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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.

Inaugural Taste of Tennessee Craft Brewers Festival set for Sept. 6 in Nashville

July 26, 2013 By: mike Category: Breweries, Craft beer, Events

Taste of Tennessee

Tickets are on sale for the inaugural Taste of Tennessee Craft Brewers Festival, featuring beers crafted by breweries across the state of Tennessee, to benefit the Tennessee Craft Brewers Guild.

The festival will take place Friday, Sept. 6, from 7-11 p.m., on the infield of the Fairgrounds Speedway, 500 Wedgewood Ave., in Nashville. The event will also feature local live music and food from Nashville food trucks. For a list of participating breweries, click here.

The festival is presented by the Tennessee State Fair and Rhizome Productions. Here’s more:

Come out and support Tennessee craft brewers and enjoy the sights and sounds of the Fair with one ticket! With more than 18 breweries from across Tennessee, festival attendees will have a unique opportunity to taste over 55 Tennessee-brewed beers. The festival is open to beer tasters of all experience levels, from the serious to the casual, catering to pros and amateurs alike. The Tennessee State Fair offers only two suggestions: 1) bring your friends and 2) come thirsty.

The $40 cost of admission includes admission to the Fair, a souvenir tasting glass and unlimited beer for the duration of the event. Admission for designated drivers is $15 and includes complimentary N/A drinks. The festival is only open to people aged 21 and over. $75 VIP tickets allow 100 guests access an hour earlier than the public, as well as the chance to sample some special beers and talk with the brewers.

Tennessee House approves beer tax reform; bill now awaits governor’s signature

April 10, 2013 By: mike Category: Breweries, Craft beer, Distribution, Government

Fix the Beer Tax

Beer tax reform in Tennessee is but a signature away from becoming law.

The state House of Representatives today gave its near-unanimous endorsement of the so-called Beer Tax Reform Act of 2013, voting to approve it by an 87-2 margin. The action follows Monday’s 30-1 approval in the Tennessee Senate.

The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Bill Haslam for his signature.

Fix the Beer TaxThe 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.

Instead of the present 17% tax on the wholesale price, the bill would revise it to instead impose a volume tax of $35.60 per barrel of 31 gallons of beer sold. The tax upon barrels containing more or less than 31 gallons would be taxed at a proportionate rate.

The “Fix the Beer Tax” coalition, which has been lobbying for passage of the law, is being spearheaded by the Tennessee Craft Brewers Guild and Tennessee Malt Beverage Association.

Read more about today’s vote on commercialappeal.com.

Also, read the coalition’s press release below:

Tax Reform Tapped for Tennessee

Tennessee General Assembly passes Beer Tax Reform Act of 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee General Assembly voted Wednesday to approve the Beer Tax Reform Act of 2013. The near unanimous vote in both the House and Senate only added to the excitement surrounding a campaign deemed a legislative sensation.

The reform proposal to fix the highest beer tax in the nation has drawn statewide support from every level of Tennessee’s beer industry, from large brewers such as Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors to craft brewers and beer wholesalers. As the spotlight heated up on state lawmakers, it also caught the support and attention of a national audience.

“This tax reform makes Tennessee more appealing to business,” said Rich Foge, president of the Tennessee Malt Beverage Association. “It will attract new brewers to the state, as well as help those already here to expand and create additional jobs.”

Senate Bill 422 and House Bill 999, sponsored by Representative Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) and Representative Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown), will convert Tennessee’s outdated price-based tax to a more business-friendly volume based tax. Currently, Tennessee has the highest beer tax rate in the nation, propelling higher and higher every year with inflation.

“When it came down to it,” said Senator Ken Yager (R- Harriman) on the Senate floor Monday, “this vote was about whether or not Tennessee would become competitive in one of the country’s fastest-growing industries.”

Tennessee leads all other states’ beer tax rate by a 12 percent margin. In comparison to our neighbors, Arkansas’ tax per barrel rings up at $7.51 and Mississippi’s at $13.23, while Tennessee tops out at a whopping $37 per barrel.

“In a historically low tax state, Tennessee’s 1950s era triple layer beer tax has been no friend to businesses,” said Sexton. “Whether you are a small brewery or a large scale operation, the tax has hindered expansion and recruitment as well as punished growth. It was simply time for a change in the tax structure and everyone involved is honored to have enjoyed such sweeping support.”

Since the bill’s introduction, more than 2,000 supporters of the grass-roots Fix the Beer Tax Campaign rallied in Chattanooga, Knoxville, Nashville, Memphis and Tri-Cities, resulting each time in a flurry of social media and support from local businesses.

“This is also a victory for Tennessee consumers who will benefit from more selection in the marketplace as more beer brands become available as a direct result of this new tax structure,” Foge added.

The bill will now head to the Governor’s desk for a signature, as the statewide sound of clinking glasses swells in a toast to Tennessee’s brighter future.