Controversy brewing over new beer bill

In Maryland, lawmakers have been butting heads over ways to reform current brewing laws.  A new bill has recently been introduced that could set new limits on production.

House Bill 1052 would allow larger breweries that already sell 2,000 barrels to continue crafting that amount. However, it would cut back on how much small breweries can sell in their taproom. For example breweries, that have a Class 5 license would have their annual limit reduced from 2,000 barrels tto 500 barrels.

"It's going to impact their sales, because a lot of the smaller breweries with a class 5 manufacturing license a lot of  their revenue is what they make at the brew pub," says Jason Hearn, one of the owners at Tall Tales Brewery.

Hearn believes this new bill would  prevent smaller breweries from expanding, as well as deter new breweries from setting up shop in Maryland.

"That's going to have a major impact on their business and their business plans, moving forward," says Hearn.

However supporters of the bill disagree and believe this will not impact small breweries, saying many of the microbreweries do not come close to selling 500 barrels in their taproom.

Delegate Talmadge Branch says, "None of the ones that currently exist, have been close to hitting the maximum."

However brewers say it's not about hitting the limit,  it's about looking at the overall economic impact.

According to a recent study, Maryland's craft brewing industry had a 600 million dollar impact in 2016. Officials say those are dollars that can go to towns and cities on the Eastern Shore where many breweries have been popping up in the last years.

"It's huge for tourism, it's huge for revitalization of downtowns, it's huge for attracting millennials," says Ann McGinnis Hillyer, the CEO for Shore Craft Beer.

This bill as well as another bill known as House Bill 518 is expected go before a committee on February 23rd in Annapolis. 

 

On Thursday, February 15th there will be a panel to discuss brewing legislation that has been introduced during this legislative session. That event will be at the Salisbury University Downtown Art Gallery from 4:30-5:30 PM.

Categories: Local News, Maryland

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