Massachusetts Senate Passes Bill to Boost Craft Brewers and Distilleries

BOSTON – State Senators James B. Eldridge (D- Acton) and Adam G. Hinds (D- Pittsfield) announce that their legislation, S. 2627, An Act expanding the sale of products by farmer breweries and distilleries, has been engrossed by the Massachusetts Senate.

“Craft brewers are playing a major part in revitalizing towns in my district by creating local jobs, reinvesting in our neighborhoods, and fostering a community atmosphere through family-friendly brew pubs,” said Eldridge. “This bill will help these small businesses to continue their growth, and I hope that it will become law before the end of this session.”

“This provides a new economic opportunity for those who participate in the agricultural sector here in Massachusetts,” said Hinds. “As more consumers choose to seek locally grown, healthy foods and products, the popularity of farmers markets continues to rise. We see no reason why our farmer-distillers and brewers should be prohibited from selling their unique beverages at local markets and events.”

Farmer-distillers produce distilled spirits, also known as liquor, such as brandy, whisky or rum. Farmer-brewers produce malt beverages, the most predominant of which is beer.

S. 2627 allows farmer-brewers and farmer-distillers to obtain a license from local licensing authorities to sell their beer or liquor at indoor or outdoor agricultural events, such as farmers markets. Along with creating a more transparent licensing process for the Commonwealth’s small farmer-brewers and distillers, this bill promotes positive business standards and offer farmer-brewers and distillers an alternate venue to display their products. Further, it allows them to provide, without charge, small samples of their alcoholic beverages to prospective customers at an indoor or outdoor agricultural event.

Commercial distilling in the Commonwealth dates back to the colonial era, when Boston was home to more than 25 distilleries and was the nation’s leading rum exporter. Today, farmer-distilleries and breweries throughout the Commonwealth are producing new and exciting products and creating jobs. These operations promote local agriculture by purchasing grain, herbs, aromatics, fruits, nuts, and other raw materials to create a value-added product. Selling these beverages side-by-side with other agricultural products at farmers markets and other related events highlights that synergy.

In a 2010 economic development bill the Legislature included a proposal filed by Senator Eldridge that allows farmer-wineries to sell their products at farmers markets. Since that time the state Department of Agricultural Resources has approved special licenses for almost 30 farmer-wineries to sell and sample their products at agricultural events. With passage of S. 2627 farmer-breweries and distilleries will soon have the same access to consumers.

Engrossment indicates the preliminary approval of the bill by the Chamber. The legislation will now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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