December 5th marks the 84th Anniversary of the ratification of the twenty-first amendment which put an end to the great failed experiment known as Prohibition. Congress attempted to regulate morality and we learned that it's not an easy thing to do. We also learned that regulation brings its own set of issues. Crime increased, the quality and safety of alcohol went down as it was produced illegally, corruption ran rampant. So after 13 years the experiment was called off. Even though the eighteenth amendment was repealed in 1933 we have never fully recovered to our pre-prohibition glory. In 1873 there over 4,000 breweries in America. Those were wiped out during Prohibition. It took us until 2015 to reach that number again....nearly 100 years.
One of the reasons for slow growth is the weird inconsistent set of laws that have plagued us since the Prohibition era. High taxes, nonsensical tasting rules, shipping and purchase limitations to name a few. Congress is considering the "Craft Beverage Modernization Act of 2017" which will amend the IRS tax code and allow small craft producers (under 100,000 proof gallons) a significant reduction in their taxes for the first two years.
According to Mark Gorman, senior vice president for the Distilled Spirits Council this would the first distilled spirits tax reduction since the Civil War. Reducing overhead costs provides a better chance for small businesses to succeed. By allowing them to be more price competitive with larger brands and to hire more marketing staff to get their products out into the market.
Craft distillers are special. They can do things that large companies simply can't. The craft beverage industry is constantly stretching the bounds of our imagination in wonderful ways. Arizona Distilling Company co-owner and Master Distiller Jason Grossmiller was told not to waste his time on native desert durum wheat. He was told it's simply too hard, it will foam up too much during the fermentation process. He decided not to listen and has crafted Arizona's first grain-to-bottle whiskey that is gaining a lot of attention for it's unique flavor profile.
As alcohol enthusiasts it's important we get involved and support this tax reform. The House Bill is HR 747 and the complimentary Senate Bill is S 236. Please reach out to your legislators and let them know you support craft distillers, brewers and wine makers and urge them keep this bill moving and vote in favor. Not only will it help small businesses succeed it will bring products to us as consumers at a lower price.
In the meanwhile, grab a bottle of something local and raise a glass to the men and women who make the wonderful fermented and distilled libations we all love so much!