10 Barrel Brewing’s Boise brewpub can’t seem to catch a break with Idaho state law and liquor commission. Since being purchased by Anheuser-Busch/InBev they have now become the target of Idaho Beer and Wine Distributors Association, which represents 18 distributors that say state law prevents any brewery making more than 30,000 barrels of beer a year from operating a brewpub/retail outlet.
The rule exists as part of the Three Tier System meant to prevent a brewery, wholesaler or retailer having too much power or control by operating in more than one of those three tiers. Each state has it’s own variations and exceptions and in Idaho it’s for craft brewers producing under 30,000 barrels in Idaho state which would exempt the 10 Barrel brewpub that will not produce anywhere near that amount. However Association Executive Director Jeremy Pisca, their lawyer and lobbyist says that the Alcohol Beverage Commission should count total barrels including those out of state to keep any large brewer from gaining small brewer exemptions by brewing as little as a gallon in Idaho.
10 Barrel already got into trouble with the Idaho Alcohol Beverage Commission before they even opened the Boise brewpub; in August of 2012 10 Barrel’s plans to self distribute their own beer from the Bend, Oregon brewery to the Boise location fell through. In that instance 10 Barrel was also running afoul of the Three Tier System by running a brewpub retail location and also operating as their own wholesaler distributing beer from their own location out of state. 10 Barrel was able to work with the commission but still was forced to sell their distribution rights rather than operate as their own wholesaler. It seems Idaho distributors and regulators are not a big fan of 10 Barrel.
Will 10 Barrel/AB be able to negotiate an update to Idaho’s strict Three Tier System rules? I do not know how sentiment in Idaho is over their recent sale but it’s possible local brewers and distributors are not appreciating the out of state competition. Or the state could have a lot to gain by making state laws more big business friendly and bringing more local jobs.
It will be interesting to see how far Anheuser-Busch would fight a ruling that does not end in their favor. A-B has never been interested in operating restaurants or pubs, they are in the business of selling beer so it was even a little strange to see them take the pubs at all in the 10 Barrel purchase. One possible scenario is that they may sell the 10 Barrel Brewpub and license the brand almost like a franchised location with separate ownership.