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RANT: Beers Seized from Bars in Philadelphia

WARNING!! I’m just going to put this out there that this is going to be a rant.  I’ll probably get worked up and may use some language that will offend some people so for this purpose I am going to also put it behind a cut so you can read on if you so wish.

As many of you know I am originally from Pennsylvania.  If you want to get specific I’m from Bensalem in Bucks Country just outside of northest Philly.  I lived there for about 15 years of my life before coming to Florida.  Sure it’s not long enough to be able to have grown up and drink there a lot.  But almost all my family is still there and I take any opportunity I can to go up and visit.  And every visit usually involves being able to indulge in beers that I normally can not get down in Florida.

Now some of you may know that alcohol laws are absolutely insane in PA an trying to make sense out of them will only cause you headaches which the only cure for is more alcohol and that leads to trying to understand them again.  Get it?  Pretty vicious cycle if you ask me.  Beer to buy and take home is primarily sold in beer distributor stores and you can typically only buy beer by the case.  There are some bars that have take out beer where you can by singles or six packs but you can only buy the equivalent of two six packs.  But as many people know there you can just simply walk out the store, set the beer down or put it in your car, walk back in and buy more.  So the laws want to restrict the consumer to buying in bulk, like the cases at the distributor, or buying in small amounts with the two six back limit, which has a very simple loop hole.  So you are probably saying what’s the point?  A lot of folks say that as well.

But there is one particular crazy beer law that just came up this week and has caused a major stir.  This past Monday a simultaneous raid of three Philadelphia beer bars occurred after a “citizen” complaint of the bars carrying an unregistered beer name.  The offender?  Russian River’s Pliny the Younger.  Now Russian River is distributed and legally sold in the state of Pennsylvania.  And the bars legally obtained the kegs from their distributor.  So what is the big deal?  The state Liquor Control Board (LCB) requires a brewery to register every new beer that it releases in the state and to pay at $75 fee per name.

Russian River owner Vinnie Cilurzo wrote in to the Philadelphia Daily News “It was a simple mistake on our part that we forgot to register some brands with the state of PA. We are a small mom and pop brewery and every once in a while something slips through the cracks.”

Someone steps up and admits their fault.  Case closed.  Right guys?  Right?  Nope.  You see the LCB sent the police in on these raids with a list of all registered beer names in order to check if their are any other “illegals” in the bunch.  Well as it seems the LCB is not ones for accuracy and their naming of beers caused many absolutely legal brands to be taken as well.  Among those is the largely popular Duvel.  Labeled on the LCB sheets as simply “Duvel Beer” all Duvel Belgian Golden Ale was removed from the premises.  Because of this distributors are afraid to even provide Duvel to their client stores and bars in fear of it being taken.

When asked about it the police simply said it was the LCB’s fault if they mistakenly put the wrong names on there.  This is true but does the LCB man up and admit wrong so easily as Vinnie from Russian River did.  Of course not!  I wouldn’t be writing such an article if they did.  All beer taken is being held in a “secure location” until an investigation can be completely.  Being that these can take some time and it’s highly likely that the beer will be kept in proper conditions to store the beer will most likely be no good even if it is determined to be given back.

So there is this state run organization that is regulating beer that doesn’t even know what the names of the products they are regulating are.  But really they aren’t even regulating it themselves.  They are ordering police units, who are just doing their jobs and what they are asked to do by the LCB, to go in and do their dirty work.  Work that is incorrect at that!  I bet the sheet that contained the names on them were printed from one of those ink dot printers with the perforated edges along the sides.  The LCB regulating beer is like if I was put in charge of overseeing NASA.

Which brings me really to the main thing that pisses me off in this matter.  It’s the way this whole mess started.  A “citizen” complaint.  A little fact that I forgot to mention is that the three bars that were raided are all own by the same two people.  Wow now that is some absolutely astonishing coincidence that the “citizen” that complained just happened to go to three bars owned by the same people and know the beer laws well enough to know that Pliny the Younger was not registered with the state this year.  This is obviously some bar owner that is angry or hold some grudge against these owners.  And it’s you Mr. Concerned Citizen that I have a problem with.

If you are indeed a bar owner then you are scum.  You take everything that we in the craft beer community work for and throw it down the toilet.  I want to get craft beer to the masses and have people all over enjoy great beer.  But  you are so selfish and concerned with yourself you forget about everyone else.  Are you jealous that you didn’t get a keg of Pliny the Younger?  Boo hoo, join the fucking club.  At least you can go somewhere and enjoy a glass of it.  We here in Florida and over 40 other states don’t have the convenience of being able to enjoy Russian River products whenever we want.

You thought you were so smart didn’t you.  Scheming that you will go to cops and complain and then the LCB will take their Pliny.  Ever stop to think that the LCB are in competent and are going to probably cause more harm than good.  They took Duvel and Monk’s Cafe Flemish Red Ale as well.  Both of which are legally registered but mislabeled in the LCB records.  Now you have distributors scared they can’t give certain beers out and bars are afraid that are going to lose income because of beers they can’t sell that they legally can.

I bet you aren’t even a beer lover.  You are probably some business man that wants to cash in on the craft beer movement.  Beer lovers that own bars don’t care about petty things like that.  I know many bar owners down here that go and visit other bars.  You know why?  Because they love craft beer and want to support it.

The only good that could possibly even come out of this is maybe someone with power will see how poorly run the LCB is and do something about it.  Otherwise this group know nothing misfits will continue to trip over their own laces when faced with issues.

For more information about this story read at Philly.com or at Joe Six Pack’s blog who are really doing a good job of covering this.

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8 Comments

  • Reply Phil (the Ferm)

    GREAT RANT! This is crazy and your right it is the exact oppisite of a true beer lover. WE want to spread the word about good beer not keep it away from the public. The “citizen” is the true meaning of a Beer SNOB!

    March 10, 2010 at 11:22 am
  • Reply Beer Drinker

    Holy shit, Mike! Get some tranquilizers! Just joking, I totally agree. PA laws bite and this situation bites even more. Eventually it will leak who this Citizen Complaint joker really is!

    BTW, I heard you’re gonna be in charge of the Space Shuttle missions once there are no more scheduled. Soon.

    March 10, 2010 at 11:25 am
  • Reply Phil (Ferm)

    Yah i never thought I would ever see Mike type Fuck in a blog entry…..thought I would have dropped that before he did…lol

    March 10, 2010 at 1:40 pm
  • Reply Don

    Cool Mike, way to bring this issue to light. There are so many crazy laws around liquor and beer and wine. Stupid and unnecessary. We really got to let freedom ring where booze is concerned. If you want to tax it fine, but stop with all the crazy laws that do nothing but jerk around the consumer!

    March 10, 2010 at 1:48 pm
  • Reply Scott-TheBrewClub

    Nice post – I read about this as well. Another great example of tax dollars being flushed down the toilet.

    March 10, 2010 at 1:52 pm
  • Reply Mike

    Now they have raided a distributor. But since their stock is too large they couldn’t take it. Just told them they can’t sell it. This is so out of hand.

    http://www.philly.com/philly/hp/news_update/20100310_In_another_raid__State_Police_hit_beer_distributor__Origlio_s__in_Far_Northeast.html

    March 10, 2010 at 1:53 pm
  • Reply nate

    I think this is the first ever rant I’ve seen from the mild mannered MikeLovesBeer…Great post mike, like Don said, way to bring the issue to light. And like Scott said, what a waste of tax dollars.
    As you alluded to in your post, there are better things that law enforcement could be doing.
    If the issue were “untaxed beer,” the raid was counter porductive considering all the costs that went into the raid.
    As usual, I am impressed by Russian Rivers statement…they have class!

    March 11, 2010 at 8:56 am
  • Reply Mike

    Thanks Nate. I’m very far from mild mannered. Just don’t typically bring in my sailor mouth into things here. 🙂

    But this is happening in my home state, yes I still consider PA my home, and I just couldn’t stand seeing it happen. So I just had to write something about it.

    March 11, 2010 at 9:40 am
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