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Here's how we can keep Michigan the Great Beer State

Tuesday, December 17, 2013 2:15 PM | Anonymous

By Bret Kuhnhenn, Eric Kuhnhenn and Paul Quasarano Detroit Free Press guest writers For more than a year, Michigan craft brewers, distributors and other stakeholders have collaborated, cooperated and compromised to find innovative ways to grow Michigan’s beer industry. The result is a package of reforms that will take Michigan’s successful beer economy — which supports thousands of local jobs and hundreds of Michigan businesses — to the next level. If approved by the Legislature, these reforms will promote economic growth and market expansion, while ensuring those changes happen in a responsible, balanced way. These reforms will usher in the next chapter of Michigan’s craft beer story, while preserving a system of safeguards that has made Michigan the nation’s fifth largest craft beer state, with double-digit growth that far outpaces the U.S. average. In the 1990s, this homegrown industry was still in its infancy, with only a handful of small brewers pushing the boundaries of what beer could be. These pioneers were making their products in basements and, in the case of Kuhnhenn Brewing Co., in whatever space was available in the family-owned hardware store in Warren. Kuhnhenn is now building a new facility that will create more than 30 jobs and is working with newly appointed distributors like Eastown Distributors to find the best way to deliver products to untapped markets throughout Michigan. The 10-bill bipartisan reforms awaiting action in the Michigan Legislature will help Michigan’s beer industry take that next step, with the potential to benefit businesses involved in beer and, more broadly, in the hospitality and tourism sectors. If approved, these proposals will expand Michigan brewers’ access to new markets and ensure Michigan businesses compete on a fair and level playing field. These reforms will help small startup brewers by allowing them to deliver their beers directly to retailers. By redefining Michigan microbrewers and brew pubs, these reforms will help successful higher-volume producers grow their businesses, expand their operations and create more jobs. To help local businesses that play by the rules, the proposals speed up the licensing process and eliminate red tape. To reduce government waste, the proposals streamline the way revenue is collected. To address concerns among bars and restaurants that have long wanted to buy glassware with logos, the proposals would allow them to purchase these items from independent third parties. What’s most exciting is that these reforms represent a quantum leap in how Michigan regulates alcohol without sacrificing the basic foundation that has helped law enforcement and public health groups work to promote moderation and rein in overpromotion. Craft brewers, independent retailers, family-owned distributors, policymakers and many others have worked together and consulted to find common ground. Many of these groups made compromises. We embraced key recommendations in Gov. Rick Snyder’s report to update alcohol regulations. And we met with law enforcement leaders and public health advocates to ensure our proposals honor our commitment to public health and safety. These reforms will keep Michigan’s local beer sector hopping. They deserve legislative approval. Bret and Eric Kuhnhenn are owners of Kuhnhenn Brewing Co. in Warren and Clinton Township. Paul Quasarano is president of Eastown Distributors in Highland Park. http://www.freep.com/article/20131217/OPINION05/312170029/Here‐s‐how‐we‐can‐keep‐Michigan‐ Great‐Beer‐State


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