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Harford's Glassman pitches his farm brewery legislation

Running a craft brewery on a Harford County farm could soon become a lot easier if a bill proposed by County Executive Barry Glassman is approved.

The legislation, reviewed by the County Council on Tuesday, would add "farm brewery" to the county zoning code, defining such a brewery as an "agricultural processing and manufacturing facility" on a site with equipment and supplies used to process, produce and package malt-based liquors.

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It would also allow such a facility to offer tastings and potentially product sales and site tours.

Glassman said he sees rural breweries as "an emerging economic tool for farmers," explaining other parts of the country have seen events like bike tours that involve the participants stopping at local breweries.

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"It is really an emerging market that we want a piece of," Glassman told the council.

The bill would piggyback on a farm brewery license Glassman helped pass while serving as a state senator, he said.

Owner and brewmaster Phillip Rhudy talks about the Independent Brewing Co.'s first weekend of operation. (David Anderson and Dan Griffin, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

The county bill provides the framework that matches the state law, while adding conditions such as requiring adequate parking screening and limiting operations to the hours of 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., he noted.

The bill also requires that basic ingredients, such as grains, for any beer brewed on the farm be grown on the farm. Applicable state and federal permits would also have to be obtained.

Councilman Jim McMahan asked if the Sunday hours of operation could be limited between noon and 10 p.m. Glassman agreed to consider it.

Glassman said several Harford families, notably the Galbreaths in northern Harford, already are running similar operations.

"It's good for north Harford," he said, adding that local brewing "creates another market we want to be on the cutting edge of."

"I know Independent Brewing in Bel Air is having trouble keeping up with some of the products it's producing," he said about the new brewery on North Main Street that opened this fall.

He said the state law provides for limited sales and tastings on the farms, similar to how wineries operate.

The council did not vote on the bill Tuesday.

In a brief interview Thursday evening, Glassman likened the county legislation to "setting parameters" for sales and tastings on farms where beer is brewed, while the state law, which he said he worked on two years, set the rules for brewing and dispensing the products.

"The state licenses the production and sale of beer brewed on farms," he said. "Our local bill deals with selling to the general public, when you can be open, how much parking you need."

The county executive said he believes Harford is getting on top of an emerging industry, not yet quite as advanced as Frederick County, where there are a number of on-farm breweries already, but getting close.

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