The challenge to 10 Barrel and Anheuser-Busch comes from the Idaho Beer and Wine Distributors Association, which represents 18 distributors that employ 900 people. The association says Idaho law grants special rights to small breweries - which include every Idaho-based brewery - but not to large ones such as Anheuser-Busch, the maker of Budweiser and Bud Light.
Idaho, like many states, requires alcohol producers, distributors and retail sellers to operate independently of each other. This "three-tiered" system is designed to prevent large producers from controlling the distribution chain and squeezing out competitors.
But Idaho law was written to help small breweries enter the market by authorizing exemptions that allow the breweries to self-deliver and open brewpubs. Large brewers may not open brewpubs and must use independent distributors.
The law defines "small brewers" as those producing fewer than 30,000 barrels of beer per year. That's three times as much as the state's largest producer, Grand Teton Brewing Co. in Victor, brewed in 2013.
The distributors are concerned that 10 Barrel's sale means a large brewer will occupy two of the three tiers if it continues operating its Boise brewpub, violating the spirit of the three-tier system. So the association has asked Alcohol Beverage Control, a unit of the Idaho State Police, to re-evaluate how it deems which breweries fall under the 30,000-barrel threshold.