Comptroller wants Md. to open its beer potential

WASHINGTON — Craft beer brewers face more restrictions in Maryland than in any other state, Comptroller Peter Franchot believes, and he’s determined to change that.

“We are the worst state in the country right now as far as harassing independent brewers,” Franchot told WTOP after speaking Tuesday during the Craft Brewers Conference at the Washington Convention Center. “We’re worse than Mississippi and we’re worse than Georgia. We should be the best state in the country.”

Maryland has 80 breweries, but a bill passed in the General Assembly would make it harder for them to grow, Franchot said, and tougher for the state to attract new breweries.

The bill would allow tap rooms to sell more beer per year, but it also would include new operational restrictions.

“(Breweries) basically just went and said, ‘Could you let us grow, and create more jobs and do what we’re good at – make great beer?’ And they got shafted,” Franchot said.

As a result, he announced a 25-person task force will look at Maryland’s beer laws “from top to bottom.”

“We’re going to make recommendations to the legislature on how to simplify and get the state out from under a medieval, antiquated, monopolistic bunch of regulations that are inconsistent and contradictory and harmful to small businesses,” Franchot added.

The task force will include craft brewers and consumers, and its meetings will be held in various parts of the state.

Also, several town hall meetings will be held to gather input from Maryland residents.

In the fall, the task force will make its recommendations to lawmakers in Annapolis.

“We should be giving the craft brewers help, not hurting them,” said Franchot. “I think we can take Maryland from dead last to right up in the top 10.”

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