The Politics of Beer


By Ren LaForme, staff writer – September 14, 2011

There’s just something about beer. It is a concoction as old as civilization, thought to have been invented around the same time as bread, and yet it is still the center of many a political debate in the United States. Long after the end of Prohibition, the age-old beverage made of malted barley and hops finds itself caught between the whims of politicians and the thirst of the people. Despite its iconic status in Super Bowl commercials and sporting arenas across the country, beer remains a hot topic in many states.

During the Minnesota budget shutdown over the summer, beer emerged as a novel way to connect the discord in government with public sentiment when some bars and sports arenas began running out of the bubbly beverage and brewing goliath MillerCoors was forced to pull its products from shelves.

The shutdown occurred when Democrat Gov. Mark Dayton could not agree to a budget with Republican legislative leaders. Dayton wanted to include a tax increase on the state’s top two percent wage earners to help close Minnesota’s $5 billion budget gap, but the majority GOP legislature refused and the state government shut down for two weeks starting on July 1. [1]

About 300 restaurants, bars and stores saw diminished inventories of beer and alcohol during the shutdown — some even selling out completely — because the government failed to renew the state-issued alcohol-purchasing card required in Minnesota before the shutdown. [2] After their cards expired on June 30, they had no way to renew their permits, and no way to increase their stocks. Many businesses, already hurting due to the downturn in the economy in a region that has been weak for decades, saw greatly decreased revenues during the two weeks the government was shut down. [3]

But perhaps the most infamous aspect of the Minnesota government shutdown occurred when MillerCoors, one of the largest beer brewing companies in the world, ran into licensing issues and faced the threat of having to pull all of its beer from Minnesota shelves.

MillerCoors sells 39 brands of beer in Minnesota, and must pay $30 for a license to sell each one every three years. [4] The renewal was due on June 13, roughly two weeks before the shutdown, but Minnesota officials said the company was delinquent on its renewal. The company then botched a resubmission, the state said, and then the government shut down. CONTINUE READING

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