By ASHLEY WEIGEL
Capital News Service
LANSING — The explosion of craft beer in Michigan has the Legislature hoping the industry could benefit from relaxed regulation.
Numerous bills related to the beer and wine industries were passed in the House recently, many of them designed to encourage the industry to expand.
The legislation would raise the limit of barrels produced by a microbrewery from 30,000 to 60,000. As of now, a brewer that produces more than 30,000 barrels can no longer be considered a microbrewery. Microbrewers are given some tax breaks and have some flexibility in the rules of the industry, such as the ability to sell growlers, or containers that can be filled to go.
Other proposed changes include increasing the number of brewpubs that can be owned by one person from three to six, and allowing someone with a brewery license to sell directly to consumers at a second location instead of just at one.
Another adjusted limit from this legislation will increase the number of tasting rooms that brewpubs and microbreweries can have to three, instead of the one room limit for brewpubs or two rooms for microbreweries. A tasting room is a place where the craft beer brewed on-site is served, often with food, like a restaurant.
The previous limitations were set when the brewpub license was created in Michigan, said Mike Lashbrook, president of the Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association. The idea was to keep the market fair and not let one person take over, and to keep the commercial breweries out of the brewpub field. The limitations came from the brewers themselves who wanted to keep their industry as a craft and to distinguish themselves from the commercial brewers.
Other states have similar limitations, Lashbook said.
Rep. Andy Schor, D-Lansing, worked on a package of three bills with Rep. Kevin Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant, and Rep. Peter MacGregor, R-Rockford, that allow brewers to grow their businesses by raising limits on how much beer they can brew and the number of places they can sell it.
The legislation will create more jobs, Schor said. Michigan is fifth in the nation for number of breweries and a destination for craft beer tourists.
The Michigan Brewers Guild worked with the representatives to bring about these changes to the industry, said Scott Graham, the guild’s executive director. He was glad that the bills finally passed, because they allow for growth in the industry.
The Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association is also supportive of the limitations being raised.
“These reforms will open the door of opportunity for businesses and further support Michigan’s thriving craft beer sector,” Lashbrook said in a statement.
The bills were presented to Gov. Rick Snyder March 19.
By ASHLEY WEIGEL