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Beer Law: Drinking Home Brew With Friends? Thank WAHA.

September 24, 2010 2 comments

Gov. Gregoire signs SB 5060 amongst a group of WAHA committee members.

If you are at home this evening, tasting a wonderfully hand-crafted ale provided to you by your neighbor – you can thank the Washington Homebrewers Association (WAHA). That’s right, shake their hand.

Washington state law (RCW 66.12.010) exempts home brewed beer from the restraints of licensing, as long as its used for personal consumption. Thus, home brewing is legal. But, Washington’s prior RCW 66.28.140 heavily restrained the use and consumption of that legally home brewed beer.

Without a license to produce and sell beer, your beer was only to be personally consumed. Furthermore, you could only transport a small amount of beer (1 gallon) for purposes of any home brewing competition. The worst part – only the judge could taste your beer!

But then came WAHA with a proposition: lets change the law. And so they did, pushing reasonable legislative language with the generous backing of Senator Ken Jacobsen.

In early 2009, language was proposed to change 66.28.140, under SB 5060. The proposed bill moved quickly through the Legislature and was signed into law in May 2009. The change went into effect on July 26, 2009.

The verdict is our new RCW 66.28.140 – a reasonable and fair home brew law. The new law allows us share home brew amongst friends, allow others to taste samples at events, and allow to wheel your keg over to the neighbors for Sunday’s big game.

Here are the technical permissions:

 

you can remove home brew….

 

(a) as long as the quantity removed does not exceed twenty gallons;

 

(b) as long as its not removed for sale; and

 

(c) as long as it for private use  (which includes use at organized affairs, exhibitions, or competitions)

 

So, take a moment today and thank WAHA for ridding Washington of an old and archaic law that restricted the right to share your home brew. Thanks to a wonderfully driven group of normal citizens, I am sitting here this evening enjoying a nice glass of my neighbor’s IPA.

Take a moment and check out WAHA’s webpage and please follow their Twitter account.

 

A Great Read on Initiative 1100 Pegs Hales Ales As a Supporter

September 23, 2010 Leave a comment

Hales Ales is voting for I-1100?

 

I just read an excellent article put together by Seattle Times writer Melissa Allison. The article presents a duel look at the positions of supporters and opponents of Initiative 1100. Our blog has discussed I-1100 in the past, and if you still don’t know what it is, read these posts for more on the issue.

In any event, the article takes you on a whirlwind tour of the Initiative, what it seeks out to do, and who is on each side. For instance, did you know that Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors have collectively donated at least $2 Million to the opposition party? Neither did we.

But, what most stuck out about the article was the input of Mike Hale, owner of 2010 GABF gold medal winner, Hales Ales in Seattle, WA. Mike gave a surprising point of view (from the article):

Mike Hale, of Hale’s Ales, a brewery between Fremont and Ballard, figures he would do well in an open market, and said the laws that I-1100 would nix are easily circumvented now.

 

“There are many loopholes and exceptions and shenanigans,” said Hale, who has brewed for 27 years and served on a state task force in 2006 with other industry representatives and the Liquor Control Board.

Hale’s Ales and others create products for Costco and other retailers that no one else buys — for example, beer on pallets without cardboard separations — and sell them at prices that might as well be volume discounts.

Some breweries pay consulting firms to place their beer at eye level in grocery stores, a service cheap or free to the grocers and therefore a gift in exchange for shelf space from breweries, Hale said.

“No one could enforce these silly laws,” he said. But the result is “supporting the middlemen culture [distributors], who have a guaranteed sweet spot.”

 

I am not sure how this fits into the big picture. Hales Ales is one of the few Washington brewers who bottles and has been selling in volume for some time. That might have an impact on their point of view.

The Guild‘s Heather McClung (Schooner Exact Brewing) made an appearance, resonating the Guild‘s position that I-1100 makes it more difficult for local brewers to sustain pricing and find shelf and bar space. Beer consumers can feel for the Guild’s position, as it certainly would be a blind-side change for brewers in Washington state.

But, its apparent that the Guild is ready for some change. Heather advised that the Guild would like to see slow and steady deregulation – as opposed to the sudden, complete deregulation in place under 1100.

In the end, the issue might come down to trusting Washington consumers to dictate the market. I think that the statement made by Ashley Bach, spokesman for the “Yes to 1100″ campaign resonates much of the sentiment of beer consumers:

“Wineries and breweries are worried about the unknown, but the wine and beer industries are very well established in Washington and consumers are among the most sophisticated in the country and will seek out good products no matter who’s selling liquor in Washington state”

Regardless of where you lean, the article presents a good look at the pluses and minuses. This Initiative might come down to the final week of campaigning. For now, its a toss up for most consumers.

 

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