My Road To Cicerone No. 1

I recently passed the Cicerone Certified Beer Server exam and have started on my “Road To Cicerone.”  As part of that I have started working through the German Beer Styles Course Cicerone released this year.  As part of the work book each unit has a set of activities at the end. The end of unit one asks the question, if you could write a law similar to the Bavarian Beer Purity Law for your country, what would you include in it?

Ask any beer geek about the Reinheitsgebot , and he/she will tell you about the three ingredients (yeast hadn’t been discovered at the time).  The idea of it is still used in marketing with the idea that it points to quality and simplicity above all else.

The problem is the law was not written necessarily for the sake of beer.  Yes, I’m sure Duke Wilhelm IV wanted to drink the best beer possible, but the idea of restricting beer ingredients was done to at least a great part in order to prevent price competition between brewers and bakers for grains.  That way the price of bread would not get outrageous for the people.  By restricting brewers to barley malt, bakers were given the only access to wheat and rye keeping the prices of those grains as low as possible.

So, if I were creating a beer purity law for the United States, I would say I cannot because the way the laws of the United States are set up hands control over alcohol to the states.  So, for my Beer Purity Law of North Carolina, I would not start with the beer itself. I would start with the distribution and tax system that governs beer and alcohol in this country.

  • Lift the self-distribution cap from 25,000 barrels to 60,000. If any brewer produces over 25,000 barrels, that producer is forced by law to use a third party distributor.  That not only increases the cost of the beer, which will be passed on to the consumer, it also takes away many of the producers brand rights meaning they lose control of much of their own name.
  • Reduce state excise taxes overall and specifically cut excise taxes for breweries producing less than 60,000 barrels by 50%, 60,001 to 2 million barrels by 25%, and 2 million barrels and above by 10 %. Currently, North Carolina taxes small brewers at a rate 8 times that of Colorado and California.

The goal would be to promote and protect local and (usually) smaller breweries by reducing their tax burden and making it easier to distribute their beers without having to rely on a distributer.

As an aside in 2013 there were 2,768 American craft brewers, as defined by the Brewer’s Association, and they produced 15,302,838 barrels of beer.  That is an average of 5,528 per brewer.  The vast majority of craft brewers in this country are small.  They are even smaller in North Carolina with the 91 breweries producing on average 2,895 barrels.

For all the talk of the craft brewing explosion in the United States, most are of the small business variety.  To promote the growth of those breweries they need special consideration.  The brewers who need the most protection are the ones producing from somewhere between 25,000 and 100,000 barrels.

Now for the purity law, the ingredients. The rules for the ingredients would be simple, you have to have a grain bill containing at least 51% barley malt.  I believe codifying any restrictions on ingredients that are not harmful if ingested stifles the creativity that is the craft beer movement’s great advantage over the big industrial brewers.

This is a good start.  More to come.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: