Oregons 10 Barrel Brewing Co. is no Anheuser-Busch. More than 150 years younger, 10 Barrel last year produced all of 3,000 barrels of beer a few billion gallons less than Americas signature brewer.
Yet 10 Barrels plan to open a pub Downtown has run aground on laws that were meant, in part, to stop giants like Anheuser-Busch from crowding out the little guy small businesses like, well, 10 Barrel.
If thats not confusing enough, theres this: In November, 10 Barrel leased the Sherm Perry building at 830 Bannock St. from the state of Idaho. Shortly thereafter, the state of Idaho informed the microbrewery it cant operate a pub there.
Idahos Department of Lands holds the lease.
The Alcohol Beverage Control, a division of Idaho State Police, enforces the liquor laws that prohibit 10 Barrel from opening the pub.
I dont blame anyone, 10 Barrel co-owner Garrett Wales said. While we are dealing with the state on both issues, were definitely dealing with completely different entities.
10 Barrel holds whats known as a certificate of approval a license that allows the company to bring into Idaho beer brewed at its Bend, Ore., plant. The plan is to sell that beer at the Downtown Boise pub, in addition to some 1,000 barrels brewed at the Boise location.
And thats the problem. Idaho law doesnt allow the company to sell the beer it brings in from Oregon at its own pub.
Thats because no company that holds a certificate of approval can sell alcohol at a retail establishment.
Its not up to us. Its what the law says, said Bob Clements, head of Idahos Alcohol Beverage Control division.
REALLY MESSED-UP SYSTEM
Like many states, Idaho draws a hard line separating brewers and distributors from retailers. The restriction is a remnant of post-Prohibition laws that sought to diminish the influence of huge breweries on bars and beer sellers, said Bill Roden, a former state legislator and Ada County prosecutor who has represented the beer and wine industry.
Before Prohibition, Roden said, a brewery could push bars to sell only beer and lots of it that the brewery had manufactured. Sometimes the breweries even owned the bars and served clients more beer than they should drink, Roden said.
Today, Idaho law prohibits large manufacturers and wholesalers from selling beer at retail. Partly, thats to encourage temperance. But state laws also keep large operations from underselling small bars.
They dont want Anheuser-Busch to open a brew pub in the state of Idaho, said Kevin Settles, owner of Bardenay Restaurant and Distillery.
But no one could have predicted the explosion in the number of small craft-beer breweries throughout the country, Northwest or Boise. In the late 1980s, Idaho lawmakers carved out exemptions to alcohol statutes that accommodate small breweries, but those apply only to operations inside state boundaries.
The exemptions dont help 10 Barrel, which wants to expand its business across state lines.
Its a whole really messed-up system, said John Rusche, a Democratic state representative from Lewiston. Its antiquated and it interferes with what people would call normal and healthy commerce.
Rusche and Settles served on a task force that Gov. Butch Otter charged with examining ways to overhaul laws regulating liquor sales, manufacture and distribution in Idaho. The task force disbanded in 2008 without spurring any changes to state law.
WHAT WE HAVE HERE
Wales said 10 Barrel is negotiating with Alcohol Beverage Control and other organizations to find a path through its legal snag. He would not identify which organizations those are.
He also declined to comment on the specifics of potential remedies. I feel that it can only negatively impact the discussion at this point, he said.
Whats surprising is that no one seems to have discussed the restrictions that come with a certificate of approval before 10 Barrel signed its lease in November.
Department of Lands spokeswoman Emily Anderson said the issue never came up.
Wales said 10 Barrel acquired the certificate last summer and began selling its beer to an Idaho distributor soon after.
But he said he didnt know the restrictions existed, even though he had been in contact with Alcohol Beverage Control.
ABCs Clements said 10 Barrels people never asked about the restrictions.
It would have been helpful if 10 Barrel came to us early on to tell us what they were planning to do so that we could have given them some guidance, he said.
A PATH FORWARD?
The potential boost that 10 Barrel offers Downtown Boise is undeniable. On top of a new venue for merry-making and craft-beer enthusiasts, the company plans to hire between 150 and 175 workers, Wales said. About 60 percent of those would be full time, and some would get health insurance and other benefits.
Between the brewery, the kitchen, its just a big operation, he said.
The Department of Lands, which owns and manages properties for the financial benefit of Idahos public schools and other institutions, would take in $2.6 million over the term of 10 Barrels 15-year lease. If the company breaks the lease, the state could keep its $50,000 deposit.
The options for realizing 10 Barrels Boise dream are unclear. Legislators could change Idahos alcohol laws, but the next lawmaking sessions isnt until January, and new laws usually take effect in July. That would delay 10 Barrels plans by another year.
Asked if 10 Barrel would consider surrendering its certificate of approval, Wales said, All options are on the table for us.
Whatever it takes, he said, 10 Barrel remains committed to opening the Boise pub.
That is absolutely our top priority, he said.
Sven Berg: 377-6275