Politicians Just Don't Understand Beer: The Passing of Florida Senate Bill 1714
The following is an op-ed, with some of my frustrations laid out.
Photo by Monica McGivern Craft beer is popular. Fans of the Funky Buddha Brewery get it.
Holy hell, it actually passed. These were the thoughts that went through my mind Tuesday afternoon when controversial Florida Senate bill 1714 passed to a vote of 30-10, effectively signaling to the booming craft beer industry that the brakes were on.
The measure to curtail the craft beer industry, which has seen a 20 percent dollar growth in 2013 nationwide, restricts brewers making more than 2,000 kegs a year (31,000 gallons) from selling no more than 20 percent of their beverages themselves.
What started as a move to legalize a gap in growler container sizes (the infamous Florida law that prohibits the industry standard 64-ounce growler), has ended up here, where the ropes are being tied and the stakes driven.
But how? How did we get here?
The craft beer nation is taking note, and "Big Beer" is scared: Its market in Florida of macro-drinking consumers is having the wool pulled up from over their eyes. People are taking note that one of our civilization's oldest traditions, brewing beer, doesn't have to taste like watery fizzy hopped-up industrial "beige."
Once the experience took hold, the market for craft beer exploded across the Sunshine State, possibly taking lobbyists by surprise. It should be no surprise, however, when you have a state with the fourth-largest population in the United States (more than 19 million) and combine that with being 34th in consumption per capita only 18 months ago.
Couple that with the fact that growth in the market in 2013 was 20 percent in dollar sales and that Florida has but one brewery per 329,848 residents (compared to a state like Oregon with one per 27,365), and it makes you wonder: If this industry is truly continuing to make gains in an otherwise sluggish economy, why throw caltrops into the road?
Yet as of this writing lawmakers in Tallahassee are seeking to reduce that growth through uninformed and biased legislation aimed to curtail gains made by small, independent, and family owned businesses. This coming from a supposedly pro-business-led Senate.
Even the federal government is looking to help spur the industry, with items like HR 494, or the Small BREW Act, which seeks to mend "the Internal Revenue Code to reduce the rate of the excise tax on beer produced within or imported into the United States for brewers who produce not more than 6 million barrels of beer a year."
But what it comes down to is, our state legislators just don't get beer.
If they did, they'd never pass something like this.