By Ashley Boncimino
Published May 22, 2014
After months of discussion, a pending beer bill aimed at attracting new and supporting existing craft brewers would strip caps on beer production and allow breweries to sell food, as well as beer and wine not produced in-house.
The legislation would be an amendment to the so-called Pint Law approved last year, according to John Bauknight, the S.C. Brewers Association legislative delegate and co-owner of brewery RJ Rockers.
“Right now, the only thing we can serve at our brewery is RJ Rockers beers, and with the new language, it would allow us to sell other beers,” said Bauknight, who attended an organizational meeting between six members of the House and the Senate Wednesday. “It would support our brands, but it would also allow us to serve other brands.”
The bill was initially written to expand brewpub’s production capacity from 2,000 barrels per year to 500,000 barrels per year, but production limitations are dumped entirely under the latest legislation.
The measure was introduced to attract San Diego-based craft brewing giant Stone Brewing Co., which sent out a request for proposals for a new East Coast restaurant and brewery.
Currently, any brewery that serves food is considered a brewpub and is limited to producing 2,000 barrels per year. A brewery that doesn’t serve food can produce more, but it cannot serve food and can only serve a limited amount of product on location.
The S.C. Beer Wholesalers Association suggested language that would change the definitions and rules around producer licenses rather than brewpub licenses.
“Basically we just want to have language that will not invite litigation and will maintain an orderly marketplace,” said the association’s Executive Director Julie Cox. “By putting it into the producers section, they can have taprooms plus they can have a food service restaurant type of thing to serve and sell beers just like a restaurant.”
Last year, the passage of the Pint Law allowed breweries to sell up to four pints at designated tasting rooms if they were sold in conjunction with a tour. Running a tasting room helps fund brewing operations for newly opened Brewery 85 in Greenville, according to co-founder Will McCameron.
“We really don’t have to worry about our water bills, power bills, gas bills because a weekend of taproom sales covers that,” said McCameron. “We’d like to sell snack items and other things, so this bill would really be an extension of that.”
Both McCameron and Thomas Creek Brewery co-founder Tom Davis said they are interested in opening a restaurant if the legislation is passed.
If the bill passes with the changes, it could also add a revenue stream for startup and microbreweries with limited distribution means, said Bauknight.
“It helps all the other craft breweries in the area and I really feel it helps the smaller breweries,” he said. “We’re very appreciative that Stone is looking at this state … but there’s a lot of other companies behind Stone that this might help.”