First Prost; Collaborative Spirit of the Craft Beer Community

Greetings and welcome to the Law.of.Beer Blog. I am a law student at the University of La Verne in Ontario, CA. While I have been an active enthusiast for craft beer for, well, quite a while (I am older than the average law student), a recent writing project has rapidly advanced my interest in legal issues surrounding the craft beer industry and alcohol regulation. 

While making a particular point in that paper, I happened upon an interesting topic for additional research on the side: “guest taps.” In California, a brewer with a standard brewing license may serve their own beer on site. If they have a restaurant (“bona fide eating place”) on site, they may also serve others’ beer (and wine). Of course, they do not have to serve competing products–they have a great opportunity for a little monopoly in their little restaurant domain to focus exclusively on touting their own products. 

But many choose not to do so (some have no choice–the type “75” brewpub must carry other commercially available beers; these brewpubs are identifiable in that they may also serve wine and spirits). Rather, they place directly competing beers and beer styles from near and far fellow craft breweries on tap alongside their own. In fact, given my experience with brewery/restaurants in Southern California, I thought this was standard practice everywhere.

Not so. Although my initial method was based only on information available on web sites (include TapHunter), an early inquiry into the matter revealed some potentially interesting results. While the practice is almost ubiquitous in Southern California, it does not appear nearly as standard up north–particularly in the bay area and Sonoma/Mendocino regions. 

The dichotomy is interesting enough warrant further inquiry, I think. Reasons for having guest taps seem evident: brewers like drinking each other’s beer and collaborating, consumers of craft beer like variety. Reasons for not having them do also: your brewery is your brewery; it is where you raise awareness about your beer by serving your beer exclusively. Both choices are made, but the exclusivity choice appears to be made much more often up north. 

This inquiry was a side note to learning that several nearby microbrewers would like to be able to collaborate with their fellows in this way as well, but they cannot as they are not in the restaurant business. Bringing a food truck does not count. My paper proposes an exception that would allow them to do just that. I welcome your thoughts on the matter!

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