Massachusetts Task Force to Review Alcohol Laws
The first five members of a seven-person task force charged with examining Massachusetts’ decades-old alcohol laws have been named, according to a new report from the Boston Globe.
Massachusetts Treasurer Deb Goldberg has appointed three former legal and political figures — including Kate Cook, the former chief legal counsel to former governor Deval Patrick — to conduct a sweeping review of the state’s alcohol laws and provide suggestions for modifying elements of Chapter 138 (Alcoholic Liquors) of the Massachusetts General Laws.
Goldberg also named former Fitchburg Mayor Lisa Wong and former Port Authority chief legal counsel Rachel Rollins to the task force. Also joining the group will be Representative John Fernandes, appointed by House Speaker Robert DeLeo, and Pete Wilson, the press secretary for Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg.
Governor Charlie Baker is also expected to name an appointee at a later date; Goldberg will also be responsible for picking the group’s chair, according to the Globe.
The news comes nearly three months after Boston-based alcohol attorney John Connell told beer industry professionals attending a Brew Talks event at the Jack’s Abby brewery, the task force would consist of “five to seven people of learned backgrounds,” and be asked to take a “top to bottom look at the liquor control laws in Massachusetts.”
According to the Globe, the task force will examine a variety of issues, including but not limited to: rules surrounding pay-to-play incentives, franchise laws that govern relationships between brewers and wholesalers, liquor licensing, and funding for the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC), the agency tasked with regulating the manufacturing, distribution and sale of alcohol beverages.
The group is expected to meet for the first time by the end of January.
The report also comes five days after it was announced that ABCC chairwoman Kim Gainsboro would depart the agency after eight years for a job in banking.
Great Divide Down 16 Percent in 2016
Very large, established craft beer companies weren’t the only breweries that struggled to grow in 2016.
A report from Denver’s Westword last Friday revealed that regional brewery Great Divide, which made more than 43,000 barrels of beer in 2015, failed to grow for the first time in 23 years.
“We were having 25 to 30 percent growth on an annual basis; we were used to that. So it was definitely a tough year, and it stings,” brewery founder Brian Dunn told the outlet.
Great Divide production dipped 16 percent in 2016, after the company discontinued three top-selling year-round brands, according to Dunn.
Had the company continued producing those offerings — Nomad Pilsner, Lasso Session IPA and Hoss Rye Lager — Dunn believes production would have actually increased.
“At some point, you need to change the lineup, you need to make decisions based on what’s best for the brewery in the long term,” he told the outlet.
As a result of the declines, Great Divide will delay construction on a new brewery that was to be built next to its packaging facility in the River North neighborhood of Denver.
Big Al Brewing Closes Its Doors
Great Divide wasn’t the only established craft brewery feeling the pressure of increasing competition last year. Washington’s Big Al Brewing announced via Facebook last week that it would shutter its business after board members elected to enter chapter 7 bankruptcy.
The brewery, which made less than 1,500 barrels of beer in 2015, according to the Brewers Association, officially closed its doors on January 14.
In a letter to employees, founder Alejandro Brown cited increasing local competition and struggles to maintain draft placements at “rotator” bars as reasons for the closure.
Boutique Beer Distributor Launches in Colorado
A new craft beer wholesaler focused on distributing products from small craft breweries has opened in Denver, according to Westword.
Launched in December and appropriately named “Colorado Craft Distributors,” the upstart aims to deliver offerings from a niche and curated list of local brands to Front Range retailers.
The wholesaler already has six clients, according to Westword, including Caution Brewing, Horse & Dragon Brewing, Lost Highway Brewing, Oasis Brewing, Jessup Farm Barrel House and De Steeg Brewing.
“We are hoping to add three to four more breweries by summer,” co-founder Tom Jasko told the outlet. “We will probably cap it at around twelve.”
Texas’ Andrews Distributing Drops Red Bull
Earlier this month, Dallas-based Andrews Distributing, a MillerCoors wholesaler, announced plans to cease the sale and delivery of Red Bull products across its North and South Texas footprints, according to an internal memo obtained by Brewbound.
In a note to employees, Andrews president Mike McGuire said the decision to drop the energy drink giant from the portfolio was “tough,” but that it would allow the company to “move forward with a 100 percent focus on our core beer business.”
“This company’s strength is beer distribution; there is a strong and sustainable growth path if we focus on organic growth of those impressive and distinctive products,” he wrote. “Importantly, we are confident Andrews will continue to add new and powerful brands, territories and customers to the company’s portfolio.”
In his note, McGuire expressed hope that all Andrews employees who were tasked with selling Red Bull products would “be able to move to Red Bull North America, join the Andrews beer business, or migrate to another opportunity.”
When asked, a company spokesperson declined to comment on how many employees would be impacted by the move.