Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bay State Brewers Hit With Untenable '50% Local' Rule by Commonwealth

Massachusetts- Harshing the mellow of Oktoberfest 2011 before it even gets started.
Small breweries in the Bay State were shocked and dismayed to learn last week that the Massachusetts alcohol commission announced a new rule mandating 'farmer-brewers' in the Commonwealth must grow at least 50% of their beer's hops and grains themselves or contract with an in-state farm for such a purpose.

According to Massachusetts Brewers Association president Rob Martin, the new mandate is unsustainable. Martin, who also owns the Ipswich Ale Brewery said that while he buys pumpkins and blueberries locally for for seasonal ales and gives spent grains to a cattle farmer for free, it would be impossible to find enough local hops and grains to produce his beer.

Grains used to make beer need to be malted first, and there is currently only one malting facility in Massachusetts. Andrea Stanley, who owns Valley Malt in Hadley with her husband, says that her business is running at capacity and the new "50 percent" rule would not be sustainable.

The regulation change came as a shock to many in the craft beer industry. Jeremy Goldberg of Cape Ann Brewing in Gloucester called the decision an "arbitrary rules change." He, like many, use the license as a way to produce, pour, and distribute beer on site. Without the farmer-brewer license, brewers would need to acquire separate licenses from the state to manufacture and distribute their own beer.

The alcohol commission says that small breweries who have trouble meeting its criteria for farmer-brewer licenses are "on notice" that they will face scrutiny when their licenses come up for renewal. Those brewers who fall short "are welcome to apply for a manufacturer's license," the commission says.
The new rule will affect at least 24 breweries across Massachusetts. Martin says the Brewers Association will challenge the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission on the ruling.

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