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U.S. Senate bill seeks to lower craft brewery excise tax

May 14th, 2013 1 comment

American Craft Beer Week has gotten a congressional boost.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is one of 18 bipartisan sponsors of legislation that would reduce the excise tax on brewers that make up to 6 million barrels of beer per year to $3.50 on the first 60,000 barrels and $16 on additional barrels under 2 million annually.

Small brewers, defined as those that brew fewer than 2 million barrels per year, pay $7 in excise taxes per barrel for the first 60,000 barrels annually.

Collins filed the bill Friday. Sponsors were not listed on the congressional website.

It could have an impact in Mississippi. Since the alcohol content in beer made and sold in the state was raised last year, a handful of breweries have started operation that would qualify for tax under the Small BREW Act.

An economic impact study by Dr. John Friedman at Harvard found the bill would generate $153 million in economic activity in the first year and almost $865 million over five years. It would create nearly 4,400 jobs in the first year.

A similar bill has been introduced in the House.

The small brewer threshold and tax rate were established in 1976 and have not been updated.  Since then, according to figures Collins supplied in a press release, the annual production of America’s largest brewery increased from 45 million barrels to 105 million barrels.

American Craft Beer Week, observed May 13-19, is designed to celebrate and bring awareness to America’s small and independent craft brewers and their contributions to America’s communities and our economy.

 

Council eases path to operation for Hattiesburg breweries

January 14th, 2013 No comments

The Hattiesburg City Council removed late last week one of the last major hurdles two breweries had to clear before they could get their product on shelves.

The council altered the city’s land use code to allow breweries in Hattiesburg’s downtown district. The old code would have allowed breweries, but would have also mandated they provide things such as parking areas similar in size to other downtown retailers.

John Neal, owner of Southern Prohibition Brewery, said the altered land code “just makes thing a lot easier on us.”

“Now we don’t have to have a whole bunch of parking that would be expensive to build and that we just wouldn’t have needed,” he said Monday morning. “We’ll have people come and tour the brewery, but nothing that would have justified having 50 parking spaces.”

Neal said he hopes to have Southern Prohibition beer on retail shelves by April. His 20-barrel brewery will sit in a renovated furniture warehouse. Gordon Creek Brewery, which will be right down the street from Southern Prohibition, is scheduled to start brewing next month, according to the Hattiesburg American newspaper.

Neal, who also owns craft beer bar the Keg and Barrel, said his operation will be a little different from the handful of breweries that have sprang up since July 1, when state law changed to allow the maximum alcohol content in beer made and sold in Mississippi to rise from 5 percent by volume to 8 percent by volume.

“We’re going to can our beers, which is kind of a new thing for the craft beer industry,” Neal said. “It protects the beer from light, gets it colder, and is generally just easier for the consumer to handle.”

Neal said business at Keg and Barrel is up 30 percent since July 1. He’s added 45 parking spaces and built an outdoor bar since then, he said. “I fought hard for the ABV law, but I had no idea it would have this dramatic of an effect on not just us, but everybody connected to craft beer.”

New samples law more good news for existing, future breweries

May 31st, 2012 No comments

This week’s issue of the Mississippi Business Journal has a story in it about Crooked Letter Brewery, whose owners hope to be up and running this fall.

The Jackson County brewery would be Mississippi’s second, joining Hancock County’s Lazy Magnolia Brewing Co. (The Keg and Barrel in Hattiesburg is a brewpub, the only of its kind in the state.)

Crooked Letter CEO Wanda Blacksmith and her husband Paul, the brewery’s GM, said they had planned to open a brewery before Raise Your Pints and others were successful in their push to reform Mississippi’s beer laws. The Blacksmiths did say, though, that the new laws that raised beer’s alcohol content and allowed breweries to exceed that limit in beer sold out-of-state would help.

Crooked Letter got another bonus last Thursday, when Gov. Phil Bryant signed a bill that allows breweries to offer samples to customers who tour their facility. It was yet another piece of the craft beer crowd’s legislative agenda. It didn’t make the Crooked Letter story, because the news of Bryant’s signature didn’t arrive until the MBJ’s printing presses were running.

The samples, according to the law, have to be made by the brewery offering them, and cannot exceed six ounces. No one person can have more than six at a time. The samples have to be consumed on the brewery’s premises, and can only be offered between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. Obviously, the law requires that tasters be at least 21 years old.

Breweries also have to maintain records of how many and what kind of samples they offered, though there doesn’t seem to be any language that requires auditing of those records by a state agency.

Like the other new statutes, the brewery samples bill takes effect July 1.

 

Trade organization: U.S. craft beer exports soared in 2011

April 27th, 2012 No comments

Numbers from the Boulder, Colo.-based Brewers Association show that American craft beer exports nearly doubled from 2010 to 2011.

Last year, craft beer makers in the U.S. exported  more than 110,000 barrels, up 86 percent from 2010.

Exports have gone up all nine years the BA has collected data.

That’s important to Mississippi, what with our new raised alcohol-by-weight law taking effect July 1. (Legislation Gov. Phil Bryant signed in early April will raise the cap from 5 percent ABW to 8 percent ABW.) The state’s lone existing brewery, Lazy Magnolia in Hancock County, told the Mississippi Business Journal last year an 8 percent ABW law would bump their revenues an estimated 25 percent annually.

And in the Jackson area, the folks at Lucky Town Brewery have just completed gathering seed money to begin brewing their beer on a small scale with the hopes of eventually opening a full-blown brewery. The hope is that microbreweries will begin to take hold in some of the state’s more touristy areas — the Coast, the Delta and the college towns.

This is a good example of a small business-driven market that has a lot of growing left to do. Mississippi seems to have jumped into the game in the nick of time.

For the full report from the BA, click here.

Bryant signs beer ABW bill (Updated)

April 9th, 2012 No comments

Gov. Phil Bryant has signed Senate Bill 2878, which raises the alcohol content in beer from 5 percent to 8 percent alcohol by weight.

According to the Legislature’s website, Bryant signed the bill April 5, which was last Thursday. Monday was the day Bryant had to either sign it or veto it before it automatically became law.

On July 1, when the law takes effect, Mississippi’s beer options will grow. Raise Your Pints and all the lawmakers — especially Rep. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, Sen. John Horhn, D-Jackson, and Rep Hank Zuber, R-Ocean Springs — deserve a massive amount of credit for being persistent and pushing this issue as one that had to do with economic development and tourism, and not alcohol.

UPDATE: Raise Your Pints president Butch Bailey, as you might imagine is having a pretty good Monday.

“We’re thrilled,” he said. “And, we’re thankful that Gov. Bryant recognizes that this will help our small businesses and it will promote the production and sale of Mississippi-made products.”

Bailey said his organization is planning a couple celebratory events. One is tonight in Hattiesburg at the Keg and Barrel. There will also be one in Jackson, either tonight or tomorrow.

Best I can tell, Bryant signed the bill late Thursday. Because lawmakers and Capitol clerks weren’t around Friday because of the Easter holiday, the signed bill didn’t get filed until this morning. That explains the delay between the listed signing date and it not appearing on the legislative website until Monday morning.

One of two ABW bills makes deadline with room to spare (Updated with Bryant remarks)

March 27th, 2012 No comments

One of the two bills that would increase the alcohol-by-weight content in beer from 5 percent to 8 percent has met a major deadline.

Senate Bill 2878 was sent to the House floor by the Ways and Means Committee Tuesday morning. The deadline for committees to report general bills that originated in the opposite chamber is April 3.

House Bill 1422, which is identical to SB 2878, still sits in two Senate committees, Economic Development and Tourism, meaning it has to clear both to reach the floor. Folks with Raise Your Pints seem optimistic that will happen, with good reason: The Senate bill that cleared House Ways and Means Tuesday cleared each of those committees before it made it to the House.

The next deadline one or both of the bills will have to meet is April 11, the last day for floor action on general bills that originated in the opposite chamber.

The best news, though, is that since the bills are identical, it’s likely they will avoid a conference committee, and be sent straight to Gov. Phil Bryant’s desk. Bryant said in January, and has reiterated a few times since, that he isn’t “necessarily opposed” to signing the legislation.

If and when Tuesday the House ABW bill clears one or both of the Senate committees, I’ll update. As they have for the past month or so, though, things are looking good for the craft beer movement.

UPDATE: SB 2878 has cleared the House and has been sent to Gov. Phil Bryant. I’ve emailed his spokesperson to see what Bryant might do with it. When I get a response, I’ll post it.

SECOND UPDATE: Bryant spokesman Mick Bullock just emailed a short statement. It said, “Gov. Bryant will review the measure after it has been transmitted to him by the Legislature.”

Like his predecessor, we probably won’t know what Bryant will do until he actually does it.

Beer ABW bill clears the Senate

March 12th, 2012 No comments

Bills that would raise the alcohol-by-weight limit in beer in Mississippi from 5 percent to 8 percent have cleared the House and the Senate, clearing the way for whatever differences the two chambers have over the legislation to be ironed out in conference committee.

The Senate, by a vote of 37-14, followed the House’s lead and passed its own version of the bill Monday afternoon, three days before the floor deadline, which means that have already cleared committee have to pass the floor of the originating chamber or die.

This is big news for Raise Your Pints and other supporters of the craft beer movement. The bills in each chamber have received enough bipartisan support that there’s not much of a chance either of the bills will die in conference. Like Rep. Hank Zuber did in the House, Sen. John Horhn, D-Jackson, made the bill about tourism and economic development, not alcohol, when he presented it to the Senate.

Whoever the conferees are from each chamber should continue to beat that drum.

Alcohol content bill advances, alcohol sales bill dies

March 6th, 2012 1 comment

House Bill 1422, which would raise the alcohol-by-weight limit in beer made and sold in Mississippi from 5 percent to 8 percent, had the motion to reconsider taken off it Tuesday afternoon.

It now heads to the Senate.

The bill cleared the House late last week, but had been held on the motion to reconsider since then.

This is more of a technical hurdle than anything else; the bill was never in danger of dying in the House because 22 representatives would have had to change their vote.

Rep. Hank Zuber, R-Ocean Springs, who presented the ABW bill, didn’t have similar luck with HB 928, which would have given blanket permission for cities in dry counties to pursue an alcohol sales referendum, given that 20 percent of the electorate signed a petition to do so. It failed by one vote, 59-60.

That bill would have effectively stopped the parade of municipalities in dry counties that converge on the Capitol every year looking for permission to hold a referendum on the sale of alcohol. (A good example of that is Senatobia, which sits in dry Tate County. Senatobia got what it wanted; the bill allowing referendum procedures to move ahead passed the House right after 928 failed, and now heads to the Senate.)

That’s a perfect illustration of the point Zuber made presenting the alcohol sales bill.

“We decide which cities will be winners and losers when it comes to alcohol, and it’s usually based on which city has political connections,” he said. “Let’s stop that practice and let the people back home decide.”

Craft beer supporters finally experience success at the Capitol

March 1st, 2012 No comments

The House of Representatives voted Thursday afternoon to send HB 1422 to the Senate.

The bill would raise the alcohol-by-weight content in beer made and sold in Mississippi from 5 percent to 8 percent. The current 5 percent cap is the lowest in the U.S.

The bill cleared the House 67-45, with only moderate opposition shown while Rep. Hank Zuber, R-Ocean Springs, was presenting it. Most of that opposition had to do with whether beer with a higher alcohol content could lead to an increase in alcohol-related deaths and/or DUIs. Zuber cited data from Ohio and Alabama that said neither was the case. The bill was held on a motion to reconsider, which will delay it being sent to the Senate, though it’s not very likely that will keep it from passing because 22 representatives would have to switch their votes once the bill is called up again.

Similar bills with Republican authors and co-sponsors have cleared committee and await debate on the Senate floor. Gov. Phil Bryant told the MBJ about a month ago that he was “not necessarily opposed” to the notion of raising the ABW cap to 8 percent.

While the bill is a long way from becoming law, this is no small victory for supporters of this measure. Raise Your Pints deserves a huge amount of credit for sticking with the issue, which has been dead on arrival once it reached committee the past few sessions. This is a textbook example of how to sell a piece of legislation. Supporters made this about economic development — specifically, tourism and sales tax revenue – and not alchohol. Once they did that, the longstanding opposition to it gradually faded.

I have messages out to a few Raise Your Pints people and Rep. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, who as a member of the Senate the past few years has made this one of his pet projects. I’ll update this post when I hear from either.

UPDATE: Raise Your Pints president Butch Bailey, who just called, was surprised the House even took up the bill today, seeing as how it had already met the committee deadline and was on the House floor comfortably before the next deadline.

“I was up here for the committee vote in the Senate,” Bailey said, referring to a similar bill clearing the Economic Development Committee earlier Thursday, “but I stayed around on the off chance that the House would take it up.”

He’s glad he did. “This is just one step in the process, obviously, but I’m grateful. Really grateful, especially since it passed by the margin (22 votes) that it did.”

Bailey said he and other folks connected to RYP are still making their case to Senators, who could take up their own version of the bill Friday.