Scott Walker’s War on Beer

ProhibitionPoster Everything Scott Walker has done up to this point was only a foreshadowing:

Tucked into Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) much-discussed budget was a little-noticed provision to overhaul the state’s regulation of the beer industry. In a state long associated with beer, the provision will make it much more difficult for the Wisconsin’s burgeoning craft breweries to operate and expand their business by barring them from selling directly to restaurants and liquor stores, and preventing them from selling their own product onsite.

The new provision treats craft brewers — the 60 of whom make up just 5 percent of the beer market in Wisconsin — like corporate mega-brewers, forcing them to use a wholesale distributor to market their product. Under the provision, it would be illegal, for instance, for a small brewer located near a restaurant to walk next door to deliver a case of beer. They’ll have to hire a middle man to do it instead.

But more noteworthy than the provision itself is how it was enacted. The provision was quietly slipped in the massive budget legislation without any consultation from independent craft brewers, who are justifiably outraged by it.

That’s via Radley Balko, who has more thoughts on the “Prohibition-era artifacts” that are wholesaler requirements.

It’s always weird for me to travel to states with bizarre alcohol laws. Some states only allow alcohol sales out of licensed liquor stores. Others require government-run liquor stores. Still others only allow beer sales in bars (where you buy single bottles to go) or by wholesalers.

This is simply ludicrous. This doesn’t prevent drinking and may indeed encourage drinking and driving. It does create monopolies and stifle competition, however. So if you have a deep and abiding fear of quality craft brews, Scott Walker is your man. Buy the man a nice, cold flavorless Budweiser.

Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the editor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.


  1. Wow, a republican who is massively shilling for big business. Color me surprised.

  2. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple as “Walker being anti-alcohol”.

    The reality is that Walker, whether we like it or not, is simply bringing the law in Wisconsin into parity with the laws as they exist in most of the states since Prohibition, which mandate a three-tier system of distribution (producer, distributor, retailer). This system was set up, at least ostensibly, to assure correct collection of liquor excise taxes and to prevent potential mega-brewery monopoly and control of the distribution network in an era when booze distribution was only an arm’s length–if even that–from organized crime. And even in the 21st century, breweries and distributors occasionally collude in a fashion barely ethical or unethical in the eyes of many.

    I’m sure that every last craft beer aficionado wants to see “big government” stick it to the big corporate brewers as much as possible, and impose restrictions upon them that little brewpubs and craft brewers don’t have to follow. And so would every anti-corporate protestor that condemns Wal-Mart in favor of little corner stores with moldy bread, junk food, and wilted vegetables. But, simply put, that is NOT a “free market.”

    In order to support the liberalization of trade conditions for microbreweries you suggest should be protected, you should also have to support the total elimination of the “three-tier” system, not just in Wisconsin but nationwide. The Libertarian in me fully supports that idea; the craft-beer writer and consumer in me is wise enough to know that such a proposition comes with its own set of problems and perils–imagine ABInBev, Diageo, or MillerCoors doing a “Wal-Mart Brand” discount beer nationwide, for example……

    • “The reality is that Walker, whether we like it or not, is simply bringing the law in Wisconsin into parity with the laws as they exist in most of the states since Prohibition”

      So he’s not a fan of federalism, then?

      Is he getting pressure from Congress or the Executive to do this?

      If not, what’s the point? Surely not just because he’s OCD and thinks that it’s completely wrong that Wisconsin isn’t like everybody else…

      • First, this is strictly a state issue, and the Feds have nothing to do with it, as far as I can tell or discern.

        The three-tier system was instituted, as I said, to prevent mega-brewer monopolization and to ensure tax collection. Is it fair that a restrictive law should be imposed upon a mega-business that isn’t applied to a small one? As much as we Americans love sticking up for the underdog, it just isn’t right.

        Furthermore, do we know for certain that this is Walker’s doing? In my experience, these late, “hidden” insertions are usually done by legislators, not by governors. Anyone got a trail on this?

  3. Scott walker is a F%^ER, can’t see why that BiG BUSINESS BITCH is even Govn of this Great State

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