0

Good news for California beer & spirits lovers

There’s good news from Sacramento this week for Californians who enjoy a sip of this or a shot of that.

beer tastingGov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday signed into law AB 774 by Assemblyman Marc Levine, which will allow limited beer tastings at certified farmers’ markets.

“This bill recognizes that at farmers’ markets brewers meet consumers face-to-face and build a relationship,” Levine, D-San Rafael. “AB 774 allows tastings where brewers are already selling their products at certified farmers’ markets.”

The new law, which also lets nonprofits receive donated beer as items for auction, will give farmers’ market managers full discretion on whether or not to allow beer tastings; limit tastings to one brewery per day per market; allow tastings only in a controlled, cordoned-off area; and limit tastings to eight ounces per adult customer.

Brown one year ago signed Levine’s similar bill to allow wine tastings at farmers’ markets.

Levine also made headway this week with his bill to create a new license for craft distillers so they can sell up to three bottles of distilled spirits per person per day at an instructional tasting; hold private events at the distillery; and have ownership in up to three restaurants. AB 1295 was approved Tuesday by the Senate Governmental Organization Committee.

Current state law prevents distillers from selling their products directly to consumers.

“This historic legislation changes Prohibition-era laws for craft distillers to reflect the modern marketplace,” Levine said, letting craft distillers “operate in a similar manner as wineries and breweries under existing law. This bill helps craft distillers to be competitive with large out-of-state distillers. Growth of the craft distillery industry means jobs in our local communities.”

Bottoms up!

2

Beer breeds bipartisanship in House

What has the power to make California’s House members work across the aisle? Beer.

Reps. John Garamendi, D-Fairfield, and Doug LaMalfa, R-Oroville, sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration earlier this month urging it to reject a proposed regulation that would’ve put a burden on small breweries while contributing to an increase in food waste. The letter was signed by 11 other California House members – six Democrats and five Republicans.

At issue were spent grains: by-products of alcoholic beverage brewing and distilling that are commonly used as animal feed. The FDA had proposed that breweries be forced to dry, package, and inspect all food, including spent grain used for cattle. But the agency announced Thursday it won’t pursue the regulation.

“We’ve heard from trade groups and members of Congress, as well as individual breweries raising concerns that FDA might disrupt or even eliminate this practice by making brewers, distillers, and food manufacturers comply not only with human food safety requirements but also additional, redundant animal feed standards that would impose costs without adding value for food or feed safety,” Michael Taylor, the FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, explained in a blog post. “That, of course, would not make common sense, and we’re not going to do it.”

Garamendi issued a news release Friday saying food safety is important, but “the FDA was proposing a burdensome and unnecessary regulation, and I’m glad they’re reversing course.”

“Many small breweries are helmed by people who believe deeply in conservation and sustainable agriculture,” he said. “They like to buy local and stay local, partnering with area farmers to reduce food waste. It’s great news that this practice can continue in California and across the nation.”

Among the small breweries in Garamendi’s district are Berryessa Brewing Company in Winters, Black Dragon Brewery in Woodland, Heretic Brewing Company in Fairfield, Sudwerk Brewery in Davis, and Sutter Buttes Brewing in Yuba City.

3

Brown signs law to let distilleries sell tastings

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill into law Thursday that grants distilled spirits and brandy manufacturers the right to charge customers for tastings on their premises, just as wineries do.

St. George Single Malt WhiskeyNo, this is not the most important legislation on his desk. But I like whiskey, so I’m writing about it anyway.

AB 933 was carried by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and was sponsored by the California Artisanal Distillers Guild; the Assembly and state Senate both passed the bill unanimously.

Skinner contended tastings are a traditional, responsible way for adults to sample alcohol in modest quantities and learn more about how the tipples are made. California distilleries already were allowed to offer free tastings, but couldn’t charge for those tastings to offset the costs of hiring staff.

Northern California is home to several distilleries, including St. George Spirits in Alameda, Charbay in St. Helena, Falcon Spirits in Richmond, Old World Spirits in Belmont, and – coming soon – Russell City Distillery in Hayward.