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The Boston Tea Party of Beer Just Happened in Wisconsin

Will Glass is the co-owner of the Fire House bar in Eau Claire, Wisconsin and he’s pissed.  The object of his ire is Motion 414, a sneaky little addition to the Wisconsin state budget that makes it harder for craft brewers to distribute their wares in the Badger State.  Motion 414 was supported by MillerCoors and the Wisconsin Beer Distributors Association, both of whom will benefit from squeezing out the little guys.

When Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker declined to veto the provision, Glass and the gang at the Fire House decided to make their displeasure known.  Glass organized the “Dump for Independents,” where his patrons would pour out a MillerCoors product and have it replaced with a lovely craft brew.  The event that happened last night – it even made the 10 O’clock news.

I reached out to Will to get his take on how everything went and his reply was so well-written, I’ve decided not to edit it (plus I’m lazy).  Here’s what he had to say: 

How’d it go?

The event was a huge success. We cycled over 600 people through last night and burned through 6 half barrels of MillerCoors products within 5 hours. WEAU shot their story at 4pm literally as we opened the doors and WQOW shortly thereafter (WQOW did a really nice job).

Glass (far right) and his co-conspirators at the Eau Claire Fire House

Where did the idea come from?
The event came to me when on Sunday night I learned that Motion 414 was not vetoed. I was sick to my stomach as a former MillerCoors employee I was disappointed not only with them but also in the Tavern League of Wisconsin and The Wisconsin Beer Distributors Association. I have long believed that the entrepreneurial spirit is what makes our nation great and this new legislation stifles that spirit. Looking back in American history there was one event that came to mind when ordinary citizens became sick and tired of what the government was doing… It happened in Boston and it involved tea.

Did the participants understand exactly why they were pouring out the beers?
The majority of our customers understood why we were doing it. Some were confused with the whole concept, in retrospect we should have made it more clear in the press release that we would NOT be replacing MillerCoors with MillerCoors.

Was it exciting or anti-climatic when the event happened?
It was VERY exciting. Between 6-11PM we were at maximum capacity, like I said the news got there a little too early. Every time someone dumped a beer people cheered. When each time we filled the 55 gallon garbage can and dumped it down the drain people howled. When the 10’oclock news came on it was the same thing all over again.

Do you think you made a difference?
I do think it made a difference. I was able to talk to many of our patrons about the effects of 414 and what they can do to help fight the good beer fight. I also know that we converted a handful of light beer drinkers last night which is always an awesome feeling. I’m just really hoping that other Taverns and Brewpubs hold a similar event in the future. There are a ton of people who talk about doing things… But few do. So hopefully we were the first domino.

Finally (and most importantly) what’s on tap at the Firehouse and what’s your go-to beer?
What’s on tap! Thats the best part. Bluemoon is being switched out with Point’s Belgian White, Summer Shnady is going to Potosi Steamboat shandy, and Miller Lite is turning to New Glarus Two Women. We also just put on Hinterland Luna Coffee Stout, Tyranena Dirty Old Man, Capital Fest, and even more that I can’t think of right now coming in the near future. As far as my go to beer… If I’m in the mood for some hops I go with the Lucette Easy Rider, If I’m up for a session I’m going with the Central Waters Shine On, but my absolute favorites are the imperial stouts like Central Waters Satin Solstice, Sprecher’s RIS, and I absolutely loved Tyranena’s Doubly Down and Even Dirtier. There are just so many good beers its hard to put my finger on just one.

Anything else you want folks to know?
The biggest thing that I want people to know is that life can and will go on regardless of what happens in Madison or politics in general. And if people feel strongly enough about something, like beer, then they MUST act. If people just sit back and complain without taking action… They shouldn’t be surprised when it happens again.

I’d like to thank Will for taking the time to respond to our request and for being an inspiration to beer geeks across America.  It’s folks like him who stand as a reminder of what we love about the craft beer world and that beer people are indeed good people.

 

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Categories: Beer, Lifestyle, News

Author:Jim

Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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9 Comments on “The Boston Tea Party of Beer Just Happened in Wisconsin”

  1. July 8, 2011 at 1:44 pm #

    I’m making it a point now to visit that place the next time I go to Wisconsin.

  2. July 8, 2011 at 1:51 pm #

    Yeah, I’m going to be in Milwaukee in a few weeks, might have to see if I can swing a trip to Eau Claire…

  3. Angela Arp
    July 8, 2011 at 1:58 pm #

    Awesome – thank you for covering this!

    • July 8, 2011 at 2:05 pm #

      Sure thing, Angela. It’s a very cool story and a model of how this can be done in other locations where the big boys are behaving badly.

  4. Wayne
    July 8, 2011 at 2:29 pm #

    This story resonates with me on 2 levels, historically and regionally.

    Historically, it does indeed carry shades of the Boston Tea Party, but its also reminiscent of the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794, when then Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, placed a 25% excise tax on all liquor sold in the US. As a result anti-federalism got a big shot in the arm (there was actually a move for secession west of the Appalachians) and it spelled the demise of G. Washington’s Federalist Party.

    Regionally, it brings to mind earlier times in WI, when one could travel from town to town and find unique breweries, sausage makers and cheese makers. Eventually, big business (Millers, Kraft, et al.) put the quietus to most of the local breweries and cheese makers, and federal health regulators spelled the doom of local butcher shops/sausage makers (some do still open during deer season to process the deer cull.)

    Once again BB, teamed w/ government controllers, seems to be conspiring against the little guy, the entrepreneur, the innovator–a game of regulatory whack-a-mole.

    The result, if they’re successful, will be McBeer and WalWhiskey. But have faith, whenever BB and Uncle Sugar pushed too much we Americans have always, in one way or another, pushed back and put ’em back in their place. May we always continue to do so.

    • July 8, 2011 at 2:32 pm #

      Well said Wayne!

      And god bless Aaron Burr!

  5. July 13, 2011 at 9:25 am #

    We pass thru Eau Clare every year to go fishing and I will be sure to fill a couple growlers if possible next year! I love how this legislature keeps talking about how they help the everyman and yet once again they stuck it to him…

  6. July 21, 2011 at 11:43 am #

    AWESOME!!!! I just stumbled on your blog via Freshly Pressed (congrats, btw), and then found this entry– and had to brag that I was there! I live in Eau Claire and the Fire House is our favorite place to get local (and some faraway) craft brews. This event was really fun and also put some spotlight on the madness of Chancellor Walker and motion 414, and I am so glad to see you covered it!

    • July 21, 2011 at 11:54 am #

      Will was very cool to give us the inside scoop on it – what a neat idea that was.

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