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Bills set up a beer battle in Maryland’s House of Delegates

Legislation last year was approved mainly to lure a Guinness brewery to Baltimore County. That brewery is set to open to the public later this year. (WTOP/Jack Pointer)

WASHINGTON — Should a beer bill passed last year in Maryland be largely thrown out, like a bottle of stale brew?

The legislation was approved mainly to lure a Guinness brewery to Baltimore County, but it has angered other beer makers in the state.

“The comptroller as well as others in the craft beer industry … complained vociferously, quite honestly, about what they thought were harmful effects that the passage of that legislation would do on their industry,” said Del. Dereck Davis, a Democrat representing Prince George’s County.

So he, along with Del. Talmadge Branch (a Democrat representing Baltimore), have co-sponsored a new bill.

“All House Bill 1052 does is repeal what we did last year. What they quite frankly told us was a negative,” said Davis.

Under the plan introduced this week, the annual limit on beer sales for on-site consumption at breweries would drop from 2,000 barrels a year back to 500. That was the limit before last year’s legislation was enacted.

But the bill carves out an exception for the Guinness brewery, which is expected to open later this year.

“We left the provisions in as it related to [Guinness owner] Diageo in Baltimore County, because they were the real reasons why we did the bill [last year]. It was a chance to do a huge economic development project in Baltimore County, and it started off as a local bill … but we didn’t think just Diageo should benefit, so we made it statewide,” Davis added.

Meanwhile, House Bill 518, introduced by Comptroller Peter Franchot, calls for sweeping changes to the state’s alcohol laws.

Davis said he thinks his legislation has a “far greater chance” of passing than Franchot’s.

In a Facebook post, Franchot said that House Bill 1052 “would, for all intents and purposes, destroy the craft brewing industry in the State of Maryland.”

Both bills are scheduled to be heard by Maryland’s House Economic Matters Committee on Feb. 23.


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