The Alabama Brewers Guild announced that House Bill 530 has been introduced in the Alabama legislature by Rep. Barry Mask and is expected to receive a hearing in the House Committee on Economic Development and Tourism on April 17. This legislation would authorize breweries in Alabama to sell beer on-site for consumption off the premises. Currently, breweries can only sell beer to customers for consumption on the premises.
There is a brewery experience that tourists anticipate when visiting a new brewery, and this experience often includes a tour of the facility, samples of the different beers and the purchase of their favorite sample to take home to their place of origin. This final step is especially important for small brewers as it promotes brand recognition in new markets, often in advance of the brewery’s ability to distribute in those areas.
“When the current set of alcohol laws were originally written, there were no microbreweries in Alabama,” said Dan Roberts, executive director of the Alabama Brewers Guild. “Local wineries in Alabama have been able to sell bottles out the door for decades. We’re just trying to update these laws to account for Alabama’s growing brewing industry.”
Back Forty Beer Co. in Gadsden has documented its out-of-town guests, according to sales manager Brad Wilson, to illustrate the opportunities being lost. [See map]
“We have a world map that hangs in our tasting room filled with push pins where folks have marked the cities where they live. We have pins in more than 40 states and 20 counties on five different continents,” he said. “A recurring theme in our interactions with our out of town guests is their astonishment that they aren’t allowed to take our beer home with them.”
There are plenty of other stories. Fairhope Brewing Co. in South Alabama has only been open for a few months, but owner Brian Kane personally recalls visitors from more than 13 different states. He stated that he often has to explain to visitors that he is not legally allowed to sell them beer to take home with them.
Straight to Ale in Huntsville has visitors from Nashville every week, according to owner Dan Perry. Because Tennessee breweries may sell beer for off-premise consumption, they are often surprised and disappointed that they cannot take their favorite sample home with them.
Breweries across Alabama have had similar experiences, and this interest led the Alabama Brewers Guild to begin investigating how the law might be changed. The current draft of House Bill 530 is the result of more than a year of research and discussion with industry and policy leaders in Alabama and elsewhere.