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8:45 AM Mon, Nov. 19th

'Arizona Beer Bill' aims to help microbreweries

Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier<br>
Customers gather near a keg at Prescott Brewing Company Dec. 24. The “Arizona Beer Bill” would benefit state microbreweries by ensuring beer producers that grow to make more than 40,000 barrels of beer annually can continue to own or operate off-site restaurants or pubs, among other provisions.

Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier<br> Customers gather near a keg at Prescott Brewing Company Dec. 24. The “Arizona Beer Bill” would benefit state microbreweries by ensuring beer producers that grow to make more than 40,000 barrels of beer annually can continue to own or operate off-site restaurants or pubs, among other provisions.

A bill to help microbreweries already is in the works for the 2015 state legislative session that starts in January.

Arizona Sen. Kellie Ward of Lake Havasu City has agreed to sponsor the legislation, dubbed the "Arizona Beer Bill."

All three breweries in Prescott have signed onto the bill: the Prescott Brewing Company, Granite Mountain Brewing and Black Hole Beer Company.

"We fully support the Arizona Beer Bill," said Audra Yamamoto, owner of Granite Mountain Brewing with her husband. "While most of the proposed changes don't impact our brewery in the immediacy, it does support growth of our industry and allows Arizona to compete in the national brewing scene."

The goal of the bill is to allow microbreweries to keep their restaurants, pubs and employees if they grow to produce more than 40,000 barrels per year.

While Black Hole Beer Company just opened this year and isn't close to producing 40,000 barrels annually, owner Eric Marichal said he also fully supports the legislation as one of the 57 members of the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild. The guild and the Beer and Wine Distributors of Arizona helped work on the legislation.

Under current law, it's unclear whether beer producers that grow to make more than 40,000 barrels of beer annually can continue to own or operate off-site restaurants or pubs, a guild news release said. The bill would make it clear they can.

"Our goal is to allow all of our members to meet their potential for success by allowing our industry to grow within the three-tier system without unreasonable bureaucratic limitations and being forced to give up their hard-earned property rights," said Rob Fullmer, executive director of the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild. "Craft brewers have developed a reputation for providing outstanding entertainment options in our community, which adds to the great diversity of Arizona."

Craft brewers had a $664 million impact on Arizona's economy in 2012 and created 3,486 jobs, according to the guild.

"I am proud to sponsor legislation that will allow the craft brewing industry to grow and continue employing people in my district and across Arizona," Ward said in a news release.

Only three major wine and spirits wholesalers have voiced opposition to the bill, the guild said. It has a long list of supporters that also includes the Hensley Beverage Company, a major distributor with a branch in Prescott Valley.

Other provisions of the legislation include:

• Microbrewers producing fewer than 40,000 barrels of beer annually would be limited to seven retail licenses. And these licenses would consist only of bar, beer and wine bar, and restaurant licenses. Currently they can hold an unlimited number.

• Craft brewers producing more than 40,000 barrels annually could not add more retail licenses or continue to self-distribute their beers outside of their own adjacent retail licenses.

• Microbreweries could sell beer produced or manufactured by other microbreweries for on-premise consumption, but could not exceed 20 percent of the licensee's annual sale of beer on the premises. This beer would have to be purchased from a wholesaler if that microbrewery has a wholesaler agreement.

• Microbreweries could sell wine produced by farm wineries only for on-premise consumption, and the wine couldn't exceed 20 percent of the licensee's annual sale of alcohol on the premises. The wine would have to be purchased from a wholesaler if that microbrewery has a wholesaler agreement.

Follow Joanna Dodder on Twitter @joannadodder