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The Beer Act Takes Off

Patty Murray has voiced her support for the BEER Act.

***This post was originally published on the Brewery Law Blog, an alcoholic beverage law blog administered by Reiser Legal LLC. The office’s Doug Reiser provides Beer Blotter with regular legal and legislative commentary.***

Last week, I discussed the federal BEER Act. Today, it looks a bit more promising for the tax cut legislation that would put millions back in brewery pockets.

A fairly wide-spreading marketing effort took over this past week. You can now see an out-pouring of support from Senators across all parts of the U.S. With each passing day, it appears more likely that this bi-partisan effort will pass through the Senate.

As of today, both Sen. Maria Cantwell and Sen. Patty Murray have stepped up to provide assurance that they will back the BEER Act.  In total, The Wall Street Journal counts 17 senators as co-sponsors. But, reports last week showed that there are closer to thirty that have expressed support for the bill.

If you want to learn more about the BEER Act, read our earlier post. In that post, you can find summary information, as well as links to the language, courtesy of the Brewers Association. The Act itself is incredibly brief.

We will continue to track progress of the bill, here at Brewery Law Blog.

Beer Law: Farmer’s Market to Sample Beer?

January 12, 2011 1 comment

Beer: Coming soon to a Farmer's Market by you!

**This post originally published by BrewerlyLaw.com, beer law blog published by Seattle based Reiser Legal LLC.**

Booze at farmer’s markets? Yep.

A new legislative action by Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles would bring beer and wine sampling to Seattle’s wondrous farmer’s markets. The bill is being introduced in the State Senate as SB 5029 and can be reviewed by following this link.

Apparently, this legislation is modeled after a recent law that permits the sampling of beer and wine at grocery stores. But, this first step is a simply a “test kit”, targeting 10 sample markets and limiting sampling to one brewer or winemaker per market, per day.

We will be sure to follow the legislation through the voting process. But, I think that most will agree that its a great first step to bringing our great state’s most celebrated craftsman to the market – the brewer.

Washington’s LCB Bans Caffeinated Alcoholic Energy Beverages!

November 10, 2010 2 comments

No more Mocha?

***UPDATE: It appears that coffee beers will be safe. The LCB says that the motivation is to go after products with added caffeine and marketed as energy drinks. This does not include products that add coffee, or other things that have caffeine, for flavor.

Check out this follow up post for more information on how the new temporary law works. A permanent regulation will be up for public comment soon.****

***This post was originally posted on BreweryLaw.com, a blog written by Reiser Legal LLC. Douglas Reiser is our regular legal commentator.***

This may be huge news, particularly for those of us who love our breakfast stouts. Washington has just banned alcoholic beverages that contain caffeine and/or several other “energy” additives.

This is a big punch to many brewers in the State of Washington – and others who sell who beer here. There is a widening market for the sale of coffee-infused beer. Many brewers, such as Ellensburg’s Iron Horse Brewing, sell a coffee-based beer as part of their regular lineup.

I had a brief conversation with the Liquor Control Board, who seemed to infer that as long as beer and caffeine are combined in the same bottle/container – it cannot be sold or produced here in Washington.

Attached below is the initial press release that is going out in the next few hours. Give it a thorough read.

If you read the code provision that will be implemented, it does call question as to whether or not the ban will include the beers that are currently on the market. The code does mention that it bans beer that contains caffeine. But the code refers to those which “are commonly referred to as “alcohol energy drinks.” The structure of the provision might refer to the ingredients (meaning that it seeks to ban beverages with specific ingredients) as opposed to the beverage itself (meaning that it seeks to ban beverages with a common title). If it means the latter, coffee beers might be safe.

But alas, the provision is vague enough to spell an end to coffee stouts and other caffeinated beers out there on the market. We will certainly be following enforcement, closely.

 

Notice of Emergency Rule Banning Alcohol Energy Drinks in the State of Washington

On November 10, 2010, the Washington State Liquor Control Board adopted an emergency rule prohibiting the sale, importation, and distribution of alcohol energy drinks in the State of Washington after November 17, 2010.

The emergency rule expires automatically after 120 days (March 10, 20110). The board has also filed a pre-proposal statement of inquiry (CR 101) with the Code Reviser’s Office to begin permanent rulemaking.

If you have any questions, please contact Karen McCall, Rules Coordinator, at (360) 664-1631 or e-mail at rules@liq.wa.gov.

_______________________________

What are the agency’s reasons for adopting this emergency rule?

The mission of the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) includes ensuring the responsible sale, and preventing the misuse of, alcohol. As part of this mission, the Board endeavors to ensure that products which pose a threat to public safety are handled appropriately. The board is particularly concerned about alcohol energy drinks, which are marketed in a way that implies the consumption of these beverages has a stimulating or energizing effect. Alcohol energy drinks have become increasingly popular, especially among underage drinkers. These beverages promote a situation where people may become inebriated, but cannot judge their own condition, which is contrary to human health and public safety. This is contrary to the mission of the WSLCB.

WAC Changes

NEW SECTION

WAC 314-20-022 Alcohol energy drinks. No product that combines beer, strong beer, or malt liquor with caffeine, guarana, taurine, or other similar substances which are commonly referred to as “alcohol energy drinks” may be imported into the state, produced, manufactured, distributed, sold or offered for sale by a licensed retailer in the state of Washington after November 17, 2010.

 

The Death of I-1100: What’s Next for Washington?

The law books will have to wait for a change. I-1100 has been defeated.


***This post was originally posted on BreweryLaw.com, a blog devoted to beer law! The blog is published by Reiser Legal, LLC, a Seattle, Washington law office. Reiser Legal’s Douglas Reiser is our regular legal blogger.***

 

Well, its over. Both of the private liquor initiatives have failed to win the hearts of Washington voters. Even though there are still some votes to count, the battle is over.

 

But why did voters not embrace this initiative?

 

This year the elections were charged by an eagerness to reduce taxes and eliminate the government stranglehold on business. Nationwide, voters made it clear that they felt that big government had failed.

 

With voters looking to reduce taxation and governmental control, you would think that an initiative to eliminate Washington’s monopoly over liquor sales would prevail, right? How about an initiative that, as both sides would argue, would reduce the costs of beer and wine sold in Washington state? Hole in one, eh?  Nay.

 

Washington voters listened to the issues and voted with their brains, and not their hearts. I firmly believe that Western Washington’s love for its communities, defeated these measures. They listened to the local businesses that they support and decided that I-1100 was not for them and their families. (Note: I-1105 was defeated roundly). The massive amount of money that was dumped into this initiative appears to have been put to good use, as public education significantly assisted the “No” campaign.

 

So, what’s next?

 

One thing is for sure, it was a close call. The I-1100 vote came down to the final votes. The dividing line is not too wide.

 

Secondly, many of the organizations that supported the “No” campaign, including the Washington Brewers Guild, are not against the concepts of liquor privatization and free markets. They simply do not want it to happen overnight.

 

The one sentiment that I believe most shared was that overnight deregulation could be disturbing for businesses in the industry. Most of these groups might have been willing to get behind a measure that built in gradual deregulation. Heather McClung, owner of Schooner Exact Brewing, stated that the Guild’s members favor “slow, steady growth in modernizing those laws.” So, its possible they would get behind some, better crafted, legislation.

 

Finally, this was a voter initiative and not a legislative measure. Public citizens drew up significant changes to Washington state law (called for the repeal of 26 state laws), and I believe that it frightened some people. If a more gradual measure was to pass through the legislature, it might have more footing.

 

In the end, I suspect that there will be a congressional push to get proposed legislation circulated in the legislature. In the next few years, the State of Washington will likely have some form of private liquor sales and a more deregulated alcohol business. I would take those betting odds.

 

A Note to Voters from Fish Brewing

November 1, 2010 1 comment

Fish Brewing does not fear 1100.

Ok, so I lied. Well, kind of.

I know that last time I said that I would be done discussing I-1100 and I-1105 on this blog – and I am. Tomorrow is the big day and we can all put the debate to bed.

But, I received a letter penned by Fish Brewing Company’s Sandy Berry. Since I promised to kill talk of I-1100 on this blog, I shelved it. But with election day coming tomorrow, I thought I had an obligation to let a brewer speak his mind on the debate. This is especially true because this brewer takes the opposite position of many others.

Read the letter below, and remember to vote tomorrow:

 

Why this brewery does not fear I-1100

 

By Dr. Sandy Berry, Director of Fish Brewing Company in Olympia

“The Greatest Threat to the Washington Craft Brewing Industry in a Decade” is the well intentioned but misguided campaign of the Washington Brewers Guild against Initiative 1100, and is based on fear of the unknown. Get over it and remember your strengths: great beer.

 

The greatest strength of the craft beer revolution is the ability to connect the local beer consumer with the truly local small brewer. This was true early on, and the craft beer market is still at its foundation a brewpub revolution. It’s brewpubs operating as brewpubs – not as regional-bottling wannabes.

 

The craft beer market is immune to the fears of bottling distribution hassles: shelf-space, distributor attention and pay-to-play ploys. The ability of brewpubs and craft breweries to make and direct-distribute draft beer in local markets will remain intact under I-1100. You are still as likely to have a new brewpub open down the street and succeed because it is local and makes great fresh beer.

 

Dismantling direct liquor distributor control has not hurt California, which has a vibrant craft beer and small-wine industry.

 

The myth is that the three-tier system is a small brewery’s friend. All emerging small breweries or brewpubs have stories of underperforming distributors that they may be required to use to extend geographical reach. Distributorships are a protected business model, so they do not always service their customer: the beer producers.

 

Imagine under I-1100 that there were no territories, just the entire state, with anybody able to become a distributor. Only those who gave true value to their brewery producers would succeed.

 

The fear is the sky is falling and it will squash the poor little craft brewer. Guess what? It already has fallen, and the Washington craft brewers have prospered. Many taverns are what I call “yellow” beer taverns, and are purveyors of mega-brewery beers. The traditional beer factory syndicates have lost a generation of beer drinkers by not understanding the importance of craft beer.

 

Having more direct yellow taverns would not attract the craft beer drinker, who will continue to support taverns that have craft tap handles and have a very local flavor. Besides, we already have chain craft-beer establishments, which function like tied houses but are not legally tied houses – McMenamins, the RAM – and brewpubs remain successful.

 

The fear is craft brewers will lose shelf space to mass-produced beers. Please. The “safeguards” of the current system have been so often circumvented or rarely enforced that we may as well legally remove them. We make a better product, sold to loyal beer drinkers who like local, fresh and interesting beer.

 

Loss of shelf space to liquor is another false fear. Shelf space will remain in the larger grocery stores for craft beers, because it is high profit and high volume for the grocer.

 

The Washington Brewers Guild and all craft brewers should remember their strength: the public and most legislators support your success story. You have good political capital in Olympia. The Legislature will still likely have to look at the issues around beer, wine and spirits even after I-1100 passes.

 

It is at this point, after I-1100 becomes law, where I think the craft brewing community will have a voice in addressing the realistic concerns of our small businesses.

 

The unspoken fear from brewers: the upper side of the craft beer pyramid (bottling or regional craft brewers as opposed to the truly small and pub craft brewers) are loathe to offend the hand that they think feeds them: beer distributors.

 

They don’t wish to be seen in support of dissolving that same distributor business system, with whom many brewers are secretly frustrated.

 

It’s time for the industry as a whole to stop protecting one side from another, and instead support changes to the law that open the marketplace to competition and innovative free enterprise – the very mantra of the craft brewer.

 

Beer Law: The Final Word on Initiative 1100 & 1105

October 20, 2010 3 comments

Two weeks away from the vote. Here's our last whisper on I-1100. Good luck.

UPDATE: At the suggestion of some organizations, we have added some links to the resources section below.

This is the last of it – we promise.

Over a month ago, I decided to walk away from the topic described above in the title. The subject has become a sour discussion topic amongst beer aficionados, brewers and others who peddle the precious grog we love so dearly. So, we took a step back.

I received my ballot in my mailbox yesterday and revisited the debate for a moment. I realized that I still have yet to decide what is best for Washington state and its incredibly important brewing industry. I am back on the academic trail.

Rather than raise a flag for either side, I simply wanted to take a moment and remind you all of the following 5 things:

 

 

  1. Vote.       Nothing is worse than avoiding the polls. You have a voice; let it be heard.
  2.  

  3. Know.     There are people in the broad spectrum of the brewing industry that support both sides of the Initiatives. There is some moderate solidarity amongst brewers that both Initiatives should go down, and there is some fairly strong solidarity amongst consumers that the Initiative(s) should pass.
  4.  

  5. Read.      There are a bounty of resources on the web that can help you see the potential impact of a passed Initiative v. the continued state of what we have today. Take the time to check them out. (See below for some links)
  6.  

  7. Ask.         Ask your brewer, ask your beer bar owner, and ask your bottle shop seller. These people are directly impacted by the Initiatives. While consumers have an interest in this potential legislation, business owners are the ones who are most invested. See how they feel. Don’t worry it won’t take many attempts to find people on both sides.
  8.  

  9. Review.   If you get through all these steps and you still cannot make up your mind – read the proposed law. Many of the commentators are focusing their attention on particular portions of the Initiatives. You can get a better look at the forest versus the trees, by giving them a read.
  10.  

If you want a brief recap of the information we have provided over the past few months, you can follow this link to find a collection of articles on the topic. Furthermore, check out these resources:

 

With only two weeks left until the vote, we are signing off from the subject. Good luck to all sides. As always, please leave any comments below.

 

Like Beer Law? Check Out These Blogs

September 29, 2010 Leave a comment

We drink, take notes and then we blog it. Law blogs are a bit different.

***This post was originally posted on BreweryLaw.com, a blog devoted to beer law! The blog is published by Reiser Legal, LLC, a Seattle, Washington law office. Reiser Legal’s Douglas Reiser is our regular legal blogger.***

I came across this wonderful blog by Tom Warks, today. Tom runs Fermentation: The Daily Wine Blog, a blog typically discussing the public relations within the wine world.

Tom regularly focuses on legal issues facing the wine industry and so he put together a list of some of the best alcoholic beverage law blogs out there. Included was a humble yours truly, amongst a wonderful crowd of legal minds.

Check out his list of legal blogs by following this link. There are an abundance of blogs for just about every taste in the alcoholic beverages law spectrum.

One blog of particular interest to myself, and likely most of you, is the Alcoholic Beverages Law Blog. This blog is written by the Portland office of well-respected law office, Stoel Rives LLP.

The blog is written by a collective of attorney out of the firms offices in Washington, Oregon and California. Seattle attorney, Susan Johnson, offers her own perspective from time to time, including this write up on the liquor Initiatives (1100 & 1105) currently on the ballot in Washington.

Thanks to Tom for including my blog in this list of elite commentators.

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