, , ,

We mentioned this topic about a year ago with the coming reform to Michigan’s control of alcohol, specifically regarding distribution of beer and the brewing industry. We rather expected a more public debate, but the negotiations and lobbying have actually been of the “back room” variety and news has been rather difficult to come by. MLive recently published a very nice summary of progress.

Obviously, these latest proposals are watered down from the original set of recommendations, but it’s still a step in the right direction for the state’s brewing industry. That Michigan’s brewing industry is rapidly expanding is no surprise to anyone, but there is a severe bottle neck in the barrelage limitations and ownership restrictions for the established producers and access to distribution for the wee little fellows, who are just starting up.

Hopefully, this agreement proves to be a win-win for all involved.

Entrepreneurs, such as Barfly Ventures (HopCat GR, HopCat Lansing, Grand Rapids Brewing Company, Stella’s Lounge, etc.), can continue to expand, with jobs and investment in their communities.

In additions, new small ventures and nano-breweries – who may have difficulty getting distribution or wholesaler “attention” in many markets – can choose to handle it themselves for a time. It removes a cost from distribution companies, who no longer have to “build” tiny brands within a clogged inventory, and it allows small brewers to learn an appreciation for the job distributors do. We eagerly await the actual proposal and terms on this final issue, as this had previously been a “line in the sand” for the Wholesalers Association. It makes sense, however, for these small brewers, who lack ad budgets, salesmen or name recognition, to bear the cost & effort of establishing their brands on their own behalf, rather than relying on a wholesalers and their sales staff, who may be indifferent to an unprofitable brand representing a fraction of a percent in sales.

We’ll toast progress and look for even more growth in Michigan beer going forward.

UPDATE (10/31/13): Continued progress is being made, according to MLive, on liquor reform, including self-distribution for the “little guys” we mentioned above: LINK