Money & Business

Wisconsin Grocers Want to Tap the Fresh Beer Market

By / Jan 7, 2015 (iStock/Thinkstock)

The Wisconsin Grocers Association is pushing for a change in state law that would allow grocery stores to sell beer from the tap. The proposal is getting mixed reviews from local bars and breweries.

Pretty soon Wisconsin residents may be able to stock up on beer fresh from the tap at their local grocery stores.

The Wisconsin Grocers Association (WGA) is pushing for a change in state law that would allow consumers to fill up growlers, or half-gallon glass jugs, with a selection of tap beer while shopping for their groceries.

While filling growlers in grocery and convenience stores is a growing national trend—with stores everywhere from Seattle to Boise, Idaho, to upstate New York now offering beer on tap—most grocery stores in Wisconsin operate under a Class A liquor license, which limits them to the sale of pre-packaged beer.

WGA is proposing a change to these licenses that would allow grocery stores to package and sell tap beer on their premises, similar to what’s permitted for holders of Class B licenses, including most bars and craft breweries in the state. More than a dozen states have amended their laws to allow grocery stores to fill growlers, according to the Associated Press.

“This is something very new,” WGA president and CEO Brandon Scholz told a Madison TV news outlet. “It’s a little different than what most people experience when they go to a grocery store to buy beer.”

The proposed change would not allow customers to consume the tap beer in the grocery store after purchase. But it has some Wisconsin bar owners objecting, saying grocery stores would be encroaching on their business.

“The last venue we really do have is tap beer, so we would like to keep that in-house,” Mike Brown, president of the La Crosse Tavern League, told the AP. “We are losing enough market shares every year, so we are just trying to protect the little bit we do have left.”

Scholz, meanwhile, said the change targets a different audience, those who’d like to enjoy craft beer, otherwise sold at local breweries, at home. “It’s not going to take away from a bar that’s got 12 beers on tap that serves their regular customers,” he said.

Some local brewers support tap beer sales in grocery stores, citing economic and environmental benefits from reduced packaging.

“When you buy a growler instead of a six-pack, you don’t have six bottles to throw away, caps, or labels,” Joe Katchever, owner of Pearl Street Brewery in La Crosse, told the AP.

Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. More »

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