Author Topic: Massachusetts craft brew alert!!!  (Read 1669 times)

Offline jivetyrant

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Massachusetts craft brew alert!!!
« on: August 04, 2011, 04:53:35 AM »
Italics are me, everything else is from the articles.

the ABCC announced this change 8/1.  It threatens to close many small craft breweries, many of them considered local staples.  I myself regularly partake in beers from no fewer than 6 of the breweries on this list!  It would also make it much more difficult and costly to open a new craft brewery in rural areas.  If you're from MA, or know someone from MA, pass the message along and write to your congressman!  Tell the state to keep it's hands off you're beer!



http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/food/blogs/99bottles/2011/08/abcc_issues_advisory_on_farmer.html  -  Source

The Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission issued an advisory yesterday that has some brewers scratching their heads -- and probably worrying about their futures.

The ruling apparently will make it more difficult for small beer makers to get licensed. Many of the state's breweries have what are known as farmer-brewery licenses, which are less expensive and less cumbersome to obtain than full manufacturer license. The licenses also allow breweries to distribute their own beer locally, sell beer on premises, and operate tasting rooms.

The ABCC's advisory -- which followed its decision last week to deny an application for a farmer-brewery license from a new beer maker called Idle Hands Craft Ales -- says a business can get a farmer-brewery license only if at least 50 percent of its beer-making ingredients are grown in Massachusetts. That would pretty much disqualify every brewery in the state.

None of the roughly two dozen breweries that currently have farmer-brewery licenses will be grandfathered, either. "The Commission put the industry on notice that it will apply this ruling prospectively and, specifically, during the next annual renewal cycle to ensure that every applicant for a Farmer-Brewer license meets the state law definition of farmer-brewer," the advisory says. "Moreover, applicants that do not meet the criteria for a Farmer-Brewer license are welcome to apply for a manufacturer’s license." (Some breweries hold both licenses.)

The law creating the farmer-brewery license was written "for the purpose of encouraging the development of domestic farms."

Representatives of Sam Adams and Harpoon declined to tell us whether they think the advisory would affect their popular tasting rooms.

More to come on this developing story. The full text of the ABCC's advisory is below.

 

THE ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES CONTROL COMMISSION ("ABCC") ADVISORY

The Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission ("the Commission") endeavors to support and enhance the agricultural community, ensure the long-term viability of agriculture, and support farms that protect the common good in many ways including maintaining open spaces in communities. Through the issuance of Farmer-Brewery licenses, the Commission proudly encourages the development of domestic farming and the people who help it thrive.

Each Farmer-Brewer license exists for the specific public purpose of "encouraging the development of domestic farms." To advance this public purpose, the law requires that a Farmer-Brewer grow cereal grains or hops for the purpose of producing malt beverages. While a licensed Farmer Brewer may import malt, cereal grains fermentable, sugars and hops, this does not eliminate the basic growing requirement. The Commission recently issued a decision relative to Farmer-Brewery licenses. A Farmer-Brewer is any person who grows cereal grains or hops for the purpose of producing malt beverages and who is licensed to operate a Farmer-Brewery.

In its decision, the Commission held that each applicant for a Farmer-Brewery license must document that it grows cereal grains or hops of at least 50%, in the aggregate, of the quantity of cereal grains and hops needed to produce the gallonage of malt beverages estimated to be produced by the applicant during the license term. The Commission also held that when that applicant contracts exclusively for the rights to the yield of cereal grains or hops produced from acreage of domestic farmland that applicant will also be considered to grow "cereal grains or hops for the purpose of producing malt beverages" as required by this law.

For example, if an applicant estimates it will produce "X" barrels of malt beverages in calendar year 2012, and that to produce this volume of malt beverages it will require 200 bushels of cereal grains and 4 bushels of hops, the applicant is required to produce evidence that it grows at least 102 bushels of cereal grains and/or hops used to produce the malt beverages, or that the applicant has exclusive contracts rights to the yield of cereal grains or hops produced from acreage of domestic farmland, or some combination thereof that reaches the "at least 50%" required amount.

The decision dictates compliance with the letter as well as the spirit of Massachusetts General Laws chapter 138, §19C. The Commission put the industry on notice that it will apply this ruling prospectively and, specifically, during the next annual renewal cycle to ensure that every applicant for a Farmer-Brewer license meets the state law definition of farmer-brewer. Moreover, applicants that do not meet the criteria for a Farmer-Brewer license are welcome to apply for a manufacturer’s license. If you have questions concerning this Advisory or would like more information, please call Executive Director Ralph Sacramone at 617-727-3040.

(Issued: Monday, August 1, 2011)

 

 

Here's a list of the 21 breweries that had farmer-brewery licenses as of 2010. More have been added since, so this is not a complete, up-to-date list:

Amherst Brewing Co. (Amherst)

Berkshire Mountain Brewers (Great Barrington)

Lefty's Brewing Co. (Bernardston)

Boston Beer Co. (Boston)

Buzzards Bay Brewing (Westport)

BYOB Brewery (Amesbury)

Cape Ann Brewing Co. (Gloucester)

Cape Cod Beer (Hyannis)

Cisco Brewers (Nantucket)

Element Brewing Co. (Millers Falls)

Franklin County Brewing Co. (Greenfield)

Mass Bay Brewing Company (otherwise known as Harpoon) (Boston)

Mayflower Brewing Co. (Plymouth)

Mercury Brewing and Distribution Co. (Ipswich)

Nashoba Valley Spirits (Bolton)

Paper City Brewing Co. (Holyoke)

Sherwood Forest Brewers (Marlborough)

South Shore Brewing Co. (Canton)

Vineyard Brewing Co. (Oak Bluffs)

Watch City Brewing Co. (Waltham)

Wormtown Brewery (Worcester)
« Last Edit: August 05, 2011, 05:00:20 AM by jivetyrant »

Offline theDarkSide

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Re: Massachusetts craft brew alert!!!
« Reply #1 on: August 04, 2011, 05:41:15 AM »
Does Massachusetts even have enough farm land dedicated to hops and grain to support even one brewery?

Sounds like MA needs a nanobrewery law like NH, so anyone making under 2000 barrels a year can self-distrubute and operate tasting rooms, etc.  I doubt the distributor faction on Beacon Hill would allow such a thing to happen however.

Possible solution...move the breweries to NH and give the ABCC the middle finger.
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Offline jivetyrant

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Re: Massachusetts craft brew alert!!!
« Reply #2 on: August 04, 2011, 05:45:21 AM »
Just came up with this via a quick google search.

Souce - http://beernews.org/2011/08/massachusetts-likely-to-reduce-local-brewery-rights-in-coming-year/

"UPDATE II: According to Brewbound‘s Chris Furnari, the cost difference between the two licenses is nearly $4,500."

"“A decision by the ABCC to force our farm to grow and malt grain will put our farm, and any farmer in the Commonwealth, out of the farm-brewing business,” said Bill Russell of Just Beer @ Buzzards Bay Brewing in Westport, MA."  This is my local brewery, my life would be directly impacted if this decision is allowed to stand.

"If Massachusetts state breweries are unable to meet the 50 percent hurdle of the Farmer-Brewery license, they will need to acquire the only alternative, a Manufacturer of Wine and Malt Beverages License. The Manufacturer license, however, does not allow breweries to sell beer at retail or do tastings on site – one of the unique draws of the burgeoning craft beer market. It also forces breweries to utilize wholesale distribution channels which will result in potentially lower margins for the brewery (or higher costs to the consumer) and limited product distribution. Many small breweries rely on already tight margins and self-distribution in order to survive in an industry that favors more established and larger players."  Yikes!

Source - http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/features/x633531628/Mass-brewers-hopping-mad-over-license-policy-change

Eric Hendler, co-founder of Jack's Abby Brewing in Framingham, said the news came as a shock. His new brewery received its farmer-brewery license in June and will have to renew it in January.

"You can't help but be worried about it," Hendler said. "We invested our entire life savings into the brewery, and our father invested his retirement savings into this. We're feeling betrayed. It's just unfair they just drop this on everyone."  I found this to be truly heart wrenching, I got choked up when I read it to my wife and had to stop and compose myself.

Ben Roesch, head brewer at Wormtown Brewing Company in Worcester, which has a farmer-brewery license, said it would significantly hurt business. Each week they sell between 50 to 100 growlers, or half-gallon jugs, and self-distribute to smaller markets.

"I don't think a lot of these nano-breweries that are popping up will be able to make it," Roesch said.

Martin said he does not think any brewery in the state that has a farmer-brewery license would qualify for the license under the change.

A small brewery producing 600 barrels of beer (roughly 18,600 gallons) would need a 20-acre farm to grow enough barley to qualify for the license. It would also take three or four years before hop plants are mature enough to use in beer, Martin said.

"It's really a difficult problem," he said. "I think the edict was put out there before all of the nuts and bolts were looked at to see if they actually make sense."

Members of the guild are meeting with representatives of the state treasurer's office and the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission on Monday to discuss the farmer-brewery license.

"We're hoping to get a moratorium on this ruling," Martin said. "We want them to let everyone re-establish their farmer-brewery license, because it's only three months away from the renewals, and then work on figuring out what to do."


Alright, I'm sufficiently angry now.  This is really going to affect me and many other people in the brewing AND homebrewing communities in a big way.  
« Last Edit: August 05, 2011, 05:02:37 AM by jivetyrant »

Offline jivetyrant

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Re: Massachusetts craft brew alert!!!
« Reply #3 on: August 05, 2011, 05:06:25 AM »
I apologize for bumping this thread, I know it's frowned upon.  This is such an important development that I need to help fight it any way that I can.

Does anyone have experience with this sort of thing?  I know Denny worked on a decision in his state, has anyone else had similar experiences?  I don't really know where to start.  Should I just write an impassioned email to my congressmen?  I'm a little lost and time is short, the decision is to be discussed on Monday in front of the ABCC.  Any help that anyone can provide would be greatly appreciated.

Online Jimmy K

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Re: Massachusetts craft brew alert!!!
« Reply #4 on: August 05, 2011, 05:31:46 AM »
The AHA/BA does a lot of government affairs work, so they should be able to help. I'd email Gary Glass and see if he can refer you to someone in the organization.
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Offline jivetyrant

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Re: Massachusetts craft brew alert!!!
« Reply #5 on: August 05, 2011, 05:49:57 AM »
Thanks for the tip, I just sent him an email.  I'm headed to work but I plan to keep an eye on this thread all day!

Offline Tully

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Re: Massachusetts craft brew alert!!!
« Reply #6 on: August 05, 2011, 07:09:17 AM »
My name is Steven Shute, from Athol, MA.
I'm new on this board, but not to the brewing community.
I will be involved and offer any help or support on this issue that I can.

This will affect our plans completely, as we just purchased our farm, with the intention of opening our pilot brewery on site, next year.

For those who aren't aware, there are multiple brewer friendly components to the farmer/brewer license in MA.

For starters, you are not required to be a farmer in a traditional sense of the word.
The State licensing fee is only $22. (increasing when you reach larger and larger production quantities.)
You can have your brewery right on your property, as long as it's in it's own building.
The brewer can bypass the dreaded "3-Tier" system of distribution, meaning that the brewer can:
A. Sell kegs directly to local serving establishments!
B. Sell bottles directly to local liquor stores!
C. Sell bottles, and growlers/refill growlers directly at the brewery!

Obviously, the distributors hate this loophole.

The changes to the requirements on this, apparently mean that this wonderfully encouraging structure will be taken away.
I can vouch that some of the best commercially available brew I've ever had is currently available in the shelves in MA.
This will most definitely drive most of these brewers out of business immediately, and make the rest of them "limited availability" to say the least.

It will cause me, and many other brewers like me, to never open our breweries.

The specific tact that they are taking is that the brewer must grow his own barley and hops!
This means that we would also be required to MALT our barley!  ridiculous.

This must be some sort of "end-around" game being played by lobbyists and politicians.  The beer distributors are powerful enough to crush these nano breweries like a bug, and that's what they will do if we do not do something!
It was announced on AUG 1, and will be in full effect next year???
No one is grandfathered?
Close all those start up breweries, stifle this growing industry, stifle competition to the big guys,... bravo Government.

I have been stewing privately about this, since I've heard.  I want to be involved with others who are outraged, to have a voice.
I just don't know how to begin or how to navigated these legal wranglings.

Does anyone know where to begin?

Offline theDarkSide

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Re: Massachusetts craft brew alert!!!
« Reply #7 on: August 05, 2011, 07:34:04 AM »
Looks like Sen. Scott Brown is on the brewer's side.  Political preferences aside, it good to have some high profile coverage of this.  Maybe they will continue with the rule change but put it on hold until something along the lines of legislation for nanobreweries can be debated.

http://www.boston.com/news/politics/articles/2011/08/05/sen_brown_new_beer_rule_is_a_job_killer/

Steve, since it seems like you've done research for your future brewery, was the rule always there but not enforced?  Or is this a new rule, clearly detailed on the license application going forward for new and renewals?  Either way it seems sort of abrupt in their handling.  
« Last Edit: August 05, 2011, 08:02:53 AM by theDarkSide »
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Offline Tully

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Re: Massachusetts craft brew alert!!!
« Reply #8 on: August 05, 2011, 07:50:13 AM »
Grow your own barley, grow your own hops is a new rule.

Offline VinS

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Re: Massachusetts craft brew alert!!!
« Reply #9 on: August 05, 2011, 07:54:15 AM »
Go to the BrewersAssociation.org site. 2 people on the goverment affairs are from Mass. Jim Kock (Boston Beer Co) and Rich Doyle (Harpoon). I would go to their sites and Email them. Good Luck Vin
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Online Jimmy K

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Re: Massachusetts craft brew alert!!!
« Reply #10 on: August 05, 2011, 08:24:22 AM »
... was the rule always there but not enforced?  Or is this a new rule, clearly detailed on the license application going forward for new and renewals?  Either way it seems sort of abrupt in their handling.  

It's a new ruling, but the law has always said

MA General Laws, Chapter 138, Sec 1 - Definitions
“Farmer-brewer”, any person who grows cereal grains or hops for the purpose of producing malt beverages and who is licensed to operate a farmer-brewery under section nineteen C;

Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 138, §19C.
(a) For the purpose of encouraging the development of domestic farms, the commission shall issue a farmer-brewery license to any applicant ...

I think those two pieces of wording are what they have based their decision on.

Don't take that to mean I support it. I'd say Massachussetts should amend their manufacturers license to support small breweries.
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Offline Tully

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Re: Massachusetts craft brew alert!!!
« Reply #11 on: August 05, 2011, 08:50:54 AM »
Yes, you're right to point that out.
That is an existing definition.  now they want to make a new law specifying more than 50% of the grain accountable by bushel for the equivalent amount of beer produced, and the hops too!

You'll notice that it says "Cereal grains OR hops", and nowhere does it mention any quantities required.

This to mean, anyone growing hops for their beer qualifies for this status.

These licenses have been issued for years from the state to these types of tiny brewers, of whom it was clear did not have acres and acres of barley growing.

Now they want to CHANGE the law to read 50% of their grain must be grown on site???  What brewer has EVER been held to that standard?
What is the point of the law, at all?

Offline theDarkSide

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Re: Massachusetts craft brew alert!!!
« Reply #12 on: August 05, 2011, 09:01:37 AM »
What brewer has EVER been held to that standard?

Only Anheuser Busch, which own their own malting facilities I believe.  :P
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Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Massachusetts craft brew alert!!!
« Reply #13 on: August 05, 2011, 10:45:45 AM »
If possible, attend the meeting and try to speak out.  Dress well, keep your comments short and to the point.  If more than one of you go, you should all speak but you should all have different things to say.  If you are all repeating each other they will cut you off.

I'm not sure anyone from a large brewery is going to be interested in helping you, these changes are in their favor.
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