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Tennesseans for Honest Ale Taxes seeks changes to state tax code

March 06, 2012 By: grant Category: Beer in the news

Note: An earlier version of the story had the tax rates all wonky.

Tennessean Drew Phillips has launched a campaign to encourage residents to let the legislature know that the tax rate on beer over 4.9 percent ABV is too high.

“The most frustrating aspect is job creation. We’re sitting on our hands while states like North Carolina, Oregon, and Washington are reaping the benefits of an industry that is experiencing an incredible boom.” — Drew Phillips

Phillips cites the difference in taxes on higher alcohol beer – $4.29 on every barrel of beer under 5 percent ABV, and $4.40 a gallon ($136 a barrel) on anything higher – as a disincentive to opening new breweries in Tennessee.

Last year, the legislature passed a bill that would have allowed on-site tasting of big beers and sampling at a tap-room at the brewery. The bill was aimed at enticing Sierra Nevada to open a plant in East Tennessee.

Sierra Nevada backed out, citing concerns with water temperature and humidity rather than taxes, but the measure showed that the legislature was willing to change the law to bring big beer business to Tennessee.

Do you think it’s likely the state will bring equity to beer taxes?

Tennessee bill would ban sale of beer in grocery self-checkout lines

February 23, 2012 By: mike Category: Beer in the news, Government, Memphis

Rep. Bill Sanderson

Tenn. Rep. Bill Sanderson wants to prohibit customers from using a self-checkout machine to buy beer at grocery stores.

If one Tennessee legislator has his way, you won’t be able to skip the long lines at the grocery story and go to the self-checkout line with a sixer of beer in hand.

House Bill 3865, sponsored by Rep. Bill Sanderson (R-Kenton), would prohibit a customer from using a self-checkout machine for the purchase of beer.

Retailers would also have to post signs near the self-checkout machines to notify customers that they can’t use the machines to buy beer.

The bill, which is opposed by the Tennessee Grocers and Convenience Store Association, was recommended for passage by a House subcommittee Wednesday and referred to the State & Local Government Committee. It’s on the calendar to be heard Tuesday (Feb. 28).

“The intent of this bill is actually to just keep alcohol out of the hands of our youth,” Sanderson said in explaining the bill Wednesday.

The legislator said his son told him about a practice called “swipe and swap.” A minor, he said, scans a six-pack of soft drinks or similar product at the self-checkout machine but then replaces it in the bag with beer.

“I have a 15-year-old son that brought my attention to it. He had seen it on a movie,” Sanderson said.

TGCSA Logo Representative of the grocery store industry disputed the notion that minors are scoring beer this way.

Jarron Springer, president of the Tennessee Grocers and Convenience Store Association, said “swipe and swap” is theft, and “with 1 to 2 percent profit margins in our industry, we can’t handle to have theft in our stores”.

“If this was an issue — and beer, which is a high-dollar product was walking out the door — we would address that,” Springer added.

Dan Haskell, lobbyist for the grocers association, also noted that self-checkout areas are “actually physically supervised by somebody who is old enough to check out beer” and that IDs are always checked when beer is scanned.

“The number of minors purchasing beer through grocery stores in this state is extremely small,” Haskell said.

The bill specifies that no customer may be permitted to use a self-checkout machine to purchase beer. However, if a customer who is 21 years of age or older uses the self-checkout machine to buy beer, that customer would not be charged with a violation of the law. But businesses could face misdemeanor charges if minors buy beer in the self-checkout lines.

The Senate version of the proposal — Senate Bill 3433 — is being sponsored by Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville), but no action has been taken.

Follow the progress of the bill here. ABC 24 in Memphis also did a story on it, with reaction from local shoppers.

We’ll keep you up to date when we hear any developments. What are your thoughts on this issue? Leave a comment below.

Sierra Nevada rules out Tennessee for new East Coast brewery

November 03, 2011 By: mike Category: Beer in the news, Breweries, Craft beer, Government

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. logoSierra Nevada Brewing Co., which had been eying the town of Alcoa in East Tennessee as a site for its new East Coast brewery, has decided against moving into the Volunteer State.

Representatives from the California-based Sierra Nevada informed Blount County officials in a Friday conference call that they will not build a brewery in Alcoa.

Blount County fell out of contention in part because of environmental concerns related to the brewing process for their beer, Jeff Muir, communications director for the Blount Partnership, told the Knoxville News Sentinel.

It was some natural environmental reasons in this area we couldn’t overcome with what they were looking for in the brewing process,” Muir said. “Some had to do with the natural humidity in the area. It wasn’t conducive to their refrigeration process. Some had to do with water temperature and the fact it varied too much for what they were looking for. It was natural things that occur in this area.” [source]

Virginia’s Montgomery County is also out of the running for Sierra Nevada’s East Coast brewery, the Roanoke Times reported. Meanwhile, according to BeerNews.org, the only rumored location that remains is Asheville, N.C., though Sierra Nevada has contended that several locations are still being considered.

The decision by Sierra Nevada is a blow to the economic development efforts of Tennessee, which changed the law this year to lure the 120 brewery jobs to the state.

In May, the Tennessee legislature approved a bill that allows breweries in Tennessee to make and sell high-alcohol beers, a measure aimed at enticing Sierra Nevada to Tennessee.

At the time, Memphis brewer Chuck Skypeck warned that the tax rate on producing high-alcohol beers under the new law made it “not feasible” for craft breweries in Tennessee to produce those beers.

Asked about that issue by the Knoxville paper, Blount County’s Muir said he didn’t know if the state’s high tax on craft beer figured into Sierra Nevada’s decision not to open in Tennessee.

As far as I’ve seen, Tennessee has one of the highest taxes in the country. I don’t know if that played into it, but that obviously is something to consider. From what I was told in the teleconference on Friday, there were environmental issues that were leading cause,” he said.

A visit to Cool Springs Brewery in Franklin, Tenn.

October 05, 2011 By: mike Category: Breweries, Craft beer, Travelin'

Cool Springs Brewery - sign

On a  visit last month to Nashville, I made sure to check out a brewpub I missed on my previous trips to Middle Tennessee.

Cool Springs Brewery started as a restaurant for pizza in 1991, opening in the Vanderbilt area under the name Guido’s. It’s since moved to Franklin and is under new ownership, having added a microbrewery only in recent years.

This unheralded brewpub at 600 Frazier Drive makes some really good beer. I had a sampler, which allowed me to try everything on tap. That included:

• Franklin’s First, the first commercially-produced beer in Williamson County brewed in the style of a German Kolsch.
• Morning Wood Red, a really nice hoppy, robust ale.
• Pecker Wrecker IPA, a floral and citrusy IPA that was my favorite beer at Cool Springs.
• Fatback Amber Ale, a smooth, German Altbier.
• Kilt Lifter, a strong Scottish ale with just a hint of smokiness.
• Schwarzbier, a dark ale that’s Cool Spring’s version of a black German lager.

Cool Springs Brewery - barThe brewery at Cool Springs is right up front when you walk in.

Cool Springs Brewery - insideThe atmosphere is relaxed, though the many TVs make it feel a little too much like a sports bar.

Cool Springs Brewery-inside-2Another view of the main seating area.

Cool Springs Brewery-samplerIf it’s your first time at Cool Springs, get the sampler.

Cool Springs Brewery-pizzaThe New York-style pies are really good.

Cool Springs Brewery - beer signsSome cool beer signs in the back of the restaurant.

Cool Springs Brewery - equipment-2A view of the brewery at Cool Springs.

Cool Springs Brewery - equipmentAnother view of the brewing set-up.

Cool Springs Brewery - tanksBrewing tanks.

Cool Springs Brewery - growlersGet a growler to go.