the self-distribute limit to 10,000 bbls. and permitted beer tastings at retail establishments.
So we went ahead and started a beer ourselves and named it after the historic intersection where our offices are located in Milwaukee -- just upstream from the "Demonstration" site. Now we scurry about promoting Buffalo Water Bison Blonde All Malt Lager Beer with good results.
The beer is designed to pair well with Buffalo Wings, and we are at a number of BW3 restaurants, large groceries and maybe 100 taverns in the area. We started with large accounts at retailers, and then filtered down to smaller locations -- rather opposite of what many others have done.
I would recommend folks consider lobbying their states to permit on-site sampling of beers as is permitted in Wisconsin -- and not too many other places.
Not all distributors have bad intentions —Beer Wars Movie notwithstanding— but they do have different goals than breweries. Where those goals coincide —increasing sales of a particular brand— is where cooperation can be fruitful.
Caveat: As a brewery representative, I have worked with honorable and helpful distributors. And, currently, I work for a wine and beer distributor in northern Virginia.