Toast­ing the fu­ture of brew­eries

Dorchester Star - - Front Page - By DE­NAE SPIERING dspier­ing@ches­pub.com

— “We are go­ing to re­form the laws so folks are go­ing to say, ‘Hey let’s go to Mar yland,’” Mar yland State Comp­trol­ler Peter Fran­chot said. “I prom­ise you it’s go­ing to hap­pen.”

Fran­chot spoke about craft beers and Mary­land’s brew­ing in­dus­try on

Tuesday, June 27, at RAR Brew­ing in Cam­bridge for what was billed as an in­for­mal happy hour called “Re­form on Tap.”

The happy hour was a chance to dis­cuss with own­ers Chris Bro­hawn and JT Mer­ry­weather, along with lo­cal busi­ness lead­ers and the com­mu­nity, about the value in chang­ing cur­rent craft beer in­dus­try leg­is­la­tion in Mary­land.

The re­laxed happy hour gave beer en­thu­si­asts and oth­ers an op­por­tu­nity to dis­cuss and weigh in on chal­lenges and solutions fac­ing Mary­land’s craft beer in­dus­try.

In re­cent months, Fran­chot, as the state’s chief al­co­hol reg­u­la­tor, has been vis­it­ing brew­eries across the state to see the im­pact they have through­out Mary­land.

He has vis­ited RAR sev­eral times in the past and even has a fa­vorite beer.

“It is a great new brew­ery,” Fran­chot said. “They are cre­at­ing jobs, tax rev­enue, wages and in ad­di­tion they are im­prov­ing the state’s busi­ness rep­u­ta­tion.”

Leg­isla­tive is­sues with Mary­land’s craft beer in­dus­try came to a head this past leg­isla­tive ses­sion. As law­mak­ers worked on a bill to al­low brew­ers to pro­duce more bar­rels each year, con­tro­versy sparked over cer­tain mea­sures of the bill that also would have lim­ited hours of op­er­a­tion more than what is re­stricted al­ready, and is­sues be­tween the brew­ers, dis­trib­u­tors and store own­ers also arose.

Fran­chot, who ar­gued against the bill’s re­stric­tive mea­sures and for a to­tal re­form of Mary­land’s craft beer reg­u­la­tions, is on a brew­ery tour through­out the state to hear di­rectly from Mary­lan­ders as he con­sid­ers po­ten­tial re­forms to the state’s beer laws as part of the Re­form on Tap Task Force.

The task force is made up of dis­trib­u­tors, brew­ers, re­tail­ers, gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and oth­ers who are in­vested in see­ing a true re­form in the leg­is­la­tion, to make it eas­ier for craft brew­ing busi­nesses to open and sur­vive in Mary­land.

The goal for the task force is to make Mary­land a bench­mark state for brew­eries by mod­ern­iz­ing laws to con­form to na­tional stan­dards and bet­ter meet cus­tomer de­mands. The ultimate goal is to grow the mar­ket within the state.

The cur­rent leg­is­la­tion lim­its Mary­land brew­ers in re­gard to hours, brew­ing, li­cens­ing and dis­tri­bu­tion.

“To­gether, we are go­ing to mod­ern­ize the state’s beer laws so that we can get a lot of the im­ped­i­ments re­moved for our brew­ers and the suc­ces­sor brew­eries that we hope will come from all over the coun­try,” Fran­chot said. “We hope to straighten out the law.”

Lo­cal task force mem­bers in­clude Bro­hawn, Del. Johnny Mautz, R-37B-Tal­bot, and Joe Petro, owner of Hair O’ The Dog Wine and Spir­its in Easton.

“We are here to sup­port lo­cal busi­ness, and RAR is a lo­cal busi­ness and we do a lot of busi­ness with them,” Petro said. “I am also on the task force with the comp­trol­ler, and it is a great op­por­tu­nity to get out, speak to the brew­eries and meet peo­ple in­volved with the process.”

Petro said Mary­land is a three­tier state — dis­trib­u­tors, brew­eries and re­tail­ers.

“We are on the end of that chain, and we have a sig­nif­i­cant stake in not only the suc­cess of the brew­eries but in how their prod­ucts get dis­trib­uted and ul­ti­mately in our hands,” Petro said.

Kelly Dudeck of the Mary­land Brew­eries As­so­ci­a­tion was in at­ten­dance for the happy hour and said this was a great op­por­tu­nity for her to check in with peo­ple on the Shore.

“We wanted to come and visit some of our mem­bers here on the East­ern Shore, hear some of the dis­cus­sions hap­pen­ing and see what the cli­mate is like down here these days,” Dudeck said. “We just wanted to check in.”

She said it has been great hav­ing the comp­trol­ler in­volved in the is­sue and the brew­eries couldn’t be more thrilled with his in­volve­ment.

“Two brew­eries are get­ting ready to re­lease trib­ute beers to the comp­trol­ler,” Dudeck said.

“He has been their big­gest am­bas­sador,” she said. “I think it means a lot to the brew­ers, specif­i­cally, to have some­body go­ing to bat for them.”

Bro­hawn agrees with Dudeck and said Fran­chot has been an as­set to his busi­ness.

“The comp­trol­ler has been great to us. He has been here a few times be­fore,” Bro­hawn said. “We have a great re­la­tion­ship with him.”

Bro­hawn said the task force is trying to curb leg­is­la­tion or pre­vent any fur ther leg­is­la­tion hur tful to brew­eries like his.

“Fran­chot is build­ing this move­ment to make sure we get what we want and keep brew­ers brew­ing in Mary­land,” Bro­hawn said.

Fran­chot is us­ing this move­ment to en­tice mil­len­ni­als and oth­ers who love craft beers to visit Mary­land.

“The new gen­er­a­tion — the mil­len­ni­als— they love craft beer,” Fran­chot said. “They will travel from Wash­ing­ton or Bal­ti­more to visit RAR brew­ery and other ones like them.”

Fran­chot said the main cause for the task force is on the mer­its to re­form and mod­ern­ize the state’s an­ti­quated laws, and the main pos­i­tive take­away is go­ing to be new young mil­len­ni­als be­ing at­tracted to the buzz about Mar yland.

“Right now, we are one of the worst states in the countr y for start­ing an in­de­pen­dent craft brew­ery, be­cause of some un­for­tu­nate leg­is­la­tion,” Fran­chot said. “Vir­ginia is pick­ing our pock­ets trying to steal our brew­eries, so we are go­ing to change that this next leg­isla­tive ses­sions, from one of the worst to the best state in the coun­try.”

Fran­chot said there has been some ex­tra ben­e­fits to tack­ling the leg­is­la­tion.

“I have man­aged to unite the Trump sup­port­ers and the Clin­ton sup­port­ers be­hind cold Mary­land beer,” Fran­chot jok­ingly said. “It’s com­mon ground.”

Re­cently, Fran­chot has had some craft beers named af­ter him, in­clud­ing Sai­son DeFran­chot, Fis­cal Watch­dog and Fran­chot Comes Alive.

“I used to want hon­orary de­grees given to me by col­leges,” Fran­chot said. “I am done with that; this is where it’s at.”

Fran­chot said it is ul­ti­mately about the com­pa­nies that make the beer.

“They are pro­duc­ing $700 mil­lion in eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity, and it could be $2 bil­lion in a cou­ple years,” Fran­chot said. “If we could just man­age to get out of their way. Plus the beer is de­li­cious — it’s high-qual­ity stuff.”

BY DE­NAE SPIERING/DSPIER­ING@CHES­PUB.COM On Tuesday, June 27, Mary­land State Comp­trol­ler Peter Fran­chot vis­ited RAR Brew­ing in Cam­bridge. Fran­chot was host­ing an in­for­mal happy hour at the brew­ery to dis­cuss the Re­form on Tap Task Force. Above Fran­chot toasts to RAR Brew­ing for its suc­cess in cre­at­ing jobs and great tast­ing beer. He is pic­tured be­side RAR co-owner JT Mer­ry­weather.

PHO­TOS BY DE­NAE SPIERING/DSPIER­ING@CHES­PUB.COM On Tuesday, June 27, Mary­land State Comp­trol­ler Peter Fran­chot vis­ited RAR Brew­ing in Cam­bridge. Fran­chot was host­ing an in­for­mal happy hour at the brew­ery to dis­cuss the Re­form on Tap Task Force.

On Tuesday, June 27, Mary­land State Comp­trol­ler Peter Fran­chot vis­ited RAR Brew­ing in Cam­bridge. Fran­chot was host­ing an in­for­mal happy hour at the brew­ery to dis­cuss the Re­form on Tap Task Force. Above Fran­chot con­grat­u­lates RAR Brew­ing owner JT Mer­ry­weather for its suc­cess in cre­at­ing jobs and great tast­ing beer.

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