Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Wisconsin Beer Law Update

Two fun, new, and exciting developments in Wisconsin law.

The first exciting development is that the new legislation forced on craft brewers over the summer is already being revised because it was poorly written and hastily passed. Here's the catch though: I can't find the text of this "Emergency Rule", so I can't really comment on its contents. Maybe one of my readers who is more adroit at searching obscure legislative acts, will have better luck than I. The Journal Sentinel article states: "
... [A] new emergency rule that takes effect Friday will eliminate that requirement for recipe brewers [to pay the $2500 state wholesaler fee], said Stephanie Marquis, Department of Revenue spokeswoman. ... The new rule, which Gov. Scott Walker has signed, allows recipe brewers to self-distribute their beer without being defined as beer wholesalers, Marquis said. That exempts them from paying for the wholesaler's permit, she said. ... The new regulations prohibit brewers from buying wholesale distributorships, while allowing brewers that produce up to 300,000 barrels annually to do their own wholesale distribution - which requires brewers to pay for the state wholesaling permit.
But, this doesn't make any sense. At all. First, the statute doesn't have something called a "Recipe Brewer". Buffalo Water and Furthermore are Distributors, not Brewers - they don't have brewers' licenses or permits. But, according the article, the rule would alter the law to make them not wholesalers, but brewers. This is a far bigger change than merely waiving fees. Moreover, even Brewers that self-distribute have to comply with the Wholesale rules - which would still be onerous on both Buffalo Water and Furthermore. In other words, it sucks that I don't have a copy of the Rule because there's no way that this is simply a fee correction.

Second, there's a law making its way through the legislature that would change the law as it relates to homebrewers. Currently, the problem is this: the law says homebrewers can only serve homebrew in their homes. This may seem obvious, but it's also quite draconian: they can't serve it at their friends' homes, they can't have homebrew competitions, they can't do homebrew demonstrations at festivals or part of Madison Craft Beer Week.

Known as SB 395, the proposed new law would cap homebrewing at 200 gallons per household per year (or roughly 40 5-gallon batches per year). But, the good news is that homebrew could be "used" for "exhibition, demonstration, judging, tasting, or sampling or as part of a contest or competition." I'm not sure what it means to "use" homebrew; presumably "use" would include drinking, does it include service to the general public?

One final thought would be to consider how this affects server/host liability. Say a minor goes to a homebrew competition (because, you know, the fake IDs are pretty good these days), gets legally drunk on someone else's homebrew, and wrecks a car killing a person. Who is liable? Typically in this situation, the bar/vendor is liable because the person is a minor (and it's strict liability, so it doesn't matter if they showed a fake ID and had a beard). Is the homebrewer also liable? Probably not, but they might be considered a "vendor" and pulled into liability anyway.

1 comment:

  1. I don't know how much of a difference it makes, but it's probably not a bad idea for homebrewers to contact their state senators regarding SB 395. The current law is ridiculous.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.