2008 ended Washington's ban on craft distillers' thanks to Dry Fly in Spokane.
The result has been a series of craft distilleries starting throughout the state. The same way micro brews exploded in the 80s craft spirits are beginning to make an impact on the business and culture of the Northwest, however the State Liquor Bord's old regulations and restrictions on distribution are smothering one of Washington next potentially greatest new industries and cultural contributions. I've been looking for a reason to vote in favor of i-1100 other than my laziness, not wanting to go all the way to the bottom of Queen Anne Hill for booze.
Here is a great intro to the ground breaking Craft Distiller, Dry Fly, and how they helped (re)pioneer the industry here in Washington:
This later opened the door for a hand full of new private distilleries in Washington State (I'm told there are 14 active as of last month, and many more coming. Here are a handful of the newbies):
Soft Tail Spirits
Bainbridge Organic Distilleries
Some articles on them:
I believe these are reflective of a different attitude toward hard alcohol in the state existed when the current regulations were made (Back when my grandpa was 17 and picked up chicks in his model-T coming down for the weekend from logging in Bellingham). Over the past few years we have been starting to see micro, or craft, creations, and small private distillers as important. Washingtonians are beginning to allow their love of local, organic, and artisan creations, that you can see at any farmers market, PPC, Whole Foods, Metropolitan Market, to combine with a more sophisticated palate brought on by the growth and success on our wines, and the increasing complexity of Seattle's food culture. You can see how our interest in consuming refined and rare liquor has grown through the opening of specialty bars such as:
Sun Liquor (who also applied in May for a license to start making their own booze)
... just to name a few of my favorite spots.
I can't wait until we see a lot of Washingtonians be as carefully attentive and knowledgeable of our craft spirits as my favorite Scottish expert on Scotch (Charles MacLean):
However, local craft spirits are still not house hold names in Washington, and are not something that you break out as a favorite at your friend's condo warming cocktail at the over priced Escala. That is because the only way to get these are at the State' stores (and only sometimes). The following is a short video about the mandate for Washington Liquor Board's stores.
Their mandate is good on paper. Though with all the regulations bars and grocery stores have, it makes their use seem redundant. Every time I buy wine the checker at Safeway has to enter my birth date into the computer before it lets him move on to the chips and salsa. Watch the video about the impact that state regulation has had on the the growth of our new favorite Craft Distillery, Dry Fly. (side note: I didn't even know Spokane had a TV station... and I used to work in TV)
It no longer makes sense that distribution should be held as tight, especially for the craft distilleries, an industry that has grown by 1400% since the beginning of the Great Recession. (seem natural, I'm pretty sure that the last boom in "craft distilleries" in this state was in the Great Depression... if you get my meaning;-)
Bottom line for me is if other laws and regulations for grocery stores make the mandate of the State Liquor stores redundant, while it is also holding back a new, exciting, and quickly blossoming cultural industry. Leaving the profit, insane 51% markup and tax to the potential private distributors out of this argument (because they are in every single other i-1100 argument), it would help us develop and cultivate a strong new industry here at home. How many jobs do Washington's micro brews and local wines bring to the state? And what is their contribution to our culture and identity? Would they be such a success if the only place to get them was the liquor store, with a limited selection and a sleepy rent-a-cop? I think not. The best way to support your favorite local craft spirit, is to be able to buy it next to the specialty meat or artisan cheese you will be eating with it.
Viva la Booze