Beer

Connecticut Lawmakers Try to Legalize Self-Service Beer Bars

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Self-service beer bars have grown in popularity in recent years as customers enjoy the experience of being able to pour their own brew from a tap. Numerous states still prohibit this type of self-service , however. According to WTNH.com, Connecticut lawmakers may finally legalize self-service for wine and beer in the Nutmeg State:

Imagine getting your beer or glass of wine like you would a fountain soda.  It may soon be a reality in Connecticut

The bill that would allow self-service alcohol machines at bars just got the thumbs up from the House of Representatives. 

You would get a card from the bartender and swipe it at the machine…

Read more here.


D.C. Mayor Proposes More Booze Reforms

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Washington, D.C.’s alcohol laws are better than many places, but the District still has its fair share of rules that hurt producers and consumers. According to DCist.com, D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser is now proposing a new slate of reforms aimed at helping the city’s growing craft alcohol scene:

Mayor Muriel Bowser has proposed several changes to make it easier for local alcohol manufacturers to sell their wares, including allowing wineries and distilleries to ship products directly to consumers and raising the allowable amount of alcohol in wine. They would be the latest in a slew of legislative changes over the past eight years that have allowed craft breweries, wineries, and distilleries to flourish in D.C. after five dry decades…

With the Manufacturer and Pub Permit Parity Amendment Act of 2019, Bowser is now proposing a series of tweaks that continue to respond to the city’s evolving craft alcohol scene, particularly its burgeoning cider scene.

For one, it would allow for higher-proof wines (cider is considered a wine under federal and local law)—raising it from 15 percent to 21 percent.

“We have several wine pubs currently that would like to make cider that’s slightly more than 15 percent alcohol by volume. We thought it made sense to bring the District in line with other jurisdictions currently,” Moosally says. Wine can be up to 24 percent alcohol under federal law, 22 percent under Maryland law, and 21 percent in Virginia, Moosally says.

The new legislation would also allow wineries and distilleries to ship their products directly to consumers (currently only breweries can do so.)…

Read the rest here.

California Tries to Legalize Wine (and Beer) Volunteers Based on R Street Recommendation

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Small wineries and breweries throughout the country often use volunteers to help produce and package their products. Doing so both supplies these small producers with extra labor and allows the volunteers (who are often craft beverage enthusiasts) to learn more about the production process. In California, however, the use of volunteers is technically a violation of the state’s labor code, and the state’s Department of Industrial Relations has previously slapped hefty fines on California wineries for using volunteers. R Street’s Western Region Director Steven Greenhut wrote about this issue back in 2014, and now, directly inspired by Steve’s column, state lawmakers are trying to fix the problem. Their new bill would exempt small wineries and microbreweries from this provision of the state labor code, and Steve submitted a letter of support on behalf of R Street for the reform:

I write you in support of S.B. 448, legislation that “would exempt a small winery or small microbrewery … that utilizes volunteers who perform part-time labor in exchange for hands-on training, from having these volunteers classified as employees or apprentices.”

These small wineries and breweries clearly deserve an exemption from this section of the labor code given that many people like the opportunity to volunteer at these businesses to learn about the trade. Such volunteers typically are older people who enjoy the wine and brewery culture. They aren’t interested in the money, but in learning about the fascinating process of making wine and beer. In fact, I’ve volunteered at a winery before with my church group where we picked grapes and made our own wine as part of an indescribably enjoyable afternoon…

Read the letter of support here, and Steve’s 2014 column that inspired the law here.

R Street's Jarrett Dieterle Interviewed About Nebraska Alcohol Taxes

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Nebraska’s legislature is considering increasing taxes on beer, wine, and spirits in an effort to raise more revenue and provide property tax relief. The Heartland Institute interviewed R Street’s Jarrett Dieterle about the proposal:

Local craft breweries that produce small volumes of beer are growing in popularity nationally and in Nebraska, says Jarrett Dieterle, director of commercial freedom policy at the R Street Institute.

“The craft beverage industry is booming cross the country,” said Dieterle. “In 2017, craft breweries created the second-most manufacturing jobs of any industry in America.

“Nebraska is no exception,” Dieterle said. “Nebraska has 3.5 breweries per 100,000 people, which puts it in the top 15 states for breweries per capita. Overall, breweries had a $465 million economic impact in the state.”

The craft beer industry will shrink if Nebraska moves forward with this tax hike, says Dieterle.

“Research has demonstrated that increasing taxes on products like beer can lead to a decrease in brewpubs and breweries in a state,” said Dieterle…

Governments shouldn’t focus on a specific product category to increase revenue, says Dieterle.

“Generally, state and local governments fund their operations through a combination of property, income, and sales taxes,” said Dieterle. “Singling out the alcohol industry to bear the brunt of revenue-generation in the state makes little sense,” Dieterle said…

Read the whole article here.

As Beer Market Matures, Many Regulatory Obstacles Remain

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As the craft beer movement has continued to explode in recent years, some analysts have warned that the market is becoming over-saturated. R Street’s Jarrett Dieterle has argued that in the context of a saturated market, it’s even more important to eliminate restrictive government-imposed barriers that hurt producers; after all, the market providers enough pressure without harmful (and needless) external hurdles being layered on. Food policy expert Baylen Linnekin recently sounded a similar warning in an article for Reason.com:

While the market for craft beer is still growing, the rate of growth has slowed considerably in recent years. Brewers Association chief economist Bart Watson last year said the craft beer industry his group represents is showing signs of "deceleration."

I'm confident the industry's growth can continue. But here's a caveat: craft brewers also continue to face their share of outside obstacles, chiefly in the form of state laws that hinder growth and profitability…

 I'm generally optimistic about both the industry and trends in state laws in the decade or so I've been writing about the industry. But I'm also frustrated by the slow pace of change and by seeing the same tired arguments…

Craft beer is a highly competitive, innovative, and important industry with boundless potential. In the end, though, the industry can only go as far as lawmakers will allow.

Linnekin’s whole article is well worth a read.

The DrinksReform.org team has also previously interviewed Linnekin on the absurdity of America’s alcohol laws.

Agreement Reached to Lift North Carolina's Self-Distribution Cap

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As our team has previously covered, North Carolina caps the number of barrels that breweries in the state can self-distribute at 25,000 annually. This means that once a brewery exceeds that barrel limit, it is forced to work with middlemen distributors in order to sell its beer in stores and restaurants in the state. Unsurprisingly, this creates a whole host of problems for growing breweries. While previous attempts to lift the self-distribution cap have failed in the state legislature, the AP reports that a deal to lift the cap has been reached (although the cap still remains in place at a higher level, rather than being scrapped entirely):

Small North Carolina brewers and alcohol wholesalers raised glasses on Thursday to what they call a legislative compromise that allows the breweries to keep control of their products longer as they grow.

Legislators from both political parties and industry representatives announced an agreement in General Assembly bills filed this week to let these craft breweries sell double the amount of their beer annually on their own compared to what current law allows…

The legislation would allow the creation of a new classification of brewers that can self-distribute up to 50,000 barrels a year. While these mid-sized brewers would still be able to sell up to 100,000 barrels, distributions above the first 50,000 barrels would have to be performed by a wholesaler.

Read the rest here.

Maryland Considers Reforming Beer Franchise Laws

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After several years of political firestorms between reform-minded state Comptroller Peter Franchot and the state lawmakers, a key legislative committee in Maryland’s legislature has signaled a willingness to reform and loosen the state’s strict franchise laws that govern the contracts between brewers and wholesalers. According to Brewbound:

Franchise law reform is closer to reality in Maryland without the help of Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot. The Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee voted unanimously last week to loosen the state’s franchise laws that lock brewers into contracts with their wholesalers, according to The Daily Record.

Under the proposed changes, beer companies making fewer than 30,000 barrels annually would be allowed to exit their existing distribution agreements by giving 45 days notice and paying fair market value. Brewers making 12,500 barrels or less would be required to pay fair market value for the product remaining in a wholesaler’s warehouse, while companies making between 12,500 and 30,000 barrels would be required to pay the fee as well as the wholesaler’s marketing costs.

Currently, brewers are required to give 180-days notice and show “good cause.”…

Read more here.

Utah Partially Repeals Its Weak Beer Laws

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In December of last year, R Street’s Jarrett Dieterle took to the pages of The Salt Lake Tribune to call on Utah politicians to scrap the state’s ‘weak beer’ law, which forbids grocery stores from selling beer over 3.2 percent alcohol by weight. According to the Tribune, Utah lawmakers have reached a deal to raise the limit to 4.0 percent, although they were unable to secure a full repeal:

Utah lawmakers have struck a deal to let higher-alcohol beer be sold in Utah grocery and convenience stores.

House members signed off on the measure Wednesday by a 61-14 vote, sending the bill back to the Senate for a final vote that is expected to occur Thursday.

This second substitute bill would boost the cap on retail beer from 3.2 percent to 4 percent by weight, a level that would include the majority of beer that already is in retail outlets, said bill sponsor, Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton…

The initial version of SB132 would have hiked the alcohol limit on retail beer from its current 3.2 percent by weight to 4.8 percent. Utah’s predominant faith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, opposed that plan.

Last week, that proposal, which already had been approved by the Senate, was gutted by a House committee and replaced with language that would create a task force to study the issue.

Wednesday’s version is a blend of the two bills. 

Read the rest here.

Connecticut Considers A Pair of Beer Bills

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After anti-brewery legislation that would have forced state brewers to choose between off-premises and on-premises sales was killed earlier this year, Connecticut lawmakers are now considering several pro-beer bills. According to the Hartford Courant, these would include bills to increase the amount of off-premise beer brewers can sell and allow larger retailers to sell beer in the state:

Advocates for craft brewers and distillers, distributors, restaurants and package stores showed up a legislative hearing Thursday to voice their concerns and support regarding several proposed bills they say will have an impact on their businesses.

Key among the proposed legislation is a bill that would increase the amount of beer craft brewers can sell for off-premises consumption from 9 liters to 23 liters per day…

Another proposed change would allow big-box stores such as Target and Walmart to sell beer…

Read more here.

R Street: A Little Less Tariff, a Lot More Booze

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Politicians from across the ideological spectrum are constantly waxing poetic about the importance of blue-collar manufacturing jobs. In fact, much of the justification for the recent tariff disputes has been a need to protect American manufacturing industries. R Street’s Jarrett Dieterle and Clark Packard argue in National Review that the best path to more manufacturing jobs is to scrap the tariff wars and start deregulating the alcohol industry:

From the earliest moments of his campaign, President Donald Trump has emphasized the importance of domestic manufacturing jobs. He’s negotiated carve-outs to keep factories in America, railed against companies that move jobs overseas, and increased tariffs in an attempt to protect blue-collar workers. Nearly all of the president’s rhetoric, however, has fixated on a handful of sectors traditionally associated with manufacturing, such as the steel industry, automobiles, and construction. This myopic focus has blinded the president to one of the most promising sources of manufacturing jobs in modern America: the alcohol industry.

President Trump is far from the only government official who obsesses over manufacturing jobs, with stories cropping up daily about politicians visiting production plants in Rust Belt states and donning hard hats for well-publicized photo ops…

Lost in all this is the fact that the American drinks industry has some of the best job-growth potential in the country. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, breweries, wineries, and distilleries created the second-most manufacturing jobs of any industry in 2017. These numbers don’t even include support industries that are tied to drinks, such as barrel manufacturers or bottle producers. With new breweries and distilleries opening every day, the growth seems primed to continue — if policymakers will let it…

Read the whole piece here.