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Monday, February 25, 2013

Dry Michigan No More

By Steve Siciliano

Beer tokens, 2013 MI Winter Beer Fest
Of the 6000 craft beer lovers who attended the Michigan Winter Beer Festival this past Saturday at Fifth Third Park, a good number of them traveled to Grand Rapids from areas outside of the state. Folks from as far away as Louisiana, Virginia, Connecticut and Colorado shopped at local stores, stayed at west Michigan hotels and visited the area’s breweries, pubs and restaurants. They paid lodging taxes, the six percent sales tax and when they filled up their gas tanks, they paid the 19 cents per gallon Michigan gasoline tax. They consumed and purchased a great deal of Michigan beer which will translate into more excise taxes when the state breweries replenish their inventories. In short, the craft beer industry has turned out to be a huge economic asset for the state.

That’s a good thing because the more tax dollars an industry pumps into government coffers. the less likely it is to be victimized by crippling legislation. Because of the potential for abuse, alcohol always has and always will be a political football, and short sighted politicians have always shown a propensity for siding with powerful self-serving interest groups. That was the case when Michigan banned the production and sale of alcoholic beverages two years before the passage of National Prohibition. The current tag line for The Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s tourism advertising campaign is “Pure Michigan.” An apt slogan for our state back in the early years of the twentieth century would have been “Dry Michigan.”

The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and The Anti-Saloon League at one time were extremely powerful political forces in Michigan and they were instrumental in getting our state to be one of the first to go dry. National Prohibition had, of course, a devastating effect on the entire country’s brewing industry but the destruction it wrought on a national level had a two-year head start in Michigan. That makes what’s happening with the incredible resurgence and growth of craft brewing in our state all the more remarkable.

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