Easy to Swallow: New California Beer Legislation Benefits Craft Brewers
by Bryan H. Clements
Good news for craft brewers: California law seems to be loosening up a bit when it comes to beer.
Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr: 2014’s Growler Law Roars Along
Last year the state eased up on growler restrictions to allow California beer lovers to get their growlers refilled at any brewery, no matter which brewery’s label is on the container, as long as the refilling brewery puts on a new label that has been approved by the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (DABC) and that completely covers the old label.
A growler is a refillable beer jug or container, usually 64 ounces. Allowing Californians the right to get their growlers refilled at any brewery is great for small brewers and it keeps with California’s tradition of encouraging recycling.
This year, we had two new beer laws go into effect that loosen up restrictions on craft brewers even further, and another interesting bill is currently being considered by the legislature.
Farmers’ Markets Here We Come!
Under a law that went into effect January 1st (Assembly Bill 2004), licensed craft brewers may now apply to the DABC for permits to sell packaged beer at certified farmers’ markets. Vintners have enjoyed this privilege for years.
AB 2004 amended Section 23357 of the Business and Professions Code, and added Section 23399.45, to allow brewers to apply for multiple permits to sell up to 5000 gallons of their beer at multiple venues, including certified farmers’ markets or permitted community events operated adjacent to and in conjunction with the farmers’ market. Buyers must consume their purchases off property, i.e. at home, not at the farmers’ markets. The permits are good for one year, but are valid for only one day per week at any single farmers’ market or community event.
On February 25, 2015, AB 774 was introduced in the California Legislature. AB 774 aims to further amend the Business and Professions Code (Sections 23399.45, 24045.6 and 25607.5) to rectify another longstanding disparity between the rights of California’s winemakers and small brewers—the right to conduct tasting events at farmers’ markets.
If AB 774 is passed, craft brewers could host their own, instructional beer tasting events at certified farmers’ markets – if the permitted brewer or employee of the brewer conducting the tasting is over 21, and if they do not pour more than eight ounces of beer per person per day. There are other restrictions: i.e. the brewery must be located in the same or adjacent county as the farmers’ market; the operator of the market maintains managerial control of the tasting event; the tasting event area must be cordoned off by a wall, ropes, etc.; and only one beer manufacturer may conduct a tasting at any certified farmers’ market per day.
While waiting to see if this bill passes, craft brewers can still take advantage of selling their product at these venues because of AB 2004. Contact the farmers’ markets in the appropriate county for information and apply for a DABC permit. If AB 774 does become law, you may need to obtain police department approval while coordinating a tasting.
Sip and Spit: Now Law of the Land
Picture this: A presidential candidate (channeling Bill Clinton?) stands in front of a TV camera during a heated election battle and says: “While in college I sipped, but I did not swallow.”
Last summer, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 1989, which adds §25668 to the Business and Professions Code. Under Section 25668, students 18-20 years of age working towards Associate’s or Bachelor’s degrees in enology or brewing at qualified universities are now permitted to taste, but not consume alcoholic beverages. The law took effect on January 1, 2015. (We’re guessing that thousands of undergrads throughout California are now considering switching majors.