New Legislation Would Impact Small Brewers

Date: April 18, 2017

Related Content: Analysis Economy Maryland

Maryland’s craft beer industry is on the rise.

WBAL-TV 11 News reported a quote from Liz Fitzsimmons, executive director of the Office of Tourism Development: “The craft brew business in Maryland has expanded in all regions of the state. With now more than 70 craft breweries, it provides yet another great reason for visitors to explore Maryland and stay longer. Extended stays lead to increased hotel bookings and spending at restaurants throughout the state. Visitors to the state spent $16.8 billion on travel-related expenses in 2015. Additionally, as more craft breweries open, they create more local jobs both at the brewery and at their suppliers.”

However, a new bill considered by the Legislature this session threatened to destroy this growth. Originally, the measure, House Bill 1283, would have restricted Maryland breweries from selling beer at their taprooms that wasn’t produced at the brewery itself, such as collaboration beers made with other breweries or those brewed off-site by contract. It would also have reduced operating hours for all breweries, requiring them to close at 9 p.m. on weeknights and 10 p.m. on weekends. Additionally, the bill would have increased the cap on how much beer a brewery could sell in taprooms—to 2,000 barrels from 500.

Numerous groups negotiated amendments for the bill, such as the Brewers Association of Maryland; the Maryland Beer Wholesalers Association; the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association; and Diageo, the international liquor company that owns Irish brewer, Guinness, which recently announced plans to open its first and only U.S. brewery and taproom in Maryland.

The compromise bill, which passed the Senate and House of Delegates, kept the increased cap on beer sales and the reduced operating hours for new breweries. It would establish new rules for the state’s production breweries, which would be allowed to have 25 percent of taproom sales, or 1.2 percent of total volume brewed, to be brewed by affiliate brewers. Breweries licensed as microbreweries, farm breweries, or brewpubs would not be impacted by the bill.

Related Content: Analysis | Economy | Maryland

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