Jennifer Doering: With new legislation on tap, let’s craft a solution that benefits Ky’s entire beer industry

February 23, 2021

Kentucky’s craft beer industry has enjoyed tremendous success in recent years thanks to the hard work of brewers, distributors and retailers who have contributed to putting that perfectly poured frosty beverage in your glass. In a state better known for its bourbon, we’re glad to see homegrown innovations in tasty craft brews getting well-deserved attention and market share.

The laws governing the production, distribution and sale of alcoholic beverages are complicated, and for good reason. When enjoyed appropriately and safely by consumers of legal age, these products form a vital and celebrated part of our state’s proud heritage, culture and economy.

For more than a century, these laws have protected the best interests of our society while also fostering the outstanding growth of one of Kentucky’s signature industries. That’s why any proposed changes to these laws should be met with careful consideration and deliberation by our elected representatives in Frankfort.

And as times change, we in the industry must adapt to the modern realities of business and consumer demand. That’s why the Kentucky Beer Wholesalers Association (KBWA), which represents the wholesaler and distributor tier of the state’s three-tier alcoholic beverage industry, now fully supports allowing Kentucky’s craft brewers to self-distribute their products to retail, bar and restaurant locations — quite a departure from our long-held policy positions.

Just recently, state legislation (Senate Bill 15) was filed to dramatically change the laws that have governed Kentucky’s alcoholic beverage industry for nearly a century. KBWA supports the primary intent of this legislation even though it provides a significant advantage to one leg of the alcoholic beverage industry stool.

We support the brewers’ right to self-distribution because we understand the unique challenges both they and retailers are facing during the pandemic. And as their industry partners, we want to help them succeed because we are all in this fight together with the goal of promoting Kentucky’s craft beer industry.

The KBWA and its members greatly value our relationships with craft brewers and have made significant investments to promote and market their world-class beers to customers at home and abroad. One must look no further than our delivery trucks which are adorned with the brand names of our brewer partners. Or to the bar taps, retail displays and shelf space we guarantee to ensure a vast array of Kentucky craft brews are always available to consumers.

Since the emergence of Kentucky’s craft beer industry in recent years, we have worked closely with craft brewers and take great pride in how we have helped bring so many different brands to market. Their success is our success.

While we support the intent behind SB 15, there are certain provisions about how we contract with our brewer partners that we hope to address through the legislative process. If given the opportunity to work collaboratively on legislation that will be fair and equitable to all, we are confident that we can collectively craft a solution that benefits the entire industry — and, most of all, the consumers who enjoy a cold Kentucky craft beer.

KBWA members have invested millions of dollars in Kentucky craft brewers and their brands to help drive their success. As a result, there are more craft beer brands available than ever before. Just walk down the aisle of a grocery or liquor store or peruse the taps at your local bar or restaurant and see the vast array of available products. More people are drinking Kentucky craft beers than ever before.

Without question, a significant reason is the quality of the product; but that success is also due to the hard work and significant financial expenditures of distributors who have invested in our craft beer industry. The outstanding growth is proof that our current system truly works.

There are many ways our General Assembly can help Kentucky’s craft brewers while also being fair to rest of the industry. That’s why we’re committed to finding reasonable solutions that work for everyone, just as we have been for many years. We have long supported legislation to help our brewers grow through self-distribution to local fairs, festivals and farmer’s markets and selling their products in tap rooms and other locations.

We’re a proud part of Team Kentucky’s beer industry and are committed to its long-term success. Now is the time to work together to achieve that shared goal. The KBWA is committed to that outcome and hope that others are as well.

Jennifer Doering is the general manager of Chas. Seligman Distributing Co. in Walton. She currently serves as president of the Kentucky Beer Wholesalers Association (KBWA), which represents the Commonwealth’s beer wholesalers and educates the public on how these companies create jobs and ensure access to fresh, safe and reliable products for consumers.

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