This week two pieces of legislation pertaining to issues with current liquor laws passed through the house and became laws.
LD 1763 is “An Act To Make Available to the Public Certain Information Concerning the Alcohol Content of Malt Liquor, Wine and Spirits”. This was a piece of emergency legislation that came from the suddenenforcement of an antiquated Maine Liquor law that prevented the “Advertisement” of alcohol percentages. The bill passed and became a law without the Governor’s signature. The amendment specifically calls out that alcohol percentages can be on displays for the public to see.
It is my understanding that Maine Brewers Guild members were on hand to support LD 1763 and express their concern for public safety that results in not providing information about alcohol content to consumers. In reading the public testimonies one line fromSean Sullivan, Executive Director of the Maine Brewers Guild stood out and speaks to the intent of Maine’s Brewers: “When I sent out a quick survey to the members of the Guild to ask their opinions on the issue, every respondent — comprising more than half the breweries in the state – agreed that listing the ABV was in the best interest of public safety, and indicated their desire to do so without fear of fines.” I reached out via email to David Carlson, Co-owner of Marshall Wharf Brewing in Belfast, Maine, who was vocal when the ABV enforcement issue first came to light told me “I am glad that this got resolved as quickly as it did, and again it is a testament to Louie Lucchini from Ellsworth, and for Liquor Enforcement for realizing thatthis was outdated and needed to be legally changed, the legally part is important as it does not leave anything up for interpretation.”
LD 1637 is “An Act Regarding Taste-testing Event Licenses” and stems from the troubles that came to light afterThe Festival came to Portland last summer. This piece of emergency legislation has been in the works for nearly a year does a lot to improve the current festival licensing laws.
1. Makes application for taste testing license simple and shortens application timeline
2. Allows “Sponsored” brewers who are not currently distributing in the state to pour at brewfests as long as they provide their state and federal licensing
3. Allows brewery with Maine distribution rights to host up to 10 licensed taste testing events per year
4. Allows brewers to pour their own beer
5. Limits Samples to 12 per person, per day and sizes to 4 oz. of malt liquor, 1 ½ oz. Wine and ½ oz. spirits
a. 12 sample limitation will not apply if the licensee “Provides a variety of substantial food offerings” and substantial food does not include pre-packaged snacks, chips, pretzels, etc.
b. 12 sample limitation will not apply if the licensee is hosting a “Multicourse sit-down meal designed to pair food with complementing alcoholic beverages”
6. Call for an informational pamphlet or document that is publicly displayed explaining conditions of taste testing event enforcement
I contacted Heather Sanborn, Co-owner of Rising Tide Brewing Company in Portland, Maine and member of the Maine Brewers Guild Legislative Committee for comment: “LD 1637 is a huge step forward for Maine. We think we now have one of the best festival laws in the country. We’re looking forward to seeing it in action on August 1 when Portland plays host to the Beer Camp Across America Festival. After some negative experiences last summer, we knew we needed to work with the legislature to fix our festival laws during this legislative session. We worked with Senator Alfond to submit a bill last fall. After Sierra Nevada approached the Maine Brewers’ Guild this winter about making Portland one of just 7 cities in the country to host their traveling festival series, the need became even more urgent. We are very pleased that everything came together just in time to be able to bring this great event to Portland and to set the stage for lots of other events celebrating our vibrant beer scene throughout the state in the months and years to come!”
Personally I’m happy to see that steps are being taken in the direction of change, as the craft beer landscape evolves in Maine and around the country the laws need to change and evolve with them. High alcohol beers are not uncommon, and brewers with a wide selection of styles will have them on tap side by side with session beers, consumers have a right to know what they are purchasing, LD 1763 allows that to happen. Brewfests are good for business, especially the large, high profile ones that bring people into the state; it’s an influx for hotels, restaurants and other businesses. We want to have a reputation as the best state for brewfests and LD 1637 is a step in the right direction. Both of these bills are good for business in Maine and according to published fiscal notes, neither of these bills will add cost to the state.