Minnesota government shutdown, mixed with snafu, may lead to beer shortage
Minnesotans will have to head to the Rockies to get Coors Light if something isn't done about their state's government shutdown that may soon lead to scores of beers being pulled from store shelves.
MillerCoors, the maker of Miller High Life and 38 other beers, found itself caught in typical government red tape when it was informed that it had overpaid a state-mandated registration. Minnesota makes brewers register every three years for each product that they sell in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. The cost is only $30 per brand, a drop in the bucket to such a brewer, which might be why it accidentally overpaid.
By the time the state notified MillerCoors of the error, and the company had resubmitted the registration and signed a new check with the proper amount, Minnesota's government had been shut. The state employees who could have approved the registrations were at home, possibly drinking beer, as they had been laid off since the state could not legally pay them.
Minnesota, however, did not lay off alcohol enforcement officials who have instructed MillerCoors to devise a plan to get their cases of Coors, Blue Moon and other brands off the shelves in supermarkets and liquor stores.
As the summer kicks into high gear and tempertaures rise, Beermageddon couldn't have come at a worse time.
"With 39 brands at stake in one of our largest markets in the country during the most important selling period of the year, we do not take our business of ensuring proper state licenses lightly," MillerCoors spokesman Julian Green told the Associated Press. "We are currently in discussions with the state to bring this issue to resolution."
If a resolution does not take place, raise a glass to these beers that will no longer be enjoyed by Minnesotans: Blue Moon Pale Moon Belgian Style Pale Ale, Coors Banquet, Coors Light, Coors Light 3.2, Foster’s Lager Beer, Foster’s Premium Ale, Grolsch Amber Ale, Grolsch Blonde Lager, Grolsch Light Lager, Grolsch Premium Lager, Hamm’s, Hamm’s Genuine Draft Style, Hamm’s Special Light, Henry Weinhard’s Dark, Henry Weinhard’s Hefeweizen, Henry Weinhard’s Pale Ale, Henry Weinhard’s Private Reserve, Icehouse Beer, Keystone Light Beer 3.2, Killians Irish Red 3.2, MGD Light 64, Mickey’s Ice Ale, Mickey’s Malt Liquor, Miller Genuine Draft, Miller High Life 12/16 oz can, Miller High Life Ice, Miller High Life Light 12 oz can, Miller Lite 3.2%, Miller Lite Beer, Milwaukee’s Best #1 , Milwaukee’s Best Ice, Milwaukee’s Best Light #1 3.2, Molson Canadian, Molson Canadian Light, Molson Golden, Molson Ice, Molson XXX, Olde English 800 Malt Liquor, Sparks Light.
Is this good news for Miller's largest competitor Budweiser? Perhaps, but only temporarily. Budweiser's registrations expire in October and that brewer may suffer the same fate if Minnesota's government remains shut down. If that happened Minnesota would be depleted of 80-90% of its beer supplies.
Restaurant and bars are allowed to serve up their remaining inventories but those types of retailers need a "buyer's card" in order to purloin spirits from wholesalers. Unfortunately, buyer's cards for 424 buyers are set to expire Aug. 1. The result could lead to a booze shortage. Talk about a buzz kill.
Former Minnesota governor and current GOP presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty said recently that the current shutdown could be a good thing and he wished the one that happened in 2005 while he was at the helm lasted longer.
“I think it was nine days (of shutdown) at that time, and I think we could have gotten a better deal if we had allowed that to continue for a while and the people of Minnesota would have seen the issues play out a little longer,” the Republican told Politico at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
-- Tony Pierce
Photo: Bottles of Coors and Miller beer sit on the counter at the Ugly Mug restaurant and bar in Minneapolis. Credit: Jim Mone / Associated Press