Idaho beer distributors challenge brewpub license

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BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho beer distributors are taking issue with a Boise brewpub now that the business has been purchased by Anheuser-Busch.

The Idaho Beer and Wine Distributors Association contends 10 Barrel brewpub is now too big to operate as a small brewery under Idaho state law, the Idaho Statesman reported ( ).

Idaho has a three-tiered system that requires alcohol producers, distributors and retail sellers to operate independently of each other. The law is designed to prevent large producers from controlling the distribution chain and squeezing out competitors, and the beer distributors say 10 Barrel now occupies two tiers.

10 Barrel Brewing Co. started in Bend, Oregon, and the company produced about 42,000 barrels sold in Oregon, Idaho and Washington state. The downtown Boise location opened last year, and the company is also opening a brewpub in Portland, Oregon. Anheuser-Busch InBev SA, the world's largest beer maker, announced it was buying the company last month.

The state, however, only counts beer produced in Idaho to determine whether a brewing company qualifies for a brewpub license, which allows a brewery to self-deliver. The law defines "small brewers" as those producing fewer than 30,000 barrels of beer per year.

Idaho Beer and Wine Distributors Association Executive Director Jeremy Pisca said regulators should count beer brewed out-of-state to make sure only small breweries receive small-brewer exemptions.

"If the state doesn't (aggregate production totals), what stops any brewery in the world from getting a brew license in Idaho, brewing one gallon of beer and claiming exemptions from the three-tier system?" Pisca said. "This isn't an attack on either 10 Barrel or Anheuser-Busch. This is a request for ABC (Alcohol Beverage Control) to define what the law says. We're seeking validity of the three-tier system."

Lt. Russ Wheatley of ABC, which is a unit of the Idaho State Police, said the state will review the complaint.

Idaho's law defining small breweries was passed in 1987. Wheatley said the laws written to protect the three-tier system have aged poorly.

"Part of the issue is the exemptions for small breweries and brewpubs make things difficult," he said. "The intentions were good when those laws passed. I don't think anybody envisioned the scenario we're in."

Anheuser-Busch emailed a statement saying the company expected business to proceed as normal.

"State law in Idaho allows for brewpub ownership, and we look forward to providing the service and offerings 10 Barrel brewpub guests expect," said Andy Goeler, vice president of the company's International, Craft and Specialty Division.


Information from: Idaho Statesman,

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