Toward a brewer-friendly Maryland

The Baltimore Sun's editorial board takes up Maryland's recent beer legislation controversy, coming out in favor of the state Comptroller Peter Franchot's creation of a new task force to re-examine the state's beer laws.

"The fight this over Maryland's beer laws during the 2017 General Assembly session wasn't a new one. Craft brewers have been chafing for years against a post-Prohibition regulatory scheme that restricts their ability to set up and expand their businesses while putting them at the mercy of more established (and more politically connected) players in the wholesale and retail sectors. The only difference this year was the presence of alcohol industry giant Diageo, which found common cause with the little guys over its plans to create a Guinness-themed taproom at an old spirits plant in Relay. If not for that, the brewers' complaints would likely have fallen on deaf ears yet again; instead, the legislature eventually agreed to legislation that expands the amount of beer Guinness and the craft brewers alike can sell in their taprooms.

And even so, the process was messy and revealed the extent to which Maryland's liquor laws are not designed to protect the public, much less to foster the growth of a potentially beneficial new industry, but to protect the economic interests of existing wholesalers and retailers. To wit: If Guinness or any of the craft brewers serve more than 2,000 barrels in their taprooms in a year, they can sell up to 1,000 more but only if they first sell them to wholesalers and buy them back at a higher price — not to mention pay to have them transported to a warehouse, unloaded, reloaded and transported back. Any new taprooms will have to close nightly by 10 p.m., a protection for bar owners who fear competition.

In response, Comptroller Peter Franchot has announced the creation of a task force to re-examine the state's beer laws with the aim to make them more craft brewer-friendly. It's an effort that is long overdue..."

Read more at: previously covered the Maryland beer bill debates here.