South Carolina and Stone, beer legislation brewing in the State Senate

Stone is considering locating in SC.

Well maybe.   We are “on the list” of possible locations for a brewery east of the Mississippi River.  Several of our major population centers (Lexington, Myrtle Beach, Greenville) have made a proposal to Stone to come to their area.  We offer cheap land, people able to work at a fair wage, good highway networks for the beer to be distributed upon and friendly business law and regulation.  Mostly…

The “mostly” is currently being worked on by our state legislature. One of our state’s “beer lawyers”  Brook Bristow  from www.beerofsc.com and others from the South Carolina Brewers Association (Shout out to Jamie at Coast Brewing, I know she’s been working hard at this for years) put together a bill that would allow stone to be both a brewpub and a brewery. Brewpub in that they will serve food, and brewery in that they will distribute.  Currently in SC, a brewpub can make up to 2000 barrels a year for on premise consumption.  They are allowed to sell growlers to of their beer to go, but, they are not allowed to distribute.  You will not see any of our current excellent brew pubs  such as Hunter Gatherer and Old Mill Brewpub here in Columbia at any other bar or restaurant in the city.  On the other end of the beer spectrum, our local breweries such as Conquest and Riverrat can’t serve food. If you want to eat while your’re enjoying a pint there, you had better hope a food truck is there for the day. 

(Here is Brook’s article on “The Stone Bill” )

The new law would allow brewpubs to make up to 500,000 barrels a year and distribute.  This means current breweries could start serving food and convert their license to a brewpub license.  They would no longer be held to the 3 beer max per person per day on primes, and, to my knowledge, no longer be limited by the 288 oz (24/12oz bottles or 4- 64oz growlers) per day limit for off premise.  They would no longer be required to give a tour with each sale.

The law was create to attract Stone, and other large breweries looking for expansion. but would benefit our local breweries regardless of what Stone decides to do.  Any sales made directly at the brewery puts more $ in the small business’s pocket, giving them more income to expand and employee more people.   This doesn’t mean distribution and the three tier systems as we know it will end for local breweries.  People still want to drink local craft beer at other restaurants and bars.  And breweries do not want to own trucking companies, they want to brew beer.  It just means that more local craft beer will be accessible, more money will stay with the brewery, and, people might start to choose local craft beer over mass marked light lager products.

Which is where the letter from Anheuser Busch comes in to play. (A link to “The letter” The folks over at AB wrote a letter to the SC Senate, asking them to please consider not passing this legislation.   The bill “creates winners and losers”…. because the currently legislation doesn’t?   We’re legislating that breweries have to give much of their product to a third party if they want to produce more than they can sell at their own facility.   AB is afraid because they’ll lose market share as more and more consumers become aware of what local, craft beer has to offer.  They would prefer to keep legislation the way it is, as it’s currently in their favor.

We are running out of time to get this legislation passed.  But we have come so far with it so quickly, there is quite a bit of hope in the craft beer community that we’ll get it passed this session.  If the legislature will ignore the letter, and recognize that, while AB does have quite a bit of $ now to buy legislation, they are losing market share every year.  The jobs and the tax dollars generated from craft beer will greatly exceed what’s generated from light lager sells.  AB know’s that, and that’s why they are trying to stop the growth now.   If you’re following craft beer nation on G+, Twitter, or Facebook, look for updates on this bill.  And if you see a link asking you to contact our local legislature, please help South Carolina out and follow through with this.  We sent over 1900 emails in 2 hours last week asking the Senate to pass this bill.  If we need to, I think we can do twice that this week.

We’ve got to stand by our local small businesses and craft beer!  Join me in helping South Carolina Beer!

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