Calvin Kiple, July 18, 2017
Imagine you’re looking to have a fun time in Anytown, Maryland and you see a cool, new craft brewery taphouse. You walk in, taste some wonderful and unique beers. Then it’s 9:30 and the bartender says it’s time to close. It seems early so you ask if you can take a six-pack home. The bartender politely explains that you’d have to take a brewery tour to do so. You think how peculiar the rules are here. On your way out you see the notice that the brewery is closing and moving to Virginia.
That’s the reality here in Maryland. Ridiculous over-regulation has put craft brewers in our state at a severe disadvantage. The staggering number of rules on craft brewing in Maryland especially those stemming from HB 1283 can be difficult to understand, but these are the major ones affecting Maryland brewers:
Brewing Limits– Depending on the classification of the brewery, there is a limit to how much beer it can make. In our neighboring states, the limit is either much higher or non-existent.
Sales Limits– The amount of beer that can be sold on the premises is limited and depending on the brewery classification, customers must first take a tour of the brewery before they can take any beer home (details of what constitutes a tour are non-existent).
Contract Brewing– In the craft beer industry for a number of reasons brewers will make their established beers off premises and use their own brewery for more limited and experimental beers. This is restricted in Maryland.
Distribution– There are a lot of rules about self-distribution. If you brew and sell too much beer you have pay a distribution company to sell your beer including the beer you serve on premises at your own taphouse.
Hours of Operation– Taphouse hours are different from bar hours. Most brewers that I’ve heard from are more concerned about being able to host different types of events like concerts or outdoor gatherings.
Why This Hurts Maryland
Such an extremely restrictive craft brewing environment hurts Maryland in many ways. Tourism suffers, there’s fewer production jobs, and some of these brewers are considering the move to the less restrictive states of Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. When HB 1283 passed this last session, the Virginia craft beer industry had recruiters at the Capitol to steal Maryland brewers. Virginia has been aggressive and successful at coaxing our brewers across the state line.
What the Maryland Brewers Want
Maryland’s brewing industry is one that any proud Maryland Republican should get behind. They don’t need any help from the government. They just need it to get out of their way. While I’m sure they’d love all regulations repealed, they would be happy to simply compete with Virginia, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. That means raising the limits on both sales and production, along with allowing contract brewing, self-distribution, and longer hours of operation.
What Is Being Done Now
Maryland State Comptroller Peter Franchot has created a craft brewing taskforce called Reform on Tap. They meet once or twice a month usually at a great taphouse, so I recommend attending one. The goal of this task force is to find a consensus of what the craft brewing industry needs and then pass a bill to fulfill those needs.
What you can do
Very soon we will be having meetings around the state to inform the public on Maryland’s craft beer situation. Keep an eye out for that and come to one of our meetings. Once a bill has been introduced at Maryland’s 2018 legislative session, let your Maryland representatives know you want our craft beer industry to be competitive with our neighboring states.
If you can get into the ear of a state legislator, have them to come to a craft brewery so they can really get to know what this industry is about. If you are a state senator or delegate, schedule a visit at your nearest craft brewery so you can really get to know what this industry is about.
As more news comes out, Maryland Young Republicans and I will keep you posted.
Information for graphics was provided by Reform on Tap