New laws are on tap on Beacon Hill, that if passed, could help leaders in the craft beer industry brew up some more business in the Bay State.
During a meeting at the State House on Wednesday, Kristen Sykes, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Brewers Guild, met with a host of New England brewers and elected officials to discuss changing what Sykes called “antiquated” wholesale laws that hinder the craft beer distribution process.
Beer advocates, with the help of legislators, re-filed a bill this week that they hope to push through this session.
Current regulations prevent a craft beer brewer from switching wholesalers without a lengthy and costly court process that can take years to figure out.
“It gets bounded in the legal process, and as you can imagine, if you are running a brewery and balancing a legal process, it is really difficult,” said Sykes.
But House bill 999 would fix the franchise laws and provide a small brewer with “a definitive process by which it could change wholesalers.”
“It would essentially level the playing field for small brewers so that once they get into a contract, which can be costly, they can back out when a wholesaler is not meeting up to [a brewer’s] standards,” said Sykes. “In order to create more jobs for craft breweries, we want to see this legislation passed. We want to modernize this ancient law.”
Sykes said representatives from Boston Beer—the maker of Samuel Adams— Harpoon, Ipswich Ale, Somerville Brewing Company and the Mayflower, Cody and Berkshire Brewing Companies were all present during the mini-summit on Wednesday.
Legislators had the chance to sample some of the beers following the meeting about the filed bill.
Last legislative session, the bill didn’t make it out of a committee study, Sykes said, but with a fresh start, and lots of support, Sykes remains optimistic.
“The bottom line is making sure that the consumer has a lot of variety and access to all these craft breweries,” she said. “With all this fantastic breweries, we want to be able to make sure these small local businesses can get product out there.”
Brewers also have their eyes set on getting their product into the local farmers market scene, distributing beers at annual events around the state.
Eldridge said he has been in touch with members of the Massachusetts Craft Brewers Guild, as well as constituents, who have showed interest in the idea.
Similar legislation was filed in 2010 to allow local wineries to sell their product at farmers markets, and since Governor Deval Patrick signed off on the bill, Eldridge said wine sales have “sky rocketed.”
Sykes called the passage of the farmers market bill a “priority.”
“It’s tied into the local food movement…I think it makes [beer] more widely available and gives people the opportunity to support local products.”