The Importance of Self-Distribution Laws

My sojourn to South Dakota has not given me too many insights into the nature of the national beer scene. The state is in a nascent phase of building a market for local beer; to date there are only 14 craft breweries, and most of them are tiny (one that I know of, Gandy Dancer, is so small and provisional one could debate whether it actually exists). Locals are coming around to beer and there’s palpable excitement, but palates are at the porter-and-stout stage* and typical barroom tap ranges include a lot of the old American industrial brands. South Dakota is a farming state, though, and there’s already a fair amount of interest/excitement about the prospect of a local hop industry, and breweries are already talking about making beer with all state-grown ingredients. That could be one of those local tie-ins that really helps power local growth.


But one massive barrier to breweries is the lack of a self-distribution law. Living in Oregon, I forget how fundamental these are to the incubation of viable small breweries. This may seem like boring arcana for most people, so let me break it down in simple terms so you can see why a new Oregon brewery has a big leg up over their counterpart in South Dakota.

In Oregon, breweries are allowed to self-distribute 7,500 barrels of beer from each brewing facility they operate. (Of the 200+ breweries in the state, fewer than twenty will bump up against that limit.) That means that they can sell directly to retailers rather than using a distributor–an arrangement with two big advantages. In the traditional arrangement, a brewery sells a keg to a distributor for a wholesale price, and the distributor adds a mark-up when he sells it to the retailer. In self-distribution, the producer is able to sell the keg at the wholesaler’s price directly to a retailer.

Second, a self-distributing brewery can sell their products directly to retailers rather than have to depend on a proxy (the distributor) who will necessarily have less commitment to one of their many brands than the brewery. It allows breweries to develop relationships with retailers, who become valuable outposts for the product, even when a brewery is very new.

Compare that to Wooden Legs brewing, where I sat and talked with assistant general manager Angela Yahne over beers last night. South Dakota has no self-distribution laws. Wooden Legs has signed up with a distributor, but they’re basically a nano and can barely keep up with production for the brewpub. In order to grow, they’re going to need a new system, which means capital. Trying to push volume so they can send beer out into the market is tough, though, because they’re selling kegs wholesale.

Even worse, Wooden Legs is stuck with their distributor thanks to beer franchise laws, which make these relationships like a marriage–but harder to break. Angela gave me no reason to think Wooden Legs’ distributor is anything but a great partner, but if they weren’t, the brewery would be out of luck. Stories of sour relationships are legion:

For example, I once tried to terminate a contract with an underperforming distributor in New York for not only selling my products outside of his territory, but selling out-of-date beer. I thought it would be straightforward, since my contract said I could leave “with or without cause.”
But the distributor took us to court, saying the state’s franchise law, which sets a high standard for showing cause, trumped whatever my contract said. Two State Supreme Court rulings upheld my position, but, fearing a further appeal, I settled out of court. I was freed from the contract, but the legal fees and settlement cost Brooklyn Brewery more than $300,000.
I’m just guessing here–but Wooden Legs probably doesn’t have a quarter million laying around for legal fees. 
The way good beer expands is by availability. Self-distribution laws, directly and indirectly facilitate this. States without them struggle to build the kind of rich tapestry Oregon has (which, counter-intuitively, has been great for distributors because many breweries ultimately do choose to go with one). We even have data on the matter:
“The contrast is stark. States with self-distribution have 1.41 craft breweries per 100,000 21+ adults. States without self-distribution have 0.77…. The same pattern emerges when we look at production. With the exception of one outlier state, the states with no ability to self-distribute are clustered at the bottom of per-capita production by craft breweries (average = 1.05 gallons produced per 21+ adult) whereas states with the ability to self-distribute average higher levels of production (average = 2.51 gallons produced per 21+ adult). Once again this difference is statistically significant with a p < 0.05 (two-tailed test).
This is in no way to demean distributors. There are a number of reasons they’re a valuable asset for a brewery. In fact, having both well-regulated distributors and self-distribution laws give breweries the broadest freedom to implement their business plan. But for states without them, the downsides multiply. 
Angela told me that an incipient collection of the state’s breweries met a few months back, and it may one day form into a guild. Here’s hoping it does, and that they move quickly to pushing for a self-distribution law. That, way more than local hop fields, will jump-start the brewing scene here.

from Beervana

South Dakota

One of the many statues in Sioux Falls, SD

I am currently sitting in a slightly dated hotel room on the edge of Brookings, South Dakota. The South Dakota Festival of Books is the event, and I’m doing my bit to act as a beery interloper on all the high-minded literary salons that will be soon taking place. I was paired with a Pulitzer-prize winning Washington Post author at an event last night in Sioux Falls, but he was snared in the net of chaos that is O’Hare, and didn’t make it to town in time for the event, sadly. But it gives you a sense of the kind of show this is going to be.

In any case, slow blogging through the weekend. I’ll try to get out and drink beer, but no promises on timely updates. The event last night was hosted by WoodGrain Brewing, and later on I went to Monks, the first (and apparently still pre-eminent) beer bar. Sioux Falls is, as you would expect, not on the bleeding edge of the beer scene, and yet it supports a pub with this taplist:

A third stop, at a burger-and-beer joint, yielded similar results. Impressive beers including ones like La Folie. I had a Fernson IPA (local) that was a bit heavy on the diacetyl and thick and caramelly. Better was the IPA at WoodGrain, though that too was caramelly. Based on the prevalence of Denver-based breweries available here, brewers may be looking to the Rockies for their IPA inspiration. The best beers were a rye saison from WoodGrain and a double IPA from a local (Gandy Dancer?) made with South Dakota-grown Nugget and Centennials. The hops were soft and herbal and reminded me a bit of Oregon-grown varieties (Yakima’s are brighter and more sparkly).

Okay, off to scare up some lunch–

from Beervana

Exquisitely Symmetrical Succulents at the Extravaganza


Never mind how practical they are for waterwise gardens, what we really love about succulents is how they LOOK. The eye simply revels in symmetry, and no category of plants do it better.

So, of all the succulents that are symmetrical, which are over the top? These are from my latest YouTube release, “Favorite Scenes from the Succulent Extravaganza”. The sixth annual Extravaganza is this Friday and Saturday at Succulent Gardens in northern CA, and one of the nursery’s specialties is that most symmetrical of succulents, the spiral aloe (Aloe polyphylla):


Find out how to grow this gorgeous aloe in my earlier post, The Exquisite, Elusive Spiral Aloe.


All aeoniums have marvelous symmetry. I suspect that this rare, red-striped cultivar likely has some ‘Kiwi’ in it.


Above is an Echeveria cultivar I’ve seen only at Succulent Gardens.


Sempervivums (above) not only have great symmetry, the main rosette takes the concept further and circles itself with offsets. Don’t they remind you of droplets of water on a lake?


Agaves are a delight to gaze upon, especially short-leaved ones like Agave potatorum. 


I couldn’t resist including a second shot of Aloe polyphylla. It and other whirling succulents are in my post, Succulents that form Fibonacci spirals.

Please also enjoy the other great images in my video, Favorite Scenes from the Succulent Extravaganza (3:20), taken at the past five Extravaganzas. I’ll speak at the sixth annual Succulent Extravaganza on Sept. 23 and 24, and no surprise, I’ll be discussing and designing with symmetrical succulents!

Can’t make it to this year’s Extravaganza? I hope to release video footage taken at the event by the end of the year. In the meantime, this video of a presentation I gave at Roger’s Gardens shows an arrangement of symmetrical succulents: Create a Colorful Succulent and Cordyline Container Garden.


Want to be notified whenever I release a new video?  Subscribe to my YouTube channel (now nearing 2,000,000 views)!

And, if (like me) you can’t get enough of these gorgeous plants, do have a look at the soothingly symmetrical succulents I’ve selected for my own Succulent Meditation Garden.  — Debra

from Gardening Gone Wild

Podcast Update/New Podcast

You may have noticed that there hasn’t been a new Beervana Podcast for awhile. (Surely you were waiting on the edge of your seat!) This has to do with our transition to All About Beer On-Air. We’ve finally worked out some of the kinks, and we’ve got one podcast in the can, and one available today. The good news is that we’ve tried to really step up our game. I’m prouder of today’s podcast than any we’ve done. It is a nuanced discussion about the experiences of women working in the beer industry. We were joined by Sarah Pederson (owner of Saraveza), writer Lucy Burningham, brewer Natalie Baldwin (Burnside Brewing), Pink Boots Society Executive Director Emily Engdahl, and homebrewer, professional brewer, and now professional distiller Lee Hedgmon (they’re in that order in the picture below).

I’m proud of it partly because we managed to pull off the technical feat of recording in Saraveza’s Bad Habit Room, partly because Patrick and I mostly stayed quiet for once, but mostly because the conversation was one of the most interesting, insightful, and revealing discussions you’re going to hear on this topic.

Our next episode is also a special one. Ron Pattinson has been working on a project with Mike Siegel at Goose Island to recreate a stock pale ale. I interviewed them last week, and Patrick and I listen to that interview and learn a ton about recreating historic recipes, the history of hops and barrel-aging, and taste a bottle of this totally unexpected beer. (You hear people say beers are unlike anything they’ve tasted pretty often, but in this case it’s really true.)  So look for that one.

Also note that this podcast will still be available in all your regular locations–Soundcloud, iTunes, and Google Play. In our first AAB pod, it was originally located on a feed hosted by AAB, but we’ve since decided to put it in both places. As a final note, please consider subscribing and if you’re an iTunes subscriber, rating the Beervana Podcast. We’re hoping to build the listenership, and ratings help boost us. Thanks and enjoy–

from Beervana

An Allium for Every Garden



Having a perennial garden that blooms from spring to fall is every gardener’s dream, but having continuous color can be a lifetime challenge for even the experienced gardener. One of the most difficult bloom time gaps in the parade of flowers is often in late spring, after tulips dropped their petals and peonies are at their max bud. This drought of blooms can be miniscule in weeks, but last for long stretches when you’re eager for the flowers of spring after a long, cold winter.

There is a solution for the garden and it comes in bulb form! Alliums! These adaptable, trouble-free plants are gaining popularity and creating quite the buzz due to 2016 being the Year of the Allium. It is easy to see why! Not only do they come in non-ball shapes, but also have more colors than purple that bloom throughout the spring and summer months. Once you start growing them, you’re bound to not stop and keep adding more and more to your collection. Let’s take a look at the options when it comes to this amazing, carefree flower bulb.

If this is your first go with alliums, begin with the most popular and earliest-blooming variety called Allium aflatunense ‘Purple Sensation’. The raspberry-purple flower heads measure 3 to 4” in diameter and blossoms last up to 2 weeks in the garden. This variety is easy to interplant among other perennials and will multiple over time.

Next up in the bloom cycle are the bigheaded alliums including ‘Gladiator’, ‘His Excellency’ and ‘Globemaster’. If you’re looking for BIG blooms, then these are your alliums. Some blossoms can reach the size of bowling balls and measure in at 5 to 10 inches across on small child height (3 to 4 feet) stems. These varieties add drama and artistic flare to your garden by creating a vertical element in the landscape.


Yes, there are alliums that are not purple and they are purely elegant. ‘Mount Everest’ has snowy white, perfectly round globes that are long-lived and carefree.

Allium nigrum (Black Onion) is quite the wrong name for this dependable, white-flowering heirloom. This tall and graceful beauty has glistening white domes of six-petaled florets swaying in the wind on sturdy stems.

Last, but not least, Allium ‘Graceful’ – who’s flowers are absolutely amazing when viewed up close. In the center of each starry pale-blush floret stands a gorgeous violet stamen, which creates the most lovely contrast. That is not it…magenta-colored stems provide an additional bonus to this stellar choice for the perennial garden or cut flower border.


And the colors don’t stop there, moving on to the deep maroon varieties that sing in the garden.

Allium atropurpureum (purple-flowered onion) is an heirloom variety that creates a dramatic color statement and strucking structure in the garden. For those that plant these beauties for their cut flower appeal, it is pleasing to know this variety has long vase life.

Star of Persia (A. christophii) is a magnificient dome of sparkling little florets that could fill the night sky. These enormous, violet-pink globes have a silvery sheen when viewed in person. Ideal for planting where the flowers can be admired up close.

Allium sphaerocephalon ‘Drumstick’ hits the spot for gardeners looking for the unusual. This two-toned, egg-shaped allium sports maroon on top and green on the bottom. Florets open slowly from the top down and create a flower show for weeks.


Adding Alliums to the garden is very easy due to their flower color and shape, but here is a bloom chart to help you to fill those gaps in your garden to have continuous bloom throughout the seasons.


To learn more about Year of the Allium promoted by the National Gardening Bureau, read here.

Looking for help creating an allium inspired landscape? Here are two gorgeous designs, Bountiful Blooms and Daring Forms, created by APLD award-winning designer, Nick McCullough.

from Gardening Gone Wild