Mar 30, 2021 - Politics

Minnesota brewers launch PAC to loosen the state's strict alcohol laws

Illustration of a bottle cap with the design from a quarter on it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Minnesota's craft breweries are tapping a new political strategy in hopes of getting log-jammed legislation flowing at the state Capitol.

What's new: The Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild is launching MN Craft Beer PAC, a fundraising committee that will allow them to collect and make contributions to state lawmakers and candidates.

  • Guild executive director Lauren Bennett McGinty said organizers hope the move will help brewers "cement ourselves as a serious player" and give the industry more leverage.

The backdrop: Minnesota's alcohol laws are notoriously difficult to change due to an informal leadership agreement that all industry stakeholders sign off on changes, as MinnPost has reported.

  • This year, brewers and distillers are seeking, among other changes, more flexibility to sell their products directly from their tap and tasting rooms. They say the move will help make up for pandemic losses.
  • But those proposals have hit a dead end amid a streamlined legislative agenda and opposition from licensed alcohol retailers and the union representing distributors' drivers and warehouse workers. Critics say the proposals would unfairly change the rules for just one part of the industry.

While they haven't gotten firm cash commitments yet, brewers hope the political action committee will motivate industry members and beer lovers to get involved in pushing for political change and, eventually, gain influence with lawmakers.

  • "This is kind of how the system actually works rather than just straight up, 'Call your legislator,'" Bob Galligan, a guild leadership member who works as Surly Brewing’s quality sensory coordinator, told Torey. "This is just an extra little boost."

Yes, but: The move appears unlikely to change much about the current session. The proposals haven't even gotten commitments for committee hearings in either chamber.

What's next: The PAC is accepting contributions before issuing its first endorsements as soon as this summer. They've considered "full pint," "half-pint" and "empty pint" as one ranking system.

  • Bennett McGinty stressed that the need for aid and more flexibility won't go away as restrictions lift — many brewers have small business loans and other debt to pay off as they ramp back up.
  • "It's going to take at least another year or two for people to really get back to where they were in 2019, if they're lucky."

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