North Carolina’s Beer Pong Battle: Beer-makers square off against a cronyist system

R Street's Jarrett Dieterle will be penning a monthly drinks column for The American Conservative, and his inaugural column discusses the recent the brouhaha (shall we call it a brewhaha?) in North Carolina over breweries self-distributing their own beer:

A legislative battle currently is brewing that could determine whether North Carolina beer-makers will still be able to sell and market their own beer. The result could have long-lasting implications for the future of craft brewing in the Tar Heel State.

North Carolina law currently allows brewers who produce less than 25,000 barrels annually to sell and distribute their own beer within the state. In practical terms, this means that, once a brewery grows large enough to exceed 25,000 barrels, it is forced to work with a distributor middleman if it wants its beer to be sold in bars, stores, or other retail outlets. This is a vestige of the protectionist post-Prohibition three-tiered system, which requires strict walls of separation between alcohol producers, distributors, and retailers.

But two Charlotte brewing companies—NoDa Brewing Co. and The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery—have decided to fight back. They started, which has signed on dozens of breweries to raise awareness of the issue and push the General Assembly to raise the cap. The group had some initial success, as state lawmakers recently considered HB 500, legislation that would have increased the self-distribution limit from 25,000 to 200,000 barrels per year.

Unfortunately, after intense lobbying by beer-distributor interests, the two most important reforms in the bill—the self-distribution cap increase and modifications to state franchise laws to make it easier for brewers and distributors to dissolve their relationships—recently were killed in committee and won’t be considered again for another two years...

Read the whole column here: