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There’s a battle brewing in Maryland...over beer

There's a battle brewing in Maryland...over beer. The fight is over a bill that would roll back how many barrels craft brewers can sell.

A glass of beer isn’t just a cold drink to enjoy. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry, worth close to $640 million in Maryland alone. A Maryland Bureau Estimates report says in 2016, the overall economic impact was $637.6 million.

So what’s got brewers hopping mad? A bill introduced in Maryland that would (among other things) roll back beer sold in Class 5 brewery taprooms. It’s called HB 1052. In it, smaller brewers would be required to go from selling 2000 to 500 barrels a year, while the big boys, like Guinness in Baltimore, would get to keep that 2000.

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It’s an “extended middle finger to the Maryland craft brew industry.” That’s an email Delegate Talmadge Branch received. He’s one of the bill’s sponsors.

“It sets a bad precedent,” said Julie Verratti. Verratti is the Co-owner of a popular Silver Spring spot, Denizens Brewing Company. They have a different class license, so they’re not directly impacted. However, Verratii says she’s still testifying against the bill.

“If there are bills that are getting passed in Annapolis that will strip rights away for my fellow colleagues, who’s to say they’re not going to come after Class 7’s next?” Verratti said.

Her “strip rights away” comment is talking about the rights brewers gained in a bill last year – designed to woo Guinness to Baltimore. They raised limits on big & small brewers to 2000.

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“Even today, I’m still seeing them say that it was a bad bill, 1283,” said Delegate Talmadge.

“My bill will undo what we passed last year and then we will look at what they’re introducing this year,” he added.

Delegate Talmadge says last year, no class 5 brewers came close to 500 barrels.

“It’s no way to actually sell a business,” said Verratti. She says brewers won’t invest in infrastructure if they know they’re going to hit the ceiling.

“Nobody’s trying to slow down a business,” said Talmadge.

They’ll get to debate this on February 23rd.

Guinness gave a statement against HB 1052, even though it would benefit them. Maryland’s comptroller also introduced a bill that would remove caps, among other measures.