Wednesday, 30 August 2017

We don't know how lucky we are in New Zealand: craft beer edition

Today's installment of The Outside of the Asylum covers some of the things in Manitoba that might have driven you to drink, and the barriers there to getting a decent drink.
Americans could get beer from other parts of Canada more easily than Manitobans.

Other regulations made it near impossible for craft breweries to emerge. Half Pints led the charge for craft brewing in Manitoba. When they wanted to expand their home-based brewery to a more commercial size, they phoned the provincial regulator, who just laughed and hung up.

Manitoba has been liberalising its rules since 2013, but the rules are still archaic and complicated by New Zealand standards. The rules are such a mess that the Manitoba government has had to consider subsidising small brewers to get the industry going. Ronald Reagan’s quip about government sums up Manitoba rather well: “If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidise it.”

New Zealand’s regime, by comparison, is pretty sane. But keeping it that way requires vigilance.
A lot of the piece is on how great it is that it's easy to go from home brewing - or even home distillation (legal here) - into commercial distribution. Because it's easy, there's a great craft beer scene, with new brewers and distillers turning up faster than I can keep track.

It was a bit funny then that, over on The Spinoff's Facebook comments, somebody reckoned I was giving a Lion Breweries line.

The standard bootleggers and baptists model says that the big guys should want systems that lock up the whole market for a couple of big players and make it impossible for new entrants, while making it look like the regulation is done for reasons other than turning the industry into a cozy cartel.

New Zealand's system keeps all the players on their toes. It is worryingly easy to imagine an alternative where the big players strike an implicit deal with the Sellman-types to put strong restrictions on where things can be sold (knowing that it won't do much to sales) and restrictions on distribution and production that lock up a (slightly) smaller market for two big players.

I love that I live in a country where businesses learned in the 80s that the only winning move in that kind of game is not to play.

Here's Bruce Yandle explaining Bootleggers & Baptists.

No comments:

Post a comment