Why Does Wisconsin Brewers Guild Have a PAC?
As a craft beer enthusiast, you are no doubt aware of the significant impact that the independent craft breweries of Wisconsin have in our state. It's hard to believe that in the late 1970's, Wisconsin had only eight operating breweries remaining and consumer choice was largely limited to a singular style of beer. It wasn't until the mid-1980's that new breweries began to emerge by producing long forgotten beer styles that were largely unknown to the casual beer consumer.
Gaining access to market was the biggest challenge for what were then referred to as "microbreweries". But their struggle wasn't because of any legislative or regulatory impediments....Wisconsin implemented a uniform licensing system just before the Repeal of Prohibition in 1933 that was easy to understand and worked quite well for brewers, wholesalers, and retailers for decades thereafter. The real market challenge for newly emerging craft brewers was convincing their business partners that people wanted IPA's, porters, stouts, and styles yet to be created.
In order to gain access to distribution and retail channels, it became a vital necessity for small and independent breweries to utilize the operating privileges under their licenses that had generally gone unused by most breweries in previous decades. Taproom sales and self-distribution became essential tools for building brand awareness and gaining access to markets that were heavily dominated by multinational brewers.
As the craft beer renaissance was just beginning to accelerate in the late 1990's, the regulatory system of uniform licensing that had worked well for 57 years was quietly being dismantled. A series of legislative carveouts and protectionist provisions were embedded into law over the next decade and beyond, repeatedly slipped into biennial budget bills with limited public scrutiny. Small breweries had production caps imposed upon them, licenses were stripped away from them, and their ability to help each other to collaboratively distribute their beer to retailers was eliminated. Far more consequential is the very real and alarming reality that it is now illegal for some people to even be employed by a brewery or to be married to a brewery owner or employee. (We are not making this up!)
Wisconsin's independent craft brewers are asking for your support for our advocacy efforts to educate policy makers in state government about the unnecessary impediments that have been imposed upon brewers and to advance legislation that restores regulatory certainty and clarity. Support your local brewery and contribute to Wisconsin Beer PAC today!