Craft brewers win a battle in the Unicameral, but whether they win the war remains to be seen.
State legislators have rejected an attempt to require craft brewers ship their beer to a distributor’s warehouse before it goes to a bar, restaurant, or store.
Sen. John Lowe of Kearney tells colleagues during legislative floor debate such a requirement would harm the quality of craft beers.
“The freshness of beer is extremely important, otherwise why would Budweiser put a ‘born on’ date on their cans and bottles; why would Coors and all the rest of them put an expiration date (on their product)?” Lowe asks. “Beer needs to be delivered as soon as possible.”
Proponents of the requirement which had been contained in LB 632 say it was needed to keep all beers on a level playing field and avoid a lawsuit against the state for giving craft brewers a marketing advantage.
Sen. Carol Blood of Bellevue, who sponsored the amendment which removed the requirement from the bill, says its approval demonstrates support for the fast-growing craft brewery industry in Nebraska.
“The body has spoken and the body says that we want to protect this gem in Nebraska,” Blood states.
Yet, Sen. Tyson Larson of O’Neill, sponsor of LB 632, says the body has created a gray area, because state law requires all beer to go to a warehouse first.
“And that’s not a good area to be in,” Larson says. “And I really hope I don’t have to come back and say we tried to warn you.”
Larson points out the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission has already adopted a requirement that all beer go to a warehouse before its final destination. The rule has yet to go into effect. It must be reviewed by the attorney general and approved by the governor. It is uncertain whether Gov. Pete Ricketts will approve it.
Larson warns that if the exemption for local crafter brewers stands, national beer distributors will file a lawsuit against the state.