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Friday, March 13, 2009

The Pity Date

Damn! So close. If feel like I've been on a date over the last couple of days. I was looking really good, spent a lot of money on dinner & drinks, then when I go to "close the deal" she says "Take me home, I'm not interested".

That's how I feel about the Senate's decision to go home early and not debate HB 349.
Now, I know that this woman I speak of figuratively was way out of my league and that in some ways this was a pity-date. But I did expected her to at least let the date play out 'till midnight.

Thanks to everyone who kept the updates coming throughout the session and please send thanks to Rep. Oda (coda@utah.gov) for sponsoring the bill. And while your at it; ask if he and the Utah Beer Wholesalers Association will pursue the bill again next year.

But don't be too sad, this was a good year for adults who want to to adult things. Plus it looks like Mark Alston will be keeping his patio "as is" for another year. But if you still feel like drowning your sorrows go try Brewmaster Donovan's new Scotch ale over at Hoppers. It debuts today! Cheers!


Anonymous said...

I am sorry to see this go down with out at least a fight. However I did have some concerns about this bill. Now someone that may know or understand the wording of this bill please correct me if I misread or misunderstood it.
My concern for this bill is for our local brew pubs in particular, that have and keep us well supplied with great, local, fresh beer. As I read this bill it does not make any provision for brewpubs service of Heavy beer on draft. It only provided for a new type of distribution of kegs of heavy beer to bars that are licensed to serve it. Meaning a brewpub, would have to keg it, sell it to a distributer, have it redistributed back to them so that they could finally sell it on draft in the restaurant portion of their pubs only not at the bar or tavern area. Remember you can't drink Reve or Squatters IPA etc. at the bar, it has to be served at a table with food.
This would involve a large expenditure for kegs and keg washers. Space to store and house these kegs and equipment. While our production breweries would be fine as they already have this in place and distributors in place it would provide an unleveled playing field for our smaller brewpubs. Also I would assume that brewpubs that self distribute, ie Red Rock, Desert Edge, Roosters, would need to obtain, if available to them, this new heavy beer distribution license. I guess what I am pointing out is that this bill was, in my opinion, flawed and incomplete. While I am saddened by not being able to sit down for a draft pint of Squatters IPA or Uinta barleywine and I also think that this bill would have opened up Utah as a new market for alot of great out of state breweries, I must say I am not truly sad that it did not pass. I would like to see this bill reintroduced next year with provisions for brewpubs to serve heavy beer, as they now do with 4.0% ABV beer, straight from their tanks.
I would encourage everyone to not be too upset by this small set back but to look at it as a trial run with the hopes that our legislators get it right the next time around.


Anonymous said...

Brewpub = Restaurant. Restaurants can currently serve high abv beer in bottles. In my reading of the bill it would seem allow any establishment that has a liquor license that allows bottled high abv beer to serve high abv beer on draft. Places with limited licenses or tavern license would still be restricted to 4% abv beer.

Anonymous said...

One other comment, addressing your (valid) concern for local brewers. The law did change this year to allow breweries to sell their high abv beers at the location they are brewed. This is why you can now wander into the Brewers Coop and buy a 6 pack of Wasatch Devasator or Winter Fest. No stop at the state store required. I would imagine the same rule would apply to brewpubs and high abv beer on draft as long as they were serving it at the brewery.

The other thing to keep in mind about distribution is that it works both ways. A bill like this would open Utah to out of state brewers, but would also open Utah beers to out of state customers. I would guess the vast majority of 4% Utah beer is sold in Utah, as there is likely little market for it outside of the state. One of the larger local brewers could easily brew full strength versions of their beer, keg it, and not only serve it locally but ship it to other states.
I'm certainly not suggesting this bill was perfect...we do live in Utah after all, but I would have happily taken it, goofiness included. Maybe next year?

Anonymous said...

Rip- Brewpubs also have a tavern license which allows people over the age of 21 to sit and consume 4.0%ABV beer without the additional purchase of food. Which is why you cannot sit at the bar at Squatters downtown and drink IPA from the bottle or sit at Red Rock at the bar and drink Reve from the bottle. You must sit in the area designated as a restaurant area to drink these heavy beers. As well the way I read this law you would not be able to consume heavy beer in any establishment except restaurants and what was formally a private club. Both of these establishments have the license to sell heavy beer. So my point about that was, the way the law was written you would not have been able to sit at the bar at Squatters, Red Rock, Bohemian, Desert Edge, Hoppers, ETC..and consume any heavy beer.
As far as the law regarding manufactures to sell heavy beer, wine or distilled spirits directly to public, as in the case with the UBC or High West Distillery, they have to obtain a class 5 ( I believe that is the number ) package store license. Basically they become a licensed state liquor store that may only sell the products produced on premise and you may not consume those products on the premise. Under the law that allows the UBC and High West Distillery to sell bottles of their product direct to public they may not allow any consuming or sampling of the product on premise. By the way, Red Rock and Squatters ( as far as I know ) do not have this license which is why Reve, 5th Element and Hells Keep were not for sale "to go".
As far as distribution goes, you are correct it is a two way street. I would love to see our wonderful Utah brewers beers served in other states without the stigma of the low alcohol levels.
As I sit in the Portland airport enjoying 1 final pint of Bridgeport IPA I too would have has accepted the changes proposed this year as a step in the right direction at least and eagerly awaited my first draft pint of Squatters IPA. However I am not completely sad it did not pass for all the confusing reasons that have been already stated. With how little objection the bill received by the House I am hopeful that a, perhaps more complete, bill will pass next year and we will all be able to celebrate.

colbylee said...

There was also debate of where the kegs would be housed. The DABC had no room. So better luck next year.

Anonymous said...

Fist of all, Bridgeport IPA? I'm jealous! Portland is a great beer town.
Intersting info on the package agency. At first I thought you weren't correct on that, but I looked it up, and sure enough it was right there in black and white. Interestingly, along with the UBC, Squatters is also listed as a type 5 package agency. Maybe that 5th Element to go isn't completely out of the question.

As far as the restaurant/tavern issue, that's one I'm very familar with. It's always one of my favorite examples of goofy utah liquor laws for my out of state friends. Sit here and you can have an IPA, sit there (2 feet away) and you can't.

Not sure any bill similar in intent to hb349 can fix that issue. In my estimation, it would take a complete rewrite of the tavern/restaurant license requirements to make that fly and would be completely out of the scope of a beer wholesaling bill. After this session, can't imagine the state legislature will be interested in revisting liquor laws anytime in the near future.

I think the best we could hope for would be a tweaked version of hb349. I understand if something like it passed it would leave local breweries (and others) in a bit of a conundrum. Do they ditch the tavern license so they can serve all of their full strength beers, but lose the "drop in for a beer" crowd? Keep the tavern license and then try to explain to out of towners why they can only have a handfull of 4% beers at the bar, but everything else if they sit in the restaurant? Or screw the whole mess and get a "social club" license, which would allow you to pour all of your beers anywhere in the building, but lose the under 21crowd? Tough call for sure.

For me personally, I'd say ditch the tavern. While I love leaning over the bar with a pint as much as the next beer geek, what's in the glass is more important than where I'm sitting. Bar, table, counter, toilet ....whatever. I'd be more than happy to order a basket of chips to have along with my pint of Hells Keep out of the keg.
I guess the best we can do for now is have a legal homebrew, enjoy our new "social clubs" and wait for next year.
Bryan "rip" VanWinkle

Mikey said...

You know I gotta agree with what Geoff has been saying. A bill like this can't be drafted in the first attempt and be done properly.

The laws regarding beer, heavy beer, brewpub, restrants, taverns are too convoluted and this version of the bill just doesn't address those differences and how it would affect each entity.

It would be crime if our craft brewers were not covered under a bill of this scope.

Anonymous said...

I don't disagree with Geoff either. I'd love to see Utah drinking laws REALLY normalized. However, 20 years in Utah has made me a realist when it comes to drinking laws. Just don't see how a local breweries concerns can be addressed without revisting the entire private club/restaurant/tavern issue. I'm prettty sure the legislature is done with the issue for quite some time.
Again, trying incorporate a change to liquor license requirements in a beer wholesaling bill is far beyond it's intent, and in my opinion, would be unlikely to pass.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on what a hb349 style bill that delt with the local brewery issue, and could get through the congress, would look like.

Anonymous said...

Well, Rip I think you are right on the whole Tavern/Restaurant thing. As much as I would like to sit at the Squatters bar and enjoy a pint of IPA I do think that would require a whole revamp of the system, which you are correct is not likely to happen soon.
What I guess would be a big compromise would be to simply allow the brewpubs to serve Heavy beer directly from their tanks instead of having to deal with keg distribution. If I have to purchase a little food to go with my heavy beer, than so be it.
Requiring brewpubs to keg heavy beer, sell it to a distributor, buy it back and then put in on draft is very cost prohibitive. Like I said that would require a lot of kegs, space to store the kegs, a machine to wash the kegs, space to house the machine to wash the kegs, labor to do so, etc.. A place like squatters,hoppers, or Desert Egde simply do not have the room to do this. With new kegs costing $175-$190 EA and a batch of beer from one of our pubs would require 14-30 kegs ( depending on the brewery and size of their brewhouse) you can see how quickly the dollars add up to be forced to keg a full product line. Now take into account a decent keg washer can run anywhere from $15,000-$50,000 ( for pub sized ones ) and it can get real expensive real quick.
I am not sure I have all the answers or how to rewrite this bill, I just know that in my personal quest for heavy beer on draft I do not want those breweries that have kept me happy with great, local, fresh beer to be left out in the cold and have their business suffer.

Cheers all.

Anonymous said...

That actually sounds like a doable compromise. That's where my logic was on the UBC/Squatters bottled high abv direct to the public, until you had to go mess things up with the facts. ;) Having been involved in a few legislative issues on the national level (having zero to do with beer, unfortunately)I've learned you end up focusing less on what you WANT to get done, and more on what you CAN get done. Some type of provision as you described sounds like a reasonable way to go. I'd guess there would probably have to be some additional licensing requirement, (a new, "type 6" package agency??) but again, a solvable problem.
I agree it would be a shame to have our great local brewers operating at a disadvantage (finacially and other wise)to out of state interests. I'd also love to see our guys and gals get their beers out of Utah and get the props they deserve.
Been a fun discussion, thanks!

Anonymous said...

Rip, now if we can only get our elected officals on the hill to talk it out and comprimise than I know we would have something. Let's hope for next year.
As far as getting our very talented local brewers the props they deserve. Cheers to that.
Fist off, if beers like squatters 5th Element, Wasatch Winterfest, Uinata Barley Wine, or Red Rock Reve are any indication, our brewers can hold their own against any other heavy beer out there. Second, I travel a lot and drink a shit load of beers from all over the country, and I can honestly say that we are very lucky to have such great local, fresh beer made by very talented, passionate brewers.
I look forward to the day when they can create with no restrictions.