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.