Taps at the new Falls City Brewing Company Taproom and Beer Garden | Photo by Kevin Gibson

Do beer and politics mix?

According to a review of political contributions by the owners of independent craft brewing companies in Kentucky over the past four years, they certainly do.

Beer owners have contributed at least $62,341 to candidates and political committees since the beginning of 2015, with nearly two-thirds of those contributions going to Republicans.

As reported by The Kentucky Gazette, Ted Mitzlaff, the owner of the Goodwood Brewing Company, was listed as one of the individual hosts of a fundraiser for the re-election campaign of Gov. Matt Bevin on Thursday, held at their taproom in Louisville — news that brought Goodwood’s social media accounts some negative feedback from locals who are not fans of the governor.

The company and Mitzlaff himself replied on social media that Goodwood does not discriminate on any grounds when it comes to renting out space in their brewery, but did not address Mitzlaff being listed as an individual host for Bevin’s fundraiser along with several other local business owners.

While being listed as a fundraising host typically means you contributed a significant sum to the campaign, Mitzlaff insisted to Insider Louisville that he did not give a dime to Bevin’s campaign — either directly or through an in-kind contribution for the Goodwood space — and did not know why he was listed individually as a host.

Mitzlaff said that Republicans have typically been better for the business of craft brewers than Democrats when it comes to policy and legislation. Noting that Bevin is a longtime family friend — along with Gill Holland, the running mate of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Adam Edelen — Mitzlaff said that he would be happy if either won, still considering himself an undecided voter.

The Goodwood owner has made other political donations and is far from the only local craft beer owner to write a big check to a politician or political party since 2015.

The most prolific political contributors are the owners of the Georgetown-based Country Boy Brewing, who have donated $26,620, with over $20,000 of those — nearly 80% — going to Republican candidates and committees.

Co-owner Daniel Harrison accounted for nearly $20,000 of those contributions himself, and while he donated to Democrats Andy Beshear and Jack Conway in 2015 — as well as a $2,500 donation to the Kentucky Democratic Party in 2016 — he has given exclusively to Republicans in the past two years.

Harrison and co-owner Jeff Beagle have given $4,000 to Republican state Senator Damon Thayer — a conservative officeholder who also lives in Georgetown — as well as $6,000 to the Republican Party of Kentucky and the Republican caucus campaign committees of both the state House and Senate.

The second-highest spender among Kentucky companies is West Sixth Brewing out of Lexington — which is owned and founded by Ben Self, the chairman of the Kentucky Democratic Party.

(The Republican Party of Kentucky chairman Mac Brown is an heir of the family that founded Brown-Forman and was a former top executive of the bourbon giant.)

Self accounted for nearly two-thirds of the $17,219 in political contributions given by co-owners of West Sixth, with his being directed exclusively to Democrats.

While co-owner Brady Barlow’s nearly $4,000 worth of donations also went to only Democrats, the $2,750 of contributions from co-owner Joseph Kuosman went the opposite direction, as he only gave to Republican candidates and committees.

The next-highest spenders were the owners of Louisville-based Falls City Brewing Company and Against the Grain Brewery, with both directing a large majority of those contributions to Republicans.

Falls City owner John Neace has contributed over $8,000 to politicians since 2015, and while he gave a total of $900 to three Democrats running for Louisville Metro Council last year, he also gave $2,500 to Vickie Yates Brown Glisson, the Republican who tried and failed to knock off Congressman John Yarmuth.

Neace, who lives in New Albany, also contributed big to Republican candidates in Indiana last year, including $2,700 to Congressman Todd Rokita and $1,000 to Sen. Mike Braun, who knocked off Democratic incumbent Sen. Joe Donnelly.

All but $500 of the $5,000 in political contributions from the owners of Against the Grain have gone to Republicans, with Jerry Gnagy donating a total of $2,000 in the past two years to the Republican Party of Kentucky and the Senate Republican Caucus Campaign Committee.

The co-owners of Louisville-based Monnik Beer Company, Brian Holton and Ian Luijk, spread their $1,200 of contributions last year on both sides of the aisle in Frankfort, splitting them between the Senate Republican Caucus Campaign Committee and the House Democratic Caucus Campaign Committee.

Mile Wide Beer Co. owner Matthew Landon has contributed $750 to Republicans, while Gravely Brewing owner Nathan Gravely’s only contribution is a $250 check to the House Democratic Caucus Campaign Committee.

The owners of Louisville-based Apocalypse Brew Works, 3rd Turn Brewing and Great Flood Brewing Company have made no political contributions, according to state and federal databases.

Local and independent brewing companies from around the state also belong to The Kentucky Guild of Brewers, an advocacy organization that lobbies elected officials in Frankfort to pass legislation to promote and support their ability to succeed as a business.

According to the database of the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission, the Kentucky Guild of Brewers spent $44,405 lobbying the state legislature in 2018.

However, such spending on political donations and lobbying by craft brewers is nowhere close to what is spent by large beer and bourbon companies in Kentucky.

The Kentucky Beer Wholesalers Association, Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors together spent over $168,000 lobbying the state legislature last year, while a collection of interests in the bourbon industry — including the Kentucky Distillers Association, Brown-Forman and Beam Suntory — spent over $285,000.

Below is a list of all political donations to a partisan candidate or committee by an owner of a brewing company in Kentucky since the beginning of 2015:

Country Boy Brewing (Georgetown)

Daniel Harrison

2015- $666 to John Schickel (R)

2015- $1,000 to Andy Beshear (D)

2015- $1,000 to Ryan Quarles (R)

2015- $250 to Jack Conway (D)

2015- $2,000 to Damon Thayer (R)

2015- $500 to Robert Stivers (R)

2015- $1,000 to Republican Party of Kentucky

2016- $2,000 to Phillip Pratt (R)

2016- $500 to Rocky Adkins (D)

2016- $2,500 to House Republican Caucus Campaign Committee

2016- $2,500 to Kentucky Democratic Party

2017- $2,500 to Republican Party of Kentucky

2017- $195 to Ryan Quarles (R)

2017- $500 to House Republican Caucus Campaign Committee

2017- $500 to Senate Republican Caucus Campaign Committee

2017- $500 to Andy Barr (R)

2018- $500 to Senate Republican Caucus Campaign Committee

2018- $500 to Stewart Hughes (R)

2018- $425 to Tommy Druen (R)

Jeff Beagle

2015- $333 to John Schickel (R)

2015- $1,000 to House Democratic Caucus Campaign Committee

2015- $500 to Ryan Quarles (R)

2015- $250 to Jack Conway (D)

2015- $1,000 to Damon Thayer (R)

2015- $500 to Robert Stivers (R)

2015- $1,000 to Senate Republican Caucus Campaign Committee

2016- $1,000 to Phillip Pratt (R)

2016- $1,000 to Damon Thayer ®

Evan Coppage

2015- $500 to Dennis Keene (D)

West Sixth Brewing (Lexington)

Ben Self

2015- $250 to Kelly Flood (D)

2015- $500 to Dennis Keene (D)

2015- $500 to Andy Beshear (D)

2015- $1,500 to Jack Conway (D)

2016- $250 to Hillary Clinton (D)

2016- $500 to House Democratic Caucus Campaign Committee

2016- 500 to Kentucky Democratic Party

2017- $994 to Kentucky Democratic Party

2017- $250 to Attica Scott (D)

2017- $500 to House Democratic Caucus Campaign Committee

2018- $500 to Linda Belcher (D)

2018- $975 to Democratic legislative candidates (D)

2018- $318 to Kentucky Democratic Party

2018- $2,700 to Amy McGrath (D)

2018- $250 to Democratic National Committee

2018- $250 to Joe Cunningham (D)

Joseph Kuosman

2015- $500 to John Schickel (R)

2015- $250 to Ryan Quarles (R)

2015- $1,000 to Senate Republican Caucus Campaign Committee

2017- $250 to Adam Koenig (R)

2017- $750 to Republican Party of Kentucky

Brady Barlow

2015- $250 to Jack Conway (D)

2015- $250 to Andy Beshear (D)

2015- $1,000 to House Democratic Caucus Campaign Committee

2016- $500 to Kentucky Democratic Party

2018- $250 to Amy McGrath (D)

2018- $1,482 to Steve Kay (D)

Falls City Brewing Company (Louisville)

John Neace

2016- $1,000 to Todd Hollingsworth (R)

2018- $200 to Kevin Triplett (D)

2018- $200 to Mark Fox (D)

2018- $500 to David Yates (D)

2018- $1,000 to Mike Braun (R)

2018- $2,500 to Vickie Yates Brown Glisson (R)

2018- $2,700 to Todd Rokita (R)

Shane Uttich

2018- $500 to Senate Republican Caucus Campaign Committee

Against the Grain Brewery (Louisville)

Jerry Gnagy

2017- $1,000 to Republican Party of Kentucky

2017- $500 to Senate Republican Caucus Campaign Committee

2018- $1,000 to Senate Republican Caucus Campaign Committee

Adam Watson

2015- $1,000 to Senate Republican Caucus Campaign Committee

2015- $250 to John Schickel (R)

2015- $250 to Dennis Keene (D)

2015- $250 to Robert Stivers (R)

2018- $250 to Greg Fischer (D)

Andrew Ott

2017- $250 to Adam Koenig (R)

Monnik Beer Company (Louisville)

Brian Holton

2018- $300 to Senate Republican Caucus Campaign Committee

2018- $300 to House Democratic Caucus Campaign Committee

Ian Luijk

2018- $300 to Senate Republican Caucus Campaign Committee

2018- $300 to House Democratic Caucus Campaign Committee

Braxton Brewing (Covington)

Jacob Rouse

2018- $1,000 to Senate Republican Caucus Campaign Committee

Mile Wide Beer Co. (Louisville)

Matthew Landon

2017- $250 to Adam Koenig

2018- $500 to Senate Republican Caucus Campaign Committee

Goodwood Brewing Company (Louisville)

Ted Mizlaff

2015- $250 to James Comer (R)

2017- $150 to Adam Koenig (R)

2017- $300 to Senate Republican Caucus Campaign Committee

Blue Stallion Brewing Company (Lexington)

Kore Donnelly

2018- $242 to Dennis Keene (D)

Xavier Donnelly

2018- $150 to Cherlynn Stevenson (D)

Gravely Brewing (Louisville)

Nathan Gravely

2018- $250 to House Democratic Caucus Campaign Committee

Lemons Mill Brewery (Harrodsburg)

Lemayne Ellis

2015- $250 to James Comer (R)

Paducah Beer Werks

Todd Blume

2018- $200 to Senate Republican Caucus Campaign Committee

Jarfly Brewing Company (Somerset)

Daniel Kydl Stroud

2018- $150 to Senate Republican Caucus Campaign Committee

Dreaming Creek Brewery (Richmond)

Charles Hamilton

2018- $10 to Morgan Eaves (D)

 

The owners of the following brewing companies made no political contributions since 2015:

Apocalypse Brew Works (Louisville)

3rd Turn Brewing (Louisville)

Great Flood Brewing Company (Louisville)

Ethereal Brewery (Lexington)

Dry Ground Brewing Company (Paducah)

Flywheel Brewing (Elizabethtown)

Gypsy Run Brewery (Danville)

Rooster Brewing (Paris)

Maiden City Brewing Company (Cynthiana)

White Squirrel Brewery (Bowling Green)

This story has been updated with comments from Mitzlaff.

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Joe Sonka
Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]