I Didn’t Call My State Rep Until They Messed With My Beer

Written by Jason Simpkins
Posted November 10, 2017

I try to be a responsible and politically active citizen. I go to all kinds of town halls, debates, and meet-and-greets with local representatives.

After all, there’s no shortage of pressing issues in Baltimore: violence, drugs, homelessness, police brutality…

But it wasn’t until a few months ago that I actually got on the phone and called my state reps in the Maryland House and Senate.

And it wasn’t any of the aforementioned issues that drove me to it.

It was when they started screwing with my beer.

Baltimore has a long and proud brewing tradition.

The city’s first commercial brewery was opened in 1748. It provided beer to soldiers in the Revolutionary War, who were promised a daily ration as an incentive to fight.

A few decades later, German immigrants sailed into the city, bringing their brewing traditions along with them.

And soon after that, two of the city's neighborhoods — Brewer’s Hill and Brewer’s Row — were home to large-scale brew factories, like National Brewing and American Brewery.

If you’ve ever been to Baltimore (and maybe even if you haven’t) you’ve seen the iconic National Bohemian beer mascot Mr. Boh. He even looks down on the city from the height of the skyline, winking down at the harbor.Natty Boh Logo

Today, Natty Boh is owned by Pabst Brewing, one of the nation’s big beer conglomerates. But there’s still a very vibrant local brewing tradition here.

Heavy Seas and Union Craft brewery are the biggest. I love these beers. I love how they taste, and I love that they're local. I love them so much, in fact, I and many other Baltimoreans spend considerable time in their tasting rooms.

Why go to a bar when you can go right to the brewery itself?

You can get the freshest product and newest flavors. You can even meet the people who make it.

For that reason, these breweries have become vital community hubs. People bring their families and sit at tables outside on the weekends. People play games like corn hole in the parking lot and buy food from food trucks. It's like a neighborhood barbecue or tailgate party.

So you can imagine how defensive this city got when it was announced that Guinness would be building a factory in Baltimore County.

And that’s where my state legislators come in…

The arrival of Guinness (and its mega-parent Diageo) led to a review of local brewery laws. You see, at the time, local breweries could only sell up to 500 barrels a year for on-site consumption. But Guinness expects to sell way more than that. So legislation was tabled to change the law — for Guinness.

The local brewers got screwed.

Instead of passing a bill that strengthened local breweries across the board, the Maryland House passed a bill that:

  • Allowed the Guinness brewery to operate with increased on-site consumption of up to 5,000 barrels, while limiting others to 2,000.
  • Cut back the hours local breweries could stay open from midnight to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
  • Repealed the original law allowing breweries to offer free samples on tours.

When people complain about the government restrictions and red tape, this is what they’re talking about. We had a really good thing going on, and then the government went out of its way to trash our good time.

And why?

Surprisingly, not because of Guinness or Diageo, but rather the lobbying groups that represent bars and restaurants and wholesale distributors.

Turns out, the middle men didn’t like being cut out of the picture. So they seized this opportunity to rewrite Baltimore brewing laws in their favor.

News of this legislation flowed quickly through the city and a grassroots movement picked up almost instantly.

That’s what got me on the phone with my House delegate, Brooke Lierman.

And guess what?

Our effort succeeded.

The phone calls and emails got the brewery bill changed in the senate to something much more accommodative.

End of story, right?

Well, no.

I obviously didn’t take the time to regale you with this story simply out of civic pride, or to out myself as some kind of agitated alcoholic.

There’s something else...

Brewing Business

I want you to know just how much local craft breweries mean to people like me.

As you no doubt know, craft brews have really taken off over the past decade.

In 2005, there were fewer than 1,500 operating breweries in the United States, compared to 4,269 today. That's the most at any time in the country's history. And small and independent breweries account for 99% of the breweries in operation. There are 2,397 microbreweries, 1,650 brewpubs, and 178 regional craft breweries.

Whereas big names like Budweiser, Miller, and Coors used to dominate, craft brewers now produce about one out of every 10 beers sold in the U.S., and control a quarter of the market.

This is a big-time investment trend.

Early investors in Sam Adams — the first local craft beer to strike it big — got huge returns. The Boston Beer Co. (NYSE: SAM), shot up as much as 2,000% from its IPO price at one point.

ea-liquor-boom-samThe Craft Brew Alliance (NASDAQ: BREW) is another craft brewing company that brews, brands, and markets American craft beers. Its own brands include Kona, Widmer Brothers, Red Hook Omission, and KCCO beer, as well as Square Mile cider. The company also operates five pubs.

ea-liquor-boom-cba

And it’s not just beer, either.

Craft spirits, or liquor, are following suit.

In addition to making trips to local breweries, I also make frequent stops at the Baltimore Whiskey Company — an upstart distiller that opened just last year. It fashions rye whiskey, gin, and apple brandy.

Breweries have already made their initial run, but these craft distilleries are truly the next wave.

In 2003, there were 60 craft distillers in the United States. Now, there’s more than 1,280 of them.

That's a 2,000% increase in just over a decade. And that doesn’t include the 200 distilleries that are currently under construction.

As with craft brews, this is a huge investment opportunity — one our own Nick Hodge just released a full report on.

He went out and found a tiny craft distiller that’s poised to double in value.

You should check that out by clicking here.

Maybe even kick back and have a drink while you do. And remember to call your local legislators about issues that are important to you. Democracy isn’t pretty but it works.

Get paid,

Jason Simpkins Signature

Jason Simpkins

follow basic@OCSimpkins on Twitter

Jason Simpkins is a ten-year veteran of the financial publishing industry, where he's served as a reporter, analyst, investment strategist and prognosticator. He's written more than 1,000 articles pertaining to personal finance and macroeconomics. Simpkins also served as the chief investment analyst for a trading service that focused exclusively on high-flying energy stocks. For more on Jason, check out his editor's page. 

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