Lawmakers Working to Help Microbreweries

By: Jennifer Kliese Email
By: Jennifer Kliese Email

A controversial law in the state budget has taken away Wisconsin brewers' rights to distribute their own beer. Some lawmakers say it was a fast moving proposal that will hurt the growing number of craft brewers.

"They feel that is limiting their businesses and its an issue that we feel very strongly about," says Rep. Janis Ringhand, D-Evansville, who's leading the proposal.

So they're proposing changes to the law, that would exempt those making less than 300 thousand barrels a year. And they want a hearing to help the public understand why they're supporting these small businesses.

"It's a huge impact on our economy that these businesses are there they hire a lot of people they bring in a lot of tourism," says Ringhand.

Small craft brewers say the new proposal is a step in the right direction to getting their voices heard.

"Through a lot of hard work with folks its looking like its going to pay off," says Kevin Eichelberger, Red Eye Brewing Co.'s brewmaster.

Eichelberger says the current law will hurt them in the long run, losing out on important profits.

"We're going to be at a big disadvantage down the road to be able to grow and to be able to help stimulate the economy," he says.

Tim Roby, a spokesperson for the Wisconsin Beer Distributors Association says the proposed changes could do more harm than good.

"If they are exempted under what they're trying to do it un-evens a level playing field and opens up Wisconsin to potential lawsuits," Roby says.

But others disagree, and believe that microbrewers need to be heard.

"This change went through without them having an opportunity to have a voice," says Ringhand.

Lawmakers are working to sign co-sponsors to support the bill by August 12th.

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