Not all craft brewers excited about bills to lift restrictions in Michigan

Sep 10, 2013

A state House panel kicked off debate Tuesday about easing restrictions on Michigan’s craft brewers. It’s considering legislation that would double the amount of beer micro-breweries could produce each year.

The plan would also loosen regulations on brew pubs and larger producers such as Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo.

But Bell’s founder Larry Bell says some of the measures would hurt his company’s ability to compete with smaller brewers in Michigan. For example, they would let more restaurants brew their own beer, instead of buying it from others.

“We see it as the possibility of taking away about 100 accounts in the state over the next five years that we might have the opportunity to sell beer to, unless we make some changes to the language there,” Bell said after the state House Regulatory Reform Committee hearing Tuesday.

“It sort of forces us to take our business out-of-state.”

Scott Newman-Bale is with Short’s Brewing Company in Bellaire. He has a different take on the legislation.

He says Short’s is purposely turning down business opportunities so that it doesn’t go over the cap on microbreweries’ production.

“We have projects, plans and specs all ready, financing’s lined up,” Newman-Bales said. “We know exactly what we want to do – we could probably start within a week or two. We just can’t because there’s artificial roadblocks in the way.”

He says the legislation would allow Short’s to create more than 100 jobs and invest over $10 million in Michigan over the next five years.

House Regulatory Reform Committee Chair Rep. Hugh Crawford (R-Novi) says more bills dealing with craft beer will be introduced in the coming weeks. He hopes to hold votes on all of the measures by early November.