The House voted 95-25 Wednesday night to loosen, very slightly, some of the state’s regulations governing craft breweries.
House Bill 500, which now goes to the Senate, would place into law a number of provisions that previously had been allowed by rules crafted by the state Alcoholic Beverage Control board or other entities. They include:
• Allowing tastings at breweries and wineries.
• Letting wineries and “farm breweries” located in dry counties or cities sell their products on the premises. Farm breweries are breweries located on agricultural land that use some of the grains or fruits grown on the property in their beer or cider.
• Letting breweries and wineries sell their products in refillable, resealable containers (aka growlers).
Rep. Pat Hurley, R-Randolph, objected to the farm brewery provision and introduced an amendment that would have stripped that language from the bill.
Hurley said voters should be allowed to decide if farm breweries could sell their beer — not the county commission or city council in the jurisdiction where the brewery is located, as the bill states.
But that amendment failed 84-35. Bill sponsor Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, noted that wineries in dry counties have not had to get local approval to have retail shops and tasting rooms on their properties. H.B. 500 would require farm breweries to withstand more scrutiny than wineries.
As first introduced, the bill would have allowed craft breweries that produce more than 25,000 barrels of beer a year to self-distribute, if they chose to do so. That provision, along with one making it easier for breweries to terminate their contract with distributors, were stripped from the bill after fierce objections from the N.C. Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association.
For more information about the craft brewery controversy, click here.