Chicago Beer Corruption

Brian Ziegler

November 30 2010 - 12:46 PM

When I moved to Chicago over six years ago, I was surprised by the lack of variety of beer in many bars.  I really didn't know exactly what was happening, but over the years was introduced to some, shall we say, problems in the distribution system.  Ask a bartender or bar owner about the beer distribution system, especially those dealing primarily incraft beer, and expect a very long and passionate rant or conversation to follow.  

I was at the airport last week killing time, and I was drawn to the issue of Crain's Chicago Business.   I do like the magazine, though at $3.50 it tends to be rather expensive when compared to a daily newspaper such as the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.    The "Graft Beer" article was very captivating and provocative, and it underscores Chicago craft beer drinkers' frustrations with not finding the beers they like to drink.

One good example is Bell's, which famously pulled out of the Chicago market due to frustration with the distribution system, even going so far as to re-enter the Chicago market using a new brand.    Popular craft brews have been finding their way into the Chicago market as of recent, with names like Stone and Smuttynose elbowing their way in next to Budweiser and Miller.  However, a trip to a good bar or liquor store in Michigan or Wisconsin reminds us how thin the selection of craft brews really is here in Chicago.

–Brian Ziegler

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