I’ve been documenting the battle going on for some time now between Larry Bell, founder of Bell’s Brewing Company, and the distributors responsible for his product in various states. The restrictive distribution laws in our own state of Illinois have caused Mr. Bell to pull his beers from the state altogether rather than lose control over where and how his beer is sold. Now Bell’s beer is re-appearing in the Chicago area, under a different brand and recipe. Although Mr. Bell knows he’ll likely be sued by the distributors, he’s stepping out to bring his beloved beers back to Illinois.
Similar issues have been cropping up in other areas as well, like a recent dispute between The Brooklyn Brewery and the distributor responsible for their product in New York. The way the antiquated laws are written now, craft brewers are basically at the mercy of distributors to represent their brands in the best light – this clearly isn’t happening like it should and the quality of the craft product is suffering. This is why brewers like Bell’s and the Brooklyn Brewery are standing up and trying to make a change for the better.
In the short term, we may find ourselves without some of our favorite craft beers, but I’m hoping the long term result will be the improvement of the laws on the books (especially those in Illinois – one of the worse offenders) and the freedom for craft brewers to market and sell their beers with the same quality they put into their production.
If you’re interested to read a good synopsis of the plight of craft beer vis a vis the way it must be distributed now, this article is a good one.