Alcohol Regulation Roundup: July 4th Liberty Edition

As you prepare to raise your glass in celebration (or memorial) of American freedom, give a cheer for the ever increasingly liberated alcohol laws around this nation.

Arizona: Starting in August, beer lovers will be able to take home small jugs (growlers) of beer filled by any store or bar with the beers on tap.

Illinois: In Illinois, the legal battle continues between Anheuser-Busch InBev (seller of Budweiser) and the wholesalers in the state. Bud wants to distribute its beer on its own. The fight heated up this week when the chief legal counsel of the Illinois Liquor Control Commission charged ABInBev with violating an Illinois law banning large brewers from self-distribution. If the charge is upheld, ABInBev could be forced to give up its 30-percent stake in City Beverage, one of the biggest distributors in the Chicago area.

Kansas: New laws taking effect Sunday make a host of changes in the state’s alcohol regulations, including a provision that lets bars and restaurants offer specials on drinks for a few hours at a time.

Maryland: A new law that allows restaurant patrons to bring in their own bottle of wine (if the restaurant already has a liquor license) is now in effect. Customers can only bring in bottles that aren’t already offered by the restaurant and the establishments are allowed to charge a “corkage” fee or a nominal amount of money for the servers to uncork the bottles.

Michigan: Governor Snyder’s Liquor Control Advisory Rules Committee released their 72 recommendations to reduce red-tape and improve the state’s alcohol regulations to benefit consumers and businesses in the state. It is a mixed bag with some good recommendations (like letting microbreweries self-distribute) and some not-so-great suggestions (like reducing the number of licensed wholesalers in the state from 3 to only 1). Many groups are already speaking out against many of the recommendations and you can bet there will be plenty of commentary — including some of my own — in the coming months.

Mississippi: As of July 1, beer with more than 5 percent alcohol (ABW) is legal in the state of Mississippi. Governor Phil Bryant signed the so-called “craft beer bill” in April that allows beer to contain up to 8 percent alcohol by weight or 10 percent alcohol by volume.

New Jersey: The legislature passed a bill updating the state’s alcohol laws to the benefit of micro-brewers and brewpubs. The bill would allow brew pubs — breweries attached to restaurants — increase their annual production from the 3,000 barrels they are limited to now, to 10,000 barrels a year.  It would also allow brew pubs to distribute their beer to stores and restaurants in the state. The bill would also increase the number of brewpubs one company can operate in the state from two to 10. It would allow brewpubs to offer samples at fairs and charity events and sell beer no brewery tours. Finally, the bill would allow microbreweries to offer samples on or off premise in the same way wineries are able to in the state. The bill is currently awaiting a signature from Governor Chris Christie.

New York: Last month New York lawmakers passed a bill creating a “farmer brewer” license. A farmer can purchase the license to brew at a cost $320 a year so long as at least 20 percent of the hops used in their beer is grown in New York. The law increases the percentage required for a farmer brewer license in 2019 and again in 2024 — ultimately requiring 90 percent of the hops used in farmer-brewer beer to be grown in New York.

Also in New York, the law allows New York State-labeled beer and cider (that is made with crops from local farms) to be sold at farmers markets throughout the state. Here’s hoping the other states considering alcohol sales at farmers markets (see Pennsylvania and Michigan) follow New York’s lead. levels of New York State-grown products required to be used for products marked with a promote New York State-grown ingredients. The license would allow an individual to operate a brewery for the manufacture of New York State-labeled beer and cider at an annual cost of $320.

The bill will phase in over the next 12 years, increasing levels of New York State-grown products required to be used for products marked with a New York State label. From now until December 31, 2018, at least 20 percent of the hops, by weight, used in production must be grown in New York and at least 20 percent of all other ingredients, excluding water, must be grown in New York. From January 1, 2019, to December 31, 2023, that number increases to 60 percent and after January 1, 2024, it increases to 90 percent.

Pennsylvania: A new law in effect in the Keystone State allows breweries to now sell any quantity of their beer in package where before they used to have to sell at least a case of any type of beer to their customers just like distributor shops in the state.

Virginia: As of July 1, breweries in the state are allowed to sell beer for on-premise consumption as well as to-go.

Also in Virginia, brewers may now lease out their equipment to other breweries. This is a huge boon to small start-up breweries that may not yet be able to afford their own machinery.