Bill seeks to limit beers served by Maryland's small breweries

A bill introduced by Maryland Dels. Talmadge Branch and Dereck Davis seeks to roll back how much beer small breweries in Maryland can serve in their taprooms while allowing larger facilities, such as the one being built in Baltimore County by Guinness, to maintain existing limits.

House Bill 1052 calls for reducing annual limits from the existing 2,000 barrels to 500 barrels at small breweries while allowing large facilities to continue to sell 2,000 barrels of beer — which equates to about 1,800 glasses of beer a day.

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, who has proposed legislation to lift all limits, immediately opposed the bill.

“It would send the message, once and for all, that our state’s government is hostile to our current and future craft brewers, and indifferent to the jobs, economic growth and neighborhood reinvestment they provide,” Franchot wrote on his Facebook page. “One of Maryland’s great breweries — UNION Craft Brewing — has already stated publicly that this bill could jeopardize its future here in Maryland.”

Franchot wrote that his legislation, the Reform on Tap Act of 2018, “will eliminate the arbitrary limits and change the laws that benefit corporate beer monopolies at the expense of our local, independent craft brewers.” His reform bill emerged from a task force he put together last year.

He said his bill and the one introduced by Branch and Davis will be heard on the same day in Annapolis — Feb. 23. He encouraged his supporters to show up to support his bill, using an image on Facebook depicting the two bills as being engaged in “The Fight for Maryland Beer.”

Davis, chairman of the alcohol-regulating House Economic Matters Committee that will hear both bills, previously told The Sun that Franchot had done nothing to pave the way for his legislation. The Prince George’s County Democrat said Franchot did not consult with House leaders on the composition of the task force, and has not kept key lawmakers informed about its deliberations.

“We were shut out of the process. There were no periodic updates about his task force,” Davis said Monday.

Davis met with Franchot and House Speaker Michael E. Busch about the comptroller’s bill two weeks ago.

“It absolutely has a chance,” Davis said of Franchot’s bill.

However, even Guinness-owner Diageo said it opposed Davis’s bill in a statement its issued on its website.

“We at Guinness were surprised by the introduction of HB 1052 and we do not support this bill,” according to the statement, signed by Dwayne A. Kratt, Diageo’s government affairs director. “While we are focused on getting our brewery completed and open to the public this summer, Guinness is committed to being a part of Maryland’s vibrant beer industry. As such, we will continue to work with and stand by our friends across the industry to help promote growth, beer tourism and job creation in Maryland.”

ddonovan@baltsun.com

twitter.com/dougdonovan

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