NASHVILLE, TN – Craft brewers in Tennessee are one step closer to changing outdated alcohol laws that restrict them from producing high-ABV beers without a special permit.
The current law requires brewers who are looking to brew beers above 6.2% ABV to obtain a distillers license. Currently, Yazoo Brewing is the only brewer that possesses a distillers permit.
Amendments to the bill, SB1224, carved out three “Grand Divisions,” across the state, allowing only three brewers to brew high-strength beers as part of a “Pilot Program.”
However, a Senate Finance Ways and Means committee voted to remove program on Tuesday. The vote passed, 10-0, and if passed at the remaining levels, will allow all craft brewers the ability to brew high-strength brews.
The bill now gets handed to the State Senate, where it will need 18 of 33 votes to be written into law. That vote will take place Thursday, May 19th.
Jonathan Borsodi, the Co-Founder of Marble City Brewing Co. is hopeful that the bill could be written into law as early as June.
“I will certainly be drinking a Sierra Nevada tonight,” said Borsodi.
Why Sierra Nevada? The push to change the law came after the Chico, Calif.- based brewery began looking into a potential site in Alcoa for their “eastern” expansion.
Though they have yet to determine if they will in fact be expanding into Alcoa, the law would still need to be changed in order for them build what they hope will become a “destination brewery” for craft beer lovers. Sierra Nevada hopes that they will not only be able to make their high-strength beers, but also serve them at a proposed brewery-restaurant.
If passed, the amendments to bill 1224 will also allow beer producers to sell up to 1/6th barrel to visitors, and allow ‘tastings’ at retail packaging stores.
Video of the Senate Finance Ways and Means committee vote can be seen here.