Alabama: Gov. Bentley signs beer to-go bill, law goes into effect in June
March 24, 2016
Rocket Republic is eager to expand its craft brewery this summer in north Alabama.
The Madison establishment isn’t moving from its current facility on 289 Production Ave. Like Alabama’s other breweries, Rocket Republic is preparing to sell beer directly to customers for off-premise consumption for the first time.
Eric Crigger, owner of Rocket Republic, said today’s signing of House Bill 176 by Gov. Robert Bentley will have a positive impact on the industry and Alabama economy. The law should go into effect June 1.
“We now have about 60 days to make investments in our infrastructure and people to be prepared to serve off-premise,” Crigger told AL.com. “With the increased consumption, we anticipate the need to increase production to accommodate our current demands, along with the off-premise demands.”
The new law will:
Allow breweries that make less than 60,000 barrels per year to directly sell up to 288 ounces of its beer per customer per day for off-premise consumption.
Allow breweries to deliver up to two donated kegs of its beer to a licensed charity event.
No longer require brewpubs to open only in historic buildings, historic districts or economically distressed areas.
The Commission formed last year after ABG’s direct sales legislation died in Montgomery without a vote. Members of the Commission traveled to Colorado and North Carolina in late 2015 before introducing recommendations in January with input from the Alabama Brewers Guild, wholesalers and the public.
Sen. Bill Holtzclaw, R-Madison, helped push the new bill through the Legislature. He said it will be a “game changer” for Alabama breweries, tourism and economic development.
“There have been more nationally-based craft breweries that have considered Alabama as an expansion point, and they’ve kind of overlooked us because of some of our archaic laws, our restrictive laws,” he said. “At the end of the day, I’m always going to be in support of less restriction and smaller government when it comes to things such as this and the free market.”
In fall 2014, Florida-based Cigar City Brewing said the company “kind of purposefully skipped over Alabama and Georgia because … they really don’t have the friendliest legislation” when it comes to craft beer.
California’s Stone Brewing Company released a request for proposals a year earlier to build a giant brewing, packaging and distribution center on the East Coast. While Stone was on Alabama’s radar, the beer maker decided to launch its new $74 million brewery, packaging hall, restaurant, retail store and administrative offices in Richmond, Va. instead.
Holtzclaw said the new law will allow existing Alabama breweries to grow, but also open the state up for possible out-of-state expansion.
“These owners of these breweries are investing capital in our communities,” he said. “They’re also hiring people and they’re providing a great venue for people to enjoy.”
ABG commissioned a report from Jacksonville State University in early 2015 to determine how off-premise sales would affect Alabama’s economy. The study found ABG’s Brewery Jobs Bill would create 655 jobs, generate $12.3 million in tax revenue and create $100 million in total economic output within three to five years.
Rep. Anthony Daniels, D-Huntsville, served on the Commission co-chaired by Sen. Paul Sanford, R-Huntsville, and Rep. Alan Harper, R-Northport. Daniels said they learned a lot about the craft beer industry during the 10-month process of studying beer laws in Alabama and other states.
“Everybody had a seat at the table and out of that, came this particular piece of legislation,” he said.
Several pieces of legislation have helped make commercial and home brewing in Alabama possible during the last few years. It started in May 2009 when Free the Hops’ Gourmet Beer Bill passed, bumping the alcohol by volume in beer up from 6 to 13.9 percent.
Two years later, Free the Hops celebrated the passage of the Brewery Modernization Act, which allowed breweries to sell beer on-premises like a brewpub. In May 2012, lawmakers approved the Gourmet Bottle Bill, permitting the sale of bottles up to 25.4 ounces.
Home brewing became legal in May 2013, removing Alabama from the short list of states that outlawed the practice.
ABG Executive Director Dan Roberts said Daniels and Holtzclaw were among the bill’s biggest champions this year.
“Rep. Daniels’ district includes the new Campus 805 development,” he said. “Once he understood the competitive disadvantage that Alabama puts on the small business breweries in Huntsville, he became one of our biggest advocates in the legislature.
“Sen. Holtzclaw’s record speaks for itself. He’s understood the economic development potential of craft beer since 2011, when his Brewery Modernization Act. That legislation legalized brewery tap rooms and was the first step in relaxing brewpub restrictions in Alabama.”