Across the country, it seems like the craft beer industry is growing at a rate faster than the rules of the game can evolve. In a number of states, regulations dating back to Prohibition and beyond linger, and producers complain they are hindering the growth of an industry that’s booming elsewhere.
To keep up, a number of lawmakers from all over the country are looking to rewrite the rules to foster growth and make their states more competitive, while some are working to make current laws even more restrictive.
We cover these on a day-to-day basis, but we thought it would be prudent to also provide an aerial perspective of some of the key legislation being bandied about in state houses throughout the country.
Arizona Senate Passes Compromise Beer Bill
The Arizona Senate last week voted in favor of a compromise bill to allow microbreweries to maintain their additional brewing, restaurant and retail locations even as production volumes exceed the state’s current 40,000-barrel cap.
Senate Bill 1030, as passed, raises the production cap fivefold, allowing for breweries to make up to 200,000 barrels without forfeiting their retail privileges.
Dubbed the Arizona Beer Bill, brewers initially only hoped it would definitively clarify that they can, in fact, keep their ancillary retail operations up and running once they crossed the 40,000-barrel threshold.
That effort was hotly contested by the Arizona Wine and Spirit Wholesale Association (AWSWA), which consists of Alliance Beverage, Southern Wine and Spirits, and Young’s Market. The AWSWA had initially supported SB 1437, a bill that would have bumped the cap to 160,000 barrels.
The compromise bill accommodates the brewers’ original wishes, but also requires they give up self-distribution (save for at their own on-site retail outposts) once they produce more than 40,000 barrels. Brewers would also be barred from opening any new retail operations at 40,000 barrels.
The House Commerce Committee is scheduled to review the bill on Wednesday morning.
Georgia Senate Approves Heavily Amended “Beer Jobs Bills”
A heavily amended version of the so-called “Beer Jobs Bill” passed out of the Georgia Senate last week.
The bill, which is currently scheduled to go through the House, would allow for brewers to offer growlers direct to consumers, but only as a “free souvenir” as part of a paid tour. It also allows for breweries to provide free samples of up to 36 ounces to an individual touring the facility. Sales of growlers at brewpubs for off-premise consumption are also okayed in the bill, provided a customer first buys a meal and consumes a portion of the growler before bringing it home.
While the amended bill expands what brewers can do with their tours and frees up some brewpub sales, it’s a far cry from the original language presented by State Sen. Hunter Hill (R-Smyrna).
The bill, first introduced in February, originally sought to authorize a limited amount of direct brewery-to-consumer sales. That version would have given breweries the ability to sell 72 oz. of beer per person, for on-premise consumption, and up to 144 oz. of packaged product to go. It also called for brewpubs to have the right to sell beer for off-premise consumption in the same quantity.
As rewritten and passed by the Senate, such sales remain prohibited.
Florida Growler Bill Makes Progress
A bill that would repeal Florida’s ban on 64 oz. growlers made headway on Monday, passing unanimously out of the state Senate’s Commerce and Tourism committee.
For years, brewers have been able to sell 32 and 128 oz. growlers, but sales of the industry standard 64 oz. jug have been expressly prohibited to the consternation of many small businesses.
Although there’s been public support from the distribution tier for growler reform, previous attempts to legalize the popular container have been tied to other, more contentious issues in the state, namely, brewery retail rights.
In its latest incarnation, however, SB 186 – sponsored by State Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater) – aims to appease both sides.
It legalizes the 64 oz. growler while also clarifying a manufacturer can transfer its own beer to another of its own licensed facilities. Should a brewery sell beer of another company, though, such “friendly taps” must be obtained through a distributor.
The bill is now in the Fiscal Policy committee, its last stop before the Senate floor.
Texas Lawmaker Aims to Rein in Self-Distribution
One Texas lawmaker has filed a bill that would dramatically rein in the amount of beer the state’s breweries are legally allowed to self-distribute.
House Bill 3389, sponsored by State Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston), aims to reduce the amount of beer a manufacturer can self-distribute from 40,000 barrels to just 5,000 barrels.
As of press time, the bill has yet to be heard in committee.
It’s worth noting, the Beer Alliance of Texas PAC and the Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas PAC are among Thompson’s top campaign contributors, according to the Texas Tribune. In the past decade, those groups have donated $25,500 and $12,368, respectively.