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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Virginia breweries go to the farm.

Yes, Virginia. It's in writing: "It is the policy of the Commonwealth to preserve the economic vitality of the Virginia beer industry".

In that spirit, the Virginia legislature has approved the small-scale existence of farm-breweries in the state. Senate Bill 430 amends the Code of Virginia (15.2-2288.3:1) to create a new Farm Brewery license for breweries that

  • manufacture no more than 15,000 barrels of beer per calendar year
  • are located on a farm in Virginia
  • use agricultural products that are grown on the farm in the manufacture of their beer.
The bill was passed by the Virginia Senate, 35-3, on 30 January, and just yesterday, 24 February, by the House, 97-0. The bill goes now to Governor McAuliffe for his signature to become law.

Brewery on a hill: Lickinghole Creek (02)

Here's the exact language.
Limited brewery licenses, to breweries that manufacture no more than 15,000 barrels of beer per calendar year, provided (i) the brewery is located on a farm in the Commonwealth on land zoned agricultural and owned or leased by such brewery or its owner and (ii) agricultural products, including barley, other grains, hops, or fruit, used by such brewery in the manufacture of its beer are grown on the farm. The licensed premises shall be limited to the portion of the farm on which agricultural products, including barley, other grains, hops, or fruit, used by such brewery in the manufacture of its beer are grown and that is contiguous to the premises of such brewery where the beer is manufactured, exclusive of any residence and the curtilage 1 thereof. However, the Board may, with notice to the local governing body in accordance with the provisions of §4.1-230, also approve other portions of the farm to be included as part of the licensed premises.

The law puts farm breweries on similar footing to farm wineries in Virginia. It limits local government regulation of farm-brewery licensees, specifically prohibits the imposition of onerous requirements by local governments on parking, road access, and road upgrades, and states that local governments should allow the "usual and customary activities and events" of farm-breweries. That's a big win. Here's that portion (§15.2-2288.3:1) of the bill:
  • A. It is the policy of the Commonwealth to preserve the economic vitality of the Virginia beer industry while maintaining appropriate land use authority to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of the Commonwealth and to permit the reasonable expectation of uses in specific zoning categories. Local restriction upon such activities and public events of breweries licensed pursuant to subdivision 2 of §4.1-208 to market and sell their products shall be reasonable and shall take into account the economic impact on such licensed brewery of such restriction, the agricultural nature of such activities and events, and whether such activities and events are usual and customary for such licensed breweries. Usual and customary activities and events at such licensed breweries shall be permitted unless there is a substantial impact on the health, safety, or welfare of the public. No local ordinance regulating noise, other than outdoor amplified music, arising from activities and events at such licensed breweries shall be more restrictive than that in the general noise ordinance. In authorizing outdoor amplified music at such licensed brewery, the locality shall consider the effect on adjacent property owners and nearby residents.

  • B. No locality shall regulate any of the following activities of a brewery licensed under subdivision 2 of §4.1-208:
    • 1. The production and harvesting of barley, other grains, hops, fruit, or other agricultural products and the manufacturing of beer;
    • 2. The on-premises sale, tasting, or consumption of beer during regular business hours within the normal course of business of such licensed brewery;
    • 3. The direct sale and shipment of beer in accordance with Title 4.1 and regulations of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board;
    • 4. The sale and shipment of beer to licensed wholesalers and out-of-state purchasers in accordance with Title 4.1, regulations of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, and federal law;
    • 5. The storage and warehousing of beer in accordance with Title 4.1, regulations of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, and federal law; or
    • 6. The sale of beer-related items that are incidental to the sale of beer.

  • C. Any locality may exempt any brewery licensed in accordance with subdivision 2 of §4.1-208 on land zoned agricultural from any local regulation of minimum parking, road access, or road upgrade requirements.

Lickinghole Creek, in bottle!

A lot of the pre-legislative legwork for the bill was done by Sean-Thomas and Lisa Pumphrey, the husband and wife owners of Lickinghole Creek Brewery, located in Goochland, Virginia (just outside of Richmond). According to their website, the brewery produces its beers using hops and barley grown on its farm's 221 acres, and with water drawn from a well on the property. Congratulations, and well-done.

-----more-----
  • Read the entire bill. There's a lot there about wholesalers and breweries and transporting beer for re-sale, and the potential regulation of tasting rooms at Virginia breweries.
  • 1 According to Wikipedia, the term curtilage is a legal one referring to the land immediately surrounding a house, including any closely associated buildings and structures, but excluding any associated "open fields beyond."
  • Read the press release from the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild on the bill's passage, posted 27 February 2014.
  • Post edited after the fact to include a photo of Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery.

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