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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.”

Nashville’s Yazoo Brewing Company launches ‘Ask a Brewer’ video series

February 07, 2014 By: mike Category: Breweries, Craft beer, Video

Yazoo Brewing Company

Yazoo Brewing Company has launched a new online video series that lets fans of the Nashville brewery get answers straight from the people who make the beer.

The first “Ask a Brewer” video, which went live this week, features Yazoo’s founder Linus Hall. It touches on what beers Linus likes to drink, Yazoo tattoos, brewing internships and how well hops grow in Tennessee, among other topics.

Another Yazoo brewer will be featured next month. You can submit your own questions for “Ask a Brewer” right here: http://yazoobrew.com/askabrewer

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.

VIDEO: “Fix the Beer Tax” kick-off event in Nashville

February 03, 2013 By: mike Category: Breweries, Craft beer, Distribution, Events, Government

Fix the Beer TaxFor those who missed the “Fix the Beer Tax” kickoff Wednesday in Nashville, here’s some video below from the event.

There were speeches from Linus Hall from Yazoo Brewing Company and the Tennessee Craft Brewers Guild; Rich Foge of the Tennessee Malt Beverage Association; and legislative sponsors State Rep. Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) and State Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown). There are also some testimonials at the end.

The “Beer Tax Reform Act of 2013″ seeks to reform the 17% beer wholesale tax in Tennessee, which contributes to the state having the highest beer taxes in the nation. (Read FuzzyBrew’s earlier post here.)

You can follow the progress of the bill on the Tennessee General Assembly’s website here, or follow the campaign at www.fixthebeertax.com, and at www.facebook.com/fixthebeertax.