Tag Archives: Brewers

Has the three-tier system become archaic?

For many, the ability to go to the local grocery store or corner store and pick up a six-pack of their favorite craft beer is merely a matter of convenience. No thought is given to how that beer got there or who put it there. It is just there, ready to be picked up, purchased and consumed. But, the story of how craft beer gets from brewer to grocer is fascinating and, at times, frustrating.

As America awoke from the long, dark nightmare that was Prohibition, the federal government left the regulation of alcohol to the states. Lawmakers wanted a way to prevent the proliferation of “tied houses” or saloons that served beer from only one brewery. Before prohibition, it was common for breweries to provide loans to bar owners for furniture and bar equipment under the stipulation that the bar only serve their beer. Along with the loan, breweries applied pressure to the barkeep to sell more and more beer, often leading to overconsumption and drunkenness of patrons. Add in the specter of the mob-controlled distribution and speakeasy networks during Prohibition and it was apparent a change had to be made.

These fears led to the adoption of what is known as the “three-tier system.” This set of laws separate brewers from retailers through a middle-man or distributor. In essence, the system requires brewers to sell their beer to a distributor who then sells the beer to retailers like bars, restaurants and stores. Since the federal government left the states to regulate alcohol as they saw fit, the system is not consistent across the nation. But, for the most part, the system prohibits breweries from owning distribution firms or selling directly to retailers. In Florida, breweries are allowed to operate tap rooms where they are allowed to sell their own beer to guests on a limited basis.

But, in an industry overflowing with choices, brewers can find it difficult to get shelf space or tap placements if their beer is sub-par. For this reason, many distributors recommend breweries fine tune their beers in their tap room before releasing them to distribution.

“A tap room’s a beautiful thing,” said David Rigdon of Jacksonville distributor Champion Brands to a group of brewery owners at the recent Florida Brewers Conference. “Use your taproom to develop your beers. At the end of the day, though, it’s the old push pull. We push your brands, but buyers have to pull them.”

The system is not without its critics. Some breweries, particularly smaller ones, contend that self-distribution would allow them to ensure their beers stay on tap thereby helping both the brewery and retailer make more sales. They cite the example of a bar that blows a tap of their beer on a Friday evening. If there are no self-distribution laws and only the three-tier system, the bar must wait until Monday when the distributor is open for a new keg. With self-distribution, the brewery could deliver a keg directly.

As is common among older alcohol laws, a close look at the system is needed to fully understand what still makes sense. And, as we all know, the wheels of government turn slowly. But, for now, raise a glass of your favorite brew to the fine men and women employed by your local distributors for they truly do deliver happiness.



But, some brewers, particularly small and local companies, are discovering that the three-tier system is holding them back.




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Posted by on December 28, 2017 in Beer, Beer Education


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Beer 101 Seminar at Intuition Ale Works

Yet another great event taking place for American Craft Beer Week: Intuition Ale Works is holding a beer tasting seminar just in time for the Jacksonville Craft & Import Beer Festival on Thursday, May 19th from 7:00pm to 9:00pm. This Beer 101 Seminar is a sit-down beer tasting in honor of American Craft Beer Week! And the really great thing is that the Festival is the very next evening so everything you learn you will be able to immeidately apply.

Brewer and brewery owner Ben Davis will talk about the history of brewing and beer and walk you through flights of four different styles of beer: English, lagers, Belgians, and extreme beers.

Light food pairings for each of the flights will provided.

If you purchase your tickets this week you can take advantage of an special early bird pricing! Tickets are $15 if purchased this week and $20 after that. Attendance will be capped for this private event so get your tickets while they last.

Visit the following link to purchase tickets:

Tickets can also be purchased by visiting the Intuition Ale Works Tap Room during regular opening hours (Wed-Sat 3pm to 11pm).


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Kickback’s and Schmaltz Brewing Co. Beer Dinner Goodness

The owner of Schmaltz Brewing Company, Jeremy Cowan, is the kind of guy you’d want to have a few beers with. Last night, at the Kickback’s beer dinner, all 165 attendees of the sold out sitting, had more than a few. There were 27 delicious beeers from both the He’Brew and Coney Island brands.

That’s right, 27 beers. That’s the largest number of Schmaltz beers that have ever been in one place on tap at any one time!

Paired with such culinary delights as grilled gouda cheese sandwiches on rye with carmelized onions and apple spread, bratwurst muffins — bratwurst, swiss cheese, peppers, onion and mustard inside a puff pastry. And a creation by “resident guest chef” Michelle Ugart of the Ritz-Carlton’s Salt resaurant — mock funnel cake of breaded and fried sweet breads with powdered sugar.

Cowan, who was a literature major, described the philosophy of his brewery as a desire to make, “Totally whacked out and irresponsible beer.” And it shows in his beers, full of unusual flavors and deep complexity. Beers such as the Jewbalation series and Rejewvenator which push the limits of brewing and truly make you sit up and take notice.

Some of my favorites of the evening were:

1. Coney Island Lager
2. He’Brew Jewbelation #11
3. Coney Island Sword Swallower
4. He’Brew Rejewvenator 2008 (Year of the Fig)
5. He’Brew Bittersweet Lenny’s R.I.P.A. on Rye

The staff at Kickback’s was awesome in keeping the beer flowing and the food moving. And Steve Flores, owner of the much-lauded King Street watering hole was a gracious and attentive host.

I have herad inklings of future beer dinners with some other legendary brewers coming down the pike. Keep checking the Springfield Brew Crew website and Blog for details. The next on tap is December 13th with Swamphead Brewing out of Gainesville. Based on the turn-out at last night’s dinner, you had better buy your tickets soon!


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