Sunday, March 17, 2013

Maryland's good laws for good beer

The Maryland House of Delegates is considering several bills that would benefit breweries in Maryland. Here's more about that, from the Brewer's Association of Maryland (BAM) —the non-profit trade association of Maryland brewing companies:

Brewers Association of Maryland

This past week we brought Maryland House Bill 4 to your attention. If passed, this bill will allow Maryland breweries to sell beer by the glass in their taprooms.

House Bill 4 (HB 4) was scheduled for a vote in the Economic Matters Committee this past Monday, but was delayed because of the overwhelming response from supporters of Maryland beer. The lead Sponsor of the legislation, the Honorable Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio of the Eastern Shore, has tirelessly stood tall in the name of Maryland Beer. She deserves our thanks; as well as our admiration.

Many craft breweries around the country are already able to sell beer by the glass. The passing of HB 4 will enable manufacturing breweries to grow their taproom experience, entertain more impromptu visits, increase tourism, and grow business across the state.

Steam brew (01)

The Brewer's Association of Maryland continues to assert that as more people are able to visit Maryland breweries, sales of craft beer will increase, not only in those breweries, but also in other small businesses such as local restaurants, pubs, and beer stores throughout the community.

When successfully passed, HB 4 will be scheduled to be signed by Governor O’Malley, and will go into effect July 1, 2013.

The bill's Senate analogue is SB32, sponsored by Senator Richard Colburn, of the Eastern Shore.

According to BAM, there are a few more brewery-related bills up for consideration. Senate Bill 955 would permit production breweries (that is, not a brewpub) to fill and sell growlers to go. Both this and HB4/SB32 would put Maryland breweries on the same footing as breweries in Virginia and the District of Columbia, where laws were only recently changed to permit beer to be sold by the glass for consumption in brewery tasting rooms and to allow the sale of filled growlers of beer.

House Bill 230 would allow farm breweries to contract with brewpubs to produce beer for the farm brewery with ingredients grown on the farm.

Brewery on a hill: Stillpoint Farm (02)

And, finally, HB231/SB223 would allow brewpubs to self-distribute the beers they brew to other restaurants and shops. J.T. Smith —the Association's Executive Director— adds that "this is an incubator policy for brew-pubs to self-distribute up to an annual limit [to be determined] at which point they will go into 'normal' distribution via the 3-tier system." The neighboring state of Virginia has set up a public-private program to assist small wineries in that state (but not small breweries).

This is good work by the Brewer's Association of Maryland on behalf of its twenty-six members. If you live in Maryland, support the effort by contacting your state Senator and Delegate, and urge their support of the bills. It makes good political sense; it makes good local business sense; it makes good beer sense.

UPDATE: Passed and signed into law.
House Bill 4/Senate Bill 32: Allows for a Class 5 Production Brewery to sell beer by the glass to the general public, provided they are of legal drinking age. The proposed bill positively impacts the local municipality, county, and state as it:
  • attracts additional tourism activity
  • further supports business development local to a Class 5
  • results in the hiring of additional employees
  • increases tax revenue
  • works to equalize competition between Maryland and adjacent states
  • does not undermine current business plans of retailers or wholesalers residing in the state
  • aides a start-up Class 5 to see immediate financial return, while developing their brand with consumers

  • See the full list of the bills at the Brewer's Association of Maryland website. Follow on Twitter at @BrewersAssocMD. Follow on Facebook at BrewersAssocMD.
  • BAM sponsors two major beer festivals during the year. The next up is the Maryland Craft Beer Festival, on 18 May 2013, in Frederick.
  • Thanks to J.T. Smith —the Executive Director of BAM— for his assistance on this post.
  • Virginia adopted a similar law, allowing in-brewery tap room sales, in 2012.

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