Protest Works

Tuesday Wisconsin brewers organized a protest that harkened back to the Boston Tea Party and drew attention to a proposed law they opposed.

A group of brewers blasted open barrels of beer on the docks of the Milwaukee River in their own version of the Boston Tea Party.

They did this to protest a proposed bill they said would create complications for startup breweries.

The measure would divide small breweries into two licensed classes – those who want to serve food as brewpubs and those who seek to bottle and distribute their product on a larger scale. Startups would have to immediately declare which class they were in.
“Every business takes on a life of its own,” said Jim McCabe, proprietor of the Milwaukee Ale House. “For the guy that wants to start a brewery tomorrow, he’s got to make decisions early in his business life that aren’t possible.”

The very next day, that bill was tabled by the Senate Committee on Transportation, Tourism and Insurance.

The Brewpub Tourism Development Act would have allowed Wisconsin brew pubs to have up to six locations and produce up to 10,000 barrels of beer a year. Under current law, brew pubs can have no more than two locations if they produce more than 4,000 barrels of beer a year. The bill’s supporters said it would lift a production ceiling faced by Great Dane Pub & Brewing Co., which this year opened its third brew pub in the Madison area. Other brew pub and small brewery owners said Great Dane’s problem should be fixed. But they said the proposed legislation’s 10,000-barrel limit could affect their growth plans, especially for brew pubs seeking to also sell their beer in packaged form at liquor stores and other retail outlets.