Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Legislation Brewing before House on Liquor Law Reform ; Area Beer Companies Seek 'Help'

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Legislation Brewing before House on Liquor Law Reform ; Area Beer Companies Seek 'Help'

Article excerpt

What started as 10 gallons of home-brewed beer for Jeff Gill has evolved into Kansas' largest microbrewery, producing 15,000 barrels in 2014.

Gill founded Tallgrass Brewery in Manhattan in 2007, becoming one of 20 craft breweries in a state with an industry ranking of 34th in the nation. Tallgrass beer is available in cans and on tap in 14 states. With a new $5 million, 60,000-square-foot brewing facility, Gill said he anticipates a significant production increase this year.

"I think we've got a pretty good plan but we do need some help to get some laws fixed," he said. Gill and other microbrewers might get some help.

The limits on kegs rolling out of Kansas microbreweries could change drastically depending on how legislators respond to proposed liquor law bills currently pending before the Legislature.

A key component of House Bill 2189 would allow breweries to sell beer directly to retailers, public venues and caterers. Currently, brewers must go through a distributor to get on the shelves in bars, restaurants and liquor stores.

Blind Tiger Brewery & Restaurant in Topeka produces 1,300 barrels a year, a fraction of the maximum 30,000 barrels allowed by state law.

Owner Jay Ives said 10 percent of his beer is sold through a distributor to several Topeka restaurants and bars. He sees self- distribution as an advantage for home brewers wanting to enter the industry.

"If we cut out the middleman, which is the distributor, then that markup goes back to the brewery and allows the brewery to reinvest in itself and grow," Ives said.

The second part of House Bill 2189 would double the manufacturing cap from 30,000 to 60,000 barrels a year, a limit that has quadrupled in two years. Kansas is bordered by two states with thriving beer industries and higher production caps.

Given an unlimited production cap, Colorado's craft beer culture is bursting with 175 breweries, including the large manufacturer, MillerCoors. To the east of Kansas, Missouri is home to the original Anheuser-Busch location in St. Louis, established in 1852, and the state's regional Boulevard Brewing Company. …

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