Our Opinion: Help craft brewers grow their brands

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Brewers of craft beer are a key part of local economies, including here in the Berkshires. Old distribution rules are hampering them and the Statehouse must step in.

Current laws are heavily weighted toward beer distributors, who are far larger than the small brewers and traditionally influential politically. If a craft-brewer becomes too successful in terms of sales to self-distribute any longer and signs with a distributor, it is almost impossible to get out of that contract without meeting rigid legal requirements. If a brewer decides it wants to go to a larger distributor or believes that its distributor is not doing well by its brand — too bad. In contrast, a distributor can dump a brand or trade it to another distributor essentially at whim.

Legislation on Beacon Hill would dramatically loosen the grip of wholesale distributors. Distributors who are good businessmen and fair to clients have nothing to fear. Consumers would have more choices among craft brews that are increasingly popular with beer drinkers fed up with mass-produced beers. The big-name beer whose marketing campaign is built around its beer being cold (any beer can be any temperature) offers hints about the quality of the brew.

Most importantly, craft-beer distributors would have the flexibility to make business decisions that are best for them. That not only benefits them, it benefits the communities they are based in.


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