1 Big Reason Why the Growler Bill Must Die

Remember House Bill 2054? It seemed like such a good idea last month. This bill would have made growlers of fresh beer available at retailers possessing liquor licenses like grocery and convenience stores. What a difference an amendment makes.

Like many of you, I follow local breweries on Twitter and started to see postings calling to defeat the bill. Turns out there was an amendment made to the Senate version of the bill which made it harder for small brewers to compete in the market. The Missouri Brewers Guild had this to say about the bill:

“February 29, 2016.  The Missouri Small Brewer’s Guild stands in opposition to Missouri Senate Bill 919, currently scheduled for a Senate floor vote. The bill would allow brewers the ability to provide branded refrigerated coolers to retail accounts, putting small brewers at a disadvantage to their larger counterparts in terms of market access for their beer, with beer drinkers seeing less variety of beer at retail.”

Now, I live in Columbia, where the major grocery stores have installed large walk-in coolers to house their beer, so I wasn’t sure how much impact branded coolers would have. To find out, I emailed Jeff Schrag of Mother’s Brewing Company in Springfield. Jeff is president of the Missouri Small Brewers Guild. He explained that “the main reason that this hurts is that it opens a door what was previously closed and locked. No purchase of refrigeration by a supplier or brewer. Period.”

Large variety of craft beers in cooler
Just a small sampling of the range of microbrewery beers in the cooler at Hy-Vee

The text of the bill now states that breweries could rent to retailers coolers which “may bear in a conspicuous manner substantial advertising matter about a product or products of the brewer.” And “no retail location may have more than one unit.” As Jeff pointed out, mega-brewers like InBev would be in a position to lease branded coolers to retailers throughout the state and control what beers went into them – or how much microbreweries would have to pay to buy space for their beers. “Things like this will lead the beer aisle to look like the soda aisle. How many soda makers are in the aisle at your local grocer vs how many brewers in the beer section vs how many wineries?”

Jeff speculates that large breweries getting control of coolers would lead to more pressure on small brewers in the future. “In most countries where InBev sells, they have a huge market share (80% to 90%) and no pesky craft brewers to deal with. They want to turn the USA that way too.”

SB 919 made it through the Senate and had its second read in the House on March 7, 2016. Time is running out to stop it. Act quickly to #KilltheBill:

  • Tell your representative to vote against SB 919.
  • Tweet your opposition to the bill and copy the Brewers Association @BrewersAssoc.
  • Find your representative on Twitter and copy him/her also.

Keep the beers. Kill the bill.

MO Homebrew Mashup at Bur Oak Brewing – Which Beer Will Win?

The Bur Oak Brewing Company Bar
The Bur Oak bar is subdued, intimate space.

Bur Oak Brewing Company is just to the left of the middle of nowhere. Despite that, it’s surprisingly easy to find. Take the 133 South exit off Interstate 70, turn right onto the outer road and turn left onto Trade Center Drive. It’s the second nondescript gray building among several nondescript gray buildings off to the left of the road. The door opens into a room designed to make you think you’re in the wrong place, but turn right, go through another door and you’re in the cozy bar, all wood and amber lighting.

The actual brewery is right behind the bar and that is where home brewing clubs and fans of artisanal beer gathered on February 20, 2016 for the MO Home Brew Mashup sponsored by Bur Oak Brewing. Clubs from across the state – including The Wort from Columbia and the MU Fermentation Science Club from MU’s Columbia campus – competed to brew a good Belgian Ale. Teams had a set variety of ingredients to choose from and had to complete their brewing within a few hours. I love to drink good beer but know nothing about brewing. Here is what I learned about brewing contests:

  • Brewers like to talk about their work with anyone who’s interested. They want to share their craft.

    The Missouri Mashers take a brew break
    The Missouri Mashers out of Kansas City
  • Brewing attracts a friendly crowd – not trying to out-do each other with beer knowledge but to compare notes and share experiences. So if you’re flashing back to the 80’s wine scene where every party was “Mean Girls” paired with a pinot noir, relax. This is a beer event. It’s louder, happier and foam mustaches are chic.
  • People get up close and personal, peeking into boiling mash and chatting with the brewers.
  • Brewers take beer breaks instead of coffee breaks during the boil.
  • Brewers smell the hops in the packets before they add them to the brew. I don’t know if that’s a requirement,  but they all did it.

    Sprinkling hops in the brew
    Members of The Wort gather round to sprinkle in the hops
  • Boiling hops fill a brewery with a warm, toasty scent. It’s a nostalgic smell, like turkey roasting, bread rising or your grandpa’s pipe tobacco.
  • Grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup go great with IPAs (thanks, The Big Cheese Mizzou Food Truck!)
  • Brewing is very physical:  stooping, stirring, hovering, measuring, lifting, pouring, scooping and lots of standing around sipping beer.

    Working with the mash
    Working with the mash
  • There is such a thing as Brewer’s butt. Like Plumber’s butt, only it’s not under your sink so it’s not as in-your-face.
  • Nothing boiled over and nothing blew up, which was mildly disappointing.

So who won? I don’t know! These brews will be sampled and a winner picked at the Missouri Beer Festival on Saturday, April 23rd 2016. Happily, the festival is in Columbia, at the Columbia Expo Center. The Missouri Beer Festival runs from 1-5 PM and costs as little as $25 if you buy tickets in advance. Your favorite local brewers will be there. Your favorite beer lovers will be there, too. You should come!

Bur Oak Brewing Company has a couple of Columbia Tap Takeovers scheduled in March:

Sign up to receive emails for Bur Oak Brewing Company events here.

I am a craft brew lover because I need intense flavor in my beer. I want beer I can chew! My home base is Columbia, Missouri, home to the Mizzou Tigers, several excellent small breweries and countless home brewers. I am also a student in Northwestern University’s Social Media Marketing Specialization administered online through Coursera. Feel free to reach out to me at Twitter @bocomobeer.