Advocates for Louisiana breweries hope pending reviews of state and federal regulations lead to growth for the local craft brewing segment.
Despite a national reputation for its local cuisine and “let the good times roll” approach to life, Louisiana is at “the bottom of the heap” in terms of the number of local breweries per capita, says Cary Koch, executive director of the Louisiana Craft Brewers Guild.
“We’re not out there to throw stones and make enemies,” he says. “But we are going to speak the facts of what a 21st century craft brewery deals with when we’re dealing with laws that were created decades ago.”
The guild supported House Resolution 210 from state Rep. Gregory Miller, R-Norco, which passed during the last regular session and asks the House judiciary committee to “study and make recommendations for legislation on the regulation of the craft brewing industry in this state and to report its findings to the House of Representatives prior to the convening of the 2022 Regular Session.”
While the number of breweries in Louisiana has increased from 12 to 44 since 2012, the state ranks last per capita nationally, according to the resolution. Last year, the craft brewing industry incurred an 8% volume sales loss nationally and a 22.2% volume sales loss in Louisiana, the resolution states.
At the same time, the federal government also is taking a close look at the industry. In July, President Joe Biden issued a wide-ranging executive order meant to promote competition in the U.S. economy. The order names the alcohol business as one needing scrutiny and directs the Treasury to look into potential barriers to new entrants to the marketplace.
Koch says the state review could go in “a thousand different directions.” But one thing other states allow that might help Louisiana breweries is allowing small brewers to sell directly to retailers rather than going through a wholesaler, he says.
Koch says creating a thriving local beer sector also would help other types of businesses in a state that spends a lot of time and money promoting the local culture.
“When people come here, they are surprised by the lack of breweries that we have,” he says. “That’s something that we need to talk about as far as economic development and tourism.”