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Legislation Would Preserve Craft Brewers' Right To Distribute

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) -- Some proposed legislation in Springfield has Anheuser-Busch hopping mad, but microbreweries are hoping it will pass.

The twin pieces of legislation, Senate Bill 88 and House Bill 205, would allow craft brewers to distribute their own products, rather than requiring them to use a middleman as a distributor. The right to distribute would be limited to brewers who manufacture 60,000 barrels or fewer per year.

The current structure for the sale of alcoholic beverages dates back to the Liquor Control Act of 1934, after Prohibition was repealed. Under the law, distributors obtain products from manufacturers and distribute them to retailers.

Anheuser-Busch has been seeking to cut the middleman in Illinois. The Chicago Tribune explained that the beer giant it tried to buy its main Chicago area distributor, City Beverage, but the Illinois Liquor Commission blocked the sale.

Anheuser-Busch filed a lawsuit, claiming that they were being discriminated against as an out-of-state brewer, while Illinois-based microbrewers were permitted to distribute their own products, the Tribune reported.

A judge agreed and ruled that current state law is discriminatory, and now unless the pending bills pass by the end of May, no breweries large or small will be allowed to distribute their own products, the Tribune explained.

The Illinois Craft Brewers Guild is campaigning hard in favor of the proposed legislation.

"Illinois brewers' longstanding rights to self-distribute are under threat, which could slow down the tremendous growth of craft brewing and its related economic impact," the guild said.

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