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Virginia, Maryland Breweries Now Allowed to Sell Pints to Customers

Thanks to recently passed Virginia Senate Bill 604 and Maryland Senate Bill 579, each state’s craft and microbreweries are now allowed to sell beer for on-site consumption.

The Virginia bill, signed by Governor Bob McDonnell, grants Virginia state breweries the ability to sell their beer for on-premises consumption.  A House amendment added language clarifying that breweries could only sell beers they own for consumption at the brewery.  Previously, breweries could only give away free one-ounce samples, sell beer “to-go”, or add a restaurant (brewpub) where the beer could be sold.

The bill’s success can be attributed to a concerted lobbying effort from the state’s breweries and beer enthusiasts who argued that the bill would have many positive effects including making Virginia a more attractive hospitality destination for a growing population of craft beer lovers, would make it easier for small breweries to start-up and expand, and, because there is little-to-no automation in smaller breweries and the brewing process is so labor intensive, would create jobs.  After the bill signing the governor helped unveil a new logo for craft beer from the Virginia Tourism Commission “Virginia is for craft beer Lovers.” Virginia currently has 44 licensed breweries.

Maryland’s new law will become effective on July 1st, 2012 and Maryland’s law establishes a “Class 8 Farm Brewing License” which bestows on the license-holder many of the privileges held by the state’s wineries (except, notably, self-distribution).  To qualify, despite the bill’s moniker, the brewery does not have to be on a farm.  The brewery does, however, have to have a maximum output of 15,000 barrels a year and use Maryland-grown grains, hops, or fruit in their beers.  The law does not specify a minimum percentage of Maryland-grown ingredients required.

The license-holder can then sell or give away beer—up to six-ounces per brand—for onsite consumption.  Furthermore, they can sell prepared foods to guests and beer “to-go.”  Like Virginia, the breweries may only sell their own beer.  But unlike Virginia, the Maryland breweries can apply for up to 12 special-event permits per year that will allow them to host festivals where they may feature beers from other breweries.

The Brewers Association reports that in 2012 the United States became home to over 2000 craft breweries, the highest number since the 1800s.  In fact, the New York Times reports that craft brewing is one of the fastest growing industries in the state of Colorado.

For more information please contact Rosemarie Salguero or Andre Barlow in our Hospitality Practice Group, at [email protected] (202) 589-1834.