With much fanfare, LSU and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette joined a growing trend of allowing brewers to pay them for making “official beers.”
Reading that news in his Shreveport kitchen, Democratic Rep. Cedric Glover said he was appalled. “It struck me deep in my heart. This is wrong.”
For health reasons, for moral reasons, for religious reasons, Glover said he vowed at that moment to use one of his five allotted bills in a legislative session that’s supposed to focus on fiscal matters, to ban public universities from licensing "official" alcoholic beverages. His House Bill 610 also would forbid LSU and UL-Lafayette from renewing the contracts with local brewers when they expire.
Bayou Bengal Lager supports LSU and Ragin’ Cajuns Genuine Louisiana Ale is the official beer for UL-Lafayette.
“Why would we have wanted to officially license and brand and tie an alcoholic beverage to a school?” Glover said. Louisiana doesn’t allow anyone under the age of 21 to drink, and that age limit applies to most every student on most campuses.
Given ongoing efforts to combat underage drinking on college campuses and all the problems that follow excessive alcohol use, while at the same time endorsing an “official beer” sends a conflicting message, said Glover, the former mayor of Shreveport.
HB610 will be debated first in the House Education Committee, but a hearing has not been scheduled.
“It’s nonsense. Glover likes to throw stones,” LSU President F. King Alexander said. “He’s never been a fan of LSU.”
Alexander was speaking moments before he was to address a House Appropriations Committee last week on proposals to cut LSU’s appropriation for 17th time in nine years. For him, the license with Tin Roof Brewing Co. in Baton Rouge generates needed revenues for the university — 15 percent of Bayou Bengal sales go to LSU.
The major international companies, such as Budweiser, use purple and gold in their local advertising without LSU seeing a cent, he said.
“We license lots of products; we’ll help you do that,” Alexander said. “Here, we have a local business, run by LSU alumni who we helped get started in our business incubator and who gives us 15 percent on one of the ales they sell. I don’t find a problem with that at all.”
The possibilities of immense revenues from the alcoholic beverages industry for cash-strapped universities have made the marketing and sale on college campuses a growing issue nationwide.
Get ready for a beer garden in Tiger Stadium — if the Southeastern Conference allows it.
Coors is the official beer of the University of Illinois, and the University of Louisville raised $2.5 million over three years by allowing Maker’s Mark to sell 80-proof bourbon with coaches’ faces stamped on the label, according to media reports in those markets. This fall, about 40 stadiums will sell beer to those who are old enough at college football games.
LSU Board member Stanley Jacobs said it’s “inappropriate” for the university to associate itself with an alcoholic beverage. The New Orleans lawyer hopes the LSU Board of Supervisors looks carefully at the licensing agreement when it comes up for renewal in June.
Malena Moreau said Tin Roof is sensitive to underage drinking.
But the brewery’s craft beers are heavier and sharper tasting, appealing to more mature drinkers, she said. People having their first beers lean toward the light pilsners made by the huge beer companies.
“We’re not selling Bayou Bengal to college students,” said the marketing director of the brewery that homesteaded its facility in a section of Baton Rouge largely vacated when dilapidated public housing was torn down. Bayou Bengal is Tin Roof’s second largest seller.
The LSU community is more than just the students currently attending — particularly in the Baton Rouge area where thousands work at the university and tens of thousands more are alumni, Moreau said.
“It’s ridiculous. We’re in Louisiana,” Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser said about the legislation. “At a time when the universities need money, we have local entrepreneurs wanting to work together. This is a good morale booster.”
Nungesser was interviewed just after he spoke encouragement last week to Louisiana craft brewers in Memorial Hall of the State Capitol.
The collection of hip 20- and 30-something entrepreneurs handed out stickers and coasters hoping to educate legislators on the emerging small businesses that make and sell beer. It’s their first foray into Louisiana power politics.
Andrew Godley, owner and brewer at Parish Brewing Co. in Broussard, said the main concern is to react to regulations and amendments to fiscal bills that could stifle the infant industry before it has a chance to grow. But HB610 is the first legislation aimed directly at craft brewers.
Louisiana brewery owners say they are concerned about their industry’s future under new stat…
“It’s part of the culture here,” said Byron Knott, an UL-Lafayette alumnus who, with his brother, runs Bayou Teche Brewing in Arnaudville, maker of the Ragin’ Cajuns brew, the company’s largest seller.
They may favor cocktails in New York and wine in San Francisco, but beer is the adult beverage of choice in Louisiana. Beer is offered at crawfish boils and boucheries. It’s part of game days around the television and conversation when friends gather and relaxation when work is done.
“We’re in Louisiana. We’re not in Utah,” said Mark Logan, of Second Line Brewing near City Park in New Orleans.
Such licensing deals require brewers to upgrade equipment, buy more hops, more grain and invest in marketing, he said. The trade-off is that a brewery can plan its spending and staffing with some realistic expectation of receiving a return on that investment.
“A ban would be devastating,” Logan said.
Glover points out that Louisiana was built on sugar cane and has several distillers of rum located in the state. “So, why not an official LSU rum? Is that next?” he asked.
“Deep in my heart, I just know it’s wrong for us as a state to allow a public university to put our official stamp of approval on an alcoholic beverage,” Glover said, ticking off a list of statistics on his fingers.
Louisiana is the nation’s fourth most obese state, with 34.9 percent of the population overweight.
Louisiana is among the nation’s leaders measuring fatal wrecks when the driver is drunk with 34 percent in 2015 versus the national average of 29 percent of fatal accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that about 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 experience alcohol-related sexual assaults or date rapes.
The Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs found 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related injuries, including motor-vehicle crashes.
“Do we really want to add to that?” Glover said.