If he were able to, Joey Redner, the founder and CEO of Cigar City Brewing, would lift the cigar from his brewery’s logo and set fire to Florida Senate Bill 1714.
Under the proposed bill, sponsored by State Sen. Kelli Stargel (R), all brewers that produce more than 2,000 kegs (approximately 1,000 barrels) per year, and conduct on-premise retail business, would be required to sell their beer to distributors and in turn, buy it back at marked up prices before serving the liquid to customers.
The bill may have won a 9-4 vote in Florida’s Senate Rules Committee on Monday, but it also provoked Redner, who took to the company’s blog today to pen an evisceration of the bill.
“SB 1714, the Florida Senate bill which would put breweries that produce more than 1,000 barrels of beer a year on the same footing as behemoth multi-national companies that brew in excess of 100,000,000 barrels of beer a year, is, and I will not mince words, all about killing the growth of craft breweries in Florida,” he wrote.
Redner cites new information provided by the Brewers Association (BA), which indicated a statistically significant correlation between states with lenient self-distribution laws and a higher rate of both breweries and beer production per capita.
“The analysis, unsurprisingly, shows a very strong link between less regulation of access to market for breweries and the total number of breweries and barrels of beer produced by those breweries,” he adds.
Bart Watson, the BA’s staff economist who conducted the analysis, wrote similarly, “there’s a high probability that self-distribution laws (either by themselves or in tandem with other regulation) help more breweries get off the ground.”
Redner claims that most breweries, even in states where self-distribution is legal (of which there are 36), will ultimately opt to work with wholesalers anyway.
“Not because the government tells them to, but because it is a mutually beneficial business relationship,” he said.
“Those are the kinds of relationships government should foster; mutually beneficial partnerships, not government mandated servitude,” he wrote.
He also sings the praises of popular beer bars throughout the country, claiming retail is the most important of the three tiers, and a brewer’s right to self-distribute would not infringe in the retail sector.
“Like with distributors, retail accounts that add value by providing good pricing, service, and a great atmosphere thrive all across the United States, even though the majority of states allow self-distribution and/or direct retail sales by breweries.”
Thus, Redner concludes, the bill is an effort, backed by wholesaler lobbyists, to put small brewers at a “severe competitive disadvantage.”
“If distributor members of the FBWA [Florida Beer Wholesalers Association] realize their legislative ambitions, they will knowingly and happily put the Florida breweries they represent at a severe competitive disadvantage. All so they can make a few more dollars.”
It’s worth noting, the Beer Industry of Florida, a network of MillerCoors distributors, has sided with small brewers on the matter.