A bill in the Maryland state legislature to lift restrictions on the amount of beer a craft brewery can sell direct to the consumer died in committee, killing the hopes of craft brewers in the state, at least for now.
The bill was pushed and promoted by Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot who is assigned as the state’s alcohol regulator. Apparently unhappy with Franchot’s outspoken role in supporting the bill, the panel also passed a measure to examine whether the comptroller’s office should continue to have oversight of the state’s alcohol industry.
The outspoken Franchot won the praise of most craft brewers but riled legislators on both sides of the political aisle as he ranted about power money paid out by large alcohol interests and portrayed himself as fighting for the “little guy.” This didn’t play well under the state Capitol Dome where both Democrats and Republicans on the panel rejected his recommendations. The panel went one step further by unanimously approving a bill to set up a task force to study whether the comptroller’s office should continue as the state’s regulator of the alcoholic beverage industry. That bill must still wind its way through the legislature for approval.
This year’s bill attempted to expand small gains made last year when state lawmakers passed legislation to benefit Diageo’s plan to open a Guinness brewery and taproom in Baltimore County. The new law increased the amount of beer brewers could sell directly to consumers in their brewery taprooms from 500 barrels to 3,000 barrels. The law also included a requirement that the brewer buy back the final 1,000 barrels from their wholesalers and imposed stricter taproom hours that require new breweries to close at 10 p.m.