A group of local distillers from across Wisconsin came to the state Capitol this week to testify in support of a bill that would allow adult consumers to sample small amounts of their distilled spirits products at liquor store tasting events, according to the Distilled Spirits Council, a national trade association representing thousands of liquor brands sold in Wisconsin.
Senate Bill 535, sponsored by Senator Bob Jauch (D-Poplar), would give adult consumers the opportunity to sample no more than three separate one-half ounce samples of spirits at a pre-planned tasting event.
Guy Rehorst, owner of Great Lakes Distillery in Milwaukee, was one of four Wisconsin distillers who testified before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Small Business and Tourism.
“Craft distilling is taking off in Wisconsin and allowing tastings will help us grow. Many customers have heard about our locally produced spirits, but they’d like the opportunity to try before they buy,” said Rehorst, noting that there are now 20 small distilleries in the state. “Wine and beer tastings are allowed at liquor stores throughout the state. It’s time to modernize our state’s liquor laws to give us distillers a fair and equal opportunity to compete in the marketplace.”
Other Wisconsin distillers who testified were: Brian Ellison, of Death’s Door Spirits in Middleton, WI; Nick Quint, of Yahara Bay Distillers in Madison, WI; and Paul Werni, of 45th Parallel Distillery in New Richmond, WI.
Since 2009, 11 states have passed spirits tasting laws for a total of 38 states allowing pre-planned tasting events at liquor stores.
“Tastings are an important marketing tool for both small and large distillers to introduce new brands into the marketplace,” said Distilled Spirits Council Vice President Dale Szyndrowski. “States are realizing that this type of legislation not only benefits the consumer, it also generates revenue for small businesses and the state by boosting interest in and sales of premium spirits products.”