Wisconsin Changes Beer Sale Laws, Fingers Point at MillerCoors

Wisconsin has been the land of beer for as long as most people can remember. Milwaukee has some of the richest brewing heritage of any American city and that’s not the only city in the state with deep roots in the world of beer. However, things might be changing for the worse for small breweries in Wisconsin if a newly proposed law actually goes into effect. It would bar small breweries from acting as wholesalers for other breweries’ offerings – and some people are blaming MillerCoors for the idea.

The law in question is actually a double-edged sword. On one hand, it would allow small breweries to sell their beer to the public through the brewery itself – in tasting rooms, restaurants and in other areas. However, the other side of the coin is that small brewers would be banned from becoming wholesalers by prohibiting them from obtaining a wholesaler’s license. That would seriously crimp the potential for growth and profitability for many small companies.

The state government says that the reason for the law is to keep Anheuser-Busch from purchasing a distributor and cornering the market. In that, the law is similar to what has been going on in Illinois the past few months. However, at least some brewers are pointing the finger at MillerCoors as the culprit behind the law. The national brewery has been suffering declining sales for a long time now and small brewers point out that this legal maneuver makes it easier for the corporate giant to block the growth of small competitors.

MillerCoors issued a statement emphatically denying their involvement in any way. The company’s spokesperson actually went to considerable lengths to show that the law hinders MillerCoors just as much as it does small breweries in the state. The new law has not been approved as yet. The legislature will debate the proposal at some length.

This is just another sign of how things are changing in the American beer industry. As small breweries grow and become more and more popular, they will face challenges on all sides. While antiquated laws are often the problem here (such as in the Deep South), many challenges will come from within the beer industry itself. It will be interesting to see where things end up for brewers in the state of Wisconsin and just how this law will affect their success in the years to come if it is ultimately enacted.

Posted on June 28, 2011 .