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March 21, 2011

Three Floyds & Sun King Collaborate to Take On Antiquated Liquor Laws

Recently, Indianapolis-based Sun King Brewing Co.'s staff traveled to Munster, Indiana to make a collaborative brew with Three Floyds Brewing Co. Since both breweries make celebrated American Pale Ales (Alpha King and Osiris, respectively), Three Floyds owner Nick Floyd, Head Brewer Barnaby Struve, and Sun King Brewer/Owners Clay Robinson and Dave Colt quickly agreed on a recipe for "3 Kings Pale Ale", a specialty beer that will be tapped in Munster and Indianapolis in April.

This kind of collaborative effort is commonplace in the craft beer world today, but there is a special significance to this Midwest beer team-up. According to Indiana law, a brewer cannot operate a tasting room, brewpub, or self-distribute its product if it produces more than 20,000 barrels (approximately 40,000 kegs) a year. With Three Floyds on pace to exceed 20,000 barrels this year, the brewery is faced with shutting down either its brewpub or it's brewing operation, or moving their entire enterprise to Illinois. Sun King is on pace to hit the 20,000 barrel limit in 2013, when it will either have to stop self-distributing its product or curtail growth permanently.

This is yet another hurdle in the archaic laws that have curtailed the success of craft beer, dating all the way back to Prohibition. Thankfully, recently there have been some steps made in the right direction. But some state laws still force breweries into unfair and exorbitant fees, or in this case, a pointless barrel limit.

The potential effect of this is massive. Just this weekend, Three Floyds sold out of tickets to their infamous Dark Lord Day, where craft beer fans from all over the country descend upon Munster on one day at the end of April to pick up their allotment of Dark Lord, a robustly dark and delicious Russian Imperial Stout. Will Dark Lord Day not happen in 2012? Will the Three Floyds brewpub even exist in Munster at that point?

Then there is Sun King, who will be facing this same problem come 2013, as will other Indiana breweries in years to come. Businesses like Three Floyds and Sun King already have deep ties in their respective communities and are working hard to create a bright future for Indiana, yet it seems their only viable option at this point is to leave the state to be able to sustain their growth.

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