Musing on regulation
I try to keep an eye on some of the goings on in the beer world, and today I noticed this note on beerpulse.com about regulation changes in the Michigan legislature.
It is perhaps not immediately relevant to Thirsty Nomad, though I think it is indicative of a larger trend towards enabling micro- and nano-breweries to compete with larger breweries. Clearly, that's a good thing from my perspective. There are definitely areas around here that support craft brewing as a business - Mecklenburg County - and areas that mostly don't - Cabarrus County. Generally, "support" means less regulation and/or regulation that is more flexible or allows more leeway to smaller breweries. I generally lean towards the lesser, smarter, more local regulation side of things, so that makes me happy.
In my discussions with government officials, mostly zoning and planning board folks, over the past several months, I've come to the conclusion that those of us who want to start or expand brewing businesses into those areas that have more restrictive regulations have a lot of educating to do. Some of the objections I've heard have been that breweries are noxious operations spewing out nasty odors at all hours, or that a taproom - usually regulated like a bar - is something close to the Mos Eisley Cantina. I personally find objections like these laughable. Probably because I spend enough time in breweries and taprooms to know better.
Small breweries generally don't put out much, if any, smell. Whenever I've gotten a whiff of a brew session, it usually smells like baking bread to me. And I've never seen anything more rowdy or louder than a busy restaurant in a craft brewery taproom.
Of course, that's because I've had the experience. The people who recite excuses of the kind I've mentioned - the ones who make the ordinances that make it difficult or impossible to start a brewery in some areas - are not people who've had similar experiences. And so it falls to brewers to buy these folks a beer and to show them the great craft beer community that's out there. It falls to brewers to educate and promote positive change that will support the continued growth and health of craft brewing everywhere.