SPRINGFIELD -- Illinois lawmakers sided solidly with craft brewers in their battle with Anheuser-Busch, sending a bill to the governor on Monday that will allow the smaller brewer to continue self-distributing their suds.
The measure gives craft brewers a legal definition, and the right to self-distribute their products, a privilege previously restricted to in-state beermakers. A federal judge ruled that practice unfair to out-of-state competitors, and set a May 31 deadline for the legislature to solve the problem.
After months of negotiations between the beer giant, distributors and craft brewers, during which small brewer licensing came to a standstill, the legislature stood unanimously with small operations. They fixed the law by defining "craft brewer" as a small operation that produces up to 465,0000 gallons of beer per year, no matter where the operation is located.
Both chambers approved the bill with only one 'no' vote, despite A-B InBev's objections that protecting small brewers weakens competition in the state.
The state's beer distributors endorsed the measure, because it caps the amount of self-distribution. A healthy market for small brewers ensures that new beer brands would make it to the shelves of Illinois stores, they say.
The bill cleared the House 112-0, with three voting present, after receiving one "no" vote in the Senate.
The bill is Senate Bill 754.