A stripped-down version of a bill loosening craft brewing regulations is getting consideration in the Senate.
The original version of House Bill 500 would have “raised the cap” on the amount of beer that breweries can produce before they must contract with a wholesale distributor. That provision was removed from the bill in the face of strong opposition from distributors; the brewers are now suing over the law.
The House passed the rest of the bill in April in a 95-25 vote, but the Senate didn’t take action until Thursday, when the Commerce and Insurance Committee held a hearing. That committee didn’t take a vote but expects to have one next week.
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Only one provision of the bill drew opposition on Thursday. It would allow breweries located on farms to sell their beer even if they’re located in a dry county where alcohol sales aren’t allowed outside city limits – as long as the local government agrees to issue a permit. Sen. Rick Gunn, a Burlington Republican who presented the bill, said wineries and vineyards already have the same option.
Rev. Mark Creech, director of the conservative Christian Action League, said his group opposes the provision because it believes alcohol should not be allowed in dry counties unless voters agree in a referendum.
He said the farm brewery permits would be “a circumvention of the people’s vote, having their vote nullified ... a grievous political injustice against the electorate.”
About 30 of North Carolina’s 100 counties are dry in unincorporated areas, although most of them allow alcohol sales within city and town limits.
The bill would allow also the sale of “crowlers,” which are 32-ounce sealed cans of beer. It would allow home brewers of beer and wine to offer tastings at home brewing events. And it would allow breweries to offer “guest taps” of beverages produced elsewhere – something that many already do under an unclear law.
“It is going to clarify some ambiguous ABC laws,” Gunn said of the overall bill.