‘Make us No. 1’: Plan aims to let Md.’s craft beer business flow more freely

SILVER SPRING, Md. — A new proposal promises to make Maryland more welcoming to craft beer brewers and the consumers who sip their suds.

“The plan is, make us No. 1 in the country,” Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot said Monday at a press conference in Silver Spring.

The state’s 80 craft breweries employ more than 6,500 people, but Franchot said making changes to state law could boost the number of employees. “We could double that within a couple of years, if we just let them do what they’re good at,” he said at Denizens Brewing Company.

A legislative package called the “Reform on Tap Act of 2018” will be submitted to lawmakers in Annapolis, Maryland. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)

Earlier this year, Franchot formed a 25-person task force to review the state’s beer laws, which included brewers, consumers, retailers and other stakeholders. Meetings were held during the summer and fall, and the results have been rolled into a legislative package called the “Reform on Tap Act of 2018” that will be submitted to lawmakers in Annapolis.

The plan would lift all limits on beer production, taproom sales for on-site consumption and take-home sales.

It would get rid of a law requiring people who want to buy beer at a brewery to bring home to take part in a guided brewery tour or special brewery event first.

It would also eliminate the “buyback provision” that forces production breweries that want to sell more than a predetermined amount of beer to sell that additional amount to a distributor at one price, and buy it back at a higher price before selling it to customers.

Denizens Brewing Company co-founder Julie Verratti said current law is holding her business back. “As Denizens grows, we want to be able to sell our beer to local stores, to other restaurants and other retailers. And right now, the way that the law is set up, it’s not going to let us do that if we expand.”

Verratti, who was a member of Franchot’s task force, supports the proposed changes. She added, “We need to create an environment that encourages brewers to grow, invest and thrive in Maryland.”

Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter turned morning anchor at WTOP News.

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