Wednesday, July 13, 2011

How Dry We Are

Last week, there was no Fraters Libertas Beer of the Week. This has caused no small amount of consternation in some parts and our own Saint Paul even offered up a theory to explain its absence which nicely fits in with current events:

I assume these stories are why you've suspended the FL Beer of the Week feature. Solidarity with state workers and the collateral victims of the gov't shut down. And now we're all suffering!

The stories that Brian is referring to are ones such as this that appeared in today’s Star Tribune. Shutdown forces MillerCoors to pull beer from shelves:

Miller Time in Minnesota is over--until lawmakers reach a budget deal.

The state's government shutdown, now in its 13th day, will soon force MillerCoors to pull its beer from Minnesota liquor stores, bars and restaurants. A state official says the law requires the company to stop selling products like Coors Light, Miller Lite and Blue Moon imminently.

After countless attempts to get the public to pay attention to the impact of the government shutdown, the Strib may have finally found something that truly matters to people: beer.

"I would suspect within days to see that product leave the shelves," said Doug Neville, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety.

A MillerCoors spokesman said they are fighting the decision, which would decimate one of its largest markets in the country.

“Right now we are exploring all options that are available to us," said spokesman Julian Green. "We are currently in discussions and hoping that we can get a resolution with the state, with the agency that enforces the sale ... of alcohol.”

Neville says MillerCoors must remove the beer because they did not renew their brand label registration with the state before the shutdown began. By law, brewers must renew those registrations -- which show the label on each brand of beer -- every three years.

The company tried to renew in mid-June, but the process got delayed when they wrote a check for too much money. Green said they sent in a new check, which the state received on June 27, but nonetheless got a letter three days later saying their brand licenses had expired

“We believe we’ve followed all applicable state laws on this," Green said.
Neville said his agency has asked MillerCoors to develop a plan to remove the product from shelves and cease their distribution. He added that Anheuser-Busch will face a similar problem if the shutdown extends to October.

Green said they are not currently working on that plan, hoping they can first overturn the decision.

When the shutdown started big government proponents were hoping that once the public realized how much they missed all those nifty government programs they’d be clamoring for their restoration and perhaps even future expansion. Instead, I’m wondering if more people aren’t reacting the way I am to news like MillerCoors being pulled from store shelves. I had no idea just how extensive the state government’s involvement was in so many aspects of life and how dubious that involvement now appears. Do we really NEED to have brewers register their brand labels every three years? Other than a simple money grab by the state, exactly how is the public being served by this requirement?

It’s not just the brewers that are being impacted either:

The development follows news that hundreds of bars and liquor stores across the state are slowly running out of alcohol because they were unable to renew their state-issued purchase cards. But eliminating MillerCoors could have a much larger impact, since it would apply to nearly every liquor retailer in the state.

State issued purchase cards? What century are we living in anyway? Someone should compile a list of all the various regulations and requirements imposed by the state on businesses which have come to light as a result of the shutdown so that during the next legislative session we can start eliminating any that aren’t absolutely necessary.

Meanwhile, those concerned about how the MillerCoors shutdown will impact them should consider this:

Here is a list of the beers that are affected:

Blue Moon Pale Moon Belgian Style Pale Ale, Coors Banquet, Coors Light, Coors Light 3.2, Foster’s Lager Beer, Foster’s Premium Ale, Grolsch Amber Ale, Grolsch Blonde Lager, Grolsch Light Lager, Grolsch Premium Lager, Hamm’s, Hamm’s Genuine Draft Style, Hamm’s Special Light, Henry Weinhard’s Dark, Henry Weinhard’s Hefeweizen, Henry Weinhard’s Pale Ale, Henry Weinhard’s Private Reserve, Icehouse Beer, Keystone Light Beer 3.2, Killians Irish Red 3.2, MGD Light 64, Mickey’s Ice Ale, Mickey’s Malt Liquor, Miller Genuine Draft, Miller High Life 12/16 oz can, Miller High Life Ice, Miller High Life Light 12 oz can, Miller Lite 3.2%, Miller Lite Beer, Milwaukee’s Best #1 , Milwaukee’s Best Ice, Milwaukee’s Best Light #1 3.2, Molson Canadian, Molson Canadian Light, Molson Golden, Molson Ice, Molson XXX, Olde English 800 Malt Liquor, Sparks Light

A couple of decent beers in that list, but really not much of a loss there. You start pulling the Surly and Summit off the shelves and then you’re going to see trouble.

To circle back to where this started, I should note that last week’s lack of a Fraters Libertas Beer of the Week had nothing to do with a government shutdown (although that’s a heck of a good excuse). It was more about scheduling difficulties that prevented me from procuring my sampling product in a timely manner. But have no fear. No stinkin’ government shutdown is going to stand in the way of this week’s Beer of the Week.

In fact, I’m going to swing by Glen Lake Wine and Spirits tonight to pick up this week’s selection. And I’ll check in to see if the government shutdown is impacting their business yet or if they expect it will soon. Over at Shot in the Dark, Mitch Berg has been referring to Minnesota as the Dayton Dustbowl ever since last fall’s election. It looks like it’s about to get even drier.