Ms. Elaine Kneeous

Jennifer is a one in a million stay-at-home mom. (More like one OF a million stay at home moms!) She graduated from a liberal arts college but there is nothing liberal OR artsy about her. She is married to Kevin Fischer of This Just In, and together they have a beautiful young daughter Kyla Audrey. In no particular order she loves dogs, wine, a good bargain, her family, pizza, and entertaining. Follow her blog of all things miscellaneous including but not limited to cooking and baking, entertaining and party planning, being a mommy, and homekeeping.

Culinary yes-yes #67

Imagine you walk into your favorite grocery store.  (Needless to say in my case it’s Sendik’s.  But choose any food store you fancy:  Pick ‘n Save, Woodman’s, the Pig, etc.)  You’re there to pick up some treats for a get-together.  In addition to the appetizers & desserts you plan to purchase, you need a case of beer (Miller Lite to be exact) and a few bottles of wine.

As you enter the liquor department, a smiling face inquires if you would be interested in trying a sample of one of their small-batch creations.  They are offering you a ½ ounce of citrus honey-infused vodka.  Since you’re over 21 and a responsible individual you graciously accept the offer.  You enjoy it so much you put a bottle in your cart thinking your guests would probably like it as much as you did.  Then what do you do?  Go to the cooler case and pick up your 24-pack of Miller Light, right?  Surely that spirit didn’t change your mind about getting that hops-and-barley blend.  Besides, you reason, a classy-looking bottle like that will surely look good on your bar cart:





And now what do you do, since your cart has all the necessary adult libations?  You head up & down the other aisles getting everything else you need to host your soiree.  You’re not feeling light-headed, woozy, or unable to drive home after that ONE TABLESPOON of liquor are you?  Of course not.  One of your Aunt Martha’s rum balls at Christmas time has that much booze!

The above scenario is (at least currently) purely fiction.  At this point you can NOT sample gin, vodka, brandy or any other distilled spirit at any retailer in Wisconsin.  (Travel to 34 other states though, and you’re good to go.)  Of course, sampling the above-mentioned wine and beer is perfectly legal and wonderfully accepted.

Senate Bill 535 now before the Wisconsin Legislature seeks to change that.  Analysis of the bill by the nonpartisan Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau states in part: 

This bill authorizes a "Class A" licensed retailer, under its retail license, to provide taste samples of intoxicating liquor that is not wine (distilled spirits) on its "Class A" licensed premises. Taste samples of distilled spirits may not exceed three, 0.5 fluid ounce taste samples per person per day and may be provided only between the hours of 11 a.m. and 7 p.m.”

Guy Rehorst, owner of Great Lakes Distillery, is clearly one person who could benefit from a change in the law.  And he’s no stranger to the concept of “fighting City Hall.”  Wisconsin is home to a handful of craft distillers that are doing their best to make a name for themselves as well as make a profit.  As usual, there are groups who want to stand in the way of the Little Guy making a profit.  And as usual, it’s the Big Guys and the do-good “advocacy” groups who feel they know better.

Big Guys, aka MillerCoors, are afraid they’ll lose market share to spirit distillers.  I don’t see how that is a logical reason to oppose the proposed legislation.  As I stated earlier, a sample of vodka is not going to change my mind if it’s beer I’m after.  And “if they want to retain customers, they’ve got to make good products,” Mr. Rehorst points out.

Have you ever been shopping when a wine or beer distributor is offering samples?  I have, many times.  Sometimes I’ll try them, sometimes I’m not interested.  But I can tell you for certain; those itty bitty testers that come in a thimble-size plastic cup certainly aren’t causing rowdiness in the cereal aisle.  And yeah, I’ve seen parents with kids (myself included) trying a sip in front of their offspring.  I’m pretty sure the children don’t suddenly think, “Cool!  Let’s go grocery shopping more often cuz my family can drink THERE TOO!”

You might laugh at those reasons for objecting to liquor samples.  But Maureen Busalacchi of “Health First Wisconsin,” fears just that:  “[it]…sends the wrong message, particularly to children, about the state’s ‘drinking culture.’”  Using her theory then apparently we shouldn’t take underage kids to a Packer game.

Mr. Rehorst counters her point more eloquently:  “There haven’t been major problems within the 34 states that allow liquor tastings…  I have no desire to throw a party… we’re not interested in giving away our production willy-nilly.”  In other words, Ms. Busalacchi, this isn’t a frat house on State Street.  Responsible shoppers in a suburban grocery store aren’t going to get blitzed while picking up milk and bread after work.

Our previous governor, Jim Doyle, was clearly not pro-small business.  Thanks to Doyle's 2007 veto of a provision in the state budget, liquor samples are still not allowed.  Hopefully Senate Bill 535 will be a step in the right direction.  Because right now, Mr. Rehorst sums it up perfectly:  “Our neighboring states treat Wisconsin distilleries better than we do.”

You can read more here.

Allowing Wisconsin craft distillers the same privileges as wine and beer distributors have in grocery stores?  A pro-business no-brainer AND a Culinary Yes Yes!



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