Micro-brewers, Wholesalers Tangle Over Bill

Friday, 01 Apr 2011 02:20 PM

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Old friends in the alcoholic beverage trade have fallen out over a bill before Congress that delineates the lines between state and federal regulation of their products, the National Journal reports. Some wineries and beer micro-brewers say the Community Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness Act (CARE) would squeeze them by giving big wholesalers that handle most storage and shipping even more power.

beer, wine, distribution, fed, regulationsWholesalers say the bill is no cause for alarm and simply clarifies the authority that states already have to control how alcohol is distributed. But some producers of microbrews, wines and spirits say the bill, as written, could take away their ability to ship their own products directly to market and force them into costly arrangements with big distributors.

Sam Calagione, president of Dogfish Head Brewery, said: “If I was getting into the business now and CARE was passed, it would dissuade me from being a distributing brewery. I might just have a brew pub in a town. Small breweries are just going to get overwhelmed trying to distribute in that environment.”

Opponents also say the bill could prevent them from seeking federal fixes for any burdensome state laws. Federal courts, for example, recently struck down a New York law that required beer sold in the state to have a separate, state-specific product code.

Small producers fear similar laws could still be around the corner. Rich Doyle, president and founder of Harpoon Brewery, said the costs of state-by-state labeling would drive him out of business.


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