Battle of the brews: lawmakers consider changes to micro brewery laws

There is a battle over beer brewing at the State Capitol, two bills regulating the beer industry in our state went up against each other during a Senate committee hearing.

The bills address Arizona's craft-beer businesses and the growth of micro breweries.

Craft brewer's support one bill, and the Wine and Spirits Association supports another.

Some brewers claim the wine and spirits folks don't want to face marketplace competition from a growing craft beer industry.

Dozens rallied at the Capitol as the beer battle brewed.

"It's time to take the cap of success," said Senator Kelli Ward.

Senator Ward is sponsoring SB1030 that she says will help micro breweries in Arizona grow.

The bill raises the amount of beer micro breweries can produce while still holding on to their restaurants.

"Our craft brewers are facing a threat from unnecessary government regulation and three mega size wine and spirit distributors are afraid of marketplace competition," said Ward.

As the law stands now, micro breweries making more than 40,000 barrels a year will be labeled producers that could put them in danger of losing their restaurants. San Tan and 4 Peaks Breweries are said to be nearing that 40,000 barrel limit.

Another bill, SB1437 also raises the amount micro breweries produce, but Steven McFate with Fate Brewing says the bill takes away their self-distribution rights.

"I'm working on a second location right now, which means I would not be able to transfer beer from one location to another without using a distributor, it would be very cost ineffective for me to do that," said Steve McFate.

Don Isaacson with the Arizona Wine and Spirits Wholesale Association supports SB1437, saying at some point micro breweries are no longer micro and need to be on the same playing field as national producers. 

"A privilege as a micro brewery is you can open restaurants, above the line you are a producer, that is what the state has followed since 1987," said Don Isaacson.

Distributors point out the production cap for micro breweries has already been raised twice because of growth.

Late Monday afternoon the commerce committee passed Ward's bill, SB1030 on a 6-2 vote. 
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