The battle for craft beer continues

I know you might be thinking to yourself: "Man, these guys are spending a little time on their political soapbox, aren't they?" Well, we are, but if you take away anything from our efforts, it's that we sincerely care about the craft beer industry in Florida. We're striving to be a part of it and we will be soon enough, but it's disheartening to see bills like HB1329 filed, which threaten the livelihood of GrassLands Brewing Company and its industry colleagues, stifling the growth of an awesome economy in this state.

Perhaps you saw VP Scott's open letter to State Rep. Ray Rodrigues last week (he's the one who filed the hellacious HB1329), expressing his disappointment and calling for a more sensible approach. I realized that in the publishing of his letter, we hadn't really provided you with the context as to why HB1329 is so bad for the Florida craft industry. To rectify this, here's a brief rundown of what HB1329 really means - many thanks to Ross Appel of Komlossy Law, Josh Aubuchon, the president of the Florida Brewers Guild, and Brewer's Law for providing everyone with the bill's details:

What is it? 

It's a bill filed by State Representative Ray Rodrigues that explicitly draws a line in the sand in the definition of production breweries in the state of Florida (legacy breweries grandfathered in that were or are licensed to brew before July 1, 2014 and production breweries licensed after that date) - guess when we expect to open?

What does the bill propose?

  • The elimination of a 128-oz growler and redefines a growler as a 64-oz container - but increases the sealing requirements for growlers and prohibits anyone else (other than the brewery) from selling even empty growlers.
  • Eliminates the possibility for breweries to also open wineries
  • Prohibits any production brewery from selling anything "to-go" other than growlers filled with beer produced at that specific brewery.
  • Prohibits non-legacy production facilities from selling anything other than beer produced on-site in their taprooms (this one we view as the worst of them all - no collaboration beers, no guest-taps, no community).
  • Prohibits growler sales from anywhere else besides production facilities (current legislation considering growler filling businesses and stations at places like ABC Liquors, etc.
  • Requires non-legacy breweries to have beer available for distribution for no less than a 60 day period - which means that GrassLands would have to identify a distributor from the get-go and have beer ready to go, uninterrupted, for at least 60 days....if not, we can't sell it retail at the taproom.
  • Given the above, non-legacy breweries would have to commit to a distributor...effectively nullifying our desire for an in-house pilot system.
  • Breweries would be charged a 2nd Degree Misdemeanor if it or its quota-licensed vendor does not adhere to every one of the growler restrictions.

See what we're getting at now? This bill sucks, plain & simple. What adds to the stress level is that it REEKS of big beer (Anheuser-Busch/InBev, SAB-Miller) influence. Ray Rodrigues' campaign contributions are evidence enough of that fact. Know how much big beer put toward its lobbying efforts last year? Over $4 million. Rodrigues ran his campaign on the ideals of small business and deregulation. Something doesn't compute. Add in the absolutely atrocious comments by FL Senate President Gaetz in Brendan Farrington's article this past week, and you've got a lot of people very, very upset. (Pro-Tip: light some incense or a scented candle before reading that article.  You won't be a happy camper afterwards, so you might as well be relaxed beforehand)

This is serious folks. If ever there was a call to action (and there are several), now is the time. We'll get off our soap box after this week is through, but for now, we wanted to convey why this issue is so important to the Florida Craft Beer Industry - especially breweries like us who will likely not be licensed to brew before July 1, 2014...though we'll try our hardest to do so. We've been told that simply filing your request will allow you to be considered a "legacy brewery" but we don't want the damn thing to pass anyways.

As usual, we'd be remiss if we didn't give you the opportunity to find your state representative and email them your disappointment in the filing of HB1329, which we encourage you to do. Better yet, do us a solid and email Debbie Mayfield with your concerns - she's the chair of the Business & Regulations Committee that's reviewing the bill this coming Monday. We're doing our part!

Sorry this week's article is such a serious one - we'll do better next week! Why don't we leave this on a high note, eh?

With that, have an absolutely wonderful weekend, my dear readers, because you most definitely deserve it! We're gettin' to work come Monday AM!

Prost!