Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Beer Run

Back in the day, Coors beer was a regional brew that was generally unavailable outside of Colorado and a few other Rocky Mountain states. For some reason that escapes me today (probably having something to do with the Psychology of Scarcity) my buddies and I were convinced that Coors was the earthly equivalent of the nectar of the gods. Consequently, we would do anything to get our hands on a supply of it.

There was one weekend in particular where we thought it would be a good idea to head west until we ran into a store that sold said suds. After further consideration, we thought it would be an even better idea to drag a trailer along, load it up with cases of Coors, and sell it for a vast profit back in Texas. Since this was a payday weekend we cashed our checks, piled into a truck, rented a trailer, and off we went.

To make a long story short, we eventually found a small town that sold Coors, pretty much cleaned it out, and headed home. We managed to sell most of it, but after deducting our expenses, including what we drank and kept for ourselves, we just barely made a small profit. Still, we had a good time, and a good story to tell in our Golden years (sorry...).

So why relate this tale of misguided youth now? Because I came across this article.
A border-crossing beer run has landed two Maple Grove (Minnesota) bar managers in a heap of legal trouble.

In an unusual bust, undercover state investigators caught Maple Tavern illegally selling a beloved Wisconsin beer in April. The bar had tapped kegs of New Glarus Spotted Cow, a farmhouse ale that can only be sold in Wisconsin — a felony offense.
Maple Tavern owner Brandon Hlavka, 37, of St. Michael, and manager David Lantos, 28, of Brooklyn Park, were each charged Thursday with a single felony of transporting alcohol into Minnesota for resale.

Hlavka and Lantos told investigators they wanted to sell microbrews and knew they couldn’t acquire the beer from Minnesota distributors, so decided to make a run to the neighboring state...
For this simple act - not that much different from a bunch of 20-somethings reselling Coors in Texas many years ago - those two folks are facing felony charges. FELONY charges!!! Talk about law enforcement overkill. And why on God's Green Earth are the good people of Minnesota denied the right to purchase beer brewed in Wisconsin? Is there something in the Wisconsin water that is harmful to Minnesotans? (Michigan water, I could understand...)

Behind this simple and humorous-yet-sad story is the reason I am a Conservative/Libertarian. The government has no business telling consenting adults what they can or cannot buy or consume. The rules governing beer sales in Minnesota exist for one simple reason: to limit competition. It is similar in intent and spirit to many if not most of the laws and regulations which loom over us daily.

Here's how it works in the beer biz.
... Since the repeal of prohibition most states have operated what is called a “Three-Tier Alcohol Distribution System"...

In the system, only a manufacturer of alcohol can sell to a wholesaler (Tier One: Production), only a wholesaler can sell to a distributor (Tier Two: Distribution), and only a distributor can sell to a bar, grocery store, liquor store, sports venue, or the general public at large (Tier Three: Retail).

The reason this system is set up is two-fold. First, it allows strict government regulation on the flow of alcohol to the public and tightly manages the tax revenue each tier generates...

Secondly, it’s a protectionist measure. The three-tier system places strict control on who can enter a particular state’s market. Each state heavily regulates entry into the market, especially on the wholesaler and distributor level with very high annual fees on business. Add in the armies of lobbyists from associations protecting those already in the industry, the unions (Teamsters) who haul their beer and spirits, and other organizations such as the Tavern League and it’s a tougher row to hoe.

If states allowed for easier ways to get into their distribution networks, perhaps that would change. But as long as the three-tier system sticks around, the real loser's are smaller companies and upstarts who can’t get past the barriers to entry as well as those beer drinkers suffering with the limited options the big, industrial breweries force on tap.

Unless that changes, the beer-smuggling will continue unabated.
Viewed in that light, my buddies and I those many years ago weren't irresponsible youths, but revolutionaries striking a blow for sudsy freedom.

You're welcome.


7 comments:

Bag Blog said...

We often brought Coors or Olympian beer back to Texas from NM in our younger days. Sometimes we sold it to friends and didn't think anything of it. Now days, I bring back beer, wine, and whiskey into OK from TX, which is probably not ok. Oh well.

CenTexTim said...

It's ok as long as no one rats you out... :-)

Well Seasoned Fool said...

Won't drink Coors. Has to do with the way Coors built their facilities in Golden, CO during the depression and forefathers that were exploited. We Irish can carry hate for generations. And I've never understood the rational for "Lite" beer.

My beer of choice is Rainier made with the finest recycled Seattle sewage water (or so I'm told).

Old NFO said...

LOL, Coasties used to fly it back to Hawaii by the PALLET load back in the day. They served it in the club at Barber's Point... :-)

Toejam said...

I haven't had a good beer since Löwenbräu imports were discontinued here when Miller brewing bought the U.S. rights in the mid-70's and began turning out a weak piss version of a once great brew.

I do however pop the cap on a bottle of Hofbräuhaus München every so often. It's still an import and not greatly expensive.

American beer made with rice or corn?....No way!

Randy H said...

this brings back memories

CenTexTim said...

WSF - I wasn't aware of the Coors - Irish 'troubles' but I never was a Coors fan. To me it tasted light before light beer was a thing.

NFO - funny story... :-)

Toejam - I'm a German/Slavic lager fan. Plus I like the outfits the beer maidens wear when they serve it.

Randy - those were the days...