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I spent much of the weekend wandering around my old stomping grounds in Raleigh, North Carolina, with my daughter. We stopped into one of my favorite spots for dinner, and the waiter brought out the beverage list: There was practically an entire page dedicated to local beers. It was quite a change from back in the day and speaks to the popularity of craft beer in America these days (for the record, I opted for a brown ale from Lonerider). According to the Brewers Association, small and independent brewers collectively produced 25.9 million barrels and realized 4% total growth last year.

Beer is so popular that it even has its own day: National Beer Day falls on April 7 and marks the day that beer was allowed to be legally manufactured and sold following a long, dry Prohibition. On March 22, 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Cullen–Harrison Act into law, which moved the U.S. away from Prohibition by allowing the manufacture and sale of beer that was approximately 4% alcohol by volume (just a little less than the average today) and some wines. After he signed, Roosevelt reportedly remarked to his aide Louis Howe, “I think this would be a good time for a beer.”

Prohibition would officially remain in place for a few more months, but the ability to drink beer and wine was worth cheering. Here are a few more facts about beer—and its close relationship to tax—to help you celebrate in 2019:

1. Egypt was likely the first civilization to tax beer. Queen Cleopatra imposed a tax on beer in order, she claimed, to discourage public drunkenness, though it is believed that the tax was used to raise money to fund a war with Rome.

2. Beer is the most popular alcoholic beverage in the United States. According to a 2018 Gallup poll, 42% of Americans who drink alcohol say they prefer beer, up a couple of points from last year. In 2017, the federal government collected $3.6 billion in excise taxes on domestic and imported beer.

3. In 1695, Great Britain raised taxes on beer, making gin the cheapest beverage in England. Gin was taxed at 2d (about 2 pennies) per gallon, while beer was taxed at 4 shillings 9d (about 57 pennies) per gallon. The difference in price is considered the root of a serious drinking problem in the country in the 18th century, especially among the poor.

4. In the United States, taxes on the production, distribution, and sale typically eat up 41% of the retail price of beer. That amount includes all taxes imposed on beer. In previous years, the federal excise tax was about 5 cents per drink (the nickel comes from the assumption that the average beer has an alcohol content of 4.5%).

5. If you thought the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) only lowered income taxes, you’d be mistaken. The TCJA reduced the federal excise tax on beer according to output. Those rates were reduced to $3.50 per barrel on the first 60,000 barrels for domestic brewers producing fewer than 2 million barrels annually and $16 per barrel on the first 6 million barrels for all other brewers and all beer importers; the excise tax remains at $18 per barrel rate for those producing over 6 million. If those rates sound familiar, they closely mirror previously proposed legislation, including the BEER Act of 2013. There is one downside: Under tax reform, most corporate changes under tax reform are permanent and most individual changes are effective through 2025, the changes affecting the beer market will expire in 2020.

6. German beers are often labeled “Gebraut nach dem Bayerischen Reinheitsgebot von 1516,” which translates roughly to “brewed according to the Bavarian Purity Law of 1516.” The law originally limited the ingredients that can be used to make beer in Germany (barley malt, hops, yeast and water) and allowed the government to tax beer. The Reinheitsgebot became an official part of the German tax code in 1919 but was largely gutted when Germany became part of the European Union.

7. To help pay for the Civil War, Congress imposed an excise tax on beer. The Revenue Act of 1862, signed into law by President Lincoln, included a tax on “all beer, lager beer, ale, porter, and other similar fermented liquors, by whatever name such liquors may be called.” It may not be popular but taxing beer wasn’t a bad idea from an economic standpoint, as it generates billions in revenue each year.

8. Arthur Guinness II—the father of Guinness stout—altered the family beer recipe to include unmalted roasted barley instead of black malt. The unmalted barley wasn’t subject to extra taxes (more on those here), which made it affordable for the Guinness family—and also made the beer’s taste distinctive. By the end of the 19th century, Guinness was the largest brewery in Europe.

9. According to the Beer Institute, directly and indirectly, the beer industry employed nearly 2.23 million Americans in 2016, providing more than $103 billion in wages and benefits. The industry pays nearly $63 billion in business, personal and consumption taxes.

10. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush signed a bill that raised taxes on luxuries such as furs, yachts, private jets, jewelry and expensive cars (despite the “no new taxes” pledge). That same bill nearly doubled the tax on beer. Bush called for the repeal of the tax just two years later, and while most of the taxes included in the bill were eventually repealed, the tax on beer remained in place and is still there today.

11. The most expensive state to buy a beer may be Tennessee, where state excise taxes reach a whopping $1.29 per gallon, plus sales tax, making it the highest in the country. The cheapest state to buy a beer? Wyoming, where the excise tax is just $.02 per gallon. You can see where your state ranks here (downloads as a PDF).

12. The oldest operating brewing company in the U.S. is D.G. Yuengling & Son, owned by billionaire Richard Yuengling, Jr. Yuengling (“Ying-ling” and not “Yoong-ling” or “Yang-ling”), based in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, is one of the country’s five largest beer companies, with an estimated $550 million in annual revenue in 2015. The company added a new location in Florida and won’t promise to remain in Pennsylvania, blaming the state’s tax climate in 2012: “Pennsylvania is a great location. But it’s not very business-friendly. You look for fair tax breaks, fair taxation. And the bottom line is more jobs. That’s what it’s all about.”

13. What’s the best state for craft beer? According to C+R Research, the craft beer capital is Vermont. It probably helps that Vermont has a relatively low excise tax on beer (it ranks in the middle, but more than $1/gallon less than the top). You can see how your state ranks here.

14. Sales of craft beer increased 8%, up to $26.0 billion, according to the Brewers Association, and now account for more than 23% of the beer market. California leads the way, boasting 2.2 breweries per 100,000 adults over the age of 21. You can see how your state ranks here.

15. In addition to sales of beer, “beer tourism” is a real thing. Sites like BrewTrail.com help consumers plan road trips and vacations around visits to breweries, which bring additional travel tax dollars. States and regions have gotten into the spirit, offering info on their own “ale trail” recommendations.

16. How does beer figure into the economy overall? According to a 2016 report (downloads as a PDF), the beer industry contributed more than $350 billion in economic output—equal to nearly 1.9% of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

17. Cenosillicaphobia is the fear of an empty beer glass. Okay, that’s not a tax fact, of course, just a fact. Don’t live in fear: go, get a beer.

National Beer Day falls on April 7 and marks the day that beer was allowed to be legally manufactured and sold following a long, dry Prohibition. On March 22, 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Cullen–Harrison Act into law which moved the U.S. away from Prohibition by allowing the manufacture and sale of beer which was approximately 4% alcohol by volume (just a little less than the average today) and some wines. After he signed, Roosevelt reportedly remarked to his aide, Louis Howe, “I think this would be a good time for a beer.”

Prohibition would officially remain in place for a few more months, but the ability to drink beer and wine was worth cheering. Here are a few more facts about beer – and its close relationship to tax – to help you celebrate in 2018:

1. Egypt was likely the first civilization to tax beer. Queen Cleopatra imposed a tax on beer in order, she claimed, to discourage public drunkenness, though it is believed that the tax was used to raise money to fund a war with Rome.

2. Beer is the most popular alcoholic beverage in the United States. According to a 2017 Gallup poll, 40% of Americans who drink alcohol say they prefer beer, down a few percentage points from last year. In 2016, the federal government collected $3.6 billion in excise taxes on domestic and imported beer alone.

3. In 1695, Great Britain raised taxes on beer, making gin the cheapest beverage in England. Gin was taxed at 2d (about 2 pennies) per gallon, while beer was taxed at 4 shillings 9d (about 57 pennies) per gallon. The difference in price is considered the root of a serious drinking problem in the country in the 18th century, especially among the poor.

4. In the United States, taxes on the production, distribution, and sale typically eat up 40% of the retail price of beer. That amount includes all taxes imposed on beer. In previous years, the federal excise tax was about 5 cents per drink (the nickel comes from the assumption that the average beer has an alcohol content of 4.5%).

5. If you thought tax reform only lowered income taxes, you’d be mistaken. The new law reduced the federal excise tax on beer according to output. Those rates were reduced to $3.50 per barrel on the first 60,000 barrels for domestic brewers producing fewer than 2 million barrels annually and $16 per barrel on the first 6 million barrels for all other brewers and all beer importers; the excise tax remains at $18 per barrel rate for those producing over 6 million. If those rates sound familiar, they closely mirror previously proposed legislation, including the BEER Act of 2013. There is one downside: Under tax reform, most corporate changes under tax reform are permanent and most individual changes are effective through 2025, the changes affecting the beer market will expire in 2020.

6. German beers are often labeled “Gebraut nach dem Bayerischen Reinheitsgebot von 1516” which translates roughly to “brewed according to the Bavarian Purity Law of 1516.” The law originally limited the ingredients which can be used to make beer in Germany (barley malt, hops, yeast, and water) and allowed the government to tax beer. The Reinheitsgebot became an official part of the German tax code in 1919 but was largely gutted when Germany became part of the European Union.

7. To help pay for the Civil War, Congress imposed an excise tax on beer. The Revenue Act of 1862, signed into law by President Lincoln, included a tax on “all beer, lager beer, ale, porter, and other similar fermented liquors, by whatever name such liquors may be called.” It may not be popular but taxing beer wasn’t a bad idea from an economic standpoint, as it generates billions in revenue each year.

8. Arthur Guinness II – the father of Guinness stout – altered the family beer recipe to include unmalted roasted barley instead of black malt. The unmalted barley wasn’t subject to extra taxes which made it affordable for the Guinness family – it also made the beer’s taste distinctive. By the end of the 19th century, Guinness was the largest brewery in Europe.

9. According to the Beer Institute, last year, directly and indirectly, the beer industry employed nearly 2.23 million Americans, providing more than $103 billion in wages and benefits. The industry pays nearly $63 billion in business, personal and consumption taxes.

10. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush signed a bill which raised taxes on luxuries such as furs, yachts, private jets, jewelry and expensive cars (despite the “no new taxes” pledge) – that same bill nearly doubled the tax on beer. Bush called for the repeal of the tax just two years later, and while most of the taxes included in the bill were eventually repealed, the tax on beer remained in place and is still there today.

11. The most expensive state to buy a beer may be Tennessee where state excise taxes reach a whopping $1.29 per gallon, plus sales tax, making it the highest in the country. The cheapest state to buy a beer? Wyoming, where the excise tax is just $.02 per gallon.

12. The oldest operating brewing company in the U.S. is D.G. Yuengling & Son, owned by Forbes billionaire Richard Yuengling, Jr. Yuengling (“Ying-ling” and not “Yoong-ling” or “Yang-ling”), based in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, is one of the country’s five largest beer companies with an estimated $550 million in annual revenue in 2015. The company added a new location in Florida and won’t promise to remain in Pennsylvania, blaming the state’s tax climate in 2012: “Pennsylvania is a great location. But it’s not very business-friendly. You look for fair tax breaks, fair taxation. And the bottom line is more jobs. That’s what it’s all about.”

13. According to Infogroup, with 1.54 beer-related businesses per capita, Bend, Oregon is the most favorable U.S. city for beer lovers. Oregon boasts two cities on the list. It probably helps that Oregon has no state sales tax to boost prices.

14. Sales of craft beer increased 8%, up to $26.0 billion, according to the Brewers Association, and now account for more than 23% of the beer market. California leads the way, boasting 2.2 breweries per 100,000 adults over the age of 21. You can see how your state ranks here.

15. In addition to sales of beer, “beer tourism” is a real thing. Sites like BrewTrail.com help consumers plan road trips and vacations around visits to breweries, which bring additional travel tax dollars. States and regions have gotten into the spirit, offering info on their own “ale trail” recommendations. One example? Just last week, my husband and I left our stamp on my hometown economy via the Wilmington Ale Trail (one of our favorites was Flytrap Brewing).

16. Cenosillicaphobia is the fear of an empty beer glass. Okay, that’s not a tax fact, of course, just a fact. Don’t live in fear: go, get a beer.

Happy National Beer Day!
National Beer Day falls on April 7 and commemorates the day that beer was once again allowed to be legally manufactured and sold following a long, dry Prohibition. On March 22, 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Cullen–Harrison Act into law which moved the U.S. away from Prohibition by allowing the manufacture and sale of beer which was approximately 4% alcohol by volume (just a little less than the average today) and some wines. After he signed, Roosevelt reportedly remarked to his aide, Louis Howe, “I think this would be a good time for a beer.”
Prohibition would officially remain in place for a few more months but the ability to drink beer and wine was worth cheering. Here are a few more facts about beer – and its close relationship to tax – to help you celebrate:

  1. Egypt was likely the first civilization to tax beer. Queen Cleopatra imposed a tax on beer in order, she claimed, to discourage public drunkenness, though it is widely believed that the tax was actually used to raise money to fund war with Rome.
  2. Beer is the most popular alcoholic beverage in the United States. As a country, we consume 205.8 million barrels per year, or about 20 gallons per person per year. In 2012, the federal government collected $9.7 billion in revenue from excise taxes on distilled spirits, beer, and wine.
  3. In 1695, Great Britain raised taxes on beer, making gin the cheapest beverage in England. Gin was taxed at 2d (about 2 pennies) per gallon, while beer was taxed at 4 shillings 9d (about 57 pennies) per gallon. The difference in price is considered the root of a serious drinking problem in the country in the 18th century, especially among the poor.
  4. In the United States, taxes on the production, distribution and sale eat up 40% of the retail price of beer. That amount includes all taxes imposed on beer: the federal excise tax is about 5 cents per drink. The actual tax rate is $18 per barrel of beer, or 10 cents per ounce of alcohol (the nickel comes from the assumption that the average beer has an alcohol content of 4.5%).
  5. German beers are often labeled “Gebraut nach dem Bayerischen Reinheitsgebot von 1516” which translates roughly to “brewed according to the Bavarian Purity Law of 1516.” The law originally limited the ingredients which can be used to make beer in Germany (barley malt, hops, yeast and water) and allowed the government to tax beer. The Reinheitsgebot became an official part of the German tax code in 1919 but was largely gutted when Germany became part of the European Union.
  6. To help pay for the Civil War, Congress imposed an excise tax on beer. The Revenue Act of 1862, signed into law by President Lincoln, included a tax on “all beer, lager beer, ale, porter, and other similar fermented liquors, by whatever name such liquors may be called.”
  7. Arthur Guinness II – the father of Guinness stout – altered the family beer recipe to include unmalted roasted barley instead of black malt. The unmalted barley wasn’t subject to tax which made it affordable for the Guinness family which felt crushed underneath the weight of existing taxes – it also made the beer’s taste distinctive. By the end of the 19th century, Guinness was the largest brewery in Europe.
  8. The first beer cans were produced in 1935. The great United States/Canadian beer can war, however, started nearly 60 years later in 1992, when Ontario announced an “environmental tax” of 10% per aluminum beer can. At the time, United States brewers sold most of their beer in cans, while Canadian brewers bottled most (80%) of their beer. Ontario claimed that the tax wasn’t meant to target United States brewers although the tax did not apply to aluminum soft drink cans. In response, the United States imposed a $3 per case tax on beer imported from Ontario. Ontario fired back with a $3 per case tax on beer imported from Stroh and Heileman breweries (both no longer in existence, largely owned by Pabst) which were, at the time, the two largest United States exporters of beer into Ontario. Today, the Ontario “environmental tax” is 8.93 cents “for each non-refillable container in which the beer bought is packaged.”
  9. In 1991, former President George H.W. Bush signed a bill which raised taxes on luxuries such as furs, yachts, private jets, jewelry and expensive cars (yes, despite the “no new taxes” pledge) – that same bill nearly doubled the tax on beer. The President called for the repeal of the tax just two years later and while most of the taxes included in the bill were eventually repealed, the tax on beer remained in place and is still there today.
  10. The most expensive state to buy a beer may well be Tennessee where state excise taxes reach $1.29 per gallon. The cheapest state to buy a beer? Wyoming with an excise tax of just .02 per gallon.
  11. At the North America Wife Carrying Championship, first prize is the wife’s weight in beer and five times her weight in cash. In the United States, prizes – even paid in beer – are taxable for federal income tax purposes.
  12. The oldest operating brewing company in the U.S. is D.G. Yuengling & Son, owned by Forbes billionaire Richard Yuengling, Jr. Yuengling, based in Pottsville, PA (just up the road from me) sells more than 2.5 million barrels of beer each year, hauling in an estimated $500 million in annual revenue each year. While the company has always been located in the Keystone State, Yuengling won’t promise he’ll won’t leave, blaming the state’s tax climate in 2012: “Pennsylvania is a great location. But it’s not very business-friendly. You look for fair tax breaks, fair taxation. And the bottom line is more jobs. That’s what it’s all about.”
    (Quick tip: order a Yuengling by saying “Ying-ling” and not “Yoong-ling” or “Yang-ling”.)
  13. Cenosillicaphobia is the fear of an empty beer glass. Okay, that’s not a tax fact, of course, just a fact. Don’t suffer any more. Go, get a beer.

Cheers!

You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. It helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer. – Frank Zappa
There was a time when, if following Zappa’s criteria, the U.S. might not have been considered a real country. We might have had the airline bit down – and the football and nuclear weapons – but we were a bit lacking in beer. Other countries thumbed their noses at our beer industry, turning away with much the same attitude as they eschew coffee in Britain.
While it is true that beer had been brewed in the United States since before Europeans arrived – the Native Americans had quite the repertoire – the U.S. beer reputation was dubious at best. A few brewing companies made inroads inside the country, notably, D.G. Yuengling & Son, the oldest operating brewing company in the U.S., located just up the road a bit from me and owned by Forbes billionaire Richard Yuengling, Jr. (quick tip: order a Yuengling by saying “Ying-ling” and not “Yoong-ling” or “Yang-ling”), but U.S. beers outside of the country hardly got a mention.
Prohibition didn’t help matters. As of January 1919, all legal (*coughing*) brewing inside the U.S. stopped. By the time that the Twenty-First Amendment made it legal to brew, sell and transport beer again, many breweries had already closed up shop – or switched product. Those breweries that survived, like Anheuser-Busch – focused on big production and low cost. Those large scale breweries also used grains like rice and corn in their beers which produced a lighter, more bubbly beer, instead of wheat. The result? American beers were viewed as weak – in punch and flavor – substitutes to their European counterparts.
Beer lovers, however, weren’t content to sit back and drink bad beer. More than fifty years after Prohibition had all but crushed smaller breweries in the U.S., New Albion Brewing Company in Sonoma County, California, opened, offering more European style beers. The brewery – called a microbrewery because of its size – eventually failed but interest in micro brewing, or craft brewing, was ignited. In the next forty(ish) years, the number of breweries in the U.S. grew by 6500%.
Today, beer is the most popular alcoholic beverage in the U.S. As a country, we consume 205.8 million barrels per year, or about 20 gallons per person per year. And while sales of traditional beers (like those sold by Anheuser-Busch) remain flat or are decreasing, sales of craft beers continue to increase.
Brewers are hoping that a recent “beer tax-relief bill” will keep that momentum going. The Brewers Excise and Economic Relief Act of 2013 (the “BEER Act” – see how clever those politicians are?), H.R. 1918, would reduce excise taxes for all brewers and beer importers, especially small brewers. The bill, which was introduced by Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA) and Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI), is intended to ease the economic burden on the country’s 2,100 brewing companies.
The BEER Act calls for a reduction in federal excise taxes on brewers to its pre-1991 levels. That affects your wallet since, on average, 40% of the cost of every beer goes to federal, state and local taxes. If you’re wondering how that compares to other excise taxes, federal taxes make up less than 10% of the price of your gas – and in most states, the additional state tax burden remains relatively low. By the numbers, at .05 per 12 oz., the federal excise tax burden alone on beer works out to about 53 cents per gallon (for the sake of apples to apples, the federal gas tax is 18.4 cents per gallon).
The beer industry argues that is a steep tax burden for any product, especially one with a demographic where the average income is less than $50,000.
Under the BEER Act, small brewers would pay no federal excise tax on the first 15,000 barrels; small brewers would pay $3.50 on barrels 15,001 to 60,000; small brewers would pay $9 per barrel for every barrel over 60,000 and up to 2 million barrels; and for brewers producing more than 2 million barrels annually, and for all beer importers regardless of size, the federal excise tax rate would be $9 per barrel for every barrel. Except for small brewers, the current federal excise tax rate for beer is $18/barrel. A barrel of beer is the equivalent of 31 gallons.
The Beer Institute, the national trade association for the brewing industry, cheered the move, saying that it would encourage re-investment and foster economic growth. The beer industry has a $246.5 billion economic impact in the country. The beer industry directly and indirectly employs more than two million Americans, paying billions of dollars in wages and benefits.
The bill has wide ranging bipartisan support with 33 co-sponsors: 17 Republicans and 16 Democrats. The bill, which was introduced earlier this week, now moves to the House Committee on Ways and Means where I’m guessing some, er, extended research might be required.

And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin’ to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take… OUR BEER!

Okay, that was really from Braveheart. And I might have changed it a little bit. But said with a Minnesotan accent, you can imagine exactly how folks in Minnesota are feeling just about now.

You see, Minnesota is in the 14th day of a government shutdown. There’s simply no agreement on a budget. So, Gov. Mark Dayton (D) and the GOP-controlled legislature continue to hammer away at each other.

But that’s about that’s going on in the state. Twenty two thousand state employees have been furloughed. State parks are closed. Road construction projects have stopped. In fact, most non-emergency services are closing up shop. Those services considered critical, such as state police, prisons and nursing homes, remain open only by court order.

It’s dire.

And just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, the state might be running out of beer.

Horrors!

The first nail in the beer coffin involves MillerCoors brewing company. The beer giant, which is as it sounds, a venture between SABMiller and Molson Coors, will be required to pull its beers from every restaurant, bar and liquor store in the state because they did not renew their brand label registration before the shutdown. Without a registration, they may not legally distribute or sell beer in the state.

For its part, the company claims they made an attempt to renew their registration but overpaid their fees. By the time they tried to make the correction, the shutdown had already started. The result? The application wasn’t processed.

What does that mean for beer drinkers in the state? MillerCoors claims a whopping 38% share of the beer market in the state. That’s a lot of empty shelves in the next few weeks if the government doesn’t re-open for business.

Fellow beer manufacturer Anheuser-Busch faces a similar fate in a few months if the shutdown rolls on.

And it’s not just brewers that have this problem:  bars and restaurants across the state did not get their paperwork processed before the shutdown. Without the proper papers, they can’t buy beer and hard liquor from wholesalers. The result? Empty coolers. And consequently, empty seats.

It gets worse. The state is no longer issuing tax stamps which allow for the retail sale of cigarettes. Without the stamps, retailers may not sell cigarettes.

No more beer and cigarettes? Is it just me or are you suddenly very afraid of the state of Minnesota?

I’m not a smoker but I am partial to an occasional beer (unless you’re my mother in which case, I’d like to reiterate that the beer that was in my fridge was, as I explained, simply for washing my hair), so I feel for the folks in the state. I think this is a classic example of those in government forgetting how their actions affect taxpayers.

As the shutdown continues, it’s easy for those in suits in the capital to talk a big talk about what’s best for the state. But what about the little things? It’s summer. What happened to cracking open a cold beer during a Twins game (see, I didn’t even gloat about my first place Phillies)? Or having a cigarette after a good meal if that’s your thing? Nope. You can’t wander down to the park. Heck, until a few days ago, you couldn’t even go to the zoo.

What makes it okay for the Governor and the legislature to hold its own state hostage?

The irony of the whole mess is that this is the equivalent of shooting yourself in the foot. All this talk about how best to raise revenue? How about keeping businesses open? The state is losing dollars by the day with the shutdown.

How much exactly? Minnesota takes in more than $600 million per year in state sales tax from the leisure and hospitality industry alone. Additionally, the industry employs more than 235,000 workers, which works out to nearly 5% of the population – not a number you want to see on the unemployment rolls.

And although a summer shutdown seems like a safe bet for those fighting over the budget in St. Paul, consider this: the number of tourists who travel to the Land of 10,000 Lakes is nearly five times the total population of the state. Tourism generates more than $25 million in gross receipts/sales per day in the state. But with no parks open and restaurants and bars shutting down by the day, Minnesota’s appeal as a tourist destination may be dwindling. The financial impact could be significant for the long term.

I get that there are some difficult choices to be made. But allowing the state to lose services by the day as a result of refusing to act is simply disgraceful. The people of Minnesota deserve better. Quick, someone pass them a beer!

Beer.jpgLet’s get one thing out of the way from the get go: I enjoy a good beer. And more often than not, a good beer tends to come from a craft brewery.

Don’t believe me? My wedding reception was in a beer hall (Stoudt’s, in case you’re wondering, complete with a polka band) and I spent my 10th wedding anniversary at Ommegang and Cooperstown Brewing.

So, I might be a little bit (little bit) biased when it comes to the Small Brewer Reinvestment and Expanding Workforce Act – cleverly named by our legislators so that it spells out Small BREW Act. The Act is known in the Senate as S. 534 and was introduced by Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Mike Crapo (R-ID). S. 534 would reduce the small brewer tax rate on the first 60,000 barrels by 50%, to $3.50/barrel, and institute a new rate of $16.00/barrel on production above 60,000 barrels up to 2 million barrels. To qualify as a small brewer, annual production must be 6 million barrels or less.

The companion bill in the house, H.R. 1236, was introduced by Representatives Jim Gerlach (R-PA) and Richard E. Neal (D-MA). It, too, would enact a graduated beer excise tax rate of $3.50 and $16.00. Rep. Gerlach said about the bill:

With the economy sputtering, Congress must create conditions that allow small businesses to become more competitive, protect existing jobs and create new employment opportunities.

Pro business and pro beer? Who would vote no on that? So far, though, the bill is in the early stages. It now goes to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

Brewers and beer drinkers alike seem to be pleased with the legislation. Charlie Papazian, president of the Brewers Association, had this to say about it:

Small craft brewers are growing, creating jobs and contributing in small and big ways to the recovery of the American economy. The bipartisan effort by Congressmen Gerlach and Neal is a strong message most Americans will raise a toast to and is indicative of the grassroots community spirit with which Americans are embracing to work towards economic recovery and sustain it for the future.

Papazian then added these pretty interesting statistics:

The 1,700+ small American breweries account for about five percent of all the beer enjoyed in the United States and 50 percent of brewery jobs. The bipartisan support the Small BREW Act engenders will help assure a positive impact on agricultural, manufacturing, hospitality and distribution jobs for the future.

Wow? Really? 50% of brewery jobs? That’s pretty significant.

One of our favorite breweries, Victory Brewing in Downingtown, PA, agreed via twitter that the bill was a good move for breweries and the economy, generally:

Reducing the excise tax rate should stimulate investment & increase production, rendering the move revenue neutral down the road.

I think we can all say “Cheers!” to that.

Beer.jpgLet’s get one thing out of the way from the get go: I enjoy a good beer. And more often than not, a good beer tends to come from a craft brewery.
Don’t believe me? My wedding reception was in a beer hall (Stoudt’s, in case you’re wondering, complete with a polka band) and I spent my 10th wedding anniversary at Ommegang and Cooperstown Brewing.
So, I might be a little bit (little bit) biased when it comes to the Small Brewer Reinvestment and Expanding Workforce Act – cleverly named by our legislators so that it spells out Small BREW Act. The Act is known in the Senate as S. 534 and was introduced by Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Mike Crapo (R-ID). S. 534 would reduce the small brewer tax rate on the first 60,000 barrels by 50%, to $3.50/barrel, and institute a new rate of $16.00/barrel on production above 60,000 barrels up to 2 million barrels. To qualify as a small brewer, annual production must be 6 million barrels or less.
The companion bill in the house, H.R. 1236, was introduced by Representatives Jim Gerlach (R-PA) and Richard E. Neal (D-MA). It, too, would enact a graduated beer excise tax rate of $3.50 and $16.00. Rep. Gerlach said about the bill:

With the economy sputtering, Congress must create conditions that allow small businesses to become more competitive, protect existing jobs and create new employment opportunities.

Pro business and pro beer? Who would vote no on that? So far, though, the bill is in the early stages. It now goes to the House Committee on Ways and Means.
Brewers and beer drinkers alike seem to be pleased with the legislation. Charlie Papazian, president of the Brewers Association, had this to say about it:

Small craft brewers are growing, creating jobs and contributing in small and big ways to the recovery of the American economy. The bipartisan effort by Congressmen Gerlach and Neal is a strong message most Americans will raise a toast to and is indicative of the grassroots community spirit with which Americans are embracing to work towards economic recovery and sustain it for the future.

Papazian then added these pretty interesting statistics:

The 1,700+ small American breweries account for about five percent of all the beer enjoyed in the United States and 50 percent of brewery jobs. The bipartisan support the Small BREW Act engenders will help assure a positive impact on agricultural, manufacturing, hospitality and distribution jobs for the future.

Wow? Really? 50% of brewery jobs? That’s pretty significant.
One of our favorite breweries, Victory Brewing in Downingtown, PA, agreed via twitter that the bill was a good move for breweries and the economy, generally:

Reducing the excise tax rate should stimulate investment & increase production, rendering the move revenue neutral down the road.

I think we can all say “Cheers!” to that.

Germany may not have taken home the World Cup – but plenty of cups boosted revenues last month. The Finance Ministry of Germany is reporting that the country’s beer tax in July yielded revenues of a nearly 10% increase over the same time period last year. How much are we talking? The tax for July alone added 73 million Euro (or $94 million US) to the country’s treasury. In contrast, revenues from the preceding months (beginning in January) were actually down overall.

In the end, Germany settled for third place in the Cup. Just imagine the boon to their revenues if they had come in first place…

Germany may not have taken home the World Cup – but plenty of cups boosted revenues last month. The Finance Ministry of Germany is reporting that the country’s beer tax in July yielded revenues of a nearly 10% increase over the same time period last year. How much are we talking? The tax for July alone added 73 million Euro (or $94 million US) to the country’s treasury. In contrast, revenues from the preceding months (beginning in January) were actually down overall.
In the end, Germany settled for third place in the Cup. Just imagine the boon to their revenues if they had come in first place…

When legislators across the country took steps to increase the tax on soda, many taxpayers shrugged their shoulders. After all, it’s just soda.

But now, now lawmakers are getting serious. They’re talking about increasing the tax on beer. (I know.)

And not just anywhere: the increase is planned for one of the microbrew capitals of the US: the state of Washington. Of course, that might explain why microbrews would be exempt from the tax.

The new tax proposal from the Washington Senate would bump the tax on big-brand beers to nearly 50 cents per gallon, or 43 cents per six pack. The tax currently stands at about 15 cents per six pack. Officials estimate that it would raise an additional $58 million for the next fiscal year (if you do the math, it means that Washingtonians consume about 207 million six packs of bad big-brand beer each year).

Despite the increase in the beer tax, the revenue raised would merely dent the estimated $2.8 billion budget deficit in the state. So, also on tap is a *temporary* surcharge on service businesses – from state to state, service businesses are fair game this year, it seems.

Washington is also considering a *temporary* sales tax increase to 6.6% (up from 6.5%). And like Pennsylvania, the plan is to expand the sales tax base to include candy and gum – as well as bottled water.

One wonders how many times the legislature can use the word *temporary* to describe their tax packages before they all just grab their sides and bust out laughing… I think it’s a fair question.

At any rate, this bit of news raises several issues, not the least of which is whether the microbrew exemption can escape a legal challenge. I’m calling it now: expect at least one serious threat of a lawsuit over the constitutionality of such an exemption (it has protectionism written all over it).

A vote is planned for Friday and Senate Democrats believe they have enough votes to push the beer tax increase through, noting that beer is “discretionary.” But apparently only big-brand beer. I guess that makes microbrews a necessity?

Beer drinkers in the Mountain State are struggling to raise revenue in a bad economy. Some members of the state’s legislature think they have a solution: tax beer.

West Virginia House Health and Human Resources Committee Chairman Don Perdue, who sponsored the bill, says that an increase in the tax is necessary. His plan to earmark funds raised by the tax for substance abuse programs.

West Virginia beer drinkers wonder why that should be their responsibility. After all, many note, every beer drinker is not destined to abuse it – so why should the full burden of protecting those who do fall on them? It’s a bit like jacking up gym membership fees for everyone to account for those who are overweight.

And it’s not a small increase. The beer tax sits at $5.50 per barrel today. The House plans to increase the tax to $19.25, an increase of about 250%. Perdue says that the increase would raise $20 million.

Supporters of the measure say that the cost is merely pennies per drink and won’t affect most moderate and social drinkers. Still, at a public hearing, Ralph Winter, representing the Teamsters Union, said, “Beer, in my opinion, is the middle-class beverage. As we all know, in this current recession we’ve been through and are still in, there’s nothing worse than another tax on a middle-class worker.”

The directed nature of the tax seems to be what is driving most of the opposition. But Wayne Coombs, director of the West Virginia Prevention Resource Center, says that the “hidden tax” of substance abuse affects everyone. His Center estimates that the state spends $450 million annually in costs for health care and prisons directly related to substance abuse. Using those numbers, the tax would look to be a bargain.

But is it fair to shift the costs of substance abuse programs onto the shoulders of those who may drink responsibly? What do you think?

(* Extra points if you can identify the inspiration for my title today.)

My husband and beer snob/critic/drinker believes, like many of his kind that some things are sacred. You don’t mess with a good beer.

Unfortunately, this is at odds with the Australian Brewer’s Excise Tax which taxes a brewery based on the alcohol content of its beer. Generally speaking, the higher the alcohol content in a beverage, the higher the excise tax. No doubt, this serves as both a revenue raiser and a behavior modification (we, in the USA, aren’t the only ones who do this with our tax policy).

As a result, Fosters will be altering the recipe for its Victoria Bitter, a move that will reportedly save them up to $20 million in Australian dollars ($17.2 million US dollars) in taxes. Despite the huge savings, the alcohol content of the beer will only drop .1% – to 4.8% from 4.9%. The brewery insists that you won’t be able to tell the difference.

The new brew is out in August – with a new price tag to boot. Fosters is also raising the price of its product, reportedly to keep in line with inflation.

And in case you’re wondering how VB compares to beers on the market, here are some popular beers and their alcohol content:

Amstel Light – 3.85%
Anchor Steam – 5.0%
Ayinger Brau Weisse – 5.1%
Bass Ale – 4.9%
Beck’s – 5.1%
Budweiser – 4.7%
Corona – 4.8%
Fosters Lager – 5.2%
Guinness Draft – 4.1%
Heineken – 5.2%
Miller Lite – 4.2%
Newcastle Brown Ale – 4.5%
Pabst – 4.9%
Pilsner Urquell – 4.4%
Samuel Adams Boston Lager – 4.75%
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale – 5.3%
Stella Artois – 5.2%
Tsingtao – 4.8%

* And kudos to those of you (probably parents, hint, hint) who can properly place that quote.