The number of craft brewers is growing across the state, with beer-brand names like New Glarus, Capital Brewery and Sprecher as recognizable to many Wisconsin beer drinkers as Bud and Miller Lite.Link
In all, the state’s 60 craft brewers now account for 5 percent — a rising but still slim percentage — of the state’s annual beer sales, according to the Colorado-based Brewers Association, a nonprofit trade group dedicated to promoting the country’s small brewers.
Yet even though sales from the state’s largest craft brewer, New Glarus Brewing Co., trail one of the state’s largest brewers, MillerCoors, by millions of barrels of beer annually — 92,000 compared to more than 5 million — a motion slipped into Gov. Scott Walker’s budget would treat brewers of all sizes equally by preventing them from owning or operating a wholesale distributor.
“Everything in this bill is designed to make it harder for small craft brewers to grow,” says Deb Carey, a co-owner of New Glarus Brewing and a member of the Wisconsin Brewers Guild. “It is a slimy piece of legislation.”
Carey’s anger is fueled by the fact small brewers were never consulted about the change, even though they will be affected along with every other brewer in the state.