Oberon is not coming back to Chicago. Bell’s Beer probably facing a lawsuit. Dale very unhappy.
Last fall, Larry Bell yanked the beers that bore his name out of Chicago, where they enjoyed a loyal following, rather than see the rights to market them here sold to another distributor. He worried that his specialty beers would get lost among the distributor’s mass-market brands.
Though Illinois accounted for 11 percent of his sales, Bell left the state and entered new markets such as Virginia and Florida.
“I didn’t feel that they [the distributor] were the right fit for us,” says Bell, who founded his brewery, now based in Comstock, Mich., in 1985.
The Illinois law that forced the issue in the first place (which I had thought created just a one-year waiting period) in fact means that the old distributor maintains distribution rights to Bell’s. (How can this be? Don’t contracts expire?) You will recall Todd Leopold’s common complaint that liquor distributors in Michigan are among the highest campaign donors and have the most favorable legislative protection of any industry in the state. Not just Michigan, I guess.
If there was ever a time I was interested in smuggling, it’s now.