Serving Candidate Ryan: The Politics of Paul Ryan’s Beer Brands

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“My veins run with cheese, bratwurst, and a little Spotted Cow, Leine’s, and some Miller.”

That was the Republican Congressman from Wisconsin and potential U.S. vice president Paul Ryan brand-checking a selection of his state’s beers during a hometown acceptance speech last weekend.

Like everything else lately in Wisconsin, Ryan’s other two selections — Spotted Cow and Leine’s — are very much partisan and very unlikely to be found at the same political picnic.[more]

Leine’s is a well-known state nickname for Leinekugel’s beer. Founded in the city of Chippewa Falls in 1867, Leinekugel’s expanded through the 1960s and 1970s and was acquired by Wisconsin’s famed Miller Brewing Company in 1988.

Dick Leinekugel joined the family business at a young age and rose to become vice president of sales and marketing for the Chippewa Falls Beer Company, as the group came to be called after the Miller acquisition. After serving as the governor’s Secretary of the Department of Commerce, Leinekugel ran for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate against incumbent Democrat Russ Feingold. The candidate was reportedly prepared to put $2 million of his own brewery fortune into the race. Vut Leinekugel dropped out and endorsed fellow Republican Ron Johnson. Incidentally, Senator Johnson was behind Ryan during the speech.

Then there is Deb Carey and her New Glarus Brewing Company, the home of the craft beer she calls Spotted Cow. Founded in 1993, New Glarus has become a bit of a Wisconsin institution and icon. The “naturally cloudy farmhouse ale” is sold only within Wisconsin’s borders, which leads to brand-building legends such as the man who drives 50 miles each month just to pick up a few cases. Started with just two employees, the brewery churned out over 100,000 barrels in 2011, a year which saw Carney named the Ernst and Young Entreprenuer of the Year for the Upper Midwest.

Carey has been an outspoken critic of Wisconsin’s Republican governor, Scott Walker, and the Republican legislative majority that attempted to stifle craft beer growth with restrictive policies that many saw as protectionist favors for large brand political patrons like Miller. Carey called the Republican bill “a slimy piece of legislation.” Carey also is a strong supporter of Democrat President Barack Obama, even appearing in a video last year to support his American Jobs Act.

Meanwhile, as an aging Wisconsin drinker, Ryan can be forgiven for including Miller, which is now a London-based brand under the SABMiller umbrella. Since SABMiller also owns Leinekugel’s — the only truly Wisconsin-owned brand on Ryan’s list of things that run in his veins.

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