Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries

March 11, 2010

Beer Issues:

Pennsylvania Horror

Who knew that the home to modern democracy could be so fascist when it comes to beer?
by Eddie Glick

I like my beer like my women: pale, strong, full-bodied, and extremely bitter.
Contact Eddie»
In case anyone hasn’t been paying attention to what’s going on in the Pennsylvania beer scene right now, get a load of this shit:

Pennsylvania has a goon squad called the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) that apparently makes the Gestapo look like a gang of underfunded kindergartners. They have breathtakingly idiotic rules like packaged alcohol only being sold in state-run stores and only selling beer by the case. Also, every brand of every beer has to be registered with the state by the brewer or importer. Every brand with exactitude. Which means if a bar has bottles of beer that say “Duvel Belgian Golden Ale” but the registry says “Duvel Beer,” that bar is technically in violation. And if a bar is in violation, the PLCB can come in, confiscate the beer, and fine or even shut down the bar.

Exactly that happened last week in the Philadelphia area. Three craft-centric beer bars were raided for alleged registry violations. Rumor was rampant about who the “citizen snitch” was that sicced the PLCB on these bars—where, in fact, Duvel was seized, a beer that’s served in scores of bars across the state—about whether it was a competitor or maybe a pissed off local brewer, but my uninformed, knee-jerk reaction was to suspect an asshole distributor. But then on Monday a distributor got cornholed by the PLCB in a similar raid. Hell, maybe it was a shit brewer who ordered some of their greased-up state cronies to put the kibosh on some bars and a distributor who didn’t want to carry their crappy-ass beer.

If I were an out-of-state brewer I’d pull my beers from the entire state.
No matter who the shitbag finger pointer was, not only is this absolutely crazy, it’s downright terrifying. If I were an out-of-state brewer I’d pull my beers from the entire fucking state. I know Philly is a huge market, but there’s precedent. Bell’s famously pulled out of the third largest market in the country—Chicago—because of some Illinois legal bullshit, and New Glarus pulled out of the same market a couple of years earlier. Drastic, I know, but imagine if you’re Vinnie Cilurzo, owner and head brewer at Russian River in Califuckingfornia and getting calls from lawyers and Pennsylvania state police and news reporters about a handful of bottles of some of your one-off beer made a year or two ago getting seized in a raid because the registration supposedly wasn’t up to snuff. As Elwood Blues famously said, fuck that noise.

I’ve been to Philly, and the place has a great beer scene, but this makes me never want to go back.
I’ve been to Philly, and the place has a great beer scene (but not that great—the beer press can get as windy as a bunch of Chicago reporters promoting the Columbian Exposition sometimes), but this makes me never want to go back. And what kind of masochistic beer lover would want to live there? Nothing like living in fear of your favorite beer bar being shut down because their cellar contains a single bottle of beer (beer, for Chrissakes, not poison, not explosives, not even a narcotic, but fermented malt and hops) that isn’t on the almighty registry. Not to mention not being able to go to the beer store and grab a singleton you want to try—”I’m sorry, sir, if you want to try this one, you’ll have to buy the whole mother-jumpin’ case.” Yikes.

What this makes me want to do is home brew even more. Because, being the pessimistic, gloomy sort that I am, I figure it’s only a matter of time before the fuckers come after the beer in my state. And home brew is the perfect remedy to over-regulation crap like this. The real reason the PLCBs of the world exist isn’t for the commonly stated reasons of public safety and consumer protection. It’s for tax collection. And they don’t get any of their tax revenue when we make and drink home brew. Dry up the revenue, and the PLCBs go down the proverbial pisser. And if they start taxing malt, I’ll brew beer from oatmeal, honey, wild rice, and home-grown hops, and it’d still be better than 95 percent of the swill that people drink in this country.

Drinkin’ And Thinkin’

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