Pennsylvania State Police have staged another beer raid, confiscating about a dozen cases from a leading distributor in Northeast Philadelphia and ordering it to stop selling several well-known imports, including Duvel, a popular Belgian beer sold throughout the Philadelphia region.
Agents from the State Police Department's Bureau of Liquor Code Enforcement (BLCE) descended Monday night on Origlio's Beverage, a wholesale distributor in the Far Northeast whose primary brands include Coors and Yuengling.
The police seized about a dozen cases from a small California beermaker, Russian River Brewing Co., and ordered Origlio's to stop selling Duvel and other beers, including Hacker-Pschorr, Paulaner and Monk's Cafe Ale, developed in Belgium for the Philadelphia bar at 16th and Spruce streets.
As in armed raids conducted last week against three Philadelphia taprooms, the State Police alleged that the targeted beers were not properly registered with the state Liquor Control Board for sale in Pennsylvania - a process involving limited paperwork and a $75 fee.
The sketchy evidence available suggests that several of the beers in fact had been properly registered, and related liquor taxes had been paid.
But apparent miscommunication between the Liquor Control Board and the State Police has left the state's investigators with only a foggy notion of what's registered and what isn't. The State Police proceeded with the latest raid in spite of the confusion.
"This is really an outrage," said a local bar owner who missed his Duvel delivery yesterday. "The state doesn't understand that Duvel actually is registered and has been sold here for years and years. It's almost unbelievable."
The bar owner, who said he sells two cases of Duvel a week, asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation from the State Police BLCE. "It doesn't answer to anybody," he said. "They're running amok."
For the second day, State Police officials in Philadelphia and Harrisburg failed to return telephone calls or respond to written questions from the Daily News.
The Liquor Control Board also failed to respond to questions about its communications with the State Police and apparent problems with its list of more than 2,800 registered beers.
The State Police banned further sales of the Monk's brew, for instance, in spite of "Monk's Cafe Ale" being listed on the LCB's Web site as a registered beer. And it told Origlio's to stop selling Duvel in spite of the fact that "Duvel Beer" is listed by the LCB.
So far, it appears Origlio is the only distributor raided in the recent State Police crackdown.
But others are reviewing their inventories and consulting lawyers, just in case.
"It's just a clerical problem, but they're treating this stuff like contraband," said one distributor who asked not to be identified.
The beer that the State Police removed from Origlio's was Russian River Supplication, an expensive ale with limited production, rarely available outside California. Its brewer, Vinnie Cilurzo, told the Daily News that he simply forgot to register some of his brands with the LCB.
"We are a small mom-and-pop brewery and every once in a while something slips through the cracks," Cilurzo said in an e-mail.
The State Police would have needed a tractor-trailer to haul away Origlio's ample supplies of the other beers on their suspect list, including Duvel, Hacker-Pschorr, Paulaner and the Monk's Cafe Ale. Instead, they just ordered Origlio's to stop selling them.
Don Russell's column Joe Sixpack appears in Big Fat Friday. He can be reached at email@example.com.