Pennsylvania liquor agency's legal opinion opens door for distributors to sell beer by 12-pack

IndustriesAssociated Press

Pennsylvania's beer distributors received the go-ahead Friday to sell brew by the 12-pack.

In an advisory opinion, lawyers for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board said distributors may sell 12-packs if the manufacturer designates them for sale as such.

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The opinion clarifies rules for the state's brewers and beer distributors, which have had to sell beer mainly by the case or keg for decades.

"This is the biggest thing to happen to beer since 1933," when Prohibition ended, said Pittsburgh distributor Frank Pistella, a vice president of the Pennsylvania Malt Beverage Distributors Association whose business was involved in seeking the legal opinion.

Pistella noted that the price of specialty beers is now around $40 a case.

"That's a big investment if you haven't tried something," he said.

"Now you can hand the (cashier) a $20 bill and get a little change back," said Sean Casey, founder and owner of The Church Brew Works, a brew pub and microbrewery in Pittsburgh.

The opinion bars distributors from breaking up a case consisting of two 12-packs and selling them separately, so they may have to sell down their current inventory before they order containers designated for sale as 12-packs.

Beer can be purchased in six-packs and 12-packs at some Pennsylvania bars, convenience stores and supermarkets, but usually at higher prices than distributors charge.

The Republican-controlled state House of Representatives is trying for the second time in as many years to privatize the operations of much of the state-controlled wine and liquor store system, but Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has vowed to veto the bill if it reaches his desk.

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Carlin reported from Philadelphia.