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US. Senate OKs self-distribution for craft beer brewers

Local brewer Chris Trudeau was ecstatic to hear that the Illinois Senate passed a measure Tuesday designed to allow craft brewers to self-distribute limited quantities of beer.

Trudeau is the founder and brewmaster of Rolling Meadows Brewery, a new Springfield microbrewery that is relying on the proposal to get its product to local bars.

“We’re super-excited about this,” Trudeau said. “It means for us that we can get out beer out to people in central Illinois much faster.”

Senate Bill 754 defines craft brewers as those who brew up to 465,000 gallons of beer a year. It would allow them to self-distribute 7,500 barrels – the equivalent of 15,000 kegs – annually.

“I’m carrying the legislation because … of the two craft brewers in Illinois, one is right around the corner and down the street from my house,” said the bill's sponsor, Sen. Donne Trotter, D-Chicago.

The proposal, which passed 48-1, with three voting “present,” stems from a 2010 lawsuit filed by Missouri-based Anheuser-Busch Inbev after the state of Illinois blocked its move to buy a Chicago-based beer distributor.

In Illinois, in-state brewers are allowed to self-distribute, but out-of-state brewers must go through third-party distributors. That became central to the A-B Inbev lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge Robert Dow Jr. gave the legislature a deadline to deal with the problem, but ruled that self-distribution rights would be taken away from all brewers in Illinois if no law was passed by May 31.

The sole “no” vote came from Sen. Steven Landek, D-Bridgeview, who did not respond to requests for comment.

The measure now goes to the House.

4 May. 2011

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