The PA Fiasco

In the past couple of days, 3 beer bars and 1 distributor have been raided by PA State Police. Their offense? Selling unregistered beer, well that isn’t completely true. Most of the beer was registered with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) , unfortunately the registrations were for generic names such as “Duvel Beer” not “Duvel Belgian Golden Ale.” With the explosive over the last 20-30 years of craft beer in America, we are beginning to see that the beer laws of many states are outdated.

The law in question is one where breweries are required to pay a $75 registration fee for every product they want to sell in the state of PA. This law does not seem as unreasonable in a time of macrobreweries, few product lines, and even less imports. However, today, craft breweries, many of which are very small operations with fewer than 10 employees, are constantly releasing special runs and new beers, each of which must be registered with the PLCB.  Not only does this law create a disincentive for craft breweries to distribute in the state of PA, but also makes what happened this past week even more likely. Much of the beer confiscated was properly registered, but due to clerical error was deemed illegal. In addition, some of the truly illegal beer came from craft breweries that simply forgot to register their beer. Further complicating matters, were beers brewed by now defunct breweries whose beers are now illegal in the state of PA since no one is around to register their beers, even though the beers were properly registered at the time sold.

The real problem in all of this is that the PA law is archaic in regards to the current market for beer in America. The real losers in all of this are PA craft beer drinkers and surprisingly enough the state of PA.  The reason I say that is that all this law will do is further shrink the number of craft breweries that distribute to PA leading to a reduction in selection for the consumer and a loss of tax revenue for the state.

I highly doubt that PA is the only state whose laws are antiquated in respect to beer laws. Many of the beer laws today are structured in a time where craft beer was nonexistent and selection meant choice from Budweiser,  Miller, or Coors. What we need are laws that are responsive and take into account the growing diversity of beer in our country.

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