Craft beer aficionados came together on Thursday night to discuss Maryland’s evolving craft beer industry and how two proposed bills create opposing futures for it.
The “Craft Beer Legislation Roundtable” held at the Salisbury University Art Galleries in downtown Salisbury on Feb. 15 brought out craft beer leaders to talk about the latest legislation and what they see as ways to keep the industry a vital economic driver.
Currently, House Bill 518 or Reform on Tap Act of 2018 and House Bill 1052 have both been proposed to the Maryland Legislature.
The Reform on Tap Act of 2018 introduced by Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot is meant to relieve restrictions on the state’s craft beer industry, while House Bill 1052, proposed by Maryland delegates Talmadge Branch and Dereck Davis, reduces the amount of beer small breweries can produce.
“Yes to 518, no to 1052,” said Len Foxwell, comptroller of Maryland chief of staff.
Foxwell spoke on the panel with Bill Chambers, Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce president, Jason Hearn of Tall Tales Brewing Company, Blake Benn of Hopper’s Tap House, Ann McGinnis Hillyer of Shore Craft Beer and Melanie Pursel, Ocean City Chamber of Commerce executive director.
Foxwell emphasized how Maryland politicians want to bring industry back to the state and by supporting craft breweries, the state is bringing in jobs and revenue.
From left, Bill Chambers, Ann McGinnis Hillyer and Jason Hearn sit on the panel at the “Craft Beer Legislation Roundtable” at the Salisbury University Art Galleries on Feb. 15, 2018.Buy Photo
From left, Bill Chambers, Ann McGinnis Hillyer and Jason Hearn sit on the panel at the “Craft Beer Legislation Roundtable” at the Salisbury University Art Galleries on Feb. 15, 2018. (Photo: Photo by Meg Ryan)
Both bills will be presented in Annapolis on Feb. 23 and Foxwell urged listeners to support the Reform on Tap Act of 2018 because of the freedom it gives to craft breweries.
According to a pamphlet, Reform on Tap Act of 2018 would give craft breweries the following:
No limits on Class 5 or Class 7 taproom sales
No take-home sales limits
No beer production limits
No Class 5 tour or special event requirements for take-home sales
Buy-back provision repealed, making it easier for breweries to provide beer in their taprooms
Taproom hours determined by local governments
Class 5 brewers can hold a Class B or Class D beer license on request
Brewers producing fewer than 300,000 barrels of beer a year don’t have to worry about franchise laws, with the aim of making the distributor/brewer relationship more of an equal partnership
Self-distribution is unlimited for brewers producing fewer than 300,000 barrels of beer a year
Permits contract brewing and lifts taproom sales restrictions on this beer
Creates a two-year provisional license for startup brewers contracting beer
Hearn said with a Class 7 brewery he’s had his fair share of good and bad distributing partners. With distributors taking control, a brewery’s growth can be in jeopardy.
“Under current legislation, a brewery is basically handcuffed,” he said.
McGinnis Hillyer talked about how vital the craft beer industry can be to a town or a state. For every dollar spent on local craft beer, she said about 67 cents stays local.
Looking at nearby states, she said Maryland holds the toughest restrictions compared to Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania.
From left, Blake Benn, Melanie Pursel and Len Foxwell sit on the panel at the “Craft Beer Legislation Roundtable” at the Salisbury University Art Galleries on Feb. 15.Buy Photo
From left, Blake Benn, Melanie Pursel and Len Foxwell sit on the panel at the “Craft Beer Legislation Roundtable” at the Salisbury University Art Galleries on Feb. 15. (Photo: Photo by Meg Ryan)
This difficulty can force local breweries to find homes in another state, Chambers said, calling the Reform on Tap Act of 2018 a job creator and House Bill 1052 a job killer.
“This is a business issue. This is not a beer issue,” he said.
Pursel said craft beer has helped Ocean City’s tourism, especially during the offseason. She said people are looking for the beer events and specials all year round.
“These are very, very important businesses for our community,” she said.