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MillerCoors Joins The Kentucky Beer Battle

Edwin Lee/Creative Commons

MillerCoors has joined the so-called “beer battle” between Anheuser-Busch and craft brewers in the Kentucky General Assembly.

Craft brewers and local beer distributors support a bill that would forbid out-of-state brewers from owning beer distributors in the state. Breweries that make fewer than 25,000 barrels of beer per year are not allowed to own their own distributors under Kentucky law.

In a letter sent earlier this month to Speaker Greg Stumbo, who sponsored the bill, MillerCoors Vice President Timothy Scully threw his support behind the proposal. Scully wrote that the bill would create a level playing field for brewers doing business in Kentucky.

“This fair and equitable proposal ensures that all brewers can continue to enjoy open and fair competition when selling beer through an independent distribution system,” Scully wrote.

The bill was approved by a House committee earlier this month, but several lawmakers expressed hope for a compromise between Anheuser-Busch and local brewing interests. As it’s presently written, the bill would require Anheuser-Busch to divest itself of distributors based in Louisville and Owensboro. Anheuser-Busch representatives have said about 200 jobs would be lost.

Rhinegeist, a craft brewer based in Cincinnati, would also have to get rid of its RiverGhost distributorship, which it just opened in December.

Still, Scully, of MillerCoors, said any compromise that allows Anheuser-Busch to keep its distributors would be unacceptable. In a statement, Scully said such an effort "would mean that the Kentucky legislature is picking winners and losers."

Six possible floor amendments have been filed for the bill, including one that would allow in-state microbreweries to own their own distributors.