Craft beverage groups want simplified regulation

The state’s craft beverage industries are pushing for a simplified system of regulation in Wisconsin.

Ryan Prellwitz, (pictured here) president of the Wisconsin Winery Association, says a structure known as universal licensing would “break down the barriers between one producer and the next.”

As he explains it, this would be a shift from the current three-tier system which sets separate standards for liquor, beer and wine producers and also bars many businesses that make alcohol from distributing it.

Under a universal licensing system, “essentially you get an alcohol producers permit, and that gives you the ability to produce wine, cider, beer, distilled,” he said in a recent interview at Vines and Rushes Winery in Ripon, which he owns.

He acknowledges some different regulations might be needed, such as a higher fire code requirement for distilled spirits, but argues: “Why create another barrier to production capacity?”

“There’s not really much of a reason,” he said. “And you look at it, what can a winery do? It’s essentially the same thing a brewery can do, the same thing a distiller can do.”

But the law treats them very differently, he says, setting unique standards for each in terms of distribution, cooperative membership and many other factors.

He says this complex web of regulations craft beverage producers have to deal with leads to mass confusion — “because nobody really knows, when there’s a question, what the answer is.”

At the end of the day, universal licensing means greater simplicity for a system he says is outdated. And he’s not alone.

The state’s three craft beverage groups are the Wisconsin Winery Association, the Wisconsin Brewers Guild and the Wisconsin Distillers guild. They formed the Wisconsin Craft Beverage Coalition in mid-2017 to have a stronger voice representing the state’s growing number of craft beverage businesses.

“For example right now in state law for some reason a manufacturer, distiller like me is limited to just have two locations,” said Brian Sammons, president of the Wisconsin Distillers Guild and owner and distiller at Twisted Path Distillery in Milwaukee. “So I start out in a small location like i’m in right now, but then I start barrel aging things, I might need a separate locations to age the barrels… Why the limit to two? It’s not serving any public interest, but it’s stymying business.”

“We get along very well together,” Prellwitz added. “We see eye to eye on all these issues.”

Listen to a recent podcast with Prellwitz:

Listen to a podcast from late 2017 with Sammons:

–By Alex Moe