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Recommended changes to Alabama’s beverage law would allow growlers, direct sales

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WHNT)-- In the quest to expand the craft beer industry  in Alabama, some brewers argue current laws mean "roadblocks" to growth. The Alabama Brewers Guild has advocated to loosen legal reins on sales straight from breweries for off-premises consumption.

Wholesalers had pushed back with concerns for their side of the industry.

But it seems a compromise has been struck through research and discussions led by the Alcohol Beverage Study Commission, including a series of public hearings across the state.  They looked into Alabama's laws regarding manufacturing, distribution, and sale of alcoholic beverages and compared them with others across the US.

Tuesday they recommended several measures to the Legislature for consideration.

  •  BeerAllow licensed brewers and brewpubs producing less than 60,000 barrels of beer yearly to directly sell up to 288 ounces, which is comparable to a case, per consumer per day for off-premise consumption. The law would apply to both draft and package beer.
    Brewers and brewpubs would also be allowed to deliver up to two donated kegs of beer per charitable or non-profit event.
    Language limiting the location of a brewpub licensee to a historic area would also be repealed.
  •  Wine: Allow wineries operating within Alabama to establish one ABC-approved off-site location to retail their wine.
  • Spirits: Allow spirit manufacturers within the state to sell up to 750 milliliters, or a ‘fifth’, per consumer per year for off-premises consumption.

Brewers we spoke with said the beer provisions were great. "We couldn't be happier with what they've come up with," said Yellowhammer Brewing's Ethan Couch. "We love to brew different types of beer and not all those are going to make it to the shelves. So it's good for us to get more styles on the market."

He added that allowing brewers and brewpubs to sell directly would also have a positive impact on tourism.

"When people come in from out of town they kind of expect to be able to take draft to go, if they're traveling back to another state or they want to take some to a friend," he said.

Customers are happy, too, hoping legislators take the commission's advice into consideration.

"I think it's very good," said Lisa Cook as she enjoyed a Yellowhammer brew. "I go other places out of state and you can get pretty much whatever you want, growlers they fill them up right there... it's convenient."

Huntsville's Senator Paul Sanford co-chairs the study commission.  He said in a statement, “Our study committee worked hard to sort through all of the information and recommend the most impactful and implementable proposals to the Legislature... We look forward to discussing these ideas with the rest of the legislators and bringing them before our respective bodies for debate.”

Industry groups also applauded the inclusive work of the commission.

"Inter-industry coordination is not easy, and we applaud the committee on facilitating a great compromise that is agreeable to both small brewers and wholesalers,” said Donna Alexander, Executive Director of the Alabama Beer Wholesalers Association. "Ultimately, we are partners in making high quality products accessible to the adult consumer. Alabama beer wholesalers will continue to support the growth of the dynamic craft beer industry, and we will work together with our industry to ensure that Alabama consumers continue to have choice and variety in the marketplace."

“The Alabama Brewers Guild would like to thank the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Study Commission for their work. Alcohol laws are complex, and analyzing them to ensure that Alabama’s laws are competitive nationally is a daunting task. Representative Alan Harper and Senator Paul Sanford have demonstrated great leadership, and the members of the commission have shown a genuine interest in understanding and resolving the issues we brought to their attention,” remarked Dan Roberts, Executive Director of the Alabama Brewers Guild. “We are confident that the commission’s recommendations will go a long way in helping Alabama remain competitive in the burgeoning industry of craft beer.”