There is nothing I would rather do more than blog about beer except maybe drink beer while blogging about beer … from the hot tub. But here at SMI we have strict rules against drinking on the job before noon, so I’d better not. The Arch City Chronicle linked to a very interesting article in the Philadelphia Inquirer about proposed changes to Pennsylvania’s arcane and archaic liquor laws.
If you have ever been to a state-operated liquor store in Pennsylvania and they are all operated by the state you know that you can only buy beer by the case. There is a proposal to change that, and allow beer to be sold in various six-pack quantities: six, 12, 18, or the beloved case of 24. This change would make beer sales in Pennsylvania pretty much like they are in the rest of the western world. Unbelievably, the microbreweries in Pennsylvania are opposed to the 12- and 18-pack allowance. I’m all for making sure small businesses have everything they need to compete, but not at the expense of basic economic choices for the consumer. From the article:
The problem for many is the proposal to allow the sale of 12- to 18-packs of beer: Smaller breweries don’t have the packaging equipment to produce those sizes. It would give larger breweries an even larger price advantage.
"Who’s this bill going to help? It’s certainly not going to be the little guy," said Joseph Piccirilli, consultant to the Iron City Brewing Co. near Pittsburgh, one the state’s larger brewers.
Arguing against these changes just because smaller companies might have to invest capital in packaging equipment is NOT a worthwhile argument against giving consumers more options. The supporters of the bill have some very sensible counterarguments:
The two senators contend the measure would help in-state brewers by creating more outlets for six-pack sales. Customers now may be reluctant to try a case of their beer because if they don’t like the taste, they are stuck with unwanted bottles.
That seems very logical to me, although truth be told I pretty much just drink Budweiser, so I am not the ideal test case here. I also usually buy my beer by the keg instead of in six-packs or cases. (I’ll let you decide whether or not that is a joke. And please note that the required Missouri connection for this blog post is Anheuser-Busch’s extensive lobbying for these changes.)
Here is an obnoxious quote from a microbrewer who clearly enjoys people having the freedom to drink alcohol, but only on his terms:
"There’s not one microbrewer in this state that can make an 18-pack, not one," said Piccirilli, the Iron City consultant, who supports expanded access to six-packs, even 12-packs, but nothing beyond that.
Another microbrewer apparently knows more about both economics and human nature (the two go closely together), and trusts his product and his customers a little more:
Tom Kehoe, president of Yards Brewing Co. in Philadelphia, agreed that the larger-size beer packs would put a strain on in-state brewers. But he does not believe it will drown the state’s craft-beer businesses.
Microbrews, Kehoe said, appeal to a different kind of beer drinker, who usually won’t buy from "the big guys."
I subscribe to the beer theory of civilization, and beer is a great part of life. People should be able to responsibly enjoy it in whatever quantity they choose to buy it. (Safety-based limits are another issue a drunk should not be able to buy a case on his way out of the bar.) These choices should be up to consumers, not laws backed by breweries.