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Tennessee legislature approves bill to raise alcohol cap on beer

April 14, 2014 By: mike Category: Breweries, Craft beer, Distribution, Government

A bill that will raise the alcohol cap on beer in Tennessee in 2017 was approved today by the state House of Representatives in a 72-12 vote.

The bill, which was approved last week by the state Senate and now heads to the desk of Gov. Bill Haslam for his signature, was spearheaded by the Tennessee Craft Brewer’s Guild through its “Fix the Beer Cap” campaign.

Fix the Beer CapdFor craft beer drinkers, it’s a significant step forward, but not everything many hoped for.

In Tennessee, beer has traditionally been defined as a fermented malt beverage containing 5% or less alcohol by weight. That definition means any beers over that limit — which includes many styles of beers, from Belgians to IPAs to stouts — are considered “high-gravity” beers and can only be purchased in liquor stores.

The bill will increase the 5% limit to 8% ABW. In terms most beer drinkers are familiar with, instead of the current 6.2 alcohol by volume limit, beers up to 10.1% ABV will be allowed on shelves anywhere beer is sold.

An earlier proposal would have increased the ABW limit to 12%, but that was lowered as part of a compromise.

Another concession was this: the bill does not take effect until Jan. 1, 2017, meaning it will be two-and-a-half years before higher-gravity beers are sold outside of liquor stores, and six months after the first bottles of wine are allowed in grocery stores.

“Yes, this is a compromise as far as how high the cap was raised and the timeline for doing so. The committee members indicated to our sponsors that our bills were going nowhere until there was a compromise between the brewers and beer wholesalers on one side, and the liquor retailers and wholesalers on the other,” according to the Fix the Beer Cap Facebook page.

The bill will also have another effect — you’ll likely see more higher-gravity beers sold in Tennessee breweries. The bill included an amendment that allows brewers who hold a high-gravity brewing license to sell high-gravity beers at their breweries without additional licenses, starting July 1, 2014.

Linus Hall, president of the Tennessee Craft Brewers Guild, took to Twitter to celebrate the bill’s passage.

“Progress is progress,” he wrote. “I’ll be drinking to that tonight.”

Campaign to ‘Fix the Beer Cap’ in Tennessee kicks off today

January 24, 2014 By: mike Category: Breweries, Craft beer, Distribution, Events, Government, Memphis

Fix the Beer CapdCalling Tennessee’s alcohol cap on beer the “most regressive” in the Southeast, the Tennessee Craft Brewer’s Guild is launching a campaign to “Fix the Beer Cap.”

A rally today at Local Gastropub in Midtown Memphis, from 7 to 9 p.m., will kick off the effort, with rallies in other cities to follow.

In Tennessee, beer is defined as a fermented malt beverage containing 5% or less alcohol by weight. That definition means any beer over that limit — which includes many styles of beers, from Belgians to IPAs to stouts — are defined as “high-gravity” beers and can only be purchased in liquor stores.

“There are only 560 licensed liquor stores in Tennessee, and many of them either don’t carry high-gravity beers, or else relegate them to a hot, dusty shelf,” wrote Guild president Linus Hall, owner of Nashville’s Yazoo Brewing Co., in an e-mail announcing the campaign.

“If, as a consumer and craft beer lover, you want a greatly improved beer selection in Tennessee, we need to change this. If you want your local brewers to spread their creative wings and brew a wider range of beers, we need to change this. Many of your favorite out-of-state brewers don’t send much of their high-gravity beers to Tennessee due to the limited number of places they can be sold. And while a few Tennessee brewers have brewed high-gravity beers, most have focused on lower gravity beers, which can reach the largest number of customers.”

Recent reforms in Mississippi and Alabama have made Tennessee’s 5% cap the “most regressive” of any state in the Southeast, according to Hall.

“Tennessee has long prided itself on being business-friendly, but this arbitrarily low cap on beer puts us out of step with our neighboring states and hurts local brewers,” Hall wrote.

Beer caps - 2014

Source: Tennessee Craft Brewers Guild

Hall said the Guild is waging its campaign in 2014 on two legislative fronts.

First, the Guild is pushing for an amendment to be included on the “wine-in-grocery stores” bill that would allow “high-gravity beer” to be sold wherever wine is sold. While the amendment would not change the definition of “beer,” it would open up distribution of high-gravity beers into grocery stores.

Hall also said the Guild has sponsors in the state Senate and the House who will be submitting bills to reform the definition of what “beer” is. The Beer Cap Reform Act of 2014 would raise the limit on alcohol in beer from 5% to 12%.

At today’s rally at Local Gastropub, for a $20 donation, you can get a Tennessee Craft Brewers Guild 20-ounce mug and samples of beers from Memphis brewers.

Rallies are also scheduled on Friday , Jan. 31, at the Flying Saucer in Nashville, and Friday, Feb. 7, at the Central Flats and Taps in Knoxville.

In 2013, the Guild successfully campaigned to “Fix the Beer Tax,” reforming Tennessee’s beer wholesale tax in a move that helped smaller craft brewers.

For more information on the 2014 campaign, follow the “Fix the Beer Cap” Facebook page at facebook.com/fixthebeercap and the campaign’s website at fixthebeercap.com.

It’s legal: Homebrewing law takes effect in Mississippi

July 01, 2013 By: mike Category: Government, Homebrew

Raise-Your-PintsStarting today, homebrewers in Mississippi can legally brew beer at home.

Mississippi statute §67-3-11 permits the home production of beer with certain limitations. It was approved back in March but took effect July 1.

In households with one person that is 21 and older, up to 100 gallons of beer can be brewed per year. In homes with two or more people of legal drinking age, up to 200 gallons can be brewed. The statute also allows for transport of homebrew for exhibitions and contests.

But the law does not allow for homemade beer to be produced in counties or municipalities where possession of beer is not legal.

Mississippi grassroots group Raise Your Pints worked with the American Homebrewers Association to lobby for the bill’s approval.

With Mississippi’s law in effect, homebrewing is now legal in all 50 states. Alabama — the other longtime homebrewing holdout — legalized homebrewing with the passage of bill HB9, which was signed by Governor Robert Bentley on May 9, 2013.

On Day 3 of Memphis Beer Week, free Brooklyn and Stone samples at Cash Saver and Joe’s

April 24, 2013 By: mike Category: Breweries, Craft beer, Events, Government, Memphis

Brooklyn samples at Cash Saver

In 2011, state government approved a law allowing Tennessee liquor stores to hold on-premise tastings, including samples of high-alcohol beers. In 2012, the Memphis City Council went a step further to allow on-site beer tastings at grocery stores.

Local retailers are taking advantage of these new laws this week to promote their products during the inaugural Memphis Beer Week, with tastings at grocery stores and liquor stores all over town.

On Tuesday, Day 3 of Beer Week, I stopped at two tastings on my way home from the office — a Brooklyn Brewery tasting at Cash Saver on Madison, followed by a Stone Brewing Co. event at Joe’s Wines & Liquors.

Taylor James at Cash Saver

The Brooklyn event at Cash Saver featured Brooklyn Lager, Brooklyn Brown Ale and Brooklyn Summer Ale, all lower ABV beers that are new to Memphis within the past two months. If you haven’t had a chance to try these brews, these are very solid beers. The Summer Ale is even available in cans, which are perfect for Memphis’ hot summer days. Above, Cash Saver’s craft beer manager Taylor James (top, center) talks to customers.

Pick six at Cash Saver

The last time I visited Cash Saver, I declared that it was Midtown’s best place to buy craft beer. Well, in the last month and a half, Cash Saver has expanded even more. It’s added 8 more feet of warm shelf space (doubling in size) and a new display for Ghost River Brewing’s Golden Ale.  There’s a cooler that has only craft beer cans, just in time for summer. But that’s only the start.

Cash Saver now has a huge “make-your-own-six-pack” section. You can pick from no fewer than 250 beers from Tennessee breweries, regional breweries and other craft beer makers. There’s even craft cans in the mix. Build your own for $7.25, plus 10 percent.

Cash Saver bomber display

In addition, Cash Saver has a new bomber rack with nearly 70 beers. The rack features Rogue, Samuel Adams and many others, all at great prices.

Cash Saver is hosting even more events this week:

Wednesday (today): Sierra Nevada tasting event, 5-7 p.m.

Friday: Yazoo tasting event, 4-6 p.m. Also, Yazoo growlers will be sold to-go. $8 for Hop Project #71 and $15 for “Rufus” sour collaboration with New Belgium.

Stone tasting at Joe's

After sampling the Brooklyn beers, I headed over to Joe’s for the Stone tasting event.  There were  four beers poured — Ruination IPA (a wonderful IPA!), Espresso Imperial Russian Stout (even better than the original), Oak Smoked Old Guardian (too smoky for my taste) and Vertical Epic 12-12-12 (wheeew, cloves).

I took home a bomber of the Espresso Imperial Russian Stout and also grabbed a bomber of New Belgium’s Rampant IPA, a fantastic new imperial IPA that recently arrived in Memphis.

Joe’s has more events coming up this week, as well:

Wednesday (today): New Belgium tasting, 5-6:30 p.m.

Thursday: Belgian beer tasting, 4:30-6:30 p.m., hosted by Steve Barzizza.

Friday: Abita Beer tasting, 4-6 p.m.

For a list of all Memphis Beer Week events, click here.

Stone Ruination cases