Thank Deregulation and Free Market Capitalism for the Craft Beer Revolution

by Rob Roper

I came across an article this weekend, We Should Thank Millennials for Ruining These Terrible Products, which gave the famed generation credit for, among other things, “wiping out… mass-market beers like Budweiser and Coors…..” As if a new generation just all of a sudden decided we want a more interesting, diverse, higher quality market for beverages and then “poof,” Heady Topper! The author states, “on behalf of all millennials, I can only say: You’re welcome.”

Sorry, but the thanks does not belong to you (though we can be happy you like and buy the beer!) It belongs to deregulation, lower taxes, and free market capitalism. The craft beer revolution is what happens when government gets out of the way.

In 1978, Jimmy Carter signed H.R. 1337, which “created an exemption from taxation of beer brewed at home for personal or family use.” (Kegworks,com) Government getting out of the way allowed for the explosion of a home brewing craze, creating an army of people who, through their own curiosity and investment, became knowledgeable about the brewing process, experimented with new recipes and techniques, and bought and refined the technology of making beer.

What started out hobby industry inspired entrepreneurs, and in the early 1980’s government got out of the way again, this time at the state level, by making “brewpubs” legal. A brewpub is “a restaurant that sells beverages brewed on the premises.” And yes, once upon a time not too long ago, government said that was a crime. (Can you imagine?)

Today, all fifty states allow brewpubs. Here in Vermont you can’t throw a stick without hitting one. Given freedom, they sprout like mushrooms. And they are terrific! They have become a huge part of our economy and our culture. The diversity and creativity of the industry is inspiring.

So here is my lesson for the millennial author of the article that inspired this post: your preceding generations did not drink beer that “tastes like a seltzer someone peed in” because it’s what we liked (or was all our feeble old imaginations could come up with). It’s because that’s what a beer industry over-regulated by Big Nanny Government makes. Government kills creativity, innovation, and evolution. It inspires bland sameness over creativity, and big corporations over small entrepreneurs. This is why the government that governs best governs least.

So, craft beer aficionados, if you’re going to give thanks, or raise a glass, do it to free market capitalism and the entrepreneurs it allows to thrive.

- Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

SBarrows June 13, 2017 at 5:58 pm

Great article. There is still a lot of work to be done in the beer world to completely free it from regulation. Namely the 3 tier system that still hangs over us from the end of prohibition. VT still has a couple of laws that could be changed to completely free our states brewers. Self distribution and the ability to pour pints in taprooms without a restaurant license are two laws that need to change. At the same time watch out for big beer and their lobbies. They would like nothing better than to put regulations back into place that would stifle craft beer.


Allen Godin June 17, 2017 at 4:01 am

I think the genie has been let out of the bottle. Vermont has become an alcoholic’s dream. I say that from the problems brought to my own family because of the free access to “Craft Beer”. You know, that swamp water that is flavored with cow droppings. Hey, I have nothing against home brew and have brewed my own, but I think this never ending line of breweries is out of control. Yes, I used the C word. From my house to the next large town there are 2 breweries and a distillery on the same road. Who knows how many more will move in to make life a quick and simple road to addiction.

Is this really something to cheer? Just how much revenue does this bring to the State and our communities compared to the loss in freedom due to illegal “Check Points” set up by police to pick up “law breakers” like people not wearing a seatbelt. Lately have the police caught a drunk before they can drive off the road? Have they made a difference in underage drinking? And yet the desire for more “Craft Breweries” continues.

I have a wide enough interest in beers to know that Coors, Budweiser, and Miller are old line favorites of the labor set. They are also some of the only beers I’d drink quickly after a long hot day of Work. Opps I used the W word. Can I insult anyone else?

If people don’t start using self restraint than why are we insisting that there could ever be a Conservative movement in Vermont? Let’s all just do as we please every time we turn around. Maybe Vermont should start thinking about opening our towns to industries where real men can get a job. It might still be possible to find some. Then, those hard working men can decide whether a light tasty beer that keeps you running, or a heavy, or nasty, bitter beer that makes you want to sit for a while to ponder your lightheaded condition before carefully proceeding with more activities, is the right beer for every day.

If you want unrestrained beer consumption than the breweries can also pay their fair share for the problems they are creating in our society. Millennials think they have done what has never been done before, but they are showing their ignorance of history and their arrogance as spoiled children.

Good luck Vermont, the future is as clear as beer goggles.


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The Ethan Allen Institute is Vermont’s free-market public policy research and education organization. Founded in 1993, we are one of fifty-plus similar but independent state-level, public policy organizations around the country which exchange ideas and information through the State Policy Network.

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