Press Clips: The Politics of Beer

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and state legislators have struck a deal to cut back some of the “burdensome requirements” that restrict the sale and marketing of craft products in the state.

The compromise bill, which will take effect 30 days after it is signed into law, lifts a production cap for small beer, wine, spirits and cider producers, allows for all manufacturers to conduct tastings and sell their products, by the bottle or glass, without a separate license, and lowers the food requirement that brewers must adhere to when offering on-premise tastings.

“New York State recognizes that the booming growth of the beverage industry means more jobs and economic activity, and we are proud to continue our support by rolling back burdensome restrictions and enabling producers to sell more, at a lower price,” said Cuomo in a statement. “New York is truly open for business, and this bill demonstrates our approach is working: government can be responsive to the needs and concerns of the private sector and boost important industries throughout the state. I commend members of the legislature who worked hard to bring this bill forward and I look forward to its passage.”

Senate Co-Leader Dean Skelos (R) praised the importance of the craft beverage industry, which made him “proud” to support the legislation.

“This important industry is playing a vital role in many of our communities — including upstate — in boosting tourism, generating economic activity and creating new jobs,” he said in the statement.

New York isn’t the only state looking to lift its thumb off the beer industry, as Pennsylvania may soon eliminate its ban on so-called “mug clubs.”

According to, the State House passed a bill on Monday “that would allow bars to offer discounts on food and malt or brewed beverages to patrons who are part of a club program offered by the establishment.”

The article notes, the state’s Liquor Control Board began admonishing the practice in 2012, when it found Iron Hill Brewery was offering “an illegal inducement to buy beer,” which “violated acceptable discount practices.”

“At the time, Iron Hill was offering its mug club members a discount on their 24-ounce beers and allowing them to accrue reward points for alcohol purchases,” the article continues.

Sponsored by state Rep. Kurt Masser (R), House Bill 2069 would lift that ban and allow for holders of liquor licenses to offer discounts on brewed or malt beverages.

“The current prohibitions exclude traditional Mug Clubs from being used as a way to promote loyalty and this isn’t fair to the customer,” Mark Edelson, Iron Hill director of brewing operations, told the website. “Loyalty programs play, and have always played, a vital role for tavern and restaurant owners seeking to grow their business.”

Not all of the news on the legislative front is about loosening regulations, however. In Indiana, a federal judge ruled that a state law prohibiting the sale of cold beer at supermarkets and convenience stores is just, according to the Herald Bulletin.

Under the current system, only liquor stores, bars and restaurants are allowed to sell cold beer, a measure designed to quell underage consumption, wrote Judge Richard L. Young in his ruling. Should the state allow the sale of cold beer beyond the permitted channels, he wrote, the state’s laws would become “tougher to enforce” as minors would have more avenues to pursue in search of beer.

“Indiana’s legislative classifications, which serve to limit the outlets for immediately consumable cold beer, is rationally related to the legitimate goals of Indiana’s alcoholic beverage laws,” the judge wrote. “Opening this market to others without restriction is not.”

Proponents of amending the state legislature have decried the current regulation as antiquated. According to the article, the Indiana Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association (IPCA) called the law “irrational, discriminatory and outdated.”

Convenience and grocery stores in the state have argued in the past that being forced to sell beer at room temperature also violates the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment.

Scot Imus, executive director of the ICPA, told the website the association wasn’t sure if it would appeal the judge’s decision.

Shane Pearson, co-owner of Indianapolis-based Daredevil Brewing Co. said he understands why a change would benefit consumers but wasn’t sure how drastically, if at all, a change to the status quo would impact his own business.

“We’re used to it,” he said. “I think what we would expect is sales might be higher in the convenience store channels [if we could sell cold beer there], but from our perspective, that might just mean we sell less in the others.”