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Pa. Lawmakers Eye Overhaul of Beer Distribution Statewide

(Credit: David Madden)

(Credit: David Madden)

David Madden David Madden
David Madden is a Philadelphia native with virtually a lifetime of...
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By David Madden

UPPER MERION, Pa. (CBS) –  Pennsylvania could change the methods by which beer gets from the brewery to your fridge.  It’s all about business, and a state House committee traveled to Upper Merion today to look into the situation.

The current three-tier system — brewer to distributor to retailer — has been in place since Prohibition, with certain advantages to in-state brewers that now run counter to federal law.

State representative John Taylor of Philadelphia chairs the House Liquor Control Committee, which is looking into how to level the playing field:

“When you have a contract with a distributor, how long must you stay in that contract?  How beer is distributed: who gets to self-distribute? Who gets to distribute through the system?  And things like that.”

It may not sound like much to those who actually drink the beer, although Taylor says this is part of a long-range plan to give consumers more options at better prices.

A bill to address the internal issues in the beer business was introduced Wednesday in Harrisburg.

Distributors want the government to stay away from regulating the beer distribution business.

“By law there is a relationship,” notes Francis O’Brien, attorney for the distributors’ group, “but as far as the details and the nitty-gritty, we don’t see that as the proper role of government.”

Ted Zeller, who represents Brewers of Pennsylvania, says his clients want a little flexibility.

“Right now, contracts are perpetual,” Zeller says.   “(But) things change.  We’d like to be able to be in a situation where we can get to the table with our wholesalers and sit down.”

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